I’m writing this in the room we grandly call ‘the office’. There is just enough room for the laptop on this huge old wooden desk, jammed between a pile of notebooks on one side and a stack of what looks to be school ‘art’ projects, plus the recently deceased cover of the ironing board, on the other. I have a cup of tea balanced precariously on a pile of papers that includes a recipe for ‘pancetta’ cured kingfish and a cookbook idea I wrote down in a hurry last week. It is a mess and I really should do something about it.

The dishwasher is purring upstairs, but not so loudly that I won’t be able to hear my best beloved cutting into the loaves of bread I’ve just taken out of the oven, despite knowing this is a terrible crime. So far, 2016, so good.

We ended 2015 with vintage champagne, whitebait fritters and lamb racks cooked to a recipe from the first Ottolenghi book, plus chocolate fondants from The Cook’s Companion. The fondants were a disaster (I was so desperate not to overcook them that I erred too far in the direction of undercookedness), but no one seemed to mind. The champagne may have had something to do with that, or perhaps it’s because molten chocolate is better than no chocolate. Anyway, I’m going to get them right eventually.

Apart from that, I have no pressing food goals for 2016. I’m not going to drink less wine or eat less cheese. I’d like to grow more vegetables and see if I can nurture a new sourdough starter. If that sounds all a bit too virtuous, I’m also going to master the new ice cream attachment I have for my KitchenAid.

The latter goal reminds me of a clipping I have pinned to the wall above my desk. It’s a fragment of an interview with Ingrid Betancourt, the French-Colombian politician who was held hostage in the Colombian jungle by FARC guerillas for more than six years. At the end of the story, Betancourt says the experience made her decide that she would learn to cook when she got out and that she would “always have flowers in my room and wear perfume; that I would no longer forbid myself to eat ice-cream or cakes. I understood that in my life I had abandoned too many little pleasures, taking them for granted.”

Ingrid Betancourt had to suffer unspeakable horrors to reach that realisation, the rest of us should learn from it. Like she says at the end of the story, “I never say no to an ice-cream.”

What are your ice cream dreams for 2016?

Whenever I go to the supermarket I take great delight in trying to circumvent all those tricks they use to try to make you buy things you didn’t know you needed. I’m not very successful though, which is how I ended up with two packets of pork osso bucco and a huge bunch of silverbeet when I nipped into Moore Wilson’s on Sunday morning to buy some fish.

Here’s what I did with it…

Pork osso bucco with apples and chard
This requires a maximum of 15 minutes of concentration and chopping at the start, then you can wander away to do its thing unattended in the oven for a couple of hours. Obviously that means it’s not the sort of thing you start making after work, but if you make it on a Sunday it can then wait patiently in the fridge for you to eat on Monday. And I don’t know about you, but coming home on Monday night knowing that dinner is already cooked is the most wonderful feeling in the world.

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 cup celery (leaves and ribs), finely chopped
1 tsp fennel seeds
1.2kg pork osso bucco
1 cup white wine
1 cup water
2 large apples, cored and sliced
1 bunch Swiss chard, finely chopped (including stems)
salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 150C.
Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a large, heavy, ovenproof pot. Add the onions, garlic and celery along with a pinch of salt and the fennel seeds. Cover and cook for 5-10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and beginning to brown.
Remove the vegetables from the pot with a slotted spoon, then return it to the heat and add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Brown the pieces of pork on all sides (you may have to do this in batches), then return the vegetables to the pot. Pour in the wine and water – careful, it will spit – then layer the apples and silverbeet on top. Season well, then cover and put in the preheated oven.
Cook for two to two and a half hours, or until the meat has falling off the bones. Taste for seasoning and serve with some crusty bread.

Have a great week, everyone.

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.

Do you know what I remember most about university? The jobs I did in between lectures. I cleaned houses, made coffee, waited tables, worked at functions, handed out flyers, recorded weather forecasts, washed dishes and occasionally looked after children. I’d like to think all of these things stood me in good stead for life after university, even if they aren’t quite as useful when it comes to playing Trivial Pursuit.

The best gig of all was working at functions. All you had to do was turn up looking presentable, carry food and drink around for a few hours, then with any luck you’d get to eat and drink the leftovers with your fellow waitstaff – and still go home with a wad of cash in your pocket. Sure, there were pitfalls but for the most part it was a great insight into corporate life. It also taught me that if you’re at any kind of function where canapes are on offer, you need to a) be especially charming to the waitstaff and b) to stand by the kitchen door if you’re really hungry, because then you’ve got first pickings.

Easy Smoked Salmon Canapes Photo And Recipe: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

I don’t go in for canapes much when we’re entertaining at home, but when Regal Salmon asked me to create a recipe using their new Artisan Smoked Salmon, I knew exactly what I wanted to make. A really good canape needs to have bold flavours, eye appeal and interesting textures (the culinary equivalents of wit, good looks and charm) if you’re going to remember it the next day. These little morsels fit the bill nicely – and they won’t crumble down your front.

Salmon Rosti Canapes Gluten Free

Smoked salmon rosti canapes
Essentially, this is posh fish and chips in canape form. The crispy, crunchy potato strands are the chips, the silky salmon is the fish, and the lemon-spiked creme fraiche dressing is like a fancy tartare sauce. The great thing about these canapes is that you can do all the prep in advance, leaving you plenty of time to apply your face and have a pre-cocktail party cocktail before your guests arrive. Cheers!

600g (4-5 medium) floury potatoes, peeled
4 Tbsp olive oil
flaky salt and freshly ground pepper
180g (3/4 cup) creme fraiche
finely grated zest of two lemons and the juice of one of them
3 Tbsp capers, finely chopped
a handful of fresh fennel fronds or dill
250g best quality smoked salmon

Heat the oven to 200C and line two baking trays with baking paper.
Grate the potatoes – use the fine grating disc in a food processor, if you have one – then tip them into a sieve set over the sink to drain. Press as much liquid out of the potatoes as possible, then wrap them in a clean teatowel and wring to extract as much moisture as you can. Tip the potatoes into a bowl and stir through the olive oil and salt and pepper until well mixed.
Using your fingers, take small amounts of the shredded potato mixture and place on the prepared trays, as if you were forming little nests. Season again with salt and pepper, then put in the oven to bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden and crisp. Remove to a rack to cool.
In the meantime, mix the creme fraiche with the lemon zest, capers and a few finely chopped fennel fronds or dill leaves. Squeeze in a bit of lemon juice to taste.
To assemble the canapes, top each potato rosti with a piece of smoked salmon, a dollop of creme fraiche and a sprinkle of fennel. This makes about 40 canapes, which are great washed down with a glass of well-chilled bubbles. With any luck, you’ll even have some left for your guests…

If you love smoked salmon but canapes sound a bit formal, this smoked salmon and wasabi pate is a more interactive (but no less delicious) way to eat it.

* This post was created with the assistance of Regal Artisan Salmon, but all opinions (and the recipes) are my own.*

If you were beamed to earth from another planet at the moment you’d think all humans did was eat, drink and be merry. While the period between mid-November and early January is fairly intense on that scale, it’s pretty much always the season of entertaining at our house. And I love it, I really do, except for perhaps that tense 15 minutes just before the entertainees arrive and I feel in a state of complete chaos.

This year, with two fairly major entertaining events scheduled chez nous in the next fortnight, I’ve decided to take control. Firstly, I’m going to delegate a lot more (sorry, invitees, I understand if you want to pull out now) and secondly, I’m going to have something up my sleeve that I prepared earlier.

These boozy figs are an excellent do-ahead option at this time of year, whether you’re holding a soiree or you’ve been invited to one by someone like me who wants you to cross town with dessert in your handbag. The recipe is of unknown provenance – it’s out of one of my mum’s notebooks – and it is very simple. I’ve a hunch it is just the thing for this month’s Tea Time Treats challenge, hosted by the ever-lovely Karen of Lavender and Lovage (with able support from Kate at What Kate Baked) – in which dried fruit is the theme.

Boozy figs
You can whip these mulled figs together in five minutes before you go to work, then when you come home they’ll be all plump and juicy. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, serve them warm over a slab of posh vanilla ice cream., if you’re in the southern, add strawberries. If you’re really, really organised, put them in a lidded jar in the fridge and they’ll be good for several weeks.

400g dried figs, cut in half (use scissors)
500ml fruity red wine
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 small orange, washed and halved
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 punnet of strawberries, washed and hulled (optional)

Put all ingredients in a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Bring to a gentle simmer and let bubble away for five minutes. Take off the heat and let cool. Then, either transfer to a bowl or jar, cover and put in the fridge. Or, if you’re planning to eat them in a few hours, add the strawberries before putting in the fridge. Serves six.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tea Time Treats