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!

Treat me: Lemon poppy seed biscuits

Remember our neighbours with the amazing lemon tree? They have gone on holiday and their lemon tree is taunting me with its golden globes shining through the fence. It’s been so windy lately I’ve been expecting the lemons to blow over to our side of the fence, but so far it hasn’t happened. In the meantime, I’ve been accepting gifts of lemons from friends on the other side of the harbour and using them with reckless abandon.

So when Dom’s Random Recipe challenge for October asked us to use a local ingredient I figured lemons would be it. Then I stumbled – actually, properly stumbled – over local cookbook Alice In Bakingland on the dining room floor and the perfect lemony recipe leapt up at me.

Lemon and poppy seed biscuits
Alice In Bakingland is the first book from one-time New Zealand’s Hottest Home Baker finalist and self-taught baking whiz Alice Arndell. It’s such a sweet book – I’ve described it to friends as a Pinterest cookbook because everything is so pretty (that’s also to do with the great photos by Murray Lloyd). But it’s also extremely useful, with lots of useful, everyday sorts of recipes alongside the glamour ones and a whole batch of handy hints. I’m forever indebted to Alice for sharing the information that one cup of plain flour equals one cup of high grade less two tablespoons. I’m also very grateful for her allowing me to reproduce this lovely recipe here.

2 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup caster sugar
finely grated zest of two lemons (I actually double this to make it super lemony)
2 Tbsp poppy seeds
180g cold butter, cubed
1 egg
1 egg yolk

Put the flour, salt, sugars, lemon zest and poppy seeds into a food processor and pulse briefly to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Add the egg and egg yolk, and process until the mixture clumps.
Tip the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and squeeze together. Form into a log that’s about 5cm diameter, wrap well and chill for at least two hours, until the dough is very firm.
When ready to bake, heat the oven to 180C. Line two baking trays with baking paper.
Slice the dough into 1/2 cm rounds and put on the prepared trays. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges just start to brown. Cool on a wire rack. Makes about 36.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Middle class coleslaw

I am a terrible snob. I’m not proud of this shortcoming but since there’s no point in denying it so I may as well be bold. I know I am a terrible snob because I once told someone that his mother made white trash coleslaw. In my defence, he said (and did) much, much worse to me. And that coleslaw was disgusting – tinned pineapple, cabbage, carrot and condensed milk dressing – so I don’t think I was completely out of line. Plus, his mother used to look at me like I was something she’d trodden on. Harrumph.

Anyway, that’s all ancient history and I’m over it, truly. But earlier this evening, when rustling up an impromptu salad to go with the remainder of Monday night’s roast chicken, I realised I was essentially making coleslaw too. Not posh coleslaw, not even an exotic Asian-ish one. Is there such a thing as a middle class coleslaw? I think I’ve just made it. But in good news, this is a coleslaw that transcends all barriers. Young, old, rich, poor, we can all eat and enjoy with impunity. But if you even think of putting tinned pineapple in it you deserve to choke on each mouthful.

So good to eat, so hard to make look good to eat!

Middle class coleslaw
This is the sort of thing you whip up in 10 minutes while wearing your running kit and making increasingly firm requests to your daughter to get out of the bath so you can get into it. Quantities are approximate – this much makes enough for four. Any leftovers are good in a lunchbox the next day.

1/4 of a cabbage – Savoy if you’re posh, ordinary if not, shredded
2 carrots, peeled, then grated
2 ribs of celery, destringed, then finely chopped
100g tasty cheddar, grated
1 tsp caraway seeds (optional)

For the dressing:
1 clove garlic, mashed to a paste with a pinch of salt
2 tsp Dijon mustard
a good pinch of sugar
4 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
8 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Make the dressing first. Put the smashed garlic, mustard, sugar and vinegar in a screw top jar. Screw on the lid and shake well. Add the oil, reattach the lid and shake again until emulsified. Taste – add a little more oil or vinegar to suit. It should be slightly on the sharp side to balance out the cheese.
Put the cabbage, carrot, celery and cheese in a salad bowl and toss together to mix. Sprinkle over the caraway seeds, if using, then pour over two-thirds of the dressing. Toss well, adding more dressing if necessary. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until needed.

Are you a food snob? Does it get you into trouble?