Remember mint sauce? I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t. I’d all but forgotten about it myself, until last week when the Mr brought home half a slow-cooked lamb shoulder as a souvenir from a night out.

While I was reheating it for dinner the next evening, watching fat pooling in the roasting dish and feeling too tired to make hummus, I remembered the ultimate in traditional accompaniments. Five minutes later…

Easy Mint Sauce For Roast Lamb

Asian Mint Sauce
Let’s be clear, this is a mint sauce with vaguely Asian ingredients, not a sauce of Asian mint (though I’m sure that would be nice, and if you have some growing, adding it would be a good experiment).

2 Tbsp grated palm sugar, or brown sugar
1/2 cup rice vinegar
a good pinch of flaky sea salt
about 40 fresh mint leaves, shredded

Put the sugar, vinegar and salt in a small pot. Bring it to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove from the heat and add the mint. Stir and leave to cool, then transfer to a lidded glass jar. Store in the fridge and use liberally on appropriated roast lamb, among other things.

Given the weirdness of our weather – nearly May and it’s still t-shirt weather in most parts of New Zealand, while it’s sleeting in the northern hemisphere – it seems this fits the bill for Lavender and Lovage’s Cooking With Herbs blogging challenge for April, which focuses on herbs for spring and Easter.

Cooking with Herbs Lavender and Lovage

No blog posts for ages and then, what? A sandwich? I’m afraid so. Truth is, I feel like I’ve lost my food mojo in the last couple of weeks. Life seems to have overtaken me; there seems to be too much going on and not enough time to do it in. I’ve been doing a lot of running, so I’m perpetually hungry (and tired), and spending hours in the kitchen is a luxury I don’t seem to have. 

Anyway, I’m hoping normal(ish) service will resume soon. In the meantime, here’s a sandwich I perfected earlier in the year, when I was on holiday, combining lots of running with lots of gardening, lots of reading and lots of sitting on our newly finished deck, thinking how life was pretty sweet.

The perfect tuna sandwich

Not surprisingly, good tuna and good bread are essential to the success of this sandwich. The absolute best baguettes I’ve found in Wellington are the Acme sourdough baguettes from Prefab, the best tuna is the Sirena brand (the one with the mermaid on the tin).

1 x 185g tin good quality tuna in oil, drained (reserve the oil)

2 tsp green peppercorns in brine, drained

2 tsp capers, rinsed and roughly chopped

zest and juice of a lemon

2 tbsp mayonnaise

salt and pepper

Put everything in a small bowl and mix well. Add a little more oil if necessary. Pile into a halved baguette with some crunchy lettuce. Eat immediately.

What have you been up to while I’ve been away?

Let’s get something straight: I’ve never been one to join in the ‘fun’ of St Patrick’s Day. Not for me the early morning pints of Guinness, the purposeful wearing of Kelly green or the joining of parades on March 17. Not my circus, not my monkeys, as the saying goes.

Three Ways With Guinness Guinness Granita With Irish Cream Credit: Lucy Corry

So it has come as a bit of a surprise to find that I’m actually a little bit partial to Guinness. I’m probably more likely to find a four-leaf clover than drink a pint of it in one go, but it’s not a bad drop, all told. And it’s quite fun to play with as an ingredient, especially if you get the cans with the little ball in them that help you pour it just like they do at the pub. Here are three ways to get some of that Guinness goodness into you…

Guinness Granita with Irish Cream
This idea came to me like a vision while I was running up Mt Victoria in the half-dark one hot and sticky late summer morning. It’s every bit as refreshing as I hoped – and it makes one can of Guinness go a very long way. The granita will hold in the freezer for a couple of weeks and you should get at least six to eight servings out of it. The cream is best made just before serving – the amount specified below is enough for four.

1/2 cup caster sugar
1 cup boiling water
1 x 440ml can Guinness
1/2 cup cream
2 Tbsp Bailey’s Irish Cream (or Irish whiskey)

Put the sugar and water in a bowl and stir well to dissolve the sugar. Slowly add the Guinness and stir well, then pour into a shallow freezer-safe container.
Put in the freezer and leave until partially frozen (about 1 to 1.5 hours), then scrape up the crystals with a fork and stir well. Return to the freezer for another 1.5-2 hours, then scrape up the mixture into large crystals. At this point you can serve the granita, or scrape into a covered container and leave in the freezer until you’re ready.
When you’re ready to serve, whip the cream with the Baileys or whiskey until soft peaks form.
Scrape about half a cup of the granita into a glass, then top with a large spoonful of the cream.
Serve immediately.

2. Black Velvets
This isn’t my invention but I’ve always loved the story associated with it. After the death of Prince Albert in 1861, a London bartender invented a drink that looked suitably sombre for those in mourning by mixing Guinness and champagne together. It takes a little bit of skill to get it right without the glasses overflowing, but it’s otherwise a very simple drink. Just half-fill a champagne flute with sparkling wine (not your best French champagne, unless you’re a member of the Guinness family or similar), then carefully, carefully, carefully, top up with chilled Guinness.

3. Guinness Affogato
If you don’t have time to make a Guinness granita, as detailed above, you can still have a Guinness-y pudding. Scoop some best-quality vanilla ice cream into a chilled glass, then pour over half a shot of espresso coffee and half the same quantity of Guinness. Top with some shards of very dark chocolate.

Have a great week, everyone. Slainte!

When I rule the world, I’m going to introduce a law banning vanilla-flavoured perfumes and all forms of fake vanilla extract.

Real vanilla has such a beautiful, delicate scent, but it’s been ruined by the synthetic variants wafting through a home near you.

Vanilla soap, vanilla perfume, vanilla moisturiser, vanilla candles, they’ll all be banned. Fake vanilla extracts will be outlawed, too. Instead, we’ll feast on real vanilla-scented cakes, like this tropical number.

Coconut, chocolate and vanilla cake

This has a triple dose of vanilla, but it’s not overpowering. Just make sure you use the real deal. The combination of chocolate and vanilla – a powerful duo – makes this just right for this month’s We Should Cocoa, hosted by the ever-lovely Karen of Lavender and Lovage.

125g butter, softened

1 cup caster sugar

4 eggs, at room temperature

1 tsp pure vanilla

2 cups desiccated coconut

1 cup flour

‘1 1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch salt

3/4 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate

For the syrup:

1/2 cup boiling water

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp pure vanilla

For the icing:

1/2 cup icing sugar

1 tsp butter

2 tsp pure vanilla

2 tsp boiling water

Heat the oven to 170C and grease and line a 23cm ring tin (or similar).

Cream the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating furiously. If it looks in danger of curdling, add a little of the desiccated coconut. When the eggs are all in, add the coconut and vanilla. Beat to combine, then fold in the sifted flour, baking powder and salt. Scraipe into the prepared tin and bake for 30 mins, until a skewer comes out cleanly. Leave in the tin for five minutes, then stab with a skewer (very satisfying!) and pour over the syrup (just stir together the boiling water, sugar and vanilla to make it).

When the cake has cooled, carefully remove from the tin and set on a plate.

Make the icing by beating together all the ingredients – you may need more boiling water to make it the right consistency – and drizzle it over the cake.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Did you know that in some places they’re not making journalism interns learn shorthand any more? I know, I’m shocked too. Instead of giving them a good grounding in Teeline, they’re giving them magic recording pens that download interviews straight to a computer.

I knew the world would pass me by one day but I didn’t think it would happen so soon. I hate to think what Mary, my shorthand teacher, would think of this. Mary, a saintly sort, reckoned shorthand was crucial for getting you out of a tight spot. Mary warned against relying on dictaphones for fear they would break down and advised us to always carry a pencil because it would enable us to write in wet conditions. I hate to think what she’d make of a magic pen.

My shorthand isn’t what it used to be (ahem, I could do 120 wpm in my heyday), but I still use it all the time. I have recipe notes full of part shorthand, part longhand scrawl and I can still write a shopping list in seconds. Bet fancy youngsters can’t do that with magic pens.

To seal my reputation as a past-it hack of no use to anyone, here’s a vegetable soup recipe so old-fashioned it’s probably due a hipster revival.

Easy Old-Fashioned Vegetable Soup

Old-fashioned vegetable soup
This is so simple you don’t need a magic pen or shorthand skills to memorise the recipe. It’s very comforting, hearty and cheap to make. Be careful when buying soup mix as some are packed with unnecessary flavourings and salt. If you can’t find a decent one (Wellingtonians: Moore Wilson has 500g bags of soup mix that are ideal), then just use a mix of split peas, red lentils and pearl barley.

1 cup (250g) soup mix
4 cups chopped vegetables – eg onion, carrot, celery, sweet potato, pumpkin
8 cups good quality vegetable or chicken stock
fresh herbs – parsley, chervil, coriander

Put the soup mix, vegetables and stock in a large pot. Bring to a simmer, skim off any scum and let cook, uncovered, for about 1 – 1 1/2 hours, until the vegetables are tender. Stir through some fresh herbs before serving. Makes about 10 cups and freezes well.