Banana Maple Oaty Walnut Muffins with Maple Butter


Goood morning from my regular blogging spot - tucked up in bed with a mug of tea. I have a real treat for you today - these banana, maple, oaty muffins are basically a loaf recipe that I have tweaked (and can still be cooked a s a loaf) for Fairfax newspapers, so will be appearing around New Zealand today. They have a slightly dense but not heavy texture - more slightly oaty-earthy if you know what I mean - with a soft maple background and pleasing little walnut nuggets. They are perfect for enjoying on a wet, cold winter afternoon (or as you can see from the pic - in my imagination, sitting by the fire in a log cabin surrounded by snowy woods...). Any way, the maple butter is the sneaky little extra surprise which can also transform waffles, banana pancakes, crumpets, anything like that, that you can imagine loading with bananas (and maybe bacon). I had never seen it made before so was intrigued with my experimenting to find the hot maple syrup being whipped and cooled with the butter into a maple cloud...obviously it is pretty sweet, but also bloody addictive! It also keeps well in the fridge for weeks.

In other news, the count down is on until Henry arrives for his 21st and I am freaking out as to how I will get both my work done and prep for his visit before he gets here - you know that anxious, sick feeling in your stomach..?! Last night I couldn't sleep and was making lists in the kitchen at about 1:30am. All my friends know that I am a compulsive organiser, but I do find that once I write stuff down and work backwards from a goal, it usually makes things seem much less over whelming, and way more achievable. So. fingers crossed! Pog is well under way with his interior design course, and hopefully about to secure flat number 3 in Melbourne. This time I am hoping it is less freaky suburban prison-cell (first one), or mouse-infested, kitchen-less fire-hazard (second one). Meanwhile Hoob is toiling away at uni - not much action on the work front, so lets hope something happens in that department soon. He is however revelling in political science and philosophy...which is awesome, I'm so thrilled he is enjoying his subjects, and hope that I haven't just done the unthinkable and put the hoodoo on it by saying that out loud...Right must get up, pulled a chest muscle (typical) so it's walks instead of yoga this week. Let me know if you give the recipe a whirl :)

The Perfectionist - Classic Lemon Tart


Helloooo - if you come here often you will already probably know these things: 1. I love tarts, 2. I particularly love lemon tarts, 3. I am something of a perfectionist (as confirmed by the Fisher & Paykel What's Your Cooking Style?' quiz). To that end, the second recipe I thought of when they asked me to participate in their challenge was this - an absolutely perfect, quintessential lemon tart. I have already posted recipes on the blog for a super-deep ultimate lemon tart and a cheesecak-ey, lemon curd twist on the traditional recipe - but this - this is pretty much the best, classic lemon tart I can think of. I have previously said that I hardly ever order lemon tart when I am out and about, because I have been served up too many disappointments - namely in the degree of lemony-ness. Seriously it is a lemon tart! So (errrp), mine is very lemony, if you prefer a more subtle lemon flavour (why?),  just swap the ratios of lemon juice and cream and you will have a milder result. (Again, why?). Actually ignore me - I don't like oysters, which makes me pretty much a heathen in the culinary world, so who am I to judge if you don't enjoy mouth-puckering lemon, if you like less, go wild! Just as with the double-baked French onion souffles, all you need do is follow the recipe and you will be guaranteed a gorgeous (I mean look at it) cafe/restaurant/French maman's style lemon tart :)

In other news, the sun is actually shining outside my window, I am in this moment up-to-date with my workload (long may it last) and I am going to a film festival movie tonight (The First Monday in May) with a couple of lovely girlfriends, so hurrah to that. Rich has ditched criminology in favour of political science at uni (he is seriously politically-minded, and currently looks like the kind of long-haired semi-radical, peace activist who will one day do good for the world), so it will be interesting to see if philosophy retains the top spot in his subject choices. Meanwhile it's Henry's turn to look after Will who now has a rotten cold - not surprising given he works such long hours and the weather in Melbourne has been outrageously bitter (get well soon Will!). Right then, if I am to keep up to date, I better get to it - next lot of Dish Magazine recipe-testing coming up...

PS - little shout out to Fisher & Paykel who have kindly (obviously) sponsored this post (thanks so much guys) and an aside to confirm that I am indeed the proud owner of an F&P fridge and dishwasher, and they are actually seriously easy to clean - I always said I would only ever partner with products I believe in, so it is a treat to be doing this little series together - one more Perfectionist recipe coming your way very soon :)

Rhubarb & Raspberry Clafoutis


I'm writing this a bit later in the day for a change, coffee in hand, weak sunlight streaming in the window and, as hoped, Dougie is snoring gently and intermittently farting in his bed at my feet. (Dougie is Henry's border terrier in case you weren't sure!). He seems to be rocketing along with his recovery, eating well (free range chicken and rice...), taking his meds (kind of), sleeping lots but generally in a pretty perky state. The next step is to have his stitches removed next Wednesday and further blood tests to see if there is an underlying disease which caused his gallbladder issues. Meanwhile - it is all go in Melbourne with Pog finally starting his interior design course on Monday, and I am (fingers crossed) assuming not-much-news is good news from Rich. I started my day with a bloody lovely yoga session, so have no excuse not to now get my act together and have a good day, testing my next lot of recipes for Dish magazine.

This clafoutis recipe is one I put together for my fortnightly Dish web contribution, and I have to say it is damned delicious. I love tart rhubarb, and when combined with the sweet raspberries then topped with soft vanilla custard it really is a great dessert. The clafoutis is super easy to make, and quick too, if you roast your rhubarb in advance. The trick is not to serve it straight away as the custard needs time to set up a little - but then don't serve it cold either, because by then the custard will have set into a slab! Just give it 5 minutes or so, then serve with a lovely big scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

The Perfectionist - Double Baked French Onion Souffle


I am so grateful for good friends - it's easy to be mates when everything is jolly, but when things get tough it is amazing to have people you can rely on :) Last night I had two of my most lovely friends for dinner. As usual we started with a wee whiskey and some nibbles before sitting down to dinner with a good bottle of red. I had been really enjoying playing around with this recipe - a double baked French onion souffle, and for dinner I served it with a beautiful piece of eye fillet topped with garlic herb butter and a bitter green salad. I have always been a sucker for double-baked souffles as there is no angst involved with timing and possible souffle deflation - they do deflate as they cool, and that is just fine, because once inverted and re-heated they are 're-inflated', soft and luscious and bathed in creamy gruyere. The size of these souffles makes them ideal to serve with a salad for lunch, as a starter before a light main (such as fish), or as I did, as a one course meal with a beautiful steak. The French onion flavours would also match beautifully with lamb or chicken. We finished with another recipe of mine that I recently created for Cuisine magazine (that you will see in the future), a beautiful tart and ice cream combination that rounded the meal out perfectly. After dinner we chilled out watching The Perks of Being a Wallflower, an old favourite - a very different kind of coming-of-age movie. I think I was so keen to watch it as it always makes me think of the boys (it's one of Rich's favourites), and it does have a lot of lovely 80s references I can relate to! Hoob is now safely back at uni, settling back in for re-O week (!) and on the part-time job hunt, while Henry is about to start his Interior Design course in Melbourne any minute. It was such a treat to see Rich, he is such a darling, big ole intelligent deep-thinker, and I am hanging out to see Pog when he comes over for his 21st...can't wait! In the meantime I have tucked one of these souffles in the freezer for him...

The reason I started playing with the idea of this souffle in the first place was because I had been approached by the good people at Fisher & Paykel and invited to participate in a little experiment/challenge. They asked me to complete their What's Your Cooking Style quiz, which you can do here to see what kind of cook I am, and then to come up with three recipes which embody that cooking style. I'm always up for a challenge so got straight to it - and it will come as absolutely no surprise to my friends (and anyone who has every worked with me), that my style is The Perfectionist. The result is no fluke, back in the day when watching Friends and assigning characters, I was only ever allowed to be Monica...kind of apt given that she was a perfectionist caterer! Anyhoo, the very first recipe I thought of was this souffle, as it is the kind of recipe that can seem scary, but if you follow the instructions exactly, (and they are not difficult), you are guaranteed a perfect result. Extra good bits - you can make them completely the day before and just re-heat, so there is no last-minute panic, and it also means the kitchen stays nice and tidy during the evening when guests are hovering around, and if you're lucky enough to be preparing the souffles on a Fisher & Paykel induction cooktop, you'll know how extra handy it is to have such instant, precise temperature control, not to mention the easy clean surface - I might be a perfectionist, but that doesn't mean I'm not a bit (lot) messy sometimes!

Warm Winter Vegetable Salad with Lemony Feta & Coriander Dressing & Quick Garlic Flatbreads


Morning all - well it's been a while 'between drinks', but this is a great little vege-loaded mid-week recipe which is super healthy and pretty quick and easy to put together. During winter I often crave big hearty stews or pies (...see recent pie extravaganza), and when I need a vegetable fix I usually go for soup, (check out loads of soup recipes in the index), but sometimes I like veges that you actually need to chew! This salad is served warm - the carrots, kumara, cauliflower, red pepper, onion and chickpeas are tossed in honey, olive oil and cumin seeds before being roasted, so are sweet and fragrant, and a great contrast to the peppery watercress or rocket, then everything gets a mighty fresh lift with the creamy dressing of salty feta, a hint of pungent garlic, fresh coriander and zesty lemon. On the side 2-minute crispy garlic flatbreads act as massive, crunchy croutons. If you can't live without meat feel free to serve alongside roast lamb, or topped with seared lamb loins... but to my mind it really doesn't need it. (As you may have gathered I am probably 90% vego, but each to their own).

In other news, I have booked myself in for a ton of work, so am writing this (as usual) early in bed with my cup of tea before going into full panic/manic mode shortly. It's hard to blog honestly and not mention the recent change in my domestic situation, but basically these days it's just me at home unless the boys are visiting, so outside work, it's been a flurry of yoga, meditating (don't laugh/look at me like that), walks, writing in a journal (quite spectacularly full of swearing - how I refrain on the blog is a 'bloody' mystery), and getting emotional support from professionals and gorgeous friends. Not much more to say on that front other than blergh. Oh - and as the icing on the cake I have spent the last week driving between home and the emergency vet specialists to visit dear little-old-man Dougie (the 11 year old Border terrier), who has been very ill, actually at death's door, before having his gall bladder removed and bile ducts flushed. He was touch and go for a while post-op, but is now much improved, the only concern is that he hasn't eaten in 5 days - so cross your fingers that today is he day, so that he can regain his strength and come home, crikey it is too weird that for the first time ever it is an all-female household with just Maggie (the Westie) and me! Hopefully when I post the next recipe Dougie will be once again quietly farting and snoring in the dog bed in the corner...

Kapiti to the rescue


Things happen in mysterious ways don't they? I had, in a spur of the moment manner, invited people for dinner last night, on the same day that I had a note from the good people at Kapiti asking if I would like to sample some of their cheeses. Well, er  - yes please - that's the cheese board taken care of! So, once I had given them the correct address (long story) I was delivered their Kahikatea Camembert, Kowhai Gruyere Style cheese and Tuteremoana Cheddar with a pack of truffle oil, chestnut and raisin crostini. I served them with muscatel grapes and a glass (or three) of sherry (I'm a bit of a nanna), and the combination of flavours and textures - creamy, crunchy, sweet and nutty was bloody perfect :)

(The rest of dinner was curried lamb pies made with slow-cooked lamb shoulder, rocket and watercress salad and a massive pile of creamy mash followed by a wee recipe I'm testing for next week - keep an eye out for rhubarb and raspberry cafoutis with vanilla bean ice cream coming soon!)

Loaded Four Cheese Pizzas with chilli, rocket & lemon


Fridaaaaay! Yay - and finally a beautiful blue-sky day in Auckland - fantastic! Today's recipe is for a crispy thin-based pizza loaded with cheesy goodness then finished off with a little chilli kick, fresh peppery rocket and some fresh zingy lemon. It is a great vegetarian option, but for other suggestions you can also checkout my super-green pizzas, asparagus and mozzarella pizzas, and smoked salmon pizzas with capers and dill,  pizza with braised lentils hot smoked salmon and pea puree, prosciutto, mozzarella and basil pizza, mushroom pizza for two, Moroccan pumpkin and eggplant pizzas with dukkah, or Waiheke pizza with figs, grapes, blue cheese and prosciutto! Woah I had no idea I had done so many pizzas :) Whatever way you like your pizza, hopefully you'll find some inspiration here for the weekend.

In other news - I am about to start doing a wee bit of promotional work via the blog, my instagram account and Facebook page. No need to freak out - the blog is not going to be suddenly over run with pictures of branded packaging and me waxing lyrical about a particular type of baking paper or can of chickpeas...rather I will be looking to work with brands with whom I have a real affinity. I can't stand fake bollocks, so there'll be none of that! To see more you can check out what I do here :)

....aaaaand Rich is home - yippeeeee! Well I say 'home', actually last night he spent the night with mates at Omaha, but he is in this city. Every time I see him I get a bit of a shock - his hair is so long, and he is so bloody man-sized, I can't believe he is my baby. Meanwhile Henry is recovering from his lurgy and back hard at work. Right well that is enough words from me, but before I go, I don't know if you have a minute, but if you fancy Saveur are currently running their annual blog awards, details here.

So many links today, it's a link-fest! Have a great weekend :)

Over-night whole grain oats with chia seeds, fig and date puree, Greek yoghurt & honey toasted nuts


I'm back in my usual blogging position (in bed with a cup of tea) listening to the rain pattering away outside - dammit there goes my morning walk! Today's recipe is one I put together for Fairfax: wholegrain jumbo oats and chia seeds soaked overnight with dates, quickly cooked in the morning into a big bowl of nourishing porridge. To serve, you can stir through a lovely big blob of fig and date puree, and top the lot with smooth, creamy Greek yoghurt and crunchy honeyed nuts. I don't know whether you've noticed this but I usually detail what flavours and textures you can expect in each recipe - to me those combinations (and their balance) are so important. Anyhoo - balance or not, it's nutritious, hearty, and will sustain you for hours...and tastes good too! (Also the ideal start to a wet, cold winter's day..)

In other news, I'm so excited that Rich arrives back from his visit with Henry in Melbourne today - and has eight nights in Auckland before heading back to uni in Wellington. Hurrah! I have no doubt that he will want to spend a minimal amount of time being uber-nurtured by his enthusiastic, son-starved mother and will be more keen on catching up with Auckland mates...but I will grab the moments that I can and make the most of them! (That may be sitting drinking tea while he plays play station, but that'll do!). Meanwhile poor old Pog has developed a crappy cold, but is being ably looked after by the lovely Will who arrived on his doorstep last night with pizza and flowers - perfect! (Ohh, the rain has stopped, up I get!!!)

Left-overs Roast Lamb & Vege Tart


God here we are again then - where does time go? It seems to just slip by so quickly that before you know it months have passed in the blink of an eye. Pshh - haven't got enough time for blathering on, I have to be out the door in half an hour and haven't 'got my face on'! This tart is an ode to the Sunday roast - or rather a way to use up left-overs that doesn't involve bread (not that I don't love a white bread sandwich with left-over lamb, salt, pepper and tomato chutney), and which extends the whole lot into dinner round 2. But - it is also a great flavour combo, with an extra hit of fresh rosemary, a pillowy base of creamy Parmesan and a couple of fresh mint leaves at the end to give it a fresh lift. Add the ubiquitous mint jelly or tomato chutney on the side, and it really is a winner :)

While I fluff around making roast tart, the man/boys are together in Melbourne - hurrah! I got such a kick out of seeing Hoob for 10 minutes the other day - by delivering him from the domestic terminal to international on his way from Wellington to Melbourne to visit Henry. If anyone knows of the old classic film/TV show The Odd Couple - that pretty much sums up my gorgeous sons. One immaculately-groomed, stylish force of nature and one free-spirited, long-haired, philosophical cruiser. Would love to be a fly on the wall during their week together - or maybe not!!! Anyhoo - I'm wishing them a super-happy week, because they might be outwardly chalk and cheese, but their common link is being pretty bloody fabulous and loving. Right, better hit it...!

Hot smoked salmon & leek pies with aioli


Another (rainy?) Saturday, another All Black rugby test - and another pie! But today's is completely different to last week's meaty extravaganza while still being totally addictive and indulgent. These ones involve sweet soft leeks, flaked firm white fish, rich hot smoked salmon, aniseedy dill and sharp lemon zest all tucked up together in flaky pastry - a decent blob of aioli and a few sharp capers or caperberries on the side, and the result is so bloody delicious! Also - they are incredibly easy to make, can all be done in advance, are loved by all ages and perfect for everything from a ladies' lunch to rugby-watching.

Unbelievable - even though it is only 7:30am on a weekend morning I am about to head out on my walk having already taken delivery of my new, orthopaedically sound, yet soft and lovely mattress, and directed the delivery guys up and down stairs and around corners and back down to the garage with the old one. I am ridiculously excited after having woken every day for the last 12 months or more with a sore back, to finally have the old rock hard mattress replaced. Yeeee ha! (God - so old, so enthusiastic about sleep...). Meanwhile Rich has made it through his psych exam and now just has to round things off with his (favourite) philosophy - the subject he was pretty much born to - and Henry is back into the daily grind in Melbourne and on the count down to the start of his interior design course, followed shortly thereafter by a trip home to celebrate his 21st birthday. I have managed to book myself in for a ton of work coming up, but will try and head back here in the usual once-a-week manner to share the recipes (like this one I prepared for Bonds Australia) that I think you'll like.