Miso-roasted pumpkin

It’s funny the things that stick in your head. For example, the sole thing I remember from the Queen’s last visit to New Zealand (don’t ask me when it was, I’m not that much of a royalist) is that she requested pumpkin to be served at a dinner at Huka Lodge.

This always struck me as weird, a bit like when Kate Winslet was found shopping in Pagani in Masterton. Because as much as I love pumpkin, it’s not particularly fancy. Maybe that’s what Queenie likes about it – perhaps she tires of foie gras and roasted grouse and longs to eat roast pumpkin in front of Coronation St. (There’s still no explanation for Kate and Pagani. None.)

In any case, with the long weekend in the Queen’s honour approaching, here’s a recipe for pumpkin that’s fit for royals and commoners alike.

Miso-Roasted-Pumpkin The Kitchenmaid/Lucy Corry

Miso-Roasted Pumpkin
This is a very easy way to make pumpkin more exciting. If you don’t like pumpkin, try stirring this miso butter through hot rice – instant comfort food.

1 kg crown pumpkin, cut into six wedges (leave the skin on)
50g unsalted butter
4 Tbsp white miso paste
cracked pepper

Heat the oven to 200C and line a small roasting dish with foil.
Put the pumpkin on the tray.
Beat the butter and miso together until soft and spreadable, then pat onto the pumpkin. Grind over lots of black pepper and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the pumpkin is cooked and the miso butter has browned.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Old-fashioned vegetable soup

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.

Good things: August 2014

Last week I got an advertising-type email from a gym that reminded all recipients that ‘summer bodies are made in winter’. Reader, I threw it in the rubbish.

I don’t know about you, but I’m hoping kaftans and elasticated waistbands are going to be the height of fashion in summer 2015. Various things – birthdays, parties, stressful life events – are conspiring against my ‘summer body’.

Homemade-Pasta-Atlas-Marcato-Machine

Firstly, I found this – a pasta machine at a charity shop for $20, still in its original box, with its original warranty and instructions. I’ve always, always wanted one to play with and although I’ve only used it once so far, I can see plenty of pasta in my future.

Eclairs-With-Coffee-Custard-Chocolate-Icing-And-Walnut-Praline
Eclair image thanks to my colleague and co-baker Lisa

I know DIY pasta has a difficult reputation but it was a cinch compared to some of the things I’ve been making lately. In a moment of weakness I joined the Wellington On a Plate Bake Club team at work, which has meant many a late Sunday night making pies, slices, cakes and eclairs.

The upshot of all of this is that I won our in-house contest against some seriously tough competition and now I have to join the winners of 80+ Bake Clubs this Sunday morning for the final Bake-Off. I normally go for a run on Sunday mornings – but if the gods have decided I need to be in a room full of cakes, I can only go along with their wishes.

Perhaps I’ll take inspiration from these cute cupcakes – these are made by 15-year-old Emily, of three winners in the Better With BRITA contest. Emily, who made bespoke cupcakes for each of the judges – it takes a special kind of talent to make a miniature BRITA water jug out of icing – joins Alex, who made gluten-free brownies and Rekha, who made samosas, at The Big Feastival in London at the end of the month.

I’d love to join them, but my real goal for August is to make something out of My Paris Kitchen. If you haven’t got a copy of this yet, you’re missing out. My lovely sister-in-law gave it to me for my birthday and I think it’s a strong contender for book of the year.

My-Paris-Kitchen-David-Lebovitz-Book-Of-The-Year!

How has August been for you?

The ultimate chocolate beetroot cake

Do you love cake? Then I URGE you to stop whatever you’re doing and make this cake.

Chocolate-Beetroot-Cake-With-Caramel-Cream-Cheese-Frosting

The photo isn’t the best – harsh work lighting – but hopefully you can get a sense of what a mighty cake this is. It’s Nigel Slater’s chocolate beetroot cake, taken from his beautiful book Tender (vol 1). It’s quite an involved cake to make – pureed beetroot, melted chocolate, whisked egg whites – but the results are absolutely worth it.

Nigel-Slater-Chocolate-Beetroot-Cake-Twitter-Photo

Nigel was right (I can’t believe I doubted him) – it’s probably the world’s best chocolate cake, full of dark, rich, complex flavours. He tops it with creme fraiche and poppy seeds, but because I was making it for our Bake Club I knew I needed to add a little more wow factor. I topped mine with caramel cream cheese frosting, then scattered over some shards of 72 per cent chocolate and some candied purple carrot. I used this recipe for candied carrot curls as a guide, but on my first attempt I ended up with a smoke-filled kitchen and a tray of burnt carrot strips. I’d recommend cooking the carrot in the syrup for a shorter time period and lowering the oven temperature.

The judges loved it enough – I knocked out the competition easily. Most importantly, I got to savour the very last piece. I might not ever experience it again, but I’ve finally tasted success.

Easy Japanese-y pork fillet

Disclaimer: I am not Japanese. I have never even been to Japan. In fact, the closest I’ve got is frequenting a number of Japanese restaurants and sushi bars and in New Zealand, most of them are run by Koreans so I’m not sure they even count.

So while this easy way to cook pork fillet might not be 100 per cent authentic, it does make use of some properly Japanese ingredients, it’s very quick to make and it goes well with a pile of sushi rice and pickled ginger. I reckon that’s Japanese enough for now, don’t you?

Easy Pork Fillet Or Pork Tenderloin Recipe

Easy Japanese pork fillet
This is a really good after-work dinner. Make it even easier on yourself by marinating the pork before you leave the house in the morning (or give it at least an hour in the marinade, at room temperature) if you forget.

1 x free range pork fillet – about 450g
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp good soy sauce
1 Tbsp mirin
1 Tbsp honey

Put the garlic, oil, soy, mirin and honey in a shallow bowl and mix well. Add the pork fillet and make sure it’s well coated with the marinade, then cover and leave overnight in the fridge or leave in a cool place for an hour or two. If it’s been in the fridge, let it sit out of the fridge for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
Heat the oven to 200C and line a small roasting dish with foil.
Heat a heavy frying pan over high heat and pour in a tablespoon of oil. When it’s hot, take the pork fillet out of the marinade and sear it on all sides. Remove it to the roasting dish and put in the hot oven for 20 minutes.
Remove it from the oven, cover loosely with foil and let stand for 10 minutes, then carve and serve with sushi rice, pickled ginger and some steamed beans or broccoli.

Click here to print this recipe.