Wednesday, December 13, 2006

More science in food

I've discovered another science/food blog via Blogs of Note, this week.

Harold McGee writes "about the science of food and cooking: where our foods come from, what they are and what they're made of, and how cooking transforms them"

He's just started writing for the NY Times. The first article is how garlic and onion can turn blue. Check it out here

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Science of Food : Shirley O Corriher

One of the bonuses of being in New Zealand is listening to Kim Hill on National Radio on a Saturday Morning.

Last week she interviewed Shirley O Corriher, a food scientist who has been the " Go To Gal" for a number of chefs and food writers (the famous Julia Child among them).

Catch the pod-cast on National Radio's Website. I haven't found out how to link to it directly, but you can get there by clicking on the link to the show on Saturday December 9th , then scrolling down to the podcast.

It covered basics such as the science behind the reason why you can't make mayonnaise from extra virgin olive oil (Now I know what I was doing wrong!)

Highly recommended!

New Zealand food

After a month's travelling in Greece, Italy, Germany and England I'm now back in New Zealand, for a few months at least.

It's been a bit of a culinary journey - through Pasta with Pesto Genovese in Genoa, Red cabbage in Germany, and the good old Bangers and Mash in England.

Now that I'm back here, I'm back making one of my favourite foods - pumpkin soup.

It's simple, healthy and delicious! You can use any kind of pumpkin or squash. At the moment, I'm using pumpkins with a thin, easily sliceable skin in greyish green in colour, with bright orange flesh.

Pumpkin Soup

Slice pumpkin and remove seeds. If the skin is thin and easy to slice, remove with as sharp knife (be careful!). If it is hard, and you don't fancy hours spent hacking at it you can cook it first.

Cut into pieces about one inch square (or small enough to fit into a large saucepan if you are dealing with a particularly recalcitrant pumpkin and are leaving the skin on)

Allow about a fist-size quantity of pumpkin per person for a hearty soup.

Cover with water, and a teaspoonful or cube of vegetable or other stock powder. B ring to the boil, and simmer until pumpkin is tender.

If you have left the skin on, lift them out of the pumpkin stock onto a chopping board, and carefully remove the skin with a small sharp knife, before returning the skinless pumpkin to the pot.

Use a hand-blender to puree the soup, thin with water, or milk if you prefer. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For extra flavour you can do any of the following
- boil a slice or two of bacon along with the pumpkin (no need to chop it if you are going to puree it with a hand blender later).
- saute an onion or leek in a spoonful of olive oil before adding water and boiling the pumpkin
- add ground or white pepper to season
- add a little fresh orange juice, or chopped parsley or coriander at the end.
- boil the pumpkin along with the bigger bones from a smoked or roasted chicken - remove the bones before pureeing (for this reason it's best to use the bigger bones - e.g. thigh bones rather than the whole carcass as removing the small bones from the soup can be a bit fiddly)

This is great on its own, or served with Jo Seagar's beer bread or other fresh bread.

If you use minimal amounts of water, and produce a very thick soup it also doubles as a pasta sauce - especially good when combined with diced smoked chicken on ravioli, spiral or bow pasta.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Genova - Espresso, Focaccia, Pesto and Pleasure.

Well my initial plans to go to Berlin via the Balkans didn't work out. The Romanian Government wanted a visa from me to pass through for a few hours, so I decided to look elsewhere. (great site - try it) found me a flight to Milan, then another to Berlin 5 days later. I e-mailed my friend Barbara, she invited me to Genoa, so I had 5 days in what I've decided is one of my favourite cities in the world.

I love Italian food, and cofee, and lifestyle. I hadn't been there for 5 years, but I do love it so, and feel really at home.

The espresso (espressi?) are fabulous. When I wasn't drinking the coffee made by Barbara in her little hexagonal stove top espresso pot, I was drinking it in little cafes and pastry shops, standing at the bar. The coffee came in angular little cups which were narrow at the base, wider at the top. I like mine best served as Espresso Macchiato - with a spoonful of milke foam on top. Like a mini cappucino, without diluting the creamy oily coffee beneath.

I am hooked.

Genoa/Genova is the home of the classic Pesto alla Genovese which is made with Basil grown in a particular area. I have been told carries with it a special certification. Barbara's mother gave me a pot to take on to Berlin with me, and it was wonderful with Gnocci.

Liguria, the province is the home of Focaccia. Barbara's friend Marco operates a fruit stall, and knows where to buy good food. He stocked up on some particularly good focaccia prior to a trip to Barbara's friend Paulo's house where we were planning to help harvest olives. Paulo's sister was 9 months pregnant so we changed plans at the last moment and headed for a drive down the italian riviera to a small hole in the wall restaurant. The focaccia went well with Cauliflower soup I'd made though, later that evening.

Here's a link to a focaccia recipe on Anna Maria Volpi's website. I haven't tried this myself (yet!) but it looks good.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

To everything there is a season

And the summer season has ended at yoga plus.

I was ready for release from 6 sessions a week in the kitchen for 11 weeks

So I'm travelling onward to Berlin and London.

First stop is Athens, where I'm hostelling with fellow Yoga Plus staff Mike, Jacob and Rikke. We're eating bags of Cretan rusks, boxes of feta and the little tins of greek mez - dolmades, gigantes, peas, green beans in the sauce.

I'm in a Starbucks right now and have just skipped a revisit to the meat market in favour of pasta salad.

Mike has been looking forward to the meat, but I found it a bit overpowering (to put it mildly) on a first visit. I find small quantities of meat manageable but if it was left to me to kill the meat I eat, I'd only eat fish!

Yes, that probably is hypocritical, but I just haven't got the stomach or stamina to be around a lot of bleeding flesh!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Ella's Chocolate Pudding

I've named this recipe for my niece Ella. She's 8 months old now, and was only just eating solids when I left her 2 months ago, but I bet she'l l like it when she grows up!

I first came across a variant of this recipe using melted butter in a Red Cross fundraising cookbook. It had been contributed by the Wizard of Christchurch.

This recipe is vegan (but tastes just as good!) Quantities for 8-10 first(quantities for 32-40 in brackets!).

1 cup is 250 mls (1/4 litre)
1 T is 1 Tablespoon, or 15 mls
1 t is 1 teaspoonful, or 5 ml

Ella's Chocolate Pudding

Whisk together the following dry ingredients
1 cup flour (4 cups)
3/4 cup caster sugar (3 cups)
1/4 cup cocoa (1 cup)
1 t salt (4 t)
1 t baking powder (4 t, or 1 greek sachet)

Make a well in the centre of the bowl and add

1/2 cup water (or milk if you aren't vegan) (2 cups)
2 T Sunflower oil or 30 grams melted butter (1/2 cup oil or 125 g meltedbutter)

Whisk to combine and place in one 20-25cm casserole dish, (two 30cm or a roasting dish)
Combine second dry ingredients
1/4 cup cocoa (1 cup)
1/2 - 3/4 cup brown or coffee sugar (2 to 3 cups)

Sprinkle evenly over the top of the pudding. It will look like quite a thick coating.

Measure 1 1/4 cups (5 cups) of hot water. Gently, gently pour onto the back of a spoon held just above the pudding. The rounded back of the spoon will splay the water out evenly over the pudding.

Bake in a moderate oven - 180 degrees celcius/350 F / yoga plus 4 o'clock for an hour.

The water on top will sink through and make a sauce. It tastes great hot, and even better cold the next morning (if there's any left!)

Yum yum yummy!

Food, In The Main...: Oven-baked spiced chickpeas

I've taken a little time today to check out other blogs. I like the look of this recipe on Food, In The Main...: Oven-baked spiced chickpeas

I've also realised that I want, and need, to edit my site, so it's clearer, and easier to follow. And to write better! And add photos! The thing at the moment is that I have so little time on the net, and less with a connection at a high speed, and I'm trying to get the recipes up there as I cook them.

I've had more requests this week for recipes (good old chocolate cake, beer bread, nectarine and green pepper salad, and chocolate pudding (the latter two recipes coming soon I promise!)

Let me know if you try this one!



Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Sauces and dips part 3 – Skordalia, the anti-vampire dip!

If you have leftover mashed potato, this is a good way to use it, particularly when vampires are about!

Soak the tail end of a loaf of wholemeal bread in water. You want the equivalent of 3 good slices. For a prettier dip, remove the crusts. Sqeeze the water out of the remainder and put in the foodprocessor with 5 cloves garlic and the mashed potatos. You can add a handful of walnuts if you like – up to half a cup.

Once pureed, add a cup of olive oil slowly, through the feeder tube of the processor. Add the juice of half a lemon, taste, season with salt and pepper and serve!

It is great as a beetroot dressing or with a robust burger mix.

If you’re planning on kissing anyone later that day – make sure they eat some too!

Sauces and dips part 2: Hitipiti: Feta and Roast Pepper Dip

I love the simplicity of this recipe, which came from one of the tattered recipe books in the yogaplus kitchen. I'll post Amazon links to them as soon as I can. This was very popular when I served it with 2 other dips (recipes to follow!)

Htipiti: Feta and Roast Pepper dip

Option A: Roast one large or two small red capsicum peppers in the oven until nice and charred. Just leave them there, they’ll cook on their own, while you cook something else. When soft, and blistered, remove from oven, cover with cling film or foil, and leave to cool. Overnight perhaps? Peel off the skins and pick out the stem and seeds– a bit fiddly.

Option B: Open jar of roasted peppers from deli, and extract the appropriate quantity!

Heat olive oil in a small saucepan – around 1/4 of a cup for 2 small red peppers. When it’s hot, add one large/2 small chopped garlic cloves, and ¼ a teaspoon chille flakes, and turn it off, to let the flavours infuse.

Blend peppers in foodprocessor to a puree with about1 cup of feta cheese. A cup is 250ml, or about 2.5cm by 10cm by 10cm by volume, or roughly the size of a block of feta you get in the supermarket.

Once pureed, add the oil to the puree. It tastes great and is very easy. A dollop goes well with burgers.

Sauces and dips part 1: Beetroot and Feta dip

If you have left-over beetroot, then I’d want you to try the following recipe, inspired by the Roasted Pepper (Capsicum) and Feta sauce called Htipiti. At this stage, I haven’t tried it myself yet, but I bet it works.

It’s easy. Put the boiled beetroot in a food processor and puree until a chunky sauce. Add the feta, keep processing. Add any leftover dressing, a little olive oil, garlic oil, or chilli oil (or olive,garlic and chilli oil if you have made some)

Taste, and adjust the seasoning until you like it. A little extra honey may appeal to you. Salt is unlikely to be necessary as feta is a salty cheese anyway.

I’d also try this with carrot, maybe with coriander (fresh or dried) or cumin seeds.

Update: It does work. Made with chile oil, and thinned with a little yoghurt, it works as a pasta sauce too.

Beetroot with Honey Mustard Dressing

Another recipe I first made with Adam Keen (try his meze if you’re in London around Spitalfields Market).

I like it because I love beetroot and it’s soooo easy! And tasty! And here it is!

Beetroot with Honey Mustard Dressing

Place washed but not peeled beetroot in a large saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to the boil. Simmer until you can pierce them with a fork (maybe half an hour).

Run under cold water, and rub the skins off (you may want to wear gloves). Even the skins of ultra-tough beetroot shed easily when cooked this way.

Slice into chunks, wedges, dice, slices, or any shape you like.

Make the Honey Mustard Dressing

I don’t now recall what Adam’s exact dressing was. I make it something like this:

Take a tablespoon full of Mustard, and two of honey. Combine. Add a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper. A spoonful of lemon juice or cider vinegar can go in the mix, then half a cup of sunflower oil. Finely chopped parsley or dill is also an option.

Spoon the dressing over the beetroot and serve!

Favourite productions Burgers part 1

I have often served vege-“burgers” to guests at Yoga plus and they’re always popular.

The basic recipe varies, depending on what is in the kitchen, what we have cooked extra of, and what is left over*. It’s a bit of an art really, the cook going on instinct to balance the ingredients.

Maybe it’s a bit like movie-making? You get “recipes” for film structure in “The Scriptwriters Handbook”, and methods of cooking in “The Production Handbook” but in the end – it’s an art.

I watched Good Night and Good Luck on DVD last night. It was a simple movie made extraordinarily well. A great cast well acted, plenty of time, strong material.

By contrast, Crash, the oscar winner was anything but simple. It is a superb, if uneasy movie, which blends different cultures, bumping up against each other, into a sympathetic whole.

Walk the Line was more straightforward – strong and complex performances, with a bit of country sweetness and rock and roll kick.

All great movies, all different, and so it is with burgers.

And, ladies and gentlemen here it is, typed live from room 6 at Agios Pavlos rebroadcast at, Spotlit by the sun setting behind the Dragon’s neck rock, here is….

The Burger Production Handbook

The Cast:
Starring roles
You want good actors for a movie, and a good base for a burger. I build burgers round one or more grains – Quinoa**, Rice, Millet or Couscous. Sometimes you have more than one lead! Left over risotto, pilaf, bulgur or cous-cous can make a great burger-base, with a few additions – to dry the mix a little for risotto, or moisten and bind it for pilaf or couscous based burgers.

Character part(s)
Sometimes I’d mix in one or more pulses with the grains. Black eyed peas are particularly good, but hummus, gigante/white beans, lentils and split peas can all work in the mix, and give texture, protein and depth to the final result. Soy protein is another protein source.

Supporting ingredients
As flavouring, you can add red or green peppers/roast aubergine/roast courgette chopped finely, some grated carrot. Some people like to add cheese, although I prefer my movies and burgers without. Corn is a different matter – in for the burgers without a doubt, not so much in the movies. Although a Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Kate Hudson or Meg Ryan movie can hit the spot sometimes. Roasted, chopped squash could be excellent in firm mix, or a little chopped potato***.

Cameo roles
Other flavouring can include pesto (perhaps in a burger with rice and corn and white beans?), Curry powder, sage, thyme, coriander, cumin, turmeric, basil, oregano, nutmeg even. Chopped Parsley, Dill or Coriander work well too. These are important in the overall feel of the burger, and indeed their influence can dominate the billing and the final production in disproportion to their size. Think Judy Dench in Shakespeare in Love!

Backstage support: holding it together
One key thing to consider is the texture – it needs to be able to bind together. If you’re making vegan burgers, then a dip/pulse like left-over Fava, or maybe hummus could help bind the mix. If not vegan, then egg can be used. Oats are great to add body to a wet mix, and help bind it. A little flour can also be helpful. I’ve used wheat or spelt flour. Chickpea flour would work well too.

Post production: oven time.
Once you have assembled your cast of ingredients, and mix which holds together, it’s good to try it on a test audience. Maybe you? Test fry one burger to see if it works before committing them to the oven.

Form into whatever shape you like – basic round and flat, ball like, mini or texas sized, croquette shaped, or brick. [You can also bake them in a tray as a loaf, or in a swiss roll tin as a bake, but people prefer the burger shape usually.]

Bake on well oiled trays in a moderate oven (350 Farenheit/180 Celcius) for around half an hour. If you like crispy burgers, drizzle or spray oil (olive or sunflower) on the outside. Part way through cooking You can flip them over to brown on both sides.

Serve on their own if they are moist, or with tomato sauce, hummus, tsatsiki, htipiti, skordalia or other sauce.

Oscar quality productions of the past
Particular successes I can recall have included:
- “Walk the Line” Corn Britters (burger fritters) which were based on millet and rice with parsley, rice, chopped onion and sweetcorn, bound with egg. Surprisingly simple. One of my favourites. Great central ingredient.

- “Good Night and Good Luck” - Curried quinoa burgers – quinoa flavoured with curry powder bound with egg. Strong flavour, simple concept, mono colour palette beautifully executed by Richard.

- “Crash” - Black eyed peas in tomato sauce, with oats, pureed chickpeas and rice, leftover antipasti of roast aubergine, and roast courgettes, Feta, chopped parsley, egg, oats and flour to bind. A complex mix, great result, served with chips and tomato salsa.

“Brokeback Mountain” burger would have to have been one of Udo’s mixes. Dill, egg, rice, quinoa, onion, garlic rosemary formed into croquettes. Subtle, interesting, lots of herbs, delicately flavoured and delicious.

I haven’t seen Capote yet, and have only worked with 4 chefs so can’t come up with a combination for that!

David Mamet, in his book, True and False, wrote something along the lines that it is not less noble to make your own theatre than to wait for someone to feed you work.

So, applying that to cooking: get into the kitchen and make yourself a burger!

This episode produced by Like to the Lark Kitchen Productions

*It’s a great idea to cook extra quantities of pulses- chick peas, gigante/white beans, black-eyed peas spring to mind. If you cover them well, and refrigerate you can use them a day or two later in a different recipe.

**Strictly speaking, Quinoa is a seed – the “mother grain” of the Aztecs. White and Red Quinoa are easily available in the UK at Holland and Barrett health food shops, among others.

*** Is it stretching the metaphor way too far to include an irish character actor? –Maybe Colm Meaney? A good solid performer but not the star!

Keen on Food and Fava

My friend, and former Yoga Plus cook, Adam Keen has set up an organic salad and meze business, selling yummy stuff around Spitalfields Market. He also caters for retreats and teaches yoga.

I've eaten Adam’s food before, and worked with him in the kitchen, and I can report it’s seriously good! Try it if you have the chance, and do check out his website

I always think of Adam when I cook Fava - a greek split pea dip. I made it the first time with Adam, and I always think of him when I make it.

Here's the version I'm cooking tonight.


Rinse chickpeas and cover with cold water. Add a teaspoonful of salt. Bring to the boil and simmer for 45 minutes. STIR FREQUENTLY – they have a tendency to stick!

After 45 minutes, when they are at a mashing consistency, leave them to cool. You may be able to cut with a knife, if you’re lucky!

Before serving, add a spoonful of mustard, the juice of a lemon, half a cup of olive oil, a grind of pepper, and lots of chopped dill.

Mix, and enjoy!

Fava is good served as a dip, with a salad made of grains, and a green salad. It also works on toast with marmite (a bit of a personal favourite there!)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Chickpeas in the Oven

Madeline Pizzo cooked this recipe first last year. It tastes great, and smells, in the oven, a little like roast chicken (to people who haven't eaten Roast Chicken in a while!) It's great on its own anyway, and makes a realy nice hummus-style dip the the next day, if there are any leftovers.

A warning note: All measures are approximate. The recipe for this I read gave measurements in weight, we don't have scales, so I've worked it out as I went along. The quantities I've included are approximate, and use less olive oil than the original recipe.

Chickpeas in the oven
First, rinse the quantity of chickpeas you want to cook, and soak your chickpeas overnight. They will expand greatly! Make sure you have room in the pot for them to grow.

The next day, rinse them, put in fresh cold water, bring to the boil (do not stir them at this time or add salt). Reduce heat to a simmer and skim the foam off the top.

When most of the foam is gone, add a Tablespoon of oregano for each litre of chickpeas (a litre is 10cm*10cm*10cm) and simmer for an hour. Drain, reserving the oregano liquid.

Dice one medium onion for each litre of chickpeas, and 2 cloves of garlic, and 1/8t of chilli flakes. Saute the onion until translucent in 1/4 cup of olive oil (per litre). Yes this is a lot of oil! You can use even more.

When the onions are barely cooked, add the garlic and chile. Turn off the heat, and add the chickpeas, mix well, add 1 Tablespoon oregano and a pinch of salt for each litre of chickpeas.

Put in an oven proof casserole (or baking tray - at least 1 inch - 2.5cm deep). Add enough of the reserved liquid so it nestles round the chickpeas.

Cover with foil, or a lid, and bake for as long as you can. At least 1 hour, better 1 1/2 hours or even 2. Add more of the reserved boiling liquid if the chickpeas start to dry out.

They may fall apart, if they don't , gently mash a few with a potato masher to make a thicker sauce - so you get whole chickpeas, and some a bit squished.

Serve with brown rice, green salad, and red tomatos, with a sprinkling of parsley. Some people like a squeeze of fresh lemon too.

If you have leftovers, whizz them in a foodprocessor with a little boiling water and extra olive oil. The resulting hummus is good on its own. Opinions vary whether adding tahini is a good thing. I'd add around 1 heaped tablespoon per cup of cooked mixture).

If you boil extra chickpeas you can also make a really simple hummus. Blend the chickpeas with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and a little lemon. That's it!

Nectarine Tart

I've had great feedback on a very very simple Nectarine Tart Loisa and I cooked on Sunday night.

Here is the recipe:

You need:
- 6 Sheets filo pastry (or a few more if you like a little more layers)
- Melted butter, or sunflower oil or low fat cooking spray
- Grated nutmeg and/or Cinnamon
- Brown sugar, coffee sugar or honey
- 6 Nectarines sliced into thin wedges - around 3-10mm (1/4 inch at the widest) part. You may use more or fewer nectarines - it depends how thick you cut them.
A squeeze of lemon (half a lemon would be fine)
A baking sheet or tart pan

Layer the filo in a tart pan,lightly brushing between each layer with the butter or oil. For extra crunch, sprinkle a teaspoon or so of sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg between the layers.

Toss the nectarines with a little sugar or honey , cinnamon and nutmeg, and a little lemon so they are lightly covered.
Arrange the nectarines in a pretty pattern on top of the tart, 1 layer deep. Sprinkle with a little more nutmeg or cinnamon

Bake for 15-20 minutes in the oven (180C, 350F) is fine. Use your nose. When the pastry is brown, the fruit is warmed it's done!

Serve on its own, or with cream or greek yoghurt.

This would also work well with bananas (with a little grated chocolate), apricots, apples, pears or other fruit (although the cooking time might be a little longer for apples.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Making yoghurt and thick yoghurt

My Mum was into health food before the crowd. As a child in the 70s, I was the only kid in my class with brown bread sandwiches. We ate Sanitarium muesli (powdery stuff it was too). Crisps didn't darken our door. Nor did chewing-gum, but that was because my father inherited his father's aversion to it and that's a whole another story.

Anyway, the point of this is my Mother bought a yoghurt maker. It was a round, plastic contraption, in yellow and beige. I think made by Braun. From memory It acted like a thermos. You put a jam-jar in the middle, with your milk and a spoonful of seed yoghurt, covered it with the plastic cap, plugged in the machine and left it overnight. The yoghurt maker kept a constant temperature at which the friendly bacteria would multiply, and in the morning - yoghurt!

I think Mum still had it as recently as January, when the wholesale clear-out of the old family home took place, before my parents moved to the townhouse in the city.

Nowdays, there is a product calls Easy-Yo, which comes as a powder, to which you may just add water. I've never tried it, but know through experience in the kitchen here at Yoga Plus that making yogurt is easy. Here's how I've done it:

Making Yogurt

Heat a litre of milk until it reaches simmer point, and a skin forms. (we use UHT - as fresh milk is near impossible to find on Crete). Allow it to cool to slightly above blood temperature. Add a spoonful of live, natural yoghurt as a starter and whisk to combine. Cover securely and leave overnight in a clean warm, but not hot spot. We usually put it on top of the oven. The residual heat in the milk helps the friendly bacteria to do their work and thicken the milk into yoghurt.

In the morning, the thickest and creamiest part will be at the top, and some of the whey may have separated on the side. You can whisk it to combine and provide a smooth texture.

It tastes great with good honey (make sure you have real honey, and not sugar syrup with honey for flavour).

Strained Yoghurt

The other thing I like to do is to thicken yoghurt, greek style, by straining it through muslin. You can use an old white pillowcase, provided it is very clean (rinse first to make sure that any detergent residues have gone. Don't wash with fabric softener!) A clean teatowel works well too.

Put a kitchen sieve over a bowl, or saucepan. Line it with the cheesecloth or substitute. Pour the yoghurt into it. Cover with clingfilm and leave overnight in the fridge. The whey will drip through into the bowl, leaving thickened yoghurt the consistency of commercial sour cream. If you have time, go back after an hour or two and stir so the thicker yoghurt on the bottom of the sieve can make way for thinner yoghurt. You'll get a thicker overall product this way.

The yoghurt is great eaten for breakfast with honey, used to make yoghurt dips like tsatsiki. I'm also going to try a pie, made with semolina and thickened yoghurt to produce something quiche-like. It may work, it may not! I'll post here when I try it!

A tip : If the cheesecloth overlaps the side of the sieve/bowl, then it's good to stand the bowl/sieve in a larger tray or bowl, as the fabric can act like a wick and drip whey/water down the side into the fridge.

In the book Frenchwomen Don't Get Fat, the author recommends yoghurt every day for good health. So eat up!

Saturday, September 09, 2006


I've had a good week in the kitchen - three lead cook shifts instead of two, as Mike was unwell. Really nice feedback. I do love feedback, particularly the nice kind!

I've been too busy/unable to blog easily, but will rectify that in the next day or so..

I'll post the following recipes sooner or later:

Skordalia (garlic sauce)
Chickpeas with onions and oregano baked in the oven
Roasted pepper and feta dip
Spanakorizo (spinach rice - a bit like a greek risotto) which was "the dog's bollocks" according to one guest
Nectarine and Green Pea salad
Beetroot and Honey Mustard dressing or Garlic Sauce

It will keep me busy..but I'll get there :-)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Back to back...

I've just finished a busy dinner shift followed by a chilled lunch shift. It's always easier the next day, as I've had time to plan, I know what's in the fridge, and have had time to think about it over night.

So...the menus:


Split Pea Soup
Shepherd's Pie With lentils, pureed chick peas, sauteed grated carrot and beetroot (which was left over from salad at lunchtime) onions and corn.

I'd had a shepherdress pie in mind, with a split pea gravy and carrots, cauliflower, onions and corn in the body of the pie. But in the end, the split peas became the soup (with extra water), and we served:

Steamed Carrots and Cauliflower with Lemon and Parsley Vinaigrette
Boiled beetroot with honey mustard dressing
Mixed Greens . This was stir fried beet greens with garlic and fresh ginger, mixed with steamed horta - a local wild spinach
And a beautiful fruit platter, again made by Carly, for dessert.

Yes, this menu does look a bit like last week's....but we have new guests, and it fit the things in the fridge! I also arrived at the kitchen very late, as a quick 2 hours trip to Rethymno turned out longer than planned. So it was a busy shift, and I didn't quite manage a proper break.


Today was far more chilled.

Melanzane Senza Parmigiana This was a variant on the classic Eggplant with parmesan, but as we had only hard cheese, it became eggplant without!
Ruby Tuesday Cabbage Salad with beetroot feta dressing,and toasted sunflower seeds. I'm quite proud of this one. I pureed last night's leftover beetroot with its dressing - only a small container. Mixed in some olive oil and feta cheese and le voila.
Black Eyed Pea dip
Pasta Salad with peanut sauce, corn and green bell peppers I'm also quite pleased with this one.

Apple and Pear Spice Cake and muffins with tahini cream

All in all, not a bad effort!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Pizza Perfect

It's a yoga plus tradition that we welcome the guests with pizza and fruit punch on the terrace at 3pm. And today was my first time on the pizza shift this season.

Richard was lead cook, and, in my opinion, did a superb job on the dough and all the muscle work on the pizza - kneading the dough (twice!) and then rolling out all the bases so they were deliciously thin and crispy.

He also made garlic oil and herb oil (with rosemary) to drizzle on top.

We used chopped tomatos as a base, toppings of stir-fried beet greens, thinly sliced onions,red bell pepper/capsicum and courgettes peeled into thin strips, olives, feta or cheddar cheese.

I also made one pizza with a beetroot puree, mixed with herb oil containing rosemary for a magenta/purple pizza, with courgettes, feta, finely chopped red capsicums. Mmm, beetroot puree is something I'm going to explore more.

Maybe because the pizzas were so good, or because we have a good number of men among the guests (and the chaps eat more!), the oven was struggling to keep up with demand. And the coleslaw (grated white cabbage, carrot and hand-made mayonnaise with pumpkin seeds to garnish) disappeared quickly, as did the lettuce.

All in all I really enjoyed the shift, my first with Richard.

We have some lovely new guests too (who have been here before), so I'm really looking forward to this session.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Hot in the Kitchen

I've done my first two shifts in the kitchen as cook. We didn't have a thermometer in with us on Monday evening, but it was 42 or 45 degrees outside...and hotter inside! Carly and I survived, not without a lot of water!

In the end, the Monday Night Menu was:

Sheperdress Pie - Mashed potato with parsley on top, split pea gravy with courgettes, gigante beans, carrots, onion and cauliflower
Roast sweetcorn and Red Cabbage salad with a white wine vinaigrette
Chick peas al forno - a traditional greek recipe with onions, oregano and olive oil - set to become another Yoga Plus classic recipe for me.
Beetroot with Honey Mustard Dressing A recipe I got from Adam Keen and another Yoga Plus favourite for me!)

And Carly made a beautiful fruit platter of water melon, honeydew melon, dried figs, fresh pears, apple and oranges. In the heat, it was my favourite thing!

It was wonderful working with Carly - she is such a ray of sunshine and cheerfulness!

Tuesday Morning
Tuesday morning was easier. There is a little more time to prepare, it's cooler at 6,30am when we start and I had a shift behind me! I decided to stick to the classics, and things which didn't need the oven or the burners (keeps down the heat!) Rikke was wonderful support and worked really hard. I felt a little guilty for using so many dishes, when she cleaned them without my help!

The morning menu was:
Carly's Twice Baked Stuffed Aubergine The stuffing came from sauteed onion and carrot, the aubergine inners, ginger, garlic and breadcrumbs. Carly and I had roasted the halved eggplants the night before, and it was her idea to use ginger in the stuffing, hence the name!
YP Courgettes
Rikke's Brown rice, nectarine, and red pepper salad with pineapple juice as a dressing
Hummous made with chickpeas flavoured with onion, olive oil, oregano and lemon juice (previous night's chickpeas!) I felt something was missing from the taste, and couldn't work out what, and got some great feedback on this from Thanassis, one of our guests. As well as being an architect he has a discrening palate, and thought it needed tahini. He was right! I knew something was missing, but couldn't think what. It still tasted pretty good though!
Greek Salad (which we have almost every morning) Cucumber, Feta, Olives, Tomato and lettuce.

And, as we ran out of bread, and it wasn't certain the bread man would come, I whipped up a couple of loaves of Beer Bread. I used the local Mythos beer for one, and Rethymno dark ale for the other. Both were popular

And to finish Finn's Chocolate Cake decorated with a simple icing and a flower.

It's great to have two shifts behind me. I'm still loving the work, even in 45degree plus temperatures, and even though I felt exhausted last night after the back-to back shifts, the heat and an open water swim from our bay round the two headlands to the next beach, which took around 45 minutes.

Tonight and tomorrow morning I'll be assisting Udo. I think we're making Strudel. He is a genius in the kitchen, and I'm looking forward to learning from him.

Namaste and Bon Appetit


Monday, August 21, 2006

At YP at last

A quick blog...from the slow connection at the Sleepy Dragon Bar!

I've had 3 shifts as assistant cook, and enjoyed every one. However, this afternoon is my first as the main cook. I've been going over recipes in my mind for the past few days, planning for today. Plans change as I see what fellow cooks Udo and Mike invent. (Udo did pasta and garlic bread last night, so my pasta plan evaporated)

In the event, I'm constrained by the fact that the main vegetable order comes in tomorrow, so I have to be creative with what is available. It's pushing me outside my comfort zone of recipes I know are easy, and had planned for. Which is probably no bad thing as I need to live in the present, and fly by the seat of my tastebuds!

Necessity is the mother of invention, so there will be a little invention today. I tell myself I find it easier to be creative when I have a few constraints :-).

On the vegetable side I have plenty of red cabbage, onions, aubergine and beetroot, and lettuce. I've soaked some chickpeas and the last of the Gigante beans.

I'm thinking traditional cretan baked chickpeas with onions and oregano, maybe shepherdress pie with the gigantes and bits and pieces of vegetables. Maybe braised cabbage, although, given the heat, I may make that into a red slaw instead. Braised cabbage would go well with the pie though.

And my favourite dish of all - boiled beetroot with honey mustard dressing - so simple, and sooo delicious.

I'll blog tomorrow with the results! I'm planning on Finn's favourite chocolate cake as the cake tomorrow :-) Nothing else planned yet for the morning - it will depend on the vegetable deliveries!


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Cooks' tricks - for instant flavour:update

I've read countless "handy hints" and "tips" for cooking. One of them said that professional chefs have 4 great "rescue ingredients". Or, to put it another way - ways to cheat the tastebuds by adding instant flavour.

I'm not recommending you adopt them for every day use. But they may help you out of a tricky spot (or make you aware of what is hiding in the ostensibly simple dish you buy in a restaurant)

They tend to be ways of boosting a dish by adding to one of the 5 basic taste sensations- sweet, salty, bitter, sour, savoury or umami.

This is the list I'm aware of - let me know if you come across any others!

Sugar and salt I understand that salt opens the palate and helps us enjoy the flavour in dishes. When boiling vegetables (e.g. carrots) the combination of a teaspoonful of sugar and quarter teaspoon/pinch of salt added to cooking water can really lift the flavour, particularly if the vegetables are a little old.

Of course, you can educate your palate to enjoy less salt, or none at all, and use other things to give the flavour.

But the basic principle of sweet and salt together being "tasty" explains their presence in prepared foods. Urban legend has it that KFC use a combination of a little salt, sugar and chicken stock on their fries, to make them moreish.

Brown sugar can disguise the salty taste in an over-salted soup or stock. The salt is still there though - not good for health or blood pressure!

And of course salt is added to chips. I was told that this is partly to absorb excess fat, although I don't know if this has a scientific basis.

My summary : use sparingly - don't add salt or sugar as a general rule. Use it in moderate quantities where it has maximum impact, as part of a balanced diet. It can be great for bringing out flavour in vegetables, but you don't want to rely on the sugar/salt combination in everything you eat.

Butter, melted or whole, adds fat, but always tastes good. Hence it's role as a chef's rescuer! Be careful for the calories, and enjoy immensely in small quantities!

Worcester Sauce Adds flavour and richness - to pasta sauces or cheese on toast!

Ground white pepper This can give food a body and zest. Used in casseroles or seasoned vegies it can give a real lift. Similarly, a sponful of tomato paste can add body and richness, and excite the "umami" taste.

Cream for creamy-ness (and calories!)

Lemon or lime juice can cut through a rich dish

Parmesan cheese also provides the umami flavour.

And then there's MSG - the original umami. I don't use it or eat it myself, although some scientists claim that the MSG/chinese restaurant syndrome is due to things other than MSG, and it's not actually bad for you. It's widely added to food in many parts of Asia. Up to you!

I know that's more than 4 taste tricks - the original four were, I think, salt, brown sugar, worcester sauce and butter. If you know of any other tricks and tips, let me know!

Update: When I compiled this list, I forgot to add Sherry. It can be a miracle ingredient in soups. A couple of tablespoonfuls will make an ordinary soup (dare I say it - even a tinned soup - taste fabulous.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Pasta sauce with a secret ingredient

Today's recipe comes from my friend Simon's kitchen in Romsey, Hampshire. I'm staying with Simon for a couple of days, before we head off to the Crawley Juggling convention.

Yesterday, while he was at work and I was working on my laptop, I made my classic pasta sauce. It's based on a recipe I found in a book published for the New Zealand Red Cross . The cookbook was published as a fundraiser in the late 80s, and asked then celebrities to contribute their favourite recipe. George Balani offered his Italian mother's pasta sauce, and it's from him that I got the secret ingredient (see below!) George didn't have vegetables in his sauce (as I recall), except maybe onion and a little garlic. The sauce can be very good with just the meat/tomato base, but it is a lot richer. It's more cost effective to extend it with vegetables, and I prefer the flavour. It's a good way of making meat go further, getting your 5-9 servings of vegetables a day.

Like most of my recipes it's very flexible.

The basic ingredients:
The meat:
Lean beef mince (you can use turkey or lamb too) About a pound/450 grams will go a long way - feeds 4 comfortably more if you extend with vegetables. Lean for preference - no-one needs the extra saturated fat.

The tomato base
The classic "balani" version had 2 cups tomato puree, 2 tablespoons tomato paste.
I've done it very successfully with Tomato puree, Tomato paste, and chopped tomatoes, even a few skinned fresh tomatoes.
Last night's had a jar of sainsbury's chopped tomato with olive oil, and 4 large vine tomatoes that I skinned. Around 500ml in some form or other is needed. The tomato paste makes a big difference. I've found that the tubes of tomato paste are very useful to have round the house, and last well in the fridge.

The vegetables
Always at least 1 finely chopped onion
1-3 grated carrots - for me this is the key "extender" ingredient.
1/2-1 cup chopped celery, finely chopped zucchini, courgettes, mushrooms or even cauliflower!*
1-3 cloves garlic

Herbs - parsley, oregano, basil if you like basil (I find I prefer it on its own, as a pesto, or as a garnish, rather than in a tomato sauce)
Sugar - 1 tablespoon. If your tomato base ends up a little acidic, a bit of sugar can lift it. Adding sugar is one of the four cook's cheats - I'll blog on that more later!
Red wine - if you like, instead of water.

The method
Saute the onion until translucent in a frypan with lid (I've found a large non-stick wok works really well). Add the mince and brown. Add the grated carrot and cook until it's starting to go a bit dry and caramelisey - the sugars in the carrot respond well. Add the tomato paste around this time too Just when it's starting to stick a bit, add the vegetables, stir really well to cook them by heat rather than steam (this really improves the flavour!). Leave them as long as you can, without them sticking (add the lid to keep the heat in - but keep an eye on it).

Before it burns*** add the liquid, dried or fresh herbs, tomato puree, and enough water or red wine to just cover. Then it's time for:

The secret ingredient
Time. And yes, that is T I M E not T H Y M E. Much as I adore the the smell of the herb** it's the long cooking time - 2 hours if you've got it - that makes the real difference to this recipe.

Keep an eye on it, simmer gently, give it a stir occasionally, if it tastes a bit sharp add a spoonful of sugar (white or brown). And let time and heat do its work.

The sauce can become quite thick. Thin it down with water (perhaps a dash of red wine) if you want a looser sauce. It's great for lasagne, or spaghetti. It also freezes well, so you can make a huge batch, freeze portions and reheat as you cook the pasta.


Random foodnotes below!

* This recipe is great for clearing out vegies which are sitting round in the vegetable drawer in the fridge. I learnt to make the best of what we had, on a limited budget, from my mother. We had a limited budget to feed a family, of up to seven including exchange students. We were good at using what there was to hand, and finding ways of using up the left-over vegetables in the fridge. My mum was also ahead of her time in seeking a healthier diet - we had muesli for breakfast and I was the only child in my class with brown bread sandwiches!.

** The smell of thyme brings back wonderful memories for me of a fantastic New Year's Eve sitting with my then boyfriend on the hillside overlooking the Clyde Dam, listening to greatest hits from the 80s. I was feeling a bit apprehensive about the new job I was about to start, but the proclaimers were singing that they would walk 500 miles, and life felt good. Thyme also grows on the hills around Agios Pavlos in Crete. When I finally plant my own garden in my house I will definitely plant thyme in the garden..

*** Yes I know it's not helpful to say "if it burns you're too late!" But it really is a question of keeping an eye on it - you can tell if something's about to burn. The trick is to use the heat to get a little caramelisation going, without it burning. You get a richer flavour that way.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Dan Pengelley's Brownies

This is the brownie recipe of the multi-talented Daniel Pengelly, Court Jester and cook.

You can see what Dan looks like and find out when he's performing, on the Court Jesters Website. Encouragingly, despite cooking and eating the below you can see that he is more Johnny Depp than Augustus Gloop.

Here is the recipe, in Dan's own words

250g butter
2 cups of white sugar
5 eggs (four big ones)
2 teaspoons Vanilla essence
2/3 cup of cocoa
1 cup of flour
1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 block of dark whittakers chocolate

Add water to cocoa-enough to mix into paste (not runny) and vanilla essence and leave to refresh.

Whisk butter and sugar together- I say whisk and when I do it properly it comes out like sponge...

Add eggs one at a time (recipe can get too eggy so don't think you have to use 5 eggs!)

Then add cocoa mixture and mix.

Then flour, baking powder+soda, salt and mix.

Put into lightly oiled and papered tin- 30cm x20cm or thereabouts - or slice tray (but has to be 2 inches high)

Break up chocolate (as small as possible) over top this will melt through cake and end up in the bottom!

Oven 175 celcius for 32 minutes (well 32 in my oven at least-35 will burn it in my old house!)

Be warned this cake is deadly in the wrong hands - and never ever ice unless you want to kill with calories!

Some notes-
1) Watch eggs - if to much I find the cream mixture splits
2) I say whittakers chocolate cause it works- but cooking choclate does the trick or raspberries. I used Cadbury's and the fat came out of choc and tasted like lumps of condensed milk!
3) Cooking time depends on your level of moisture preference!

And there you have it!

A note from Rachel again for non New Zealanders.

Whittakers is a cult chocolate brand, famous for their peanut slabs. In the UK, I'd use Green and Black's or maybe Lindor dark.

Anywhere in Europe I'd use the 50-75% cocoa solids chocolate you can get for a song (well a euro or two)at LIDL. Best chocolate bargain around!

An interesting chocolate fact: Dan mentions he used Cadbury's chocolate. He would have used the version sold and made for the New Zealand market. I understand they use a different recipe in Australia, where the chocolate needs to have a higher melting point, due to the higher temperatures it's transported and stored at. When I was in Australia, Cadbury's chocolate seemed a little crunchy to me - and I was told this is the reason. I'm not sure how either compares to the chocolate sold in Britain - more like the NZ formulation I think.

I'm not planning exhaustive testing though...Green and Black's Maya Gold is my chocolate of choice (emergencies only!). Not only does it taste great, it's also organic and more importantly fair trade.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Cures for jetlag and a cold

Today's new recipes aren't really recipes - they're a record of my trip to Borough Market (yes I am in London now!) and how I treated my cold and jetlag!

First ingredient:

Double espresso: go to Starbucks, or Monmouth Coffee company, order double espresso. Drink. Monmouth recommended as it was only 60p for a double! Starbucks it's £1.49.

Effect: Sinuses are much clearer (more effective than Sudafed!) and jetlag kept a little at bay.

Second ingredient: What I used to call the "Hangover smoothie" at borough market with blackberries, currants apple and fresh orange juice. Yummy and immune boosting.

Raspberries for £1 a punnet.

A carrier bag (well about a shoebox sized bag) of flat mushrooms for £1 at closing time!

Bread roll with red onion and feta on top - 5 for £1 at closing time - so my brother Matt had 2.

Chocolate brownie (David ate it, I sampled it!) Yum. Can't compare to Dan's as I haven't made the latter yet, but v v good.



Tuesday, August 01, 2006

YP Courgettes, and easy eggplant

At the yoga centre where I cook we roast zucchini in the oven.

Slice in half, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, bake until just cooked, slightly brown if you like them that way, or very brown and shrivelled if you like extra taste (and less of the final product).

When they are cooked (or a little brown), crumble feta cheese on top, back in the oven (15 minutes maybe - depends on oven, I can't remember!) until the feta is browned.

A classic for us in Crete - ingredients always fresh and available.

For the eggplant: sliced in rounds, drizzled with oil, salt and pepper and roasted can be yummy just on its own.

It would need to go in ahead of the zucchini. You can also turn the eggplant over when it's starting to soften, and put a slice of tomato on top. Slice of mozzarella on top of that is another option - back into the oven until tomato is softened mozarella softened, or crispy if you prefer.

When I worked there last year we joked last year we had a bilingual kitchen - cooking with aubergine and eggplant, courgettes and zucchini, oreganum, or-e-ga-no and o-reg-a-no and tom- ah-toes and tom-ay-toes.

For me, growing up with my Mum's recipe books from England, Australia and the US, means I'm fluent in metric/imperial and centigrade/farenheit. This probably is part of the reason I found Maths so easy at school. (or "Math" for US readers.

My culinary multilingualism (multicuisinism? multimeasuringism?) runs out when it comes to"Gas Mark 5", and I'd be a little stumped by an Aga, although I have seen it on TV.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Easy peasey beer bread

Jo Seagar is famous for this recipe - I hope she won't mind me posting it. I plan to make it in Crete. I think it would go really well with one of the vegetable soups we'll have in the evenings.

In terms of the " NZ Cultural Anthropology of food, I'd say this is a 90s recipe - traditional food (home baked bread) but fast and easy! It's in the same vein as lemonade scones (which I also first heard about from Jo Seagar), and "impossible quiche", a trendy late 80s - early 90s that was a common "bring a plate" offering.

Beer Bread Ingredients:

3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 400ml can beer (if slightly smaller, rinse out the can)
1 teaspoon salt
1 handful (half cup) cheese.

Preheat oven to 200 C (that's hot!)

Mix four, baking powder, salt and beer in a large bowl until well combined

Tip into one large 21 x 12 cm nonstick or well greased loaf tins, or two 8 x 15 cm small tins

Bake the large loave for 50-60 minutes, the small from 30-40 minutes until golden brown. Tip out and cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Food as anthropology : Cocktail Meatballs with Chutney

This recipe was one Mum served year after year at "Principal's Cocktails", the annual Christmas event, when my Dad, or the other Principal hosted the staff and their partners for drinks and nibbles. It's always been a great favourite.

It comes from the Glennys Raffles Cookbook "Microwave the New Zealand Way". When we first got a microwave in 1985, this was a best seller. Although it didn't reach the biblical status of the Edmonds Cookbook, it was a classic of its time. It seems to be available only on Trade Me these days.

It's quoted in this link to a paper by Helen Leach of the University of Otago's anthropology department entitled What Do Cookery Books Reveal about the Evolution of New Zealand Pavlovas? . I don't make pavlovas (not my specialty), so I'm not posting any recipes for them! Read the paper for recipe evolution.

Alison Holst has also written in the past about fashions in food - think fondues and quiche in the 70s, Pizza with tinned spaghetti on it in the 70s and 80s, and Italian and sushi in the 90s.

Anyway, the recipe! I've added comments based on my experiments over the years, so blame me and not Glennys if this doesn't work.

Recipe part 1: the Meatballs
500g topside steak mince
1/2 c fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 c milk
1/2 c coconut (the secret ingredient!)
1 small onion finely chopped
1 egg
2 teaspoons Worcester Sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt,
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Mix all ingredients with wet hands, shape the mixture into 1 inch balls. Arrange half the meatballs in a flat dish or roaster, cover with waxed paper, and cook on high (100%) for 2 minutes. Stir to rearrange them, and continue cooking until meatballs are no longer pink inside (1-2 minutes). Then cook the other half!

They also cook fine in an oven - maybe 20 minutes - haven't timed it recently. As a general rule, use your nose. Mum always said, if you can smell something, it's probably cooked. It works for cakes anyway.

Recipe part two: the chutney sauce

1/2 cup tomato chutney or sauce (either works well)
1/3 cup plum (or other jam)
2 Tablespoons orange (or other fruit juice)
2 teaspoons mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

My general rule: trust your tastebuds! Varying the ingredients a little for the sauce won't be fatal - go on, experiment!

Cook gently on the stove or microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir in meatballs, and continue cooking until meatballs are hot.

This freezes really well (we'd do huge batches for the cocktails).

It's also quite yummy with pasta, although you might want to tone down the sauce a bit (or maybe not!).

You could saute some finely chopped celery and onion and grated carrot. When they are softened add chopped tomatoes or tomato puree. Simmer that a bit, then add the chutney sauce ingredients. Adjust to taste. Eat with pasta - yum!

There's also a chilli cheese sauce, based on cheese, sherry and chilli sauce, but I've never made it. It looks a bit rich for my taste.

Simple, cheap, yummy extra moist chocolate cake (and it's even vegan!)

This is the world's simplest, and quite possibly cheapest, chocolate cake. It always gets rave reviews, and the recipe is nigh on indestructible. It takes me less than 5 minutes to throw together when I do it on my own. My nephew and I have made it together since he was 2 years 10 months old (which takes a little longer). Even with his "measuring" (i.e. some strange sized tablespoonfuls, teaspoons and cup measures) it still works every time.

It's also vegan- so you can cook it for your vegan cousin***. It can be doubled in quantity (with a longer cooking time). We make a cake on similar principles almost every day at yoga plus for guests (but quadruple the quantity). I'll post that exact recipe later.

The Recipe

Sift* dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.
1 1/2 c flour (that's 250ml cups, although see above for this recipe's indestructibility)
1 c sugar
2 T baking cocoa (or regular cocoa)
1 teaspoon mixed spice and 1 teaspoon ground ginger (or when you run out of either of these 2 teaspoons of a combination of mixed spice, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger - they all work fine)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Add to the bowl

1/2 cup soybean, corn, canola or other vegetable oil. I wouldn't use olive, but you could.
2 teaspoons white vinegar (hmm sometimes I add a bit more- I misread this as tablespoons for a long time and the cake still worked out well....)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence.
3/4 cup water.

Mix ingredients together. Don't overmix**.

Spoon or pour into a greased and lined tin.

It can be a ring tin (but who wants to line a ring tin?) I mostly use a 20cm square tin, and put a sheet of baking parchment which I fold at the corners.

Bake 30-40 minutes at 190celcius / 375farenheit. Leave in tin for 5 minutes before removing.

Let cool, and then ice with chocolate icing. Although if you ice it slightly warm (3 year olds aren't that patient) the icing kind of sets into the cake, which is yummy in itself, particularly for dessert.

Serve as a cake or dessert, with whipped cream or ice cream if you have no regard for calories. Or get creative and decorate with lollies, coconut, blueberries, candy mushrooms. Give your inner three year old full rein.

Enjoy! And let me know if you make it.

*If you don't have a sieve, or can't be bothered washing it then whisk dry ingredients with a large whisk - much easier and pretty much as effective as a sieve, although you may need to squash cocoa and baking soda lumps with the back of a spoon. I got this trick from Graham Kerr, and I've barely used a sieve since.
** It's important not to overmix cakes and muffins, as it makes them tough and texturally less appealing. Just mix till all the flour is damp and it's combined - no need to beat the batter. However, I do not hold with the theory that lumps of flour in a cake are OK. They are not!
***Hi to Dan and to his vegan cousin. I was prompted to post this particular recipe after talking to Dan at the Court Theatre. See Court Jesters for information on Scared Scriptless, a really cool and fun improv show in Christchurch featuring Dan and other people, many of whom are also called Dan. In fact most men in their 20s in Christchurch are called Dan (Dan Carter is but the most famous example).

Monday, July 17, 2006

Carrot mixed bean hummus


Today's recipe - a hummus type dip that I'm taking to the screening of our 48hour film re-edit.

Very simple. I've just whizzed up 2 cooked carrots, and a tin each of chickpeas and 4 bean mix, with lemon pepper, lemon juice and a bit of olive oil (not much, just a spoonful).

To be served with celery and carrots - let's see what the reviews are!

Dad tried some with his steak - and thought it had zing. He's not usually one for dips, so that's a good sign.



Reviews: not bad, 2 small carrots better than 3 large ones. More chickpeas would be better I think.

Welcome to the recipe zone

Hello all!

This is my blog, specially for recipes and thoughts about food.

In a few weeks I'll be a cook at YogaPlus ( in Crete, and I thought I'd put a few recipes here, for anyone who is interested.

I've cooked all my life. One of my earliest memories was of filling milk bottles to measure a pint of water when making Maggi packet soups for lunch with my mother as a toddler.

I got my first cookbook the Christmas I was 4 - the "Mary Mouse Cookbook". I still have it!

At times I've stopped cooking - when I lived in London and worked as a lawyer, and was out every night I ate out a lot, and lost the urge to cook.

My favourite kind of cooking challenge is to take a limited range of ingredients, including leftovers, and put them together in an unusual way. Cooking at YP is right up my sleeve, as the supply of the usual vegetarian and vegan food staples is limited (no soy products, for example).

Anyway, here is the blog - let's see what comes of it!