Thanksgiving / Halloween All-American (kind of) Pumpkin Cheesecake


Way down here in New Zealand Halloween is only just becoming a bit more of a thing, still not huge, but these days kids do dress up and go door-knocking around the neigbourhood 'trick-or-teating' and teenagers have a few themed dress-up parties. Back in the dark ages when I was growing up, Halloween was just something we saw on American TV shows - a distant, foreign, alluring holiday, filled with lollies (that's candy to some) and crazy horror costumes. Likewise, Thanksgiving is an all-American celebration, and not one that anyone else in the world observes (that I know of!?), but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy some of the classic festive dishes that are eaten at that time of year. Some of them are just too crazy for me (please - what is this marshmallow-topped sweet potato with savory business?) but some like beautifully seasoned roasted turkey followed by pumpkin pie (or in this case cheesecake) are just the ticket. So even though we don't keep the same traditions, I thought I would post this recipe, which I put together and photographed for the lovely Dish magazine's international issue. This is a 'from scratch' version of spiced pumpkin cheesecake - no tins (cans) will be harmed in the making of this dessert!

It is particularly ironic to be posting this today, a kind of 'harvesty' autumnal recipe on what feels like the first actual day of spring in Auckland - the sun is shining, the birds are tweeting (they actually are) and there is a fly buzzing around the window... Whether you are like me, considering exposing your snow-white legs in shorts for the first time in many months, or just fossicking in the back of the wardrobe to find your woollies, I hope you'll enjoy this recipe, it's a real family favourite :) 

Spring Risotto


I don't know about this spring business - it is hosing down with rain outside, and all I feel like doing is crawling back into bed and pulling the covers over my head. Instead I have to get myself in a festive mode and shooting Christmas treats! If you feel like hunkering down with a delicious, easy to make dish this week, you could always give this vibrant spring risotto I made for Fairfax a whirl - with a foot in both camps (the left stuck in winter with the right into spring) it brings all the warmth and comfort you need with a contrasting brightness of basil, mint and lemon for a bit of zing. Not many words today - I'm off to get busy in the kitchen - falalalalalala.....

Oliebollen (Dutch Apple Doughnuts)


Last night as I was writing this my mother was preparing the ingredients to make the Spring Super Salad which she took as an entree for dinner with friends. That doesn't sound very remarkable unless you already know from reading my About Me page that Mum absolutely hates cooking, and always has. I find it really hard to relate to as I love it so much, but I can see that she always approaches it with the expectation that it will be a disaster - yet ironically she really is a good (if panicky) cook (and an incredible gardener). If you are like this too, I'll give you the same advice I always give her - don't panic, keep it simple, follow the instructions carefully and have faith - seriously if you do those things you can't go wrong.  (Also if you are not 100% sure of what you're doing, don't 'free-style' with the ingredients...). When I was growing up my Dutch grandparents lived in Australia, so we didn't get to see them very often, but when we did my Oma would always make fantastic chicken ragout and croquette (which Mum makes really well too). A few months ago when I was putting some international dessert recipes together for Dish magazine I asked Mum if she had one for Oliebollen at all. She asked around her five sisters (two of whom are with her in the photo in the top pic) and one came up with the goods - but even better, this recipe is my Oma's Oma's recipe - so truly handed down through the generations, and very traditional! In the Netherlands it is usually served on New Year's Eve, but they're so delicious they're great any time - with a good dusting of icing sugar, and if you fancy, some vanilla bean ice cream.

...and before I go, in other news, Nick is back from Shanghai today, for seven hours before heading to Melbourne for his Dad's birthday (!), Henry is still rocking the Ice-Queen hair at work and uni in Wellington and Rich is looking down the barrel of his last 10 days of school. Ever. Holy shit (excuse me but I feel it's necessary). How did this happen - that Nick is going to his Dad's 80th birthday, Henry is 20 and at uniand Rich is finishing school! Any young people reading this, take note - enjoy every day, make the most of opportunities that come your way and really try and notice your life, because in about 10 minutes your kids will be grown, your face will be wrinkly (not as bad as it sounds because you won't be able to see as well either, also handy when house-cleaning), your hands will look like your mother's  (no offense Mum) and you will be thinking where did it all go??? If you're really lucky, you'll be full of passion for something (family/food/photography/yoga/friends in my case) and enjoying (almost) every minute. Oh my God, so many words - haha - sorry! Go read the recipe...

Corn and Red Pepper Cheese Stuffed Fried Rice Balls (Mexican-style Arancini)


Feeling in a reflective mood this morning - blogging really is a bit of a weird thing - who sits at home in front of a computer sending bits of themselves out into the universe? I originally started From the Kitchen years ago as a way to practice my photography and share some of my favourite recipes with friends. Since then it has become part of my daily life, a creative outlet and connected to the work I do for Dish magazine and Fairfax media. It has also become a kind of portfolio for clients who book me for either recipe development, styling or photography (sometimes all three). Sometimes the recipes are greeted with much enthusiasm and feedback from followers who now feel like friends, and sometimes they slip by almost unnoticed - ironically sometimes my favourites go that way. It has been a fascinating exercise getting to know what people respond too, often motivating, rewarding and humbling and occasionally disappointing. Sometimes I go off the boil for a few weeks and then suddenly inspiration strikes and I am racing back to the kitchen and charging my camera battery. It's a bit of a strange time of year to be blogging recipes at the mo too - pretend spring here in New Zealand (rain/snow), and Australia, and autumn/fall in the northern hemisphere...but here I go any way!

I have my fingers crossed that you are going to like the look of these - basically Mexican style arancini (purists hold back), and they are bloody fantastic to enjoy with a drink. You know at drinks parties cold nibbles are always nice, but often after a few drinks all you want is something with a bit of spice, heat, fried is good and melty cheese a bonus...! I have been making arancini for about 20 years, but when I had friends for dinner recently (the pulled pork/slaw/polenta night) I decided to try a different flavour profile from my usual Italian - and vegetarian too, as my sister has recently stopped eating meat and I remain on the cusp. Anyhoo - the resulting corn and red pepper cheese stuffed rice balls fit the bill perfectly. They are easy to make the day before too, so when friends are around, all you need to do is heat the oil and cook them. The night we had them we also hooked into homemade guacamole and organic corn chips, and lots of other nibbles would work well as a 'spread' fish tacos and pulled pork sliders would be great.  

Wherever you are, thanks for checking in to From the Kitchen, take it easy, and have a great weekend!

Spring Super Salad


For once in my life I am actually pretty satisfied with a recipe and pic. People who know me will confirm that I am such a nerdy perfectionist that this is a rarity indeed! I was really feeling in spring mode yesterday and as I wandered around my local fruit and veg (Farro) I started just grabbing at ingredients to put in the trolley - fresh, vibrant, slightly peppery young watercress, a beautiful aniseedy fennel bulb, moist hot smoked salmon, small sweet oranges, earthily fragrant hazelnuts and luscious creamy buffalo mozzarella - basically I was constructing the salad in my head as I walked. The whole lot was brought together with a liberal drizzle of Al Brown's Lemon and Fennel infused olive oil, but you could easily make a simple dressing with lemon and olive oil if you can't get your hands on it or something similar.

A long, long time ago I was diagnosed as having ulcerative colitis (an inflammatory bowel disease), and at that time I began a mission to eat as healthily as I could in an attempt to see how it affected the symptoms. For a year and a half I ate no meat, wheat, dairy or sugar (Whaaat? Vegan and gluten free long before it was hipster cool). Any way, I found that after that time (and on-going medication) my colitis was stable and I began introducing regular food back into my diet with no ill-effects, and now I eat any and everything, (and no medication!) -  although the older I get the less inclined I am to eat meat, so I guess you could say I am on the verge of being a pescetarian. During the time I was on a limited diet I also spent a lot of time researching the different vitamin and mineral content of foods (super-foods way back when), and it is something that has remained of real interest to me. The reason I am telling you this is because this salad is for me, so fantastic in terms of what it provides. If you wanted, you could add a carbohydrate, but we tend to get enough most days any way. Further down below the recipe details I will list the predominant mineral and vitamin content of the different ingredients, and their uses in the body. Before I freak you out though - the main thing that is so good about this salad is that it is absolutely bloody delicious :)

Salted Peanut Caramel Chocolate Popcorn Tart


Yay - I can't believe I have finally had the chance to make this recipe which I have been thinking about doing for ages! Last night I had a lovely group of long-standing (can't say 'old') friends for dinner - and after nibbles of mexican-spiced corn and pepper arancini stuffed with mozzarella (obviously not a classic - I made them up) with smoked paprika aioli, slow-roasted pulled pork with coleslaw and soft polenta (yeeep) we had a brief rest before hooking into this Salted Peanut Caramel Popcorn Tart. It is unbelievably rich (shocked?) but not actually as sweet as you might imagine thanks to the use of 70% dark chocolate and a bit of sea salt to balance it out. I am leaving the peanut butter type option up to you - I used really good quality crunchy, but if you prefer smooth, go with that. The recipe easily serves 10 as you'll only need small slices and it really was pretty damned good - definitely worth giving a go! I will try and get that arancini recipe up this week too, because they are super easy to make and great for drinks parties - easy to eat, all prepped in advance, and delicious too :)

Any old hoo - other news my end...Nick is back into the thick of things in Shanghai, my platinum-haired Henry is hard at work in Welly (lil shout out to Brown & Co.!) and Rich has finished his mock Cambridge exams, appeared in the New Zealand comedy/drama Step Dave as 'Kash' if anyone saw episode 2 of this season, (naturally I was exploding with motherly pride), and I have been working my arse of as usual, with yoga in between! So how are things with you? Don't be shy - if you've made something from the blog lately I'd love to hear about it - or if you have any requests, I'm all ears...

PS. When you scroll on down to the recipe link don't freak out because it looks long - I promise it is very straight forward - just follow the instructions and it'll work out no problem!

Beef, Barley and Vegetable Soup with Parsley, Rocket and Walnut Pesto Toasties


I am writing this as I watch the weather forecast on TV, and despite the fact that it is now officially spring in New Zealand, the weather forecast is predictably grim: 0˚ or 1˚C degree lows in many places over night (-2˚C in Christchurch!) and rain all over the country in the next few days. Soooo even though the shops are full of spring fashion - this is a good option for lunch or dinner over the coming weekend! This soup (which I put together for Fairfax) reminds me of my childhood - it's very similar to one made by both my mum and paternal grandmother...minus the pesto :) The irony is that even though it sets me off into fits of nostaligia, it is also just the soup for budding hipsters, made as it is with a bone broth stock. Bone broth - hee hee - to me it's just stock and reminds me how everything old can be new again, ideas go in cycles (whole foodies, of which I am kind of one - erm - check out the 70s, Mollie Katzen and Moosewood!), but I do love it that ideas that make sense stick around.

Apart from that I am also bursting with pride (next morning addendum) after having watched Rich appearing as the character Kash in last nights episode of the NZ comedy/drama Step Dave. It was his first time acting for TV (apart from a KFC ad), and I thought he made the transition from stage beautifully - go Hoobie! :)

Father's Day Brown Basmati Kedgeree with Poached Eggs


Helloooooo! It feels like a long time, but I wanted to quickly squeak this recipe onto the blog in time for Father's Day in New Zealand and Australia - and it would also make a mighty fine northern hemisphere breakfast to herald the start of autumn/fall. Basically it is my take on the traditional Anglo Indian breakfast of kedgeree made popular in the Victorian era, and a jolly fine way to use up left-overs too. This recipe uses brown basmati rice and turmeric for an extra dose of healthy deliciousness - and luscious smoked snapper, then it is topped with perfectly poached eggs and plenty of freshly chopped parsley. It is super-easy to make, and a lovely comforting dish you can enjoy not just for breakfast, but any time of day. 

In other news - we had a fab time in Wellington checking out Victoria University and various halls of residence for Hoob (Rich) and a lovely dinner out at Matterhorn as a belated celebration for Pog's (Henry's) birthday. I can't believe Wellington's population has dropped as low as 200,000 - it's such a cool little city with a great vibe and an amazing restaurant and bar scene - love it! Since we got back Pog has come up for a few days R & R and to recover from an on-going chest infection with an over-dose of motherly love and vast amounts of home-cooked food (organic chicken, mega-vege soup, whole orange almond cake, etc etc - poor darling probably felt like a goose in France...). Now that Henry is back in Welly and on the mend, Nick has just been back in hospital for two days having further surgery for kidney stone removal - drink water peoples - stay well hydrated and watch the salt! He is home and having a rest up before jumping back on a plane on Monday back to Shanghai - but tomorrow he gets to kick back with Hoob and I. Nice. Happy Father's Day to him and all the Dads out there - whether they have tiny little bubbies, smelly, messy (but fabulous) teenagers or children that are parent's themselves. Have fun, take care and enjoy the day! :)

Wills' Devil Salad


Just shooting and editing pics for the Christmas 2015 issue of Dish magazine and was fiddling on the computer when I came across this old blog post from two years ago (!!!). This time last year I recreated the recipe for Dish magazine, and it is still such a fab spring recipe, I thought I'd re-post it, along with the original words. How time flies.....!

"Not long ago we went on a family trip to Wellington to check out universities and courses for Henry. (Now that we have got him fairly well started on his path to global domination through design, we can start sorting out Rich...) Whilst in the capital we had several good catch-ups with our almost 21 year old nephew Will who is studying business there. A lively social lad, who enjoys a cold beer on a hot day as well as a delicious meal, we discussed the virtues of a good salad whilst out for breakfast one morning, and decided that it needed to have a good dose of devilish chilli heat and a bit of voila! This salad (like my recipe for Huevos Rancheros) would be great any time of day, as brunch, lunch or dinner, with anything from strong coffee to a beer. Generally speaking I have a fair amount of self control (am a self-confessed major control-freak) but that went out the window whilst shooting today, because, quite frankly I couldn't resist tucking in...I hope you can't either!"

Cowboy(or girl) Pies


What happens when you take the kind of mincey, chorizo-y, beaney filling that you would normally roll up in tortillas or slather over nacho chips...and stick it in a pie? This my friends - a cowboy pie, not as the name  would suggest, actually filled with cowboys... As I sit here it is 5:30am, I am in my yoga gear, snuggled up in a blanket sipping tea, lying on the couch. I have made it out of bed, which I know from my years as a personal trainer, means I am as good as at the class - ie. I will get there. The most difficult bit of morning yoga is getting my feet out of bed and on the floor - once they're there, I'm away! I have a lot of work on at the moment, so things have been a bit scant on the bloggy front, but I am going to schedule myself a bit of quieter time coming up so that I can attend to that. In the meantime, Rich is in the middle of mock (practice) exams for his Cambridge course at school, Henry has had a couple of days off work, consequently got bored and dyed his (brown) hair white blonde (as you do), and Nick is actually not in China. We are all heading down to Wellington on Thursday to check out Victoria university for Rich, and of course have a big catch up with Henry - yay! In the meantime, the clock is ticking, yoga is calling, so quickly back to the pie! I made the recipe for Fairfax and it is the perfect weekend pie, you can make it less or more spicy, as you wish, serve it with a good tomato chutney and a beer / glass of milk for the young'uns and enjoy!