Sparkling berry brandy cocktails

Someone asked me the other day what has been my greatest achievement of 2014. In the absence of anything else, I’ve finally decided that keeping going this year has been achievement enough.  Thank you dear readers for your continued support. May 2015 be full of ‘great achievements’ (whatever you think they are) for all of us.

In the meantime, here’s a small, recent achievement – summer in a glass. Think of this as the Kiwi Pimm’s…

Easy Recipe For Berry Brandy Champagne Cocktails Recipe And Photo By Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid 2014

Sparkling berry brandy cocktails
This is a good way to turn a bottle of Lindauer into something more special. The first person I served it to commented that ‘the strawberries hide the taste of the alcohol’. I didn’t have the heart to tell him about the brandy…

2 Tbsp brandy
1 Tbsp icing sugar
2/3 cup sliced strawberries
1 bottle of your best sparkling wine

Put the brandy and icing sugar in a small bowl and mix well. Add the strawberries and stir. Set aside (this can be done several hours in advance if you like). To serve, divide this mixture between six champagne flutes and top with sparkling wine.

Happy New Year, everyone. See you in 2015.

Halloumi, peach and pepper salad

Late last year I got my arm twisted into a podcast interview with the lovely Natalie Cutler-Welsh from If Only They Had Told Me. Now, this is nothing against Natalie, but it was probably a mistake to do it after a very long, stressful day at work. It was probably even more of a mistake to do it while reclining with a glass of wine. I’m hoping that’s the reason why I sound like a garbled fool who can barely remember her own name. If I sound like that all the time, well, I guess I have a voice best suited for print.

But every cloud has a silver lining and one of the best bits about recording the podcast was that Natalie, a non-cook, told me about a salad her friend had made that night involving halloumi and peaches. I can’t bear to go back and listen to the podcast, but I’ve managed to make my version of the salad. Without a hint of shame, here it is.

Halloumi Peach And Mint Salad Photo Credit: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Halloumi, peach and pepper salad

We always have a packet of halloumi in the fridge. It’s a guaranteed insta-meal for those times when there seems to be nothing else to eat. Peaches and red peppers are both in plentiful supply at the moment – and this salad is the perfect combination of sweet, salty, soft and crunchy. 

250g halloumi, patted dry and sliced into 1cm-thick pieces

2 ripe peaches, washed and sliced into wedges

2 red peppers, washed, deseeded and sliced

a handful of fresh mint, shredded

a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice

2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Panfry the halloumi in a non-stick pan until golden brown on the outside. Remove from the pan and slice each piece into two, lengthways. Let cool briefly.

Put the peaches and peppers in a bowl, then toss through the mint, lemon juice and olive oil. Drape the halloumi on top. Grind over some black pepper and serve. Makes a small side salad for four or a light lunch for two.

Treat me: Raw raspberry lamingtons

You might think I married my husband for his wit, good looks and charm, but there’s more to it than that. What sealed the deal is was that his mother makes the best lamingtons in the world. Once I realised he was the heir to a freezer full of chocolate-dipped, cream-filled spongy delights, there was no turning back. 

Raw Raspberry Lamingtons

More than a decade down the track though, I’ve come to realise that there are other lamington-makers out there. In fact, there are hordes of them, all of them making exotic lamingtons like there’s no tomorrow. They’ve been whipped into a coconut-dusted frenzy by an adorable English flight attendant by the name of Peter, who is no slouch himself in the lamington department.

Peter is such a champion of lamingtons that for the last four years he has devoted himself to reinventing them every February. Don’t tell my MIL, but I think he could give her a good run for her money. In the meantime, he’s thrown down the gauntlet to the rest of us. And so without any further ado, I bring you my raw raspberry lamingtons…

Raw Chocolate Gluten Free Lamingtons

Raw raspberry lamingtons

These are not your ordinary lamingtons – there’s no sponge, no eggs, no sugar and – gasp – no cream. These are lamingtons, 2014 style. They’re raw, gluten and dairy-free, and contain no refined sugar. But there’s plenty of coconut, chocolate AND raspberries – for those of you who can’t decide whether a lamington should be brown or pink. I was inspired by this recipe, but took it in a completely different direction. The ultimate test was when I asked my brother-in-law to try one. “These,” he said, “are dangerous. Is the recipe going on your blog?”

100g ground almonds

120g dessicated coconut

4 Tbsp coconut oil

3 Tbsp real maple syrup or honey

60g (about half a cup) frozen raspberries

Line a small plastic container (like a takeaway container) with plastic wrap and set aside.

Put all ingredients in a food processor and whiz until it clumps. Press this mixture into the prepared container and leave in the fridge for at least an hour, until firm. You can leave it for a day or so if you like, it won’t come to any harm, though you may accidentally eat some of it.

When you are ready for stage two, remove the coconut mixture from the fridge and cut into small bars. Gently melt 120g dark chocolate with 1 tsp of coconut oil (I do this in a heatproof bowl in a warming oven, but you can use a microwave on low or a double boiler) and set aside to cool slightly.

Put the coconut in a small bowl and line a tray with baking paper.

Dip the bars into the chocolate, then roll them carefully in the coconut. When you have finished, put them in a lined, lidded container and put them in the fridge before someone comes by and gobbles the lot. Makes about 12-15, depending how much gets eaten along the way.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Good things: February 2014

Ice creams. Fish and chips. Sand castles. Sand in everything. February has turned out to be the month that January should have been. And boy, am I glad about it.

Fish And Chips From The Waimarama Store, Hawkes Bay

Very early readers of this blog might recall the summer holiday we took three (THREE!) years ago. We had such rose-tinted memories of that stay (despite the fact that it rained a lot) that we went back for a few days at the beginning of the month.

Waimarama Beach Hawkes Bay

We shopped at New Zealand’s best Farmer’s Market, ate New Zealand’s best fish and chips, went for swims and made a lot of sandcastles. It was a proper, old-fashioned summer holiday.

Even better, my sister came to stay and brought with her a shiny new ice cream machine and a batch of this ice cream. I’ve thought about it often ever since.

Emma Galloway's Dairy Free Chocolate Ice Cream

Back home, we harvested our own tomatoes, which have thrived despite inclement weather and neglect. I listened to this completely charming interview with Wellington’s best French patissier and made a mental note to visit his little shop more often.

Homegrown Tomatoes

The pantry is in – and filled – but I’ve decided to wait for the big reveal until the painters have finished, because the rest of the kitchen is such a tip I can’t bear to show it. I’m sure you can wait a little longer.
In the meantime I have more cupboards to clean, more dust to vacuum, and an urgent appointment with a glass of wine in my garden while the cicadas chorus around me.

What have you been up to this month?

Treat me: Frozen yoghurt iceblocks

This recipe – if you can call it that – is direct from the ‘I can’t believe I didn’t think of this earlier’ files. If you’ve ever wondered how to make your own nutritionally sound, outrageously simple and utterly delicious popsicles/ice blocks/ice lollies/freezer pops/icy poles, I have the answer.

But first, here’s a beach scene to put you in the mood…

Worser Bay, Looking Towards Cook Strait And Seatoun, Wellington

This photo, taken last night, is meant to distract you from the fact that while my amazing homemade frozen yoghurt popsicles are genius in icy form, I have been unable to take a decent photo of them. Try as I might, they just turn out looking wrong. So if you really want to see what they look like, you’ll need to make them yourself. And, as I’m about to show you, it’s probably the easiest thing you’ll do all weekend. Here’s how.

Frozen yoghurt iceblocks
You need four things to make these frozen treats: Greek yoghurt, good jam (or a variation thereof), iceblock moulds and about two hours. My iceblock moulds are Tupperware ones and, to be frank, they are weird. The shape is good, but the supposedly clever handle thing makes them hard to hold. I’d say that was a design flaw, wouldn’t you? I’ve seen some much simpler looking ones at the supermarket for about $5 – I’m thinking of trading up.
My first attempt was made with the last spoonful of some gorgeous apricot and vanilla jam made by my lovely sister. Since then I’ve made them with some not-homemade but still good blackcurrant jelly, lemon curd, and a sprinkle of chopped nuts and chocolate. There are no limits – just stick to the quantities I’ve outlined below.
My iceblock moulds take about 60ml (roughly 1/4 of a cup) each – so these quantities are to suit. But you can scale them to fit your needs (and any leftover mixture can be frozen in a little plastic container or eaten on the spot).

1 cup/250ml full-fat Greek yoghurt
1/4 cup/60ml high quality jam (or lemon curd, or chocolate/nuts as detailed above)

Stir the yoghurt and jam together until well combined. Taste – remember that some of the sweetness will be lost in the freezing process – and swirl through a little more jam if desired. Pour into iceblock molds (this amount will fill five or six) and freeze for one to two hours.
Unmould – dipping them in just-boiled water usually helps – and enjoy.

Have a great weekend, everyone!