Really good peanut salad dressing

I’m not sure it’s the sort of thing Oprah writes in her gratitude journals, but every day I thank my stars that no one in my household has a nut allergy. Quite apart from the threat of anaphylaxis, I can’t imagine life without peanut butter. Actually, I can barely imagine a day without it. 

Peanut butter – especially proper peanut butter, like the excellent varieties springing up everywhere in New Zealand now – is a major food group in my house. Peanut butter and banana on toast is my hurried breakfast (and sometimes, lunch) of choice. It’s a handy tahini replacement in homemade hummus, works well in a marinade and is a major baking ingredient. It’s also a nifty addition to a salad dressing to perk up broccolini and other assorted bits and pieces. Add this to your weeknight repertoire for those nights when peanut butter and crackers seem like the only viable dinner option.

 

Really good peanut salad dressing

This is child’s play to make and it’s really useful. I think it’s good with steamed broccolini, but you could add all sorts of crunchy greens and some cooked chicken or tofu for a very family-friendly dinner. 

1 clove garlic, crushed with 1/2 tsp flaky salt

2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 Tbsp good quality peanut butter

1/2 cup good quality peanut oil

Put all ingredients in a screwtop jar, attach the lid and shake well until emulsified. Makes about 1 cup – easily enough for a substantial salad for 4-6 people – and stores well in the fridge.

If you prefer your peanut butter treats to be a little more decadent, then this peanut butter pie should fit the bill (though you won’t be fitting much after eating it). 

*My clever friends at Kiwi Mummy Blogs have teamed up with the nice people at Pic’s Really Good Peanut Butter to collate some Really Good peanut butter recipes. You can get more peanut butter inspo here.*

Double chocolate beetroot cakes

Delusion is a wonderful thing. It’s why dress shops have flattering mirrors, why cosmetic counters have soft lighting and why a whole industry has sprung up around ‘healthy’ baking.

There are two ingredients required for ‘healthy’ baking – either fruit and vegetables (hello, carrot cake) or oats (to whit, the entire British flapjack industry). Now, few people will dispute the merits of vegetables or whole grains, but they’re not enough to mitigate the ingredients needed to turn them into cakes or biscuits. Far better, I think, to concentrate on the deliciousness imparted by a couple of juicy beetroots to a trayful of chocolate-studded cakes than angst about whether they’re good for you or not.

Double Chocolate Beetroot Cakes With Cream Cheese And Honey Frosting

Double chocolate and beetroot cakes
This is a good school holiday activity for idle hands – especially if you can get them involved in the dishes afterwards. This recipe makes around 18 cakes, which keep well in an airtight tin and can be frozen very successfully for lunchboxes or unexpected visitors.

It’s also a fitting entry for October’s Tea Time Treats, a blogging event run by Karen of Lavender and Lovage and Jane of The Hedgecombers. This month, they’re looking for recipes containing fruit and vegetables. If you subscribe to the theory that chocolate is derived from a fruit, then this fits the bill on both counts.

2 cups wholemeal flour
3/4 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
4Tbsp good quality cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup coconut
3/4 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate
3 eggs
3/4 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup oil
1/4 cup yoghurt
3 cups finely grated raw beetroot (about 2 medium beetroots)

Heat the oven to 160C (fanbake) and line 18-muffin pans with cupcake liners (not essential, but makes for easier cleaning up and no anxiety when it comes to getting them out of the tin).
Sift the flour, cocoa, spices and baking soda into a bowl. Stir in the coconut and chopped chocolate and set aside.
Beat the eggs, sugar, yoghurt and oil together until thick and pale. Fold in the dry ingredients, then the beetroot. Divide between the prepared tins – each one should be about two-thirds full – and bake for 20-25 minutes.
I like these just as they are, but they’re also very good with a simple cream cheese icing (beat together 1 cup soft cream cheese with 2 Tbsp honey and 1/2 tsp pure vanilla) and a scattering of chocolate. (That does make them less ‘healthy’ though!)

What’s your favourite ‘healthy’ baking treat?

Easy Beetroot And Chocolate Cakes

Five easy spring meals

It’s spring! Proper spring – with balmy temperatures, early rising birds and new buds appearing in the garden. Well, it was like that a few days ago. Now we’re back to tempestuous winds, lashing rain and that horrible greyness, but I’ve got high hopes.

Spring Daffodil Photo: Lucy Corry

It’s too soon for asparagus and the little lambs arriving in paddocks near you are too small for the cooking pot, but there are lots of other spring-y things to eat. Here are five easy spring dinners to add to your repertoire…

1. Superfood Salad: It’s got quinoa, broccoli and other spring-y, crunchy things to make you feel like frolicking in the sun. What more do you need?

Leon-Style Superfood Salad

2. Tray-baked Lamb and Potatoes: This is really good for those ‘I can’t think what to have for dinner’ evenings, which occur in our house at least once a week. Everything goes in the oven in one dish and there’s minimal cleaning up (even the non-cooks can make this one).

Easy Greek Lamb And Potatoes

3. Spring Cauliflower Soup: Cauliflower has had a bit of a renaissance of late, thanks to the craze for turning it into a pizza crust, but I think it’s unbeatable in this simple and healthy cauliflower soup.

Detox Cauliflower Soup

4. Simple Smoked Fish And Rice: This is another one-pot wonder, handy when you’ve been out in the garden tackling six months’ worth of weeding.

Easy Smoky Fish And Rice

5. Little lamb burgers: If you’re blessed with a beautiful spring day, cook these outside on your (long-neglected) barbecue. If it’s ‘sit inside by the heater weather’, they can be baked or pan-fried indoors.

Little Lamb Mince Burgers

What are your plans for this spring? 

Treat me: Raspberry chocolate gelato

She wore raspberry sorbet… the kind you find at the organic store

She wore raspberry sorbet… and if I let her she’d eat more and more

I’m sorry if I’ve given you a Prince-flavoured ear worm. It’s just that ever since I made this amazing raspberry and chocolate sorbet I’ve had that song (or a bad variation of it) stuck in my head. 

Outing our household as a milk-free one has meant I have found quite a few dairy-free kindred spirits. While we’re not dairy-free (come over one morning, watch the Small Girl and I load up our toast with slabs of butter – ‘and peanut butter on the top so the butter is peeking out, please Mummy’), I do feel a certain kinship with the non-milk-loving kind. So, in a bid to please them (and, use up some leftover egg whites), I feel compelled to share this piece of dairy-free genius with you. 

Raspberry and chocolate gelato

This is inspired by a recipe using frozen cherries by Australian food stylist Caroline Velik, who makes really beautiful food. Note to self: when cherries are plentiful in the summer, freeze some. I call this gelato because it’s not icy like a sorbet, but all light and airy in your mouth, like really good gelato. You won’t believe there’s no dairy products in it, honest. Leave out the chocolate if you’re a purist, but it is quite fun. Alternatively, melt about 100g of good dark chocolate with 100ml cream and pour this over a scoop of the gelato for a real treat. You can make this in a freestanding mixer or in a bowl with electric beaters.

300g frozen raspberries

2 egg whites

1/2 cup caster sugar

100g very good dark chocolate, smashed into little bits.

Put the raspberries, sugar and chocolate into the bowl of a freestanding mixer (or a large bowl). Turn the beaters on and let the berries mush up a bit. Pour in the egg whites and turn the beaters to high speed. Continue beating, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides, for five minutes, until the mixture has doubled in size and is very light and fluffy. Scrape into a two-litre plastic container with a lid and freeze for at least four hours. Makes nearly two litres – which can be eaten remarkably quickly.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Treat me: DIY Cronuts

Do excuse my absence but I’ve had a big week. I’ll spare you the details, but it has involved a lot of late nights, early mornings and much busy-ness in between. Because I like making things hard for myself, I decided it was also a good time to conduct a little cronut experiment.

This isn’t as mad as it sounds, you know. Have you read those studies that link poor sleep to the blue light emitted from iPads and other screens? Nigella Lawson once told a reporter she wore special glasses in bed while reading on her iPad (Charles got upset if she kept the light on to read a normal book – and history has shown the consequences of upsetting him). I think a little late-night kitchen activity is far more soothing – though I probably looked a bit deranged, making creme patissiere at midnight on a Monday night while listening to a documentary about Dr Zhivago.

Anyway – cronuts. Everyone knows about the croissant-doughnut hybrid by now, attributed to pastry chef Dominique Ansel. Here’s a primer if you’ve been busy doing other things. My relentless, selfless quest to perfect Little & Friday’s famous doughnuts has made me quite confident in the arts of deep-frying, so I figured cronuts couldn’t be that much harder. And you know what? I was right.

Easy Homemade Cronuts

Lucy’s Five Tips For Making Cronuts At Home
Have faith. All you are doing is making some dough in the food processor, letting it rest, rolling it out and then cutting shapes that you will then deep-fry before squirting full of creme patissiere (thickened custard). I wouldn’t advise doing the deep-frying bit with small children or pets underfoot, but the rest is not hard. Really.

1. Use Edd Kimber’s 20-minute croissant dough recipe. It’s really, really easy – the initial stage (making the dough in a food processor) takes about 10 minutes. The dough chills in the fridge for a few hours, then you roll it out and fold it a few times before resting it overnight. I actually rested it for 36 hours and there was no harm done.

2. The night before you want to serve the cronuts, make the creme patissiere. Beat three eggs yolks, 1/4 cup caster sugar and just under 1/4 cup cornflour until pale and thick. Bring 500ml of full cream milk, 1/4 cup caster sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla paste in a saucepan to the boil, then remove from the heat. Pour half of the hot milk onto the egg mixture, whisking frantically. Put the saucepan (with the rest of the milk in it) back on the heat, then when it starts to bubble, pour in the egg mixture. Keep stirring and removed it from the heat as soon as it starts to bubble and plop like a mud pool. Pour it into a clean bowl, press some clingfilm onto the surface. Let cool, then refrigerate.

3. In the morning, take the rested croissant dough out of the fridge. Let it adjust to room temperature for 10 minutes or so, then roll out to 1cm thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut shapes – I used a 5cm fluted cutter, but you can make them any size you like. The offcuts can be deepfried too and they are a handy pick-me-up for the cronut maker who has had five hours’ sleep. Let the incipient cronuts prove for 20-30 minutes until they have doubled in thickness.

4. Deep frying 101: Use a deep saucepan, a neutral oil with a high smoke point, and be careful. If you don’t have a thermometer, use the wooden spoon handle trick: dip the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil – if it bubbles up immediately, it’s hot enough. Fry the cronuts in batches – about four a time is enough – for about two minutes a side. Remove them from the saucepan with a slotted spoon and let drain on some kitchen paper.

5. When you’ve finished frying and the cronuts are cool, take the pastry cream out of the fridge. Beat well, then squirt it into the cronuts (use the pointy nozzle attached to a disposable piping bag). Some cronuts are then rolled in caster sugar and glace icing, but I think a light dusting of icing sugar is more than enough. The light, lovely layers of the dough are the star here, why burden them with more sugar?

Have you made cronuts? Do you have any further tips?

Have a great weekend, everyone. I’m off to Dunedin for the Guild of Food Writers Conference. Hurrah!