Sunday, 30 October 2011

Masala Beans with Fenugreek.

This recipe is another one that used to be a favourite with our family but which has not had much airing in the past few years.  Again, I do not know why.  It is easy, has great flavours and is easily modified for "burn" intensity.  It comes from  book called "Hot and Spicy Cook Book"  which I bought cheap in a book sale (as one does!)  It was edited by Linda Fraser, so "Thanks, Linda"!

Serves 4.

1 onion
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp chilli powder (room to play with this. It is quite hot and I use a bit less.)
1/2 tsp garlic pulp (here I use a bit more)
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tomato, quartered
225 grams French beans (or any available green beans)
1 bunch fresh fenugreek leaves (no stems)
4 tbsp chopped, fresh coriander

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (or lime)


·         Roughly chop the onion.
·         In a bowl, place all the spices, salt and garlic.  Add the onion and mix well.
·         Blend for around 45 seconds. ( I use a stick (immersion) blender, but you
could use a standard blender or food processor if yours will take a small
quantity of ingredients)

·         In a medium saucepan heat the oil and fry the spice mixture for about
5 minutes, stirring it from time to time.
Beans, tomato, coriander and spice mix
·         Add the quartered tomato, beans, fenugreek and coriander.

·         Stir fry for about 5 minutes, then sprinkle over the lemon juice and serve


·         About the beans.  This leaves the beans really crunchy.  I mean almost raw! This is fine,
maybe,  if the beans have just been picked, or if you like the taste of raw beans.
I don't mind chomping on the odd  bean I have just picked off the vine, but in a recipe like this, I prefer a bit more softness and a more  "cooked" flavour.
So - I steam my beans for a few minutes first, taking them from the steamer  while they are still  "al dente"  and then I continue with the stir frying.  It's up to you.

·         Fresh fenugreek is not always available, so use 1 tsp seeds instead. If I do this, I add the seeds to the spice mix before processing. 

Friday, 28 October 2011

Seasonal Change

London. Hyde Park "Winter Wonderland. Jamie Oliver's
tent cafe.  The best mince pies ever

With the Northern Hemisphere in the grip of winter,  I guess you who live there are enjoying the richer, heavier foods that help to insulate against the colder days.  At least, that would be my excuse!  How about you?

Quiet times on the beach North of Auckland, NZ

Down here in the South, we are coming into Spring and starting to welcome the lighter foods of summer - strawberries, salads and asparagus.  We are appreciating the shedding of winter kilos.  At least that's my story!  How about you?

 "Bring on the Hollandaise", I say.

Seriously, the change of seasons really means something when food is a personal pleasure and when you tend to eat seasonally as our family tries to do.  Imported fruit out of season is often rubbish! Witness the peaches and nectarines imported from California. I am sure these are wonderful on their native soil, but picking early and shipping do little or nothing for their taste or texture. Much better to indulge in our local apples and citrus, (when we really need the extra Vitamin C) and wait for our summer and our own summer  fruits.  I know I am on rocky ground here, as some fruits and vegetables, such as kiwifruit, do manage the trip with correct handling, although I do remember, in the early days of export to the UK, friends and relatives moaning on about the "green bullets" they were being sold in the shops. I used to get very defensive, trying to describe the beautiful soft, lush greenness that was a kiwifruit "at home". The difference between a pineapple grown and eaten in Hawaii, still warm from the sun which nurtured it and one sold in a supermarket half a world away and out of a chiller is not hard to appreciate and I guess we could all add to the list.

On the whole, for best condition and flavour, buy local produce in season, thus: 

  • supporting local suppliers, 
  • maintaining a smaller carbon footprint and 
  • enhancing your own taste experience.

Spicy Carrots

Having such a good time at the Diwali Festival nudged me to break out a few Indian recipes that I used to make when our family was still at home.  Don't know why I stopped making them, actually! Could it be the calories that seem inherent to so much fabulous Indian food? Everyone loved this cold salad of spicy carrots and it is very easy and quick to make, although it does improve with being kept over-night.  You can adjust the "spicy" to suit your taste and a few of the ingredients may be played with, e.g. lime or lemon juice works well and smoked paprika adds a little twist too.  Also, fresh chilli may be replaced with chopped chilli from a jar, or dried chillis. Finally, I steam my vegetables, so no boiling in water for me,  although if that is your thing, feel free! 
So - here we go......

Serves 4


1 lb/450 gms carrots
water for steaming or boiling
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin seeds
red chilli to taste
1 or 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
 tsp paprika (smoked if you like)
juice of 1 lemon (or lime)
flat leaf parsley to garnish  - actually, we prefer coriander (cilantro)


Slice the carrots about 1/4 inch thick on the diagonal as they will cook more quickly that way.
Steam over salted water until just tender. (or boil if you must)
Drain and put to one side.

Grind or crush the cumin and add the paprika.
Crush the garlic.
Chop the chilli - remove the seeds if you do not want a lot of heat.
Warm oil gently in a small pan, add the garlic and chilli and cook gently for about a minute, taking care not to brown the garlic.
Stir in the cumin, paprika and lemon/lime juice.
Pour over the warm carrots, coating them well and garnish with the parsley or coriander.


·         Great cold the next day and will keep up to a week in the fridge.
·         Pouring the liquid over food while it is still warm, allows it to better absorb the flavours.
·         Be careful handling the chilli as you may irritate your eyes and skin.  You could wear light-weight rubber gloves and discard them when you have finished chopping the chillis. No accidental rubbing of eyes and manic screams then!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Measuring Up!

M has decided he is going to take up baking! 

His expertise is in other areas of cooking, so I think that the precision needed is going to be a bit of a culture shock for him! No matter what, successful baking is reliant on chemical reactions as is a lab experiment and, generally speaking, your Average Joe needs to measure  ingredients exactly and follow directions precisely,  at least until the recipe is understood and under control.  Expert cooks who have spent a life-time making endless batches of Scones and Victoria Sponges till they are coming out of their ears ( like my grandmother, rest her soul,) could afford to take a 'handful' of this or a  'dash', 'pinch', or 'cup' (tea or breakfast - who knows?) of that.  But as an amateur, I reckon, safe is better than sorry and even when I cooked in the cafe, I left nothing to chance when I was baking.  A reliable set of scales, measuring spoons,  jugs  and cups are always a necessity in my kitchen and always will be.

Anyway, will let you know what how it went later, when his first effort is out of the oven!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Katikati Kiwifruit

Just like grape vines, the new stock
bears the fruit!

Kiwifruit vines coming into bud.

We have just returned from a few days in a small town called Katikati, which is situated in the Bay of Plenty.   This is part of the area where the world-wide kiwifruit industry was born and,  where once there were rows and rows of citrus trees, there are now thousands of hectares  of the above mentioned kiwifruit and thousands of avocado trees. Unfortunately, the bacterial infection known as PSA has been discovered a few miles to the South, and the fear is that it will move here,  to devastate thousands of kiwifruit plants, destroying the livelihoods of many local people who are preparing for the worst over the next few months.
In the meantime, we relaxed, like the' townies' we are and enjoyed the beautiful scenery and the company of good friends, in what must surely be one of the most fertile corners of the planet.
Pollination is reliant on bees, so
everyone grows flowers to keep
the local hives happy all year round.
Kiwifruit used to be called Chinese Gooseberries when I was young.  I have no idea why the Chinese came into it, but I imagine the hairy skin was vaguely reminiscent of that  of the gooseberries of that age. Very vaguely,  I must say!  Whatever, nearly everyone had a vine growing wildly somewhere down the bottom of the garden.  Now they are far more tamed and good-looking and we buy the fruit with the politically correct name in the market.  I imagine that around the world, many use the fruit for its glorious green, for decoration, but it has fabulous properties that often go unsung.       
Apart from its sweet/tart flavour,  it is well known for its high Vitamin C content and for its meat tenderizing properties.  It's high fibre content helps in other areas,  and research shows that eating 2 or 3 a day has the same effect on our blood  as taking our daily aspirin. There are many other positives,  (and negatives) too,  worth knowing about and a quick glance at Wikipedia or the Zespri  (the brand-name for NZ kiwifruit) site is quite fascinating.  There are some great recipes on Zespri, our particular favourites being the Mediterranean Lamb Cutlets with Kiwifruit Salsa   and the Pan-roasted Chicken Breast with Fresh Kiwifruit Relish.  Both have moderate calorie counts and can easily be modified further. Delicious!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Tastes of India

Singing their hearts out!

Yesterday, we met friends and went into the city to celebrate the festival of Diwali with the Indian Community here.  It was such a fun occasion, with food and craft stalls and entertainment in a grand style.  There was a parade of models in beautiful saris and dramatic presentations in song, with handsome young men dressed in blindingly 'gold' costumes. 

The food stalls were interesting  with lots of deep fried offerings some of which were great.  We had some wonderful pea and potato samosas and  some memorable onion barjhees.  Vegetarian was the order of the day, of course as this was a festival, so no tandoor, unfortunately. This was not a place for dieters!

Something new to us, were the drinks called Falooda.  These were made by first dropping into a large tumbler about quarter of a cup of glass noodles, some red and green jelly, a small portion of ice-cream and a couple of spoons of  basil seeds, soaked in water over-night .  (This was weird stuff that looked like the spawn of some frog-like creature, but which, we were assured, was quite innocuous). A generous squeeze of rose syrup concentrate was then squirted around the sides of the glass which was then filled with rose milk. A meal in itself!

Gulaab Juman
 We were also interested to sample the products of the one stall selling sweetmeats such as gulaab jamun  which proved to be very sweet morsels, deep fried and saturated with sugar and oil. Not really my choice,  but they were surely selling well!  And we took the opportunity to purchase a piece of carrot cake and some chocolate cake from the Hare Krishna stall.  The carrot cake was great - moist and not too sweet - but with a great icing with lots of pumpkin seeds on top. The chocolate cake was made with wholemeal flour and I have never been able to make up my mind about that.  We used to do a wholemeal choc cake in Metro which was very popular, but personally, I think that with chocolate, I prefer full-on decadence with white flour and 'what the hell!'  

More on this event later, but we finished the day by travelling back to the Shore where we indulged in a wonderful cup of coffee in one of our local cafes.  Ahhhh - bliss!!!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Cooking in our Kitchen

M does a lot of the cooking in our home. He started years ago when he worked just around the corner from where we lived, thus arriving home a couple of hours before me in the evening.  He was also contracted to work only 3-4 days each week, giving him the opportunity to become a real 'house-husband' to do the school trips and concerts and a great deal of the ferrying back and forth.
At work, I used to say, jokingly, "What I need is a good wife at home!" and all without planning, that is just what I did have.
The scene of the crime!
Over the years, he became quite adventurous and along with the Auto magazine, Cuisine started to appear around the house and cookery books became the gift of choice for birthdays and Christmas.  He undertook to plan the meal when we had guests and progressed from producing just the main course, leaving me to do starter and dessert, to completing the whole repast, for better or for worse.  I was quite happy about this, as I was cooking in our cafe at the time and the last thing I wanted to do when I arrived home exhausted, was to be a 'domestic goddess'.  Eventually, though this phase of our lives came to an end and we were just the two of us, doing 9-5 jobs so we would cook together in the evening and very good it was too.  The luxuries were suddenly affordable and we sure ate some fantastic food, not to mention the meals we ate out.

Then, my mother came to live with us and it was back to more conventional stuff - no more Thai or Indian, but lots of French cutlets, small pieces of fillet steak and tiny cuts of pork. All things to tempt her failing appetite in the hopes of providing good nourishment along with low calories.  (We had to balance out all the chocolate she had hidden around her part of the house!!)  So - I would come home from work and prepare the vegetables and M would come in later,just in time to 'take over' and cook the meat. This is a man thing, definitely.  Over the years, I have managed to avoid a great deal of mundane cooking by suggesting a barbecue (which, of course as a woman, I just cannot manage at all! Duh!)

In subsequent years, since my mother died, and ignoring the wonderful cruises we have been on and the travelling we have done, our diets have been relatively different. In a nutshell,  M cooks himself luscious dishes with rich cream and butter-laden sauces, fabulous food with all the trimmings.  I, who have the same problem as all my family, have elected to eat a sensible diet that revolves around small amounts of protein (often of the chicken variety) with steamed vegetables, plenty of fruit and whole grain bread.  I find it is much easier if, at least on a few nights each week, we just cook for ourselves, thus avoiding firstly, accusations of diet-sabotage and secondly, the total temptation of eating what he cooks because it is easier and it is highly desirable and it is THERE!

BBQ of Prawns on Pesto Polenta
with Baby Leaf Salad, Balsamic
Made by M!
Reading back over this, it does sound as though I really do not enjoy cooking and take every opportunity to avoid it. This is probably a fair assessment on a day to day basis.  The constant effort to feed a family year after year, day in, day out.   To keep it interesting, from toddler to teens, when the competition is often Mc.............. or other such delicacies. To keep it appealing and yet healthy and affordable.  To arrange it so that it your menus are easily prepared after a hard day's work and will not suffer from your running a taxi service for the kids......
I can tell you - I really appreciated having my 'wife at home' husband in disguise'

What I do enjoy are the following; eating what M has cooked, checking out beautiful new kitchen equipment, trying out new recipes that involve learning a new skill, (don't care if only M and I eat the results), reading of the history of cooking, learning techniques of cooking and food preparation and coming to an understanding of the chemistry of cooking. I hope you will share my enthusiasm!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Tomatoes and Oysters

The most frustrating  thing about this whole operation right now is the length of time it takes me to do anything.  So - I am just going to write a bit of low-tech script with no special effects.  I must say though, that I am discovering that designing  the banners and playing around with the dancing bits and pieces is a lot of fun!
This weekend has been pretty awful as far as weather is concerned.  The spring seems to have disappeared, so we have ditched the early summer salads and retreated to soup and toast again, while watching the rugby.  I never thought I would be able to enjoy so many games in such a short space of time.  I must admit, the excitement surrounding the World Cup is quite infectious!
Last night, in celebration of Tonga beating France, I indulged in a dozen plump Pacific oysters and spent the night rather regretting it.  I think that a half-dozen is probably enough as they are very rich, with a somewhat flabby texture.  (Those who like it, call it creamy). They have plenty of flavour,  but they lack the clean crispness both texture and taste of *Bluff oysters.  I realise this is a purely subjective evaluation, but I have felt the same since Bluff oysters lost their default position in  fish shops and super-markets far too many years ago - a sad day for all oyster lovers, I think.

At last we can afford tomatoes again, too. They went up to $15.00 a kilo in our shops over the winter and we suffered withdrawals for quite a few weeks.  Back to $5.00 now, on the truss and not a bad flavour if allowed to ripen gradually outside of the fridge.  I like to slow- roast a large dish of them and keep them in the fridge for dipping into. Sort of a vegetarian version of "cut and come again".

*Bluff Oysters are traditionally gathered from the Southernmost tip of the South Island of New Zealand. They are, without doubt, the best oysters in the world, as any New Zealander will affirm.

Monday, 3 October 2011

First Post - New Blog

Hi there welcome to the first post on a new blog.

First,  a little about myself.   I retired  early last year, and after spending most of the next 12 months in the UK,  have  decided, along with my husband, to 'up sticks' and move there to live.  In order to help finance this venture, I have recently  put together my first web-site, selling kitchen equipment sourced globally.   The site is  up and running, but is not completed yet.  A 'work in progress' one may say... 
What a buzz, though!  My computer skills are limited to basic  Picasa, Word and Publisher, so it has been a real  challenge  getting this project off the ground.  I am learning a whole new language, (or at least attempting to,) 'meeting' loads of new people and finding out how to transfer my 'real world'  retail experience to my new virtual store.  The language thing is tough.  Often I can barely understand what I am reading,  even supposedly simple instructions being  totally outside my comprehension.  I just have to try everything until I find out how it works and hope like hell that I do not wipe out all that I have already accomplished!  I have become the 'mistress of the click!'..  a one-click action for anyone else is a 10-click action for me.  RSI is a real danger - a Health and Safety Hazard in my work-place.

Anyway, that is where I am at just now.  I hope that you will enjoy this site and watch it as it grows and matures.  Please join in if you wish.  Always good to welcome new friends, have a chat and to hear fresh ideas.