Treat me: DIY Speculoos spread

When I was a proper journalist (the sort that actually went out of the office and talked to real people) I’d often stumble upon fantastic charity shops in the middle of nowhere. If time allowed I’d sneak off to them after the interviews were done – while the old ladies who staff these shops are great sources of local knowledge it’s hard to concentrate on finding treasure when you’ve got an interview looming.

These days, stuck at my desk, I’m reduced to finding fun things on the internet in the course of my research. It’s not quite as good, but you can unearth lots of gems all the same. Take speculoos spread, for example. I started reading about it while researching recipe formats last week. It was totally new to me, but it’s apparently ‘Europe’s alternative to peanut butter’ and caused much excitement when Waitrose started selling it in the UK late last year.
The real thing is made from ground-up Speculoos cookies – with a few other ingredients – and is said to be as addictive as Nutella. My DIY version is much simpler, you can make it from everyday ingredients and it’s just as habit-forming.

Speculoos Spread And Crumpets

Speculoos spread
I have no idea what ‘real’ speculoos spread tastes like but this is absolutely delicious – like eating raw gingerbread but without the attendant stomach ache. I’ve been eating it on hot crumpets, but it would transform even the most basic slice of bread. Or you could put it in a toasted sandwich with sliced banana. Or you could just eat it with a spoon…

100g soft unsalted butter
4 Tbsp golden syrup
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp Chinese five-spice
1/2 tsp ground cardamon
1/4 tsp salt

Put all ingredients in a small bowl and beat until smooth and fluffy. Eat immediately, or store in the fridge, covered.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Treat me: Sticky red wine syrup

Of all the festive season leftovers, half-drunk bottles of wine are probably the hardest to deal with. Drinking them is the obvious solution, but there’s only so much of that you can do before things get a bit messy. Freezing them in neat containers to add to risotto is another option that only works if your freezer isn’t full of containers of stock you made from the ham bone. But in a bid to make some space in the fridge I devised this handy syrup that uses up the remains of a bottle of pinot noir and some strawberry jam. Even better, it can be poured over leftover icecream.

Red wine and strawberry syrup
This is really good poured over vanilla icecream and strawberries for a grown-up sundae, but you could also try it over pancakes or any kind of plain cake. I used strawberry jam because that’s what we had, but another good fruity variety would work well. Not sure about raspberry though, unless you don’t mind the pips. I’m quite keen to try one with white wine and marmalade, but we never seem to have any white wine left over…

250ml red wine
1/2 cup strawberry or raspberry jam
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp red wine vinegar

Put the wine, jam and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Let it simmer for 10-15 minutes, until syrupy (stirring occasionally). Remove from the heat and let cool, then taste. Add the vinegar (or a few drops of lemon juice) if it seems too sweet. Pour into a clean jar and store in the fridge.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Treat me: Caramel sauce

Salted caramel has been so hot right now for so long it’s a wonder we’re not all suffering third-degree burns. In fact, when I saw this pic of Nigella on the cover of Stylist several months ago, burns were all I could think about. That and how they managed to capture the caramel dripping off her eyelashes.

Image from

But while salted caramel is all well and good, that doesn’t mean we should forget the original. Nor does it mean you can’t add other new and exciting flavours.

Simple Caramel Sauce
This is very easy and very forgiving. If cook it too long it can be rescued with a splash of milk and more stirring. It’s very good over vanilla ice cream or even plain Greek yoghurt. For a proper retro pudding, layer it in little glasses with crumbled gingernut biscuits and Greek yoghurt or whipped cream for a sort of instant trifle. I’m having camera issues today, but I assure you my sauce looks just like the one in the picture above. I can’t say the same for the cook.

For the basic sauce:
225g 1 1/2 lightly packed cups soft brown sugar
4 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp milk

Put everything in a small saucepan over gentle heat. Stir until it starts to boil, then let bubble away gently for five minutes. Remove from the heat and beat enthusiastically until smooth. You can use it straight away as is, or you can add either:
– two good pinches of flaky sea salt, from Maldon or Marlborough or Maine or Mooloolaba, or wherever the flaky sea salt is from in your neck of the woods
– OR: two generous teaspoons of ground ginger
– OR: one teaspoon of ground cardamom

Or you could go completely crazy and add the lot. Stir well, add a splash of milk if it seems very thick, and use as you see fit. Any leftover sauce can be stored, covered, in the fridge.

Oh, and before I forget, the lucky winners of The Kitchenmaid’s second birthday giveaway are…
Lynne, who wins the Equagold goodies
Louise, who wins the stunning whitebait teatowel
Melissa, who wins the Pratty’s Tea
– and Bella, who trotted off to the New Zealand Chocolate Festival last Friday.

Have a great weekend, everyone. I’m going to hang out with Ruth Pretty and Dean Brettschneider on Sunday to learn some new tricks. Lucky me! x

Lucy’s little lamb burgers

The world – or at least the part of it I live in – has gone burger mad. Not only are more than 60 Wellington restaurants battling it out to win Burger Wellington 2012, but McDonald’s have introduced a new lamb burger to their menu, using New Zealand lamb.
I can’t vouch for the McDonald’s burger (please don’t ask me to) but I’m happy to give you my own recipe. We’ve been eating these baby burgers a lot lately – they’re about a quarter of the size of a ‘proper’ burger but still very filling. You’ll have to wait for the upcoming issue of Frankie to see how to make the baby buns – but in the meantime, here’s how I construct our little lamb burgers.

Little Lamb Burgers

Little lamb burgers
You don’t have to make these with lamb – in fact, the last time I made them I used a mixture of beef and lamb mince (a combination due in part to shopping sans glasses). The secret is to handle them as little as possible. Don’t go squishing the mince in your hands for fun, treat it like you would a delicate fillet of fish (that’s fillet, not a ‘filet of fish’).

500g good lamb mince
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 red onion, finely chopped
about 1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

Mix everything together and shape into flattish small balls – about 50g each. Line a tray with baking paper and put the burgers on top. Cover loosely and put in the fridge until about 15 minutes before you’re ready to cook them.
To cook, either heat a heavy pan and fry them in a little oil, or bake them at 200C for about 15 minutes, turning once to brown both sides. I think the panfrying method gives a slightly better result, but baking has the benefits of being hands-free.

To assemble, spread a baby bun with hummus, then top with a tangle of baby salad leaves, a slice of beetroot (essential in a Kiwi burger), the burger, a dollop of redcurrant jelly or chutney and the bun ‘lid’. For a beef burger, ditch the beetroot and add a slice of blue cheese.

Have you sampled any Burger Wellington offerings yet? Don’t miss the one at Cafe Polo – it’s the best burger I’ve ever eaten.

Chipotle mayo and tomato sauce

I don’t know about where you are, but chipotle peppers have become very cool in a mainstream ‘now-available-at-your-supermarket’ sort of way. I’ve been reading about them for years in American books and was really excited to find them in the supermarket last year. I got the tin home, popped the lid off and shoved one in my mouth. Steam blew out of my ears for the next 30 minutes, which was about enough time to wonder why I’d neglected to realise that a dried and smoked jalapeño would be hotter than hell.

Since then I’ve been cautiously adding them to all sorts of things, but the best discovery so far is this one – chipotle mayonnaise. I made a huge vat of it to pour over homemade frites at the Small Girl’s party. It took all my willpower not to just retire to my bed with a bowl of it and a spoon – and I actually took the leftovers to a work colleague because I just didn’t trust myself with it.

Chipotle Mayonnaise
You might remember a post I did last year on how easy it is to make mayonnaise by hand. I stand by that claim, but if you’re making a lot I think there’s no shame in harnessing technology. No point in having that Magimix if it just collects dust, after all. I made double this amount for the party – the quantities below are more manageable unless you have a serious mayo habit (or a lot of friends).

2 free range egg yolks
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 small clove of garlic, crushed to a paste with 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp wine vinegar
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (plus a bit of the sauce)
3/4 cup oil (I use 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup canola)

Put everything except the oil in a food processor and whiz to combine. Put the oil in a little jug. Turn the processor on and let the oil dribble in, very, very slowly, then gradually increase the volume to a thin stream, until the mixture is thick and glossy. Stop the machine and taste – add a little more adobo sauce, salt, or vinegar to taste and pulse again to mix. Scrape into a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Now, not everyone likes mayonnaise, so I put a jug of tomato sauce on the table too. This is even easier than the mayo – saute a bit of finely sliced garlic in a slosh of olive oil until it’s golden, then tip in a few tins of tomatoes. Turn the heat to low and let it simmer away gently for an hour or so, until it’s thick and your house smells delicious.