Penne with Chicken, Chorizo & Chilli

18.12.14



OK now don't laugh, but I rephotographed this three times until I was happy with it - I am such a dork but I can't help myself. I literally can not bring myself to post anything unless I genuinely like the pic, even if the recipe is great. Ah well - my little freaky perfectionist streak. Actually - I should be really grateful for it, as it is one of the reasons I went freelance about 18 months ago. I wasn't happy to put out work that I thought could be better, and my old boss was happy with a very last-minute, seat-of-the-pants vibe (works OK for the one in charge, not quite so good for the people making things happen). Going freelance gave me the opportunity to practice non-stop, and I am only slowly now getting to a point where I feel confident that I will generally get the results I want, even if it takes a few goes. But meh - enough about me (crikey!) how're you doing? Frazzled? Or feeling the Christmas spirit? In New Zealand Christmas can be quite a stressful time as the kids go on school holiday for the summer for 8 weeks from the second week in December, so parents are trying frantically to buy presents and get family, work, friend gatherings sorted with small people of varying sizes at their feet. My lovelies are now (dear God how can this be?) 19 and 17 years old, so no inconvenience at all, sometimes even a wee bit helpful! Anyhoo, if you're feeling pulled in ten different directions as the big day approaches, you might want to give this recipe a whirl - great for turning left-over chicken or turkey into a delicious pasta dish. I always remember when we were young and living on the bones of our bum as the saying goes, my husband would frequently open the fridge door and say 'There's nothing to eat!', I of course would scoff, have a scrounge around, and make something exactly like this :) (And on the very rare occasion there actually would be nothing in the fridge...)




Vodka and Vanilla Cherries

17.12.14


Ho, ho, ho and how're you going in the lead up to Christmas? I am feeling a little bit out of control (frantic) it has to be said - with work coming out my ears, my husband's 50th (yes, 50th) birthday to organise (now three days ago - went splendidly!), Henry and Josh coming to stay, then two lots of entertaining at our place for Christmas day to plan and the transfer of the household to Waiheke on Boxing Day to get through. I did put my hand up for everything, I have no 'no' button, but I know once I get work out of the way I will really enjoy throwing myself into the cooking side of things. This recipe is another one I did for Fairfax newspapers and is such a good sneaky last minute gift to make. They only take half an hour to prepare, but look so impressive. I'm sure Nigella would wax lyrical about them being luscious, glowing ruby orbs or some such, but all I will say is, if you make them for yourself - don't forget to whack the cherry/vanilla vodka in a wee festive cocktail as a reward for having made it to Christmas in one piece! Cheers!




Left-overs Chicken Noodle Soup

16.12.14


You might remember a while ago I posted a recipe for classic chicken noodle soup? Well it is a fabulous recipe, and if you have the time you'll find it here  - but if you are pressed for time and just happen to have a whole lot of left-over chicken or turkey staring at you from the fridge (you know how it is "Are you going to just waste me? Throw me out? Come on!") well then this is the recipe for you! The whole thing takes just half an hour to make, and you are left with a nourishing, warming soup that will make you feel so good. Perfect with a good chunk of ciabbata spread with butter for dunking :)



Christmas Whiskey Figgy Chocolate Walnut Cake - Gluten Free

7.12.14


Every year my sister makes the best traditional Christmas cake on the planet, and always topped with a luscious whiskey butter cream frosting. I have tried for many, many years to extract the recipe from her, but she is always delightfully vague, and encourages me to Google the details. Even if I could find the recipe, I couldn't actually share it with you any way as it is  written by another New Zealand cook (not the one I used to work for) and I don't go in for plagiarism. However, I do have this alternative for you, which is not only delicious, it is chocolatey, walnutty, whiskey-ey and gluten-free! The cake is loaded with dark chocolate and whiskey soaked figs blended with walnut crumbs and topped with a chocolate whiskey icing. To gild the lily completely (and almost literally) it is then sprinkled with crystallised ginger, dried figs and a little praline. Serve this with a little whiskey spiked whipped cream, and a very Merry Christmas will be yours :) (Just a wee extra note here the cake is a tiny bit crumbly due to the walnut/no flour base, but still moist and delicious - promise!)


 

Christmas Mille Feuille

6.12.14


You might be thinking I've been a bit hum-buggy lately with no festive recipes of note - but ta dah - finally there is this! I have always wanted to make mille feuilles and thought in theory they sounded simple and looked complicated - and that is exactly true, they are actually dead easy to make. If you want, feel free to pipe the creme patisserie to make them more refined looking, and you can also, if you wish, sandwich them with fruit in between the layers. I did do this, but frankly thought they looked better, and more approachable shall we say, like this - a little more rustic and more inviting to dig into! I think the lemon zing from the curd gives them a nice little bit of spark, but you could also do all sorts of other things to trick up your creme patisserie - instead of lemon curd use dark chocolate like I did here, or use white chocolate, or mascarpone and espresso or even Nutella - the world is your oyster. Have fun, and in the meantime I shall be hard at work on festive recipe number two. Falalalala :)



Chicken, Potato, Brie and Thyme Tart with Onion Jam.

4.12.14


Hello there! Today for your cooking and eating pleasure I have the most decadent way to use up left-over chicken and boiled potatoes! It is just my kind of tart, you only need a small slice as it is super-rich, but so unbelievably tasty and satisfying, perfect with a lightly dressed leafy green salad on the side. Basically you have  a puff pastry shell encasing a layer of sweet caramelised red onion, topped with roughly broken up chunks of potato and chicken dotted with luscious brie. The whole lot is baked in a creamy egg filling and sprinkled with a little thyme. To be honest, it is worth cooking two chickens at a time to make sure you have enough left-overs for this :)  (Hadn't done a tart for a while...!)



Barbecue Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

3.12.14



Call me crazy (as if you haven't already) but I believe a New Zealand summer is coming, despite the fact that as I sit here on officially the first day of summer, the weather forecast around the country ranges from thunderstorms and hail to snow with a balmy high of 10 degrees (50˚F) in Dunedin. Ah yes - be warned international travellers to our beloved country - do not arrive at Christmas to experience a tropical paradise - for that you must come between February and April (if you're lucky add January)! However - as shown by that fact that Kiwis can be spotted in Sydney wearing shorts and jandals (flip flops) in the middle of their winter, we are hardy souls, not to be put off by a spot of rain when it comes to having a barbecue - to that end, if you have one planned for the weekend, let this be your secret weapon to bring a fresh and vibrant flavour to the meat department. My version of the classic Argentinian Chimichurri sauce is packed with fresh herbs and a goodly amount of garlic grunt. Serve with your favourite steak, grilled corn on the cob with some chilli butter and some good quality fresh bread for the ultimate barbecue steak sandwich! :) (PS - this is another of my recipes developed and shot for Fairfax newspapers around good ole NZ).




Australia Invites the World to Dinner

2.12.14


OK, well here's the thing, I know you're rolling your eyes at another travel piece having sneaked it's way into this recipe blog of mine, but chances are it's the last one - and look - Heston Blumenthal - its food related! And not just food 'related' it's about this most incredible trip I went on recently as part of a Tourism Australia campaign promoting our Aussie neighbours as a foodie destination. I will keep this super-brief (as much as I can) and try and let the pictures do the talking for me.

Day one: fly by charter plane (I know, I know) eating food prepared by top chef Luke Mangan from Sydney to Hobart, Tasmania. You can imagine how I felt as I walked down the aisle of the plane, my heart pretty much thumping out of my chest as I looked around at the other passengers - oh right, yep there's Eric Ripert and Alice Waters, Xanthe Clay and Chef Rubio and Jamie Magazine editor Andy Harris - a veritable who's who of foodie rock stars - dear God - what was I doing there!!!??? Freaking out my friends is what I was doing, FREAKING OUT. Then I had a spectacularly surreal moment as a bright clear voice called out down the plane "Sarah! Sarah! Yay, I'm so glad you're here!" Whaaaaat???! Who could possibly know me? Turns out it was the totally gorgeous Vicki Wild with husband Martin Benn of Sepia restaurant - winners of best chef and best restaurant for Australia 2014. I had met them earlier in the year on my Savouring Australia trip and I tell you, I've never been more grateful to see a friendly face.  To read all about it, just click on the recipe link below:)

 

Winter Chicken Salad

25.11.14


Hiya and welcome back, or if it is a first-time visit - where have you been all this time - yay so glad you're here! I don't normally 'talk' much but I just have to say something about this recipe. I am posting it because I had a total crap day, and I wanted to finish on a positive note. I spent all day, all day trying to photograph a plate of pasta, and the more I fussed, the worse it got. I have since deleted all of the pics (even though the recipe was bloody delicious) and I am going to try again after I have had a few days to get my head in the right space, because you see this frigging perfectionist nature of mine will not allow me to post anything I think is poxy. Humph. Dammit. In the meantime I secretly quite like this pic, and the salad itself is so damned good - and the perfect way to use up leftover chicken or turkey from a roast, so it should come in pretty handy around this time of year. The other good thing about it is that it's light enough for summer, but with enough grunt for winter. The reasonably neutral chicken provides great texture and a base to add slightly peppery watercress, salty blue cheese and sweet roasted red onion - and the caramel salted walnuts, oh my God, so good!!!As you will see I have actually called it winter salad here as there are fewer salads that can work as well during the colder months. Anyhoo, I am feeling much improved since typing this up, and will now go off to meet a girlfriend for a drink in a better frame of  mind...see you later!





Silky Oaks Lodge - in the Queensland Rainforest

23.11.14


So here we are at the third stop on my whirlwind recent trip to Queensland - from Orpheus Island to Crystalbrook Lodge, I arrived for a brief over-night stay at Silky Oaks Lodge on the Mossman Gorge River. Despite the huge contrast from arid outback to rainforest I could see that even here the river levels were low, and that some consistent rain would be welcome. Regardless, the surrounding bush was green and inviting, providing a cooling protective canopy from the heat of the Queensland sun. Having arrived by car after an hour's drive around the picturesque coast up the Captain Cook Highway, I checked into my lovely room, high on poles above the river and surrounded by trees and birdlife, feeling like I'd been transported to a very glamorous incarnation of the Robinson Crusoe movie set! I wandered down for a quick look around the tree top restaurant and bar area, then managed to attach myself to a group heading out on a guided walk into the Daintree National Park. To read and see more of my rainforest adventure, just click on the recipe link below :)