13th March 2019
My suggestion for this weekend is to get yourself off to a farmers’ market and to gather up a basket of gorgeously fresh produce, then to head home and cook your way through it. Vegetables and fruits are incredible in colour and shape and I always enjoy unpacking my bounty. Make a cuppa while you think of all the delicious possibilities, then set to, prepping and chopping. Enjoy the smells as things cook and take time to appreciate what a blessing it is to be able to feed yourself well. Invite over some friends. Wind down (or wine down!) and enjoy sharing the spoils. Yep, that’s my favourite way to spend a day. Hopefully, this week’s colourful recipes will inspire you to cook for family and friends, too.
I grew one very large tomato on a plant. Yes, that’s right, just the one. It was a big one though! It was red, blackish-red and green in parts and made an enormous tomato salad. I contrasted it with a handful of orange tomatoes from my local market and basil from the garden. A stunner.
And read how to stop basil pesto turning dark (there are two tricks!). Basil
I adore yellow peppers roasted until sticky and charred. A bunch of peppers is quick to deal to and can form the mainstay of an all-vegetable meal or serve them with Greek inspired dishes. Roasted Yellow Peppers
Sweet corn is still plentiful and here’s a simple idea for brunch. You can use basil, chives or tarragon – they all go with corn. Creamed Sweet Corn on Toasted Muffins
Cake time. This is a gorgeous one, made with an almond butter sponge. I’m not going to kid you that making a cake using the creaming method is the easiest cake-making method – it’s not – but, once you understand the process, it is so much easier. So, don’t set yourself up to fail, read the cake-making tips, even for a refresher, before making the cake. And, if you love baking, and cake-making in particular, you will find it so much easier with a full-size cake maker. There are bargains to be had so keep your eyes peeled. Plum & Almond Cake
I’ll be on Radio NZ chatting to talented broadcaster and foodie pal Jesse Mulligan this Friday after the 3.00pm news, so listen in and fire in your foodie questions and comments. You can also comment at the bottom of any of the recipes on Shared Kitchen and I will get back to you (eventually!) regarding any queries.
Enjoy the week.
Summer’s on the run
6th March 2019
Summer’s fading gracefully into autumn with cooler mornings and evenings and gloriously warm sunny days. The sea is still warm, the bees are still buzzing, the cicadas still sawing, (incessantly) and produce like tomatoes, stone fruit and corn is bursting with flavour and at the best prices ever – at least in my neck of the woods. I don’t think there has ever been such a long season for sweet corn, and vines are still drooping with tomatoes. Yep, it’s a mighty fine time to eat well for little cost and effort.
This week, a salsa verde with a difference. It should come with a warning: addictive. It’s the salt, the tang, the brine, the savoury element, that will have you going back again and again until the bowl is empty. Salsa Verde
Testing salsa verde got me thinking about capers. Zingy little buds of salty goodness that can turn a flat dish into a memorable one, and quickly, too. About to serve fish, chicken, vegetables or grains that taste a bit ho-hum? Sizzle drained capers in a dot or two of butter (or oil if you are a vegan) until they turn crispy and pour over the dish. It’ll make an immense improvement because you’ve just added a flavour bomb. Nice.
And, hey, vegans, you’ll enjoy these lentil stuffed tomatoes filled with pine nuts, sultanas, onion and spices (I should be safe to call them vegan-friendly). Actually, there are plenty of vegan-friendly recipes on Shared Kitchen but I usually don’t draw attention to them just in case, well, you know, there’s a dot of butter lurking in there or something I’ve forgotten about. I don’t fancy being crucified. Back to the knitting … I love these tomatoes with a garden salad and sour dough bread, or a mash of some sort and spinach or broccoli. Baked Tomatoes Stuffed with Lentils
Black Boy peaches are a quirk of nature. Fantastically tangy, a gorgeous flavour with firm flesh, they are to be savoured, and quickly, as their season is short. You can order them on line – the best is about to come this week. I’m not sure how you feel about the name black boy peach … I’m not going to tie myself up in knots about it, but I have given you an alternative name: Blood peach. (Well, we have blood oranges!). Whatever …
And here’s a gorgeous salad to put them in, with little else but green chilli and a drizzle of exquisite extra virgin olive oil. Don’t you go using imported oil now! We’ve got a burgeoning olive oil industry in New Zealand with many an award-winning oil produced here, and a dish like this is the perfect home for it. (Ok, off the horse …) Blood Peach Salad
So, time for a cuppa, time for a choccie biccie. Or is that bickie? Never mind because there’s not much goodness to be found in these biscuits. They are pure refined sugar, refined flour, butter and sweetened drinking chocolate. Damn but they’re good. HaHa!
Oh, and next Monday, pick up a copy of the New Zealand Herald, and turn to the Be Well supplement and check out my monthly column. I’ll be covering a meatless moussaka, and an Arabic version. All delicious eating.
Making the most of every day
27th February 2019
The sun may be shining where you are today, but it wasn’t on Sunday when Ilaria was mooching around her place trying to think of something to cook. You’ll love her quick tomato-based sauce, made in just about the time it takes to bring a pot of water to the boil for the pasta. She makes it without tomatoes, too, a spin on aglio e olio (garlic and oil), adding capers and lemon zest. Ilaria’s Pastahttp://sharedkitchen.co.nz/recipe/rainy-day-pasta/
But summer is far from over, with the whole gorgeous month of March stretching out before us. It’s usually a month of settled weather, lovely … but I don’t want to jinx things. Just enjoy every day as it comes, I reckon.
Make the most of red-fleshed plums while they are plentiful. This week’s crumble recipe is a bog-standard one, but it doesn’t lack in flavour because of it. Just plums, really, with a nice little crumbly and buttery topping. The smell as the crumble cooks will bring them running – any leftovers, should there be any, are great for breakfast with yoghurt. Tinker with the sugar content at your peril – it keeps the crumb tender and gives flavour, and helps colour the crumble. And if you cut down the butter content, you’ll make a rock. I speak from experience. Plum Crumble
I’ve put in two really delicious meat recipes this week, and both are enhanced by a new brand of barbecue sauces imported from America. The sauces are the brainchild of American Barbeque King Charlie McKenna. A lot of barbecue sauces are overpowering, too smoky, too salty, too spicy, but I’ve enjoyed these. Luca and I went to a Masterclass Charlie conducted and that inspired these recipes.
Smoky Pork Steaks
I’ve also covered off how to make a good rub – the essentials on getting good flavour into meat before barbecuing or roasting it. The Good Rub
And just in case you get as excited about potatoes as I do … you may like to rejoice with a big bowl of crunchy golden chips now that agria potatoes are mid-season, getting bigger and more floury. Perfect chip material. Big Chips
I’ve nothing more to say this week as I have spent the past hour trying to load a photograph of spices onto the site for the rub post, and I have to admit defeat. So it is illustrated with a very nice photograph taken by Aaron McLean from my book Julie Biuso At Home. I don’t think we used it in the book, it was a ‘just in case’ shot, so there you go, today it is the star. I’m not saying I’m grumpy having wasted an hour, but I will tell you that I’m going to make a cuppa and have a big fat helping of leftover crumble.
Back next week.
Sensational summer salads
20th February 2019
The Big Rain is going to fall (hopefully, not on your parade), but most of us around the country will relish a splash or two on the garden, a settling of dust and a free car wash. It’s been a hot dry summer and while that has been awesome for outdoor living the flipside is drought. So … do a little rain dance at your place and bring it on. Not a deluge, just a nice little pitter-patter for several hours, preferably while we sleep.
I know I bang on about seasonal produce but every so often I step out of line and buy something irresistible, and so it is this week. I’ve been looking at imported pomegranates for weeks, and finally, I succumbed. The leathery skin doesn’t give away much, and it’s not until you peel it back that the astonishing beauty of the clusters of sparkling ruby seeds are revealed. The seeds are not that great to munch by the handful – they are too seedy for that – but added to salads, a stuffing, a sprinkle here and there, they provide amazing bursts of sweet-sour-tart juice that brings a dish alive. There are a few tricks to prepare them (don’t wear a white shirt and prep them in a sink, for starters), although you can buy the seeds already prepared. (Prepared by whom, I wonder? Read the label.). Read all about them here
And would you look at them in the couscous salad. OMG that’s the value of pomegranate. Sparkling like little jewels, they lift the dish into food fit for the gods. Ok, yes, yes, I’m going OTT here …
Couscous with Crispy Onion
But I will just add, couscous must be the most boring thing on the planet when it is undressed. Get in some seasonings, some citrus, some sweetness, some crunch, and you create a sensational dish. Stick a few skewers on top of the salad – red and yellow peppers if you’re vegan, or pork, chicken or lamb if you eat meat – or a fillet of pan-fried buttery fish, and you’ve got a feast. Read up about couscous here Couscous
White peaches always catch my attention because they are firmer than regular yellow ones and they are more versatile. This salad is a riff on a white peach and nectarine salsa I did a few years back. I was hankering after it, went in the kitchen and came up with this version, served with chicken thighs because that’s what I had.
White Peach Salad with Barbecued Chicken Thighs
White Peach & Nectarine Salsa
While I was in the salad mood, I did a simple but very tasty version of Salad Niçoise. It’s one of those meals you can throw together quite easily if you do a quick shop for fresh ingredients on your way home from work – or maybe you are lucky enough to have plenty of produce in the garden. Mix and match, don’t get antsy about what you put in, as long as it is FRESH. And use proper sourdough bread for the croûtons or you will end up with soggy dough balls.
Rocky Bay Salad Niçoise Fresh Tuna Salad
That’s it. Have a great week, and eat well, of course, you know, do your own shopping so you can pick the best and freshest produce, cook from scratch so you know what’s in the food you eat, keep it simple, and share the bounty with family and friends. That’s not bad advice.
Hard to resist
13th February 2019
Like most well-intentioned people I’ve been thinking about food waste and how to cut it down, but I have a dilemma. I like food to be fresh, beans to ‘squeak’ and break with a snap, peppers and eggplants to be glossy and taut-skinned, potatoes to be hard without signs of greening, salad leaves to be perky, not sad and wilted … but that’s not because I’m a food snob but because it is then that food is at its most nutritious. So gathering up the week’s leftover wilting vegetables from the depths of the fridge to turn into something delicious with a bacon rind and scrap of cheese doesn’t sit quite right with me (hey, but that’s fine if it rings your pleasure bell). My query is, how nutritious is it going to be? I’ve taken a step back and looked at what I buy and how often I shop to help avoid ‘fridge calamity’. I don’t care too much about ‘Best Before’ dates – they’re just there as a guide, or likely to scare you into chucking food and buying more ‘just in case’ it is off. Use your eyes, your nose, and develop a sixth sense at detecting freshness or lack of it. Our forebears were great at it and you can become good at it, too. Cream usually lasts at least a week after the ‘Best Before’ date, especially if unopened. If you’re unsure, simply give it a sniff and if it smells ‘milky fresh’ it’s good to go. If it smells cheesy, chuck it. That’s a good starting point in developing food savvy-ness. If you’ve had chooks, you’ll know eggs can last a good month, refrigerated. If they float in a bowl of cold water, oeuf out they go, or the yolk has spread into the white and the egg looks watery when you crack it open, biff.
But it’s the fresh stuff that concerns me. I always do my own shopping so I can pick and choose what looks ripe, fresh, the best. I’ll be more tempted to buy sweet corn if there is a huge mound of it rather than scrabbling around over the last half dozen cobs because a huge mound tells me there’s been a recent delivery. I NEVER shop on an empty stomach because that’s a blueprint for waste (hungry = buy more). I make a plan to shop only when I need at least half a dozen things, because if I go for one or two things, I come out with a dozen things anyway (temptation, impulse purchases, ‘bargains’). I always have a list and try hard to stick to it. I try to plan ahead. This last one is not so easy for me because I develop recipes to help you with your lives, and often end up with a fridge crammed with food as I have had a day of testing recipes, or an empty fridge which does my head in if I’m starving.
Buying less, and shopping more frequently is the best I can come up, but doing your own shopping, rather than passing the job to a supermarket assistant for a home delivery also helps. Eating leftovers has never been a problem for me (so much food tastes better the day after, especially for breakfast!). These are good ‘rules’ to follow. But I urge you to continue buying the FRESHEST food you can to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you think you are. If you grow your own vegetables and fruit, sure, pick things as they are perfectly ripe, but if you can’t eat it all, or give it away, use the freezer which will keep lots of produce in better condition than a week in the fridge. I just really want you to think about the importance of freshness. Not to suffer the guilts about having to throw out the odd rotting bit of produce you forgot in the back of the fridge. It’s all getting spookily scary. At first we had the salt police, then the fat police, next the white sugar brigade ruined the party, now it’s the war on waste. Do your best, is all I can suggest: Be mindful by educating yourself properly about waste, grow what you can, cook from scratch and share with others. And smile. That’s all.
Lentils, Spinach & Eggs Brunch, lunch, supper sorted.
Plum Tart A favourite revisited.
Sizzling in the summer sun
6th February 2019
It’s so hot here on Waiheke you might melt if
you stay in the sun too long. You need a beach. Preferably at your back door.
Or a pool to hop into. When I was a kid, a squirt with a hose did the trick. If
you are in New Zealand, or Australia or another country enjoying (or suffering)
a heatwave, feeding everyone without having a breakdown has suddenly become
quite a mission. Quick dishes, take-it-outside dishes, cook-it-outside dishes.
Easy food. But you need colour, brightness, crunch and plenty of taste. Easy.
Check out this week’s round up.
Ilaria’s got a new kitchen to work in at last and has made a stonkingly good dip with roasted red peppers and onion. Make heaps, take it to work, have it after work then cook a meal once the sun has gone down, or turn it into a meal with other bits and bobs.
Roasted Red Pepper & Chickpea Dip
I love a good tomato salad and can easily turn it into a meal. Here’s my favourite summer bowl of the moment, bursting with goodness and colour. Summer Salad
Eggs ‘n avo have figured in my life for a wee while now, but I’ve upped my game by adding hazelnut dukkah. OMG what have I created? Eggs ‘n Avo
For a quick fling-it-in-the-oven meal, especially handy if it’s just for 2-3 people, try chicken thighs and potatoes with thyme. The only trick is watching the chicken. It must be cooked through, and you want good golden colour, but don’t let it sizzle to boot leather. If it is done but you still want more colour on the spuds, remove the chicken to a side plate and carry on cooking the potatoes. Chicken Thighs with Thyme
Zucchini. If you grow them you’ll most likely be sick of them by now. I like mixing green and yellow, but whatever type you have they will respond to a good fry-up. Zucchini & Mint Salad
Just one grizzle this week … I used to buy Borges olive oil because it was produced, bottled and packed in Spain and Italian equivalents were not. On Waiheke at my local supermarket I spied Borges for the first time, and pounced on it, feeling smug that finally I had olive oil that I could trace, packed in glass, etc, (and I am not talking about Waiheke’s wickedly brilliant extra virgin olive oil – I am referring to frying oil, which we don’t produce here, and that most of us use for basic frying). To satisfy myself, I checked the label looking for the familiar produced, bottled packed in Spain, and do you know what? It wasn’t there. Nope. Borges olive oil comes from who knows where.
So I checked out Olivani, which I have been using, mistakenly thinking it was a mish-mash of th world’s unloved (or pre-loved) olives, and blow me down, ‘Picked, pressed and bottled in Italy’. I’ll be sticking to Olivani for my frying oil from now on.
Cheerio chin chin
The best of times – summertime!
30th January I’ve rounded up my most-loved Shared Kitchen summer dishes (winter suggestion at the end).
The country is sweltering under a heat wave. A dip in the sea and a mid-afternoon siesta sounds like a very good idea, but most of us have to soldier on through the hot days and clammy nights …
If ever there was a time for an icy bowl of gazpacho, it’s now. Early mornings are beautiful, the warm air seductively pleasing on bare legs, but my midday after you’ve stripped off all the clothes you can legally do so in your work environment, the heat zaps your strength and if you’re not careful you’ll end up snoozing on your keyboard (speaking from experience). Sushi for lunch? Nah, too glug-glug with all that rice. A sandwich? Don’t be silly. A cold beer? You wish … The answer lies in gazpacho. It is singularly the most reviving edible thing on this planet. Make a big batch, take some to work and keep it chilled until lunchtime, then drop an ice cube into your serving bowl or cup, or better still, put the soup in the freezer for 45 minutes before lunchtime. Works a treat, all those icy shards….. Cor! Thrilling! And, the bonus? The produce is in season and as cheap as it is going to get.
Watermelons are everywhere (not literally, silly, like in your bed or something…) but cheap as chips, and are a great way to cool down. Soak slices in vodka or gin if you must (hey, most of us have to work through summer, and that’s just a dream). But the much-loved Greek combo of salty feta and juicy sweet watermelon works a treat as a base for tasty skewers of chicken and tangy green olives. It makes a little protein go further, too. I’d give the dish a rev-up and replace the lemon zest with preserved lemon if you have some.
Chicken Skewers on Watermelon & Feta Salad
Mounds of sweet corn are everywhere here on Waiheke, and I imagine around most of the country. It’ll never be cheaper, but if you are over slathering it with butter or EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), try this recipe with avocado, basil, tarragon and black garlic. Whoa!Bags of flavour. This is sure to become a favourite.
Sweet Corn & Avocado Salad
If you grow zucchini you’ll know how if you blink they turn into marrows. Pick them young and use them imaginatively and you’ll stay in love with them. Try these strips of zucchini with lemon zest, garlic and black olives dusted with smoky paprika and roasted. Scrumptious.
Smoky Zucchini with Fresh Yoghurt Curd
Salad Caprese is a crowd pleaser. All you need is good tomatoes, good mozzarella and good oil, and you’ll have a good lunch. BUT if you use gorgeous sun-warmed tomatoes, fabulous buffalo mozzarella and exquisite olive oil, you’ll have a STANDOUT lunch. Get some good bread, too, oh, make that fantastic bread (you know, NOT from the supermarket, from a proper baker, slow-fermented sourdough etc,)
And something sweet to chomp on. Blueberry & Apple Brazil Nut Crumble. Yes, unbelievable, new-season apples are in store (or any day now if you live in the wop-wops). And you can sort of feel good about eating this as it is laden with blueberries and Brazil nuts. Nice.
Blueberry & Apple Brazil Nut Crumble
And, for my lovely followers in chilly climes, I’ve got a special round-up of my fave winter dishes for you to get cooking. Check them out here Winter Warmers
Okay, toodle-loo, got to go and stand by the freezer (door open, just for a minute, to enjoy the chilly blast!). Keep cooking, even though it’s hot!
Christmas is coming
Oh crikey, no one is replying to emails, me included. The clock is ticking (as if it doesn’t always), and I have 2-mins to write this. I’m going to apologise for typos in advance …
Anyway, I can’t be doing with all this pavlova hating. Make a good one – that’s crunchy exterior, pillowy centre, not a weep in sight, laden with tangy cream (yes, tangy!) and strewn with raspberries. Simply SENSATIONAL. Just hush them down and let them have trifle.
I’m in love with labna. Simply in love. And you should be too. Just look at the pic. Isn’t that gorgeous? And there is so much you can do with it. Read the whole post you numpties, not just the headlines, and save yourself stress, loot and time over the festive period. Christmas Labna
Dining for two on Christmas Day? Or four? Budget top of mind? No need to be miserable. Get stuffing, chicken thighs that is, then get stuffing (your face). Nice. Roasted Chicken Thigh Cutlets
I have had a chat with my mate Wendyl Nissen and I love her nasturtium pesto, and heaps of other advice she’s got in her new book. This is perfect for the greenie wanna-be in your life, but sneak a read before you pass it on (you will most likely want to keep it).
Friday is the cut-off day for ordering knives if you want to receive them in time for Christmas. Get on to it. They make an awesome present, and will make the recipient super delighted, including yourself if you give yourself a gift (you might even do a little jig of happiness!). Furi Knives
Ham. If you are having one, there’s no better recipe that Pavarotti’s Ham. It’s true that I cooked it for the Maestro himself. He loved it so much he asked for the recipe. And he got in such a good mood about it, scoffing seconds and thirds, even pinching it while I wasn’t looking, that he let me sit on his knee for a photograph after. He even signed a cookbook for me! My cookbook! I tell you, this is a great recipe that will make everyone happy, BUT read all the tips, including that Glazing A Hot Ham + Alcohol is a no-go. Get it glazed before you pop the bubbly sillies.
Right gotta trot.