How to make sunflower seed butter

The advent of school lunches means that we’re now going through our favourite peanut butter at an alarming rate. We already ate it a lot – anyone who tells you they don’t eat it by the spoonful occasionally is either a person of no consequence or a liar – but now it’s disappearing like there’s no tomorrow.

We are lucky in that nuts are not a banned substance at ‘our’ school (dogs are also banned, but they’re not as good in sandwiches so it’s not such a big deal), but I do feel the need to diversify our reliance on the humble peanut. And so, while scrabbling around in the pantry last weekend I found a small sack of sunflower seeds and decided to have a bit of an experiment, based on my 2011 adventures in making my own tahini.
Half an hour later and I’d made two jars of fragrant sunflower seed butter for the princely sum of $2.50. Here’s how you can make it too.

How To Make Sunflower Seed Butter At Home Image/Recipe: Lucy Corry/TheKitchenmaid

How to make your own sunflower seed butter
This is really easy – all you need is a bag of sunflower seeds, a splash of neutral-flavoured oil, a pinch of salt and a food processor or blender. A fancy high speed blender would do the trick in seconds, but a regular food processor does a pretty good job in about five minutes.

500g sunflower seeds
3-4 Tbsp neutral flavoured oil (sunflower oil, if you really want to be cute about it)
a good pinch of salt (optional)

Line a large oven tray with baking paper and heat the oven to 180C. Scatter the seeds over the prepared tray in an even layer.
Toast them in the oven, watching carefully and stirring every 5-10 minutes, until they are turning golden. Don’t wander off, they burn easily.
Remove them from the oven and let cool for five minutes, then tip into your food processor (carefully, so you don’t lose the lot on the floor).
Add the salt, 2 Tbsp oil and whiz – it will be very noisy but will settle down and form a paste. Add the remaining oil until the paste slackens to a peanut butter-style consistency.
Scrape into jars and store in a cool, dark place. Makes about 500g.

Random recipe: Orange and lamb tagine

Once upon a time I used to scour charity shops and school fairs for cookbook gems, hoping to find a first edition Mrs Beeton tucked among the multiple copies of Alison Holst’s Microwave Menus. While that never happened, I did come across plenty of great finds – The Silver Palate cookbooks, pristine paperback Elizabeth Davids, a Jill Dupleix that I’d always wanted and once – a brand new copy of How To Eat for 50p – among others.

But a year or so ago I realised I was in danger of being swamped by these dusty finds; that I didn’t really need to pick up every half-decent cookbook I found and that it would be perfectly safe for someone else to buy. Then I met a woman who told me that one of the largest charity shops in Wellington gets so many books donated to it that twice a year they load up a container and take it to the tip. No, not the recycling depot, the tip. The charity can’t afford to send them overseas, so they dump them. Now – there are all sorts of issues here, not least being – why don’t they give them away – but it made me reconsider what I do with my own collection. I’ve recently decided that there are lots of books that, while I don’t use them anymore, deserve better homes than being stuck in a damp charity shop while waiting to be bulldozed into landfill. I’ve selected both the books and their recipients carefully and it was such fun watching their reactions that I’m planning to do it again in a few months’ time.

The thing is though, that all this largesse has meant that I had very few books to choose from for this month’s Random Recipe challenge. The instructions from Dom at Belleau Kitchen were to select a book from the throw-out pile you’re supposed to compile when spring/autumn cleaning – and in truth, I had only one. But the results were so convincing that I’m going to have to keep it!

A few years ago you couldn’t move for being offered something made out of Jo Seagar’s ‘You Shouldn’t Have Gone To So Much Trouble, Darling’. This book, which features the author up to her pearl-strewn neck in a bubble bath, was first published in 1997, then a reprinted and updated version came out 10 years later. I have the original version, which I picked up from a charity shop for $2. I bought it out of nostalgia, more than anything. It was badly waterstained and I didn’t expect to ever use it, but the thing that swung it for me was the inscription on the front to the previous owner, ‘Anna’ – ‘ with much love from Momma and Poppa’. Gulp.

Moroccan Lamb Tagine

Lamb and Orange Tagine
Anna obviously used it her copy of ‘You Shouldn’t Have…’ a lot – the book fell open at the recipe for lamb tagine, which has ‘Excellent!’ scrawled across the top in blue biro. It turns out Anna was right – though I played around a bit with Jo’s original recipe to make it even more ‘excellent’ – or at least, a little lighter and not as sweet. I’ve annotated the book accordingly, all ready for its next owner.

500g lamb shoulder, diced
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2cm ginger, grated
2 onions, roughly chopped
3 medium carrots, washed, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 cup vegetable stock
3 large mandarins or 2 oranges, washed and roughly chopped, (including the skin)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup prunes, cut in half
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
Handful of coriander leaves, roughy chopped

Heat the oven to 160C.
Put the olive oil in a large, cast iron casserole and set over medium heat. Tip in the lamb, onion, garlic and ginger and cook for five minutes, stirring frequently, then add the carrots and spices. Cook for another minute, then add the mandarins or oranges and the vegetable stock. Stir well, then cover tightly and bake for 1 1/2 hours, until the lamb is very tender. Check it a couple of times to make sure it isn’t drying out – add a little water if it seems dry.
Add the prunes and stir well. At this point you can let the tagine cool completely, then refrigerate and reheat the next day. If you’re planning to eat it now, return it to the oven after adding the prunes and let cook for another 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds and coriander just before serving with rice, couscous or flatbreads. Serves four.

Are you a charity shop cookbook buyer?

Treat me: Spanish Hot Chocolate

Winter is coming, I can feel it in my bones. There’s only a month until the Shortest Day (after which winter really starts in this part of the world) and even though it’s been bright and sunny, there’s no mistaking that chill in the air.

That means porridge is back on the breakfast menu and so – occasionally – are delicate demi-tasses of my very own homemade Spanish hot chocolate. It’s thick, velvety and just the thing to cheer you up on a grey morning. Want some?

Spanish Hot Chocolate
Spanish hot chocolate is like nothing else on earth. It’s rich, thick and has a chocolate hit strong enough to sustain you until aperitivo hour. I’ve finally clocked how to make it at home – not quite as much fun as drinking it in Spain, but infinitely more achievable at the moment.
For best results, use the best cocoa powder and chocolate you can find. This makes enough for a good-sized jar – instructions follow on how to take it from powder to liquid heaven.

1 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup caster sugar – increase this to 1/2 a cup if you like things very sweet
6 Tbsp cornflour
200g dark chocolate, smashed into little bits

Put all ingredients into a food processor and whiz until it forms a fine powder. Alternatively, sift the cocoa, caster sugar and cornflour into a small bowl, then stir in the finely chopped chocolate. Transfer to a screwtop jar.

To make two small servings:  Mix 1/3 cup (6 Tbsp) of the chocolate mixture with 1/2 cup milk of your choice (not low fat milk, ok?) in a small saucepan. Heat, stirring all the time, until it thickens, then add 1 1/2 cups milk and stir frantically. Keep cooking over low heat, stirring all the time, until the mixture is thick and velvety. Divide between two cups. Follow with a brandy and a cigar, then go to work.

Have a great week, everyone x

Just add water soup + a giveaway!

When we came home from our epic Euro adventures last year there was one thing I was dying to do: drink water out of the tap. Because cocktails and jasmine tea and magnums of rose are all very well, but there comes a time when all you want to do is turn the tap on and have delicious, unpolluted, H2O come gushing out.

New Zealand isn’t immune from the cult of the plastic water bottle, of course, but we are lucky that we can drink the good stuff straight from the tap (even though many local councils advise people to run the water for a bit first thing in the morning to flush out any trace metals that might have built up overnight, which is a bit worrying!) I’m sure this is one of the reasons why our coffee is so good – an old flatmate of mine who was a coffee roaster was meticulous about water quality and insisted on using filtered water in his espresso machine.

While we’re used to taking good quality water for granted, I am really happy to be able to support a UK-based campaign run by BRITA and Delicious magazine that’s hoping to find some great recipes using filtered water. That might sound a bit ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’, but good water is an integral ingredient to so many things (not to mention the soup below). You can find out a bit more about the Better With BRITA competition here – don’t forget to check out the current entries to see who you’re up against. The three winners will be taken on a VIP trip to The Big Feastival in London and get the chance to sell their wares (and show off in general).

If you’d like to improve your drinking water quality, BRITA have given me one of their exceptionally pretty Marella Water Jugs (RRP £33) to give away to a lucky reader. You can enter via the Rafflecopter wotsit below. Unfortunately this giveaway – like the Better with BRITA competition – is only open to UK residents, but I have a consolation prize for everyone else – the secret to making ‘just add water’ soup.

Frugal Chicken Soup

Just Add Water Soup
In the colder months we follow the happy ritual of having a roast chicken on Sunday nights, not least because it means we have two cheering lunchboxes of leftovers to brighten Mondays. I used to feel guilty about throwing away the carcass instead of making stock, until I twigged that I could shortcut the process and make hands-free chicken soup instead. Here’s how…

1 x chicken carcass (or as many as you may have!)
2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 onions or leeks, peeled or washed, as appropriate, finely sliced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1/4 bunch celery, including leaves, roughly chopped
fresh herbs – parsley, thyme, sage
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
water
salt and pepper
olive oil
extras: tinned beans/chickpeas, drained and rinsed; quinoa or buckwheat; more herbs

Start by putting the chicken carcass in a large pot. Tuck in the vegetables around it and barely with pure, filtered tap water. Cover, set over medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Let bubble away for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and extract the chicken bones and any bits of skin or fat. The meat should fall from the bones (and there will be a surprising amount of it). Return to the heat and add in any of the extras. If adding grains, add them to the pot and bring the soup to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until tender. Taste for seasoning – it will need a good amount of salt. Serve with crusty bread and a drizzle of olive oil. Makes 4-6 servings.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Given the frugal nature of this simple soup I think it’s a fine contender for this month’s Credit Crunch Munch, a blog event devoted to budget-friendly food created by – Fab Food 4 All and Fuss Free Flavours. This month it’s being hosted by Gingey Bites – check out her list of frugal and delicious meals.

* This post was created with the assistance of BRITA, but all opinions (and the recipe) are my own.



Instant carrot and tomato soup

I know I shouldn’t complain, but living in a building site is starting to get me down. The fact that I also have to work in one (my office building has been yellow-stickered and I’d rather not take my chances of surviving if it collapses), is adding insult to injury.

Working from home certainly has its advantages, but I struggled to find any today thanks to the bitterly cold wind turning the place into an icebox. Then I remembered that I could make myself something warming and restoring for lunch in between phone calls and emails and life seemed a little brighter. Here’s what I did.

Easy Tomato And Carrot Soup

Instant Carrot and Tomato Soup
This soup is inspired by – but unrecognisably different to – one in Soup Glorious Soup by Annie Bell. Hers involves carrots and scallops; I like to think of this one as a simpler, humbler relation. It’s an excellent rescue remedy for cold days when it feels like there’s nothing to eat (and it only takes 20 minutes to make, most of which is hands-free). This amount makes enough for two, but is easy to scale up as necessary. Don’t try to scale it down – just freeze the leftover amount for a rainy day. And for more vegetarian soup-y ideas, you might like to check out the links at No Croutons Required (though it’s ok to add croutons if you want.)

500g carrots, washed, peeled and roughly chopped
1 x 400g tin of whole peeled tomatoes
400ml (approx) good quality stock or water
salt and pepper
cream, creme fraiche or yoghurt, for swirling

Put the carrots and whole peeled tomatoes in a medium-sized saucepan and set it over medium heat. Using the tomato tin, measure in the stock or water. Cover and bring to the boil, then simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the carrots are soft enough to collapse at the prod of a fork, remove from the heat. Blitz to a puree with a stick blender or in a food processor (the latter is faster but involves more washing up afterwards), then season with salt and pepper to taste. Reheat until starting to simmer, then serve with a spoonful of cream, creme fraiche or Greek yoghurt swirled across the top.

Do you work from home? What do you make for lunch?