OVEN-ROASTED KŪMARA WITH DATE, CHILLI AND CORIANDER SEED BUTTER

Conventional wisdom – at least in my household – is that there’s nothing better than a roasted potato. Call me contrary, but I reckon a roasted kūmara knocks a roasted spud out of the park every time. Even our dog, who has become a bit of a dietary fusspot in recent months, loves them (though, to be fair, he wolfs down plain, boiled kūmara too).

Here’s my new favourite way to eat roasted kūmara – bathed in sweet, salty, spiced butter. 

ROASTED KŪMARA WITH DATE, CHILLI AND CORIANDER BUTTER

There are lots of absolute whopper kūmara out there, but I think the smaller ones (about 20cm long) are best for this recipe. Choose the purple-skinned variety (confusingly, these are called ‘Original Red’) as these are best for roasting or turning into chips. Keeping the skin on means saving time and nutrients – just give them a scrub under the tap, trim off any hairy bits and dry them well with a clean tea towel before proceeding with the recipe.

  • For the kūmara:
  • 4 small red kūmara (look for the Original Red variety)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • For the butter:
  • 125g butter (softened, but not melted)
  • ½ cup finely chopped dates
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • Finely grated zest of 1 small orange
  • A good pinch of chilli flakes or ½ a small red chilli, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 200C. Rub the kūmara all over with olive oil and set on a small baking tray. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the kūmara are soft (they should yield to the pressure of a finger).

While the kūmara are baking, put the butter, dates, coriander seeds, orange zest and chilli in a small bowl. Beat until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside (this can be done in advance and kept, covered, in the fridge for up to a week).

When the kūmara are cooked, remove them from the oven. Cut down the centre of each one and dollop a quarter of the butter on top. Serve immediately. Serves 4 as a side dish (or serve one per person with a green salad for lunch).

Hot tip: if you don’t have or don’t fancy kūmara, take it from me that the butter is DELICIOUS on hot toast or crumpets. Especially crumpets that are a little bit charred at the edges.

Want more kūmara inspo?

Here’s a love letter to kūmara that includes some handy advice about varieties and growing your own.

You might also fancy:

Who wants some old-fashioned self-saucing chocolate and raspberry pudding?

In the depths of winter, one dessert reigns supreme in my household. On a dark, wet night (or even a gloomy afternoon with a chill in the air), one of us will generally say to the other, ‘I think it’s a night for chocolate pudding’.

They’re usually right – not much compares to digging a spoon into a molten puddle of old-fashioned self-saucing chocolate pudding in times of woe and bad weather (even if you have to make it yourself). It’s even better eaten as breakfast the next day. Here’s how to treat your whanau to a nostalgic treat that pushes all the right buttons.

CHOCOLATE AND RASPBERRY SELF-SAUCING CHOCOLATE PUDDING

Serves 4-8

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 35 minutes

This makes a generous amount, but there’s really no point in making less. Some tips for beginners:

  1. Make sure you use a large ovenproof dish, because nothing kills the ‘we’re having self-saucing chocolate pudding’ vibe more than having to scrape burnt pudding off the bottom of the oven.
  2. To change it up, omit the raspberries and add 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes to the dry ingredients for a slightly Mexican-ish hint of spice.
  3. Add some roughly chopped dark chocolate to the batter – say, 125g? – and the finely grated zest of an orange to the batter.
  4. No raspberries? No problem. Leave them out, or subsitute some chopped prunes that you’ve soaked in rum or brandy.
  5. Need to make it dairy-free? Use a butter substitute and a plant-based milk.
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • 1 ½ cups plain flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup milk 
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries
  • For the sauce:
  • ¾ cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons cocoa
  • 2 ½ cups boiling water (or use 1 ½ cups boiling water, 1 cup freshly made coffee)

Heat the oven to 180C and lightly grease a large ovenproof dish.

Melt the butter in a large pot. Remove from the heat and add the sugar. Sift over the cocoa, flour, baking powder and salt, then stir in the milk and raspberries until well mixed. Scrape into the greased dish.

Sprinkle over the brown sugar and cocoa, then pour the boiling water over the top. Bake for 35 minutes, until the pudding has risen and feels springy to touch.

Let stand for five minutes before serving to allow the sauce to thicken. Serve with vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream (or both!). Leftovers can be eaten cold from the fridge or reheated in a low oven.

Easy mulled apple tea with honey and bay

About a month ago we went mad and had a Matariki party. ‘Bring your kids,’ we told our friends, then winced as we realised there were going to be nearly as many people under 15 in our house as there were adults. This is why I spent the next day cleaning children’s muddy footprints off my bedroom walls, though how they got there I’m still not sure. At least the adults were well-behaved.

To get everyone into the winter party spirit I made mulled wine for the first time in about two decades, mixing together apple juice, red wine, spices and a large amount of sugar. It was certainly a party-starter, but it also felt like a headache waiting to happen. This less-sweet, no-alcohol version is much gentler. Use a really good apple juice (I am a big fan of Mela Juice, made from 100 per cent New Zealand apples) for best results.

Easy mulled apple tea with honey and bay

It’s easy to increase or decrease the quantities for this as needed. If you’re planning a party and want to get ahead, make the mulled apple tea as described below and store in the fridge for up to a week. Reheat to simmering point to serve.

2 cups apple juice

2 cups water

2 rooibos tea bags (or ordinary black tea)

1 cinnamon stick

2 bay leaves

1-2 whole star anise (an aniseed-like star-shaped spice)

1 Tbsp honey (add more to taste)

Put all the ingredients into a small saucepan set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat and let stand for five minutes. Remove the teabags and decant into a jug. Pour into heatproof glasses to serve. Makes 1 litre.

Sweetcorn and kumara soup

T.S Eliot may have claimed that April was the cruelest month, but he hadn’t experienced Wellington in early August. By now, the gloss of wearing one’s winter coat and boots has well worn off (especially if you’ve been wearing them since March) and the grimness of rain, wind and more rain is starting to eat away at any joie de vivre you have left. Or maybe that’s just me. I can cope with June (a long weekend, a half-marathon) and July (my birthday, school holidays), but August is rough. Thank goodness for books, binge-watching and bowls of soup accompanied by lavishly buttered baguettes.

Sweetcorn And Kumara Soup

Sweetcorn and kumara soup

After a recent Three Ways With column extolling the virtues of frozen vegetables I had a large bag of frozen sweetcorn taking up valuable room in our tiny freezer. I am emotionally scarred by the frozen vegetables we had to eat at boarding school and the other members of my household are fervently anti-corn campaigners, but I was determined to use it up. This sunshine-y soup is the result.

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 stalks celery, finely diced

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp ground coriander

600g (1 large) golden or orange kumara, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks

3 cups good chicken (or vegetable) stock

3 cups frozen corn kernels

Finely grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 1 large lemon

A splash of cream

A handful finely chopped fresh parsley

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot. Add the onion, garlic and celery, plus a large pinch of sea salt. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and beginning to colour.

Raise the heat slightly, then add the spices and kumara. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring to coat the kumara in the onion and spice mixture, then pour in the stock. Bring to a gentle boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the kumara is nearly tender. Add the corn and cook for three minutes.

Remove from the heat and puree (with a stick blender, ordinary blender, or food processor. Don’t try pushing this one through a sieve, you’ll hate yourself – and me.) Return to the pot and add the lemon juice and zest, then taste and season appropriately. Reheat gently until piping hot, then serve in warmed bowls topped with a swirl of cream and a scattering of parsley. Makes about 1.5 litres, freezes well.

What are your tactics for surviving the bleakest month of winter?