Experimental Baking

Edit: It turned out well, although not well enough to bother with again when there are so many wonderful cake recipes out there. What was really nice was the ginger and lemon icing!

Thomas and I are now living in Auckland. We have a new kitchen which is small but well set up.

I’m not sure why I decided to experiment with the first cake I’ve made in the new oven, especially as it’s Thomas’s birthday cake.

Here’s what I’ve done:

I took the standard banana cake recipe, removed bananas and added mashed canned pears, ginger, mixed spice and golden syrup. Well, there is a chance it will work right? : – )

Failure or success, place your bets ladies and gentlemen. I’ll report back later either way.

The good news is that I’m home all day today so I can make a back up cake as well.

The Joy of Travel: Treasure 1 – The Chilli Patch.

One of the things I really like about travel is trying new food, taking the best that a cuisine has to offer and integrating it into my own cooking repertoire. While travelling overseas it’s easy to find and try new foods, new and different is everywhere.

While travelling in NZ it’s a little harder, the familiar is everywhere but I have found a few little treasures. The first I want to share is Green Jalapeno Chilli Sauce from the Chilli Patch/Penray Gardens (South of Otaki on State Highway One).


This is a medium intensity chilli with a sharp bite with a delicious and complex flavour. At the moment I’m a bit obsessed with it and I’m trying it with everything (well, everything savoury at least!). My recommendation: Try it on the side with a frittata, the sharpness really livens it up.

The best thing about finding food in your own country is that it’s easier to go back and get more. Next time I’m buying at least four bottles (they’re only $4.50 each). Nice.

Wednesday Night Dinner Report.

Ok, I admit the menu was a slight repeat on a previous occasion, but the company was new! Thanks to Wendy and Jonathan for joining us for what will be the last of the Wellington Wednesday dinners. (Depending on how things work out we might be starting an Auckland chapter soon).

Guests: Wendy, Jonathan, indoor Yeti and outdoor Igor

Appetiser: antipasto with feta, chilli olives and dolmathes

Main: broccoli pasta with super-size garlic bread

Dessert: peach … soggy crumble with cream

Words: armadillo, wasabi, tumescent

Training: advice on dogs

Peach crumble-gunge made a good warming breakfast after taking the dog for his morning walk in the painfully cold southerly. I miss my tuque.

Other dinner parties this week: The Amateur Gourment cooks and presents the Big Pot of Food and a Dessert Theory of Dinner Parties. We’d probably alter that to “Snacky Things, A Big Pot of Food and a Dessert”.


Pick of Places to Eat – Wellington, NZ

I’m in Wellington one more week before my contract expires and then I’m off to contract in Auckland. So, as a farewell to Wellington here is a list of my top places to eat.

Best Brunch

Finc, 122 Wakefield Street, Central Wellington.
My pick: ciabatta, scrambled eggs and herbed potato cakes for $11.

Best Mezes

Moyses Taverna, 382 Broadway, Miramar, Wellington, Ph: 04-380 7005

My picks: halloumi, moussaka, baklava.

Best Pizza

Mediterranean Food Warehouse, 42 Constable Street, Newtown, Wellington.

My picks: vegetarian mediterranean pizza, vegetarian mediterranean calzone.

Best Malaysian

KK, 54 Ghuznee Street, Wellington Central, 04 385 6698

My pick: Seafood Mee Goreng for $9.

Best Fine Dining

Boulcott Street Bistro, 99 Boulcott Street, Wellington Central, 04 499 4199

My pick: Anything, trust the chef.

Best Hang Out Cafe

Fidels, 234 Cuba Street, Wellington Central.

My pick: Pizza and two beers for $20 (between 5pm-7pm).

Best Fast Food Burgers

Burger Fuel, 101 Courtenay Place Under Saatchi & Saatchi, Wellington, 04 801 9222

My pick: beetnik for $7.50

Best Fish n Chips

Wellington Trawlers, 220 Cuba Street.

My pick: Fish and Chips!

I’m in Wellington for one more week, Lots of eating out can happen in a week so if you have any must eats in Wellington please let me know and I’ll try my best!

Also, tips on good places to eat in Auckland very welcome.

Sesame Seed Drink/Breakfast

Ying, a lovely woman that I work with (from China) often drinks a dark liquid drink in the mornings at work. We played a guessing game as to what it was. I suggested Mushroom soup.

Bzzzzt. Wrong.

It was a traditional Chinese breakfast drink made up of black sesame, black rice, walnut and sugar.


She brought a packet into work for me. I tried it as instructed (stirred in boiling water) it was nice although slightly too sweet for me. Being from the land of dairy I tried it again the next day for breakfast with milk instead. I also used only half the amount of recommended sesame seed paste. It was really sweet, rich and satisfying, the kind of drink I’d love to have on a cold night just before bed.


It’s marketed as a health drink although I’m not convinced as sugar is the largest ingredient. On the plus side one serving contains 16% of your recommended daily intake of iron.

During the discussion at work about breakfast cereals we found out that Ying had never tried Weet Bix. I left this on her desk (with instructions!).


The next day I found her dipping them into her milo : – )

The Silver Spoon – Spaghetti with Broccoli

The Silver Spoon provided us with this treasure.


We cooked Spaghetti with Broccoli as the main for our weekly dinner party and it was so, so, good!

Spaghetti with Broccoli

  • 500g of broccoli
  • 3 tables spoons of olive oil
  • 25g of margerine
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cashews soaked for half an hour then blended
  • 350g spaghetti
  • 25g vegan parmesan(optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • Parboil the broccoli in salted water for 10 minutes.
  • Heat the oil and butter in frying pan.
  • Add the onion and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  • Drain the broccoli, add to the skillet and mix well
  • Stir in the cashew cream and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process to a puree.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pan of salted, boiling water until al dente, then drain, toss with broccoli mixture.
  • Sprinkle with Parmesan if using and serve.

Mango Salsa

I tend to avoid fruit with savoury foods. When people put sultanas in salads I consider them ruined.

Marie from Traits sent me a recipe for Pumpkin and Ginger Felafels (recipe soon) which is served with a mango salsa. She assured me that she too generally avoids fruit in savoury food but that the mango salsa works “oh so very well”.

Keen but still a little doubtful I made the salsa as a dipping sauce to serve with samosas.


My conclusion:

It works so very well. Yum. Thanks Marie!


  • 425 gm can mangoes. Drained and chopped
  • 2 spring onions (white and green) cut finely
  • 2 red chillies de-seeded and sliced finely

Combine ingredients. Done.

Crema Catalana Baked Apples

I was reading the Indulgence section of The Dominion Post when a recipe for Crema Catalana Baked Apples caught my eye. I’d just been wondering what to do with the Granny Smith Apples sitting in our fruit bowl!


The baked apples were nice, pretty much what you’d expect from baked apples but the Cream Catalana (Spanish Custard) made me roll back my eyes in delight.

I think next time I’ll make twice as much custard and skip the apples altogether : -)

Crema Catalana Baked Apples

Serves Four.


  • 10g (2 tsp) butter (softened)
  • 4 medium-sized Granny Smith apples
  • 250ml (1 cup) of water
  • 100g (1/2 cup) of sugar
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Cinnamon quill
  • Recipe Crema Catalana (below)
  • 4 tsp sugar (for sprinkling)


Preheat oven to 180C.

Grease ovenproof gratin dish generously with butter.

Preparing the Apples

Core apples, being careful not to cut through the bottoms. You could use an apple corer, or a small paring knife to carve out a cavity in the centre of the apples about 1cm – 2cm in diameter, and as close to the bottom as you can without piercing it. If necessary cut a tiny sliver of apple from the base to ensure the apple will sit flat.

Place apples in gratin, bottom down.

Preparing the Cooking Liquid

In a small pot set over a low heat, place water, sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon quill and stir to dissolve. Increase heat and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and pour in and over apples. Leave cinnamon quill and zest in the gratin with the apples.

Baking the Apples

Place gratin in the oven and bake uncovered, basting occasionally, for 25-35 minutes till apples are tender and the skin just begins to break. Baking time will depend on the size and ripeness of the apples.

Prepare Crema Catalana (below) while waiting for the apples to cook.

Remove from oven and leave to sit for about 10 minutes. Tip apples to pour off syrup from the apple cavities into the gratin.

To Serve

Fill cavity with Crema Catalana (below). Sprinkle with second measure of sugar and, using a chefs torch, brulee till dark brown, or place gratin under a very hot grill till sugar has turned dark brown.

Place an apple in each serving plate, drizzle with syrup and accompany with any remaining Crema Catalana.

And this is what a slightly overcooked apple looks like. Ooops.


Cream Catalana


  • 150ml (1/2 cup + 1tbsp + 2 tsp) cream
  • 150ml (1/2 cup + 1tbsp + 2tsp) milk
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 66g (1/3 cup) sugar

  • Method

    In a medium, heavy-based saucepan set over a medium heat, place the cream, milk, cinnamon quill and lemon zest and heat to just below boiling point. Remove from the heat and cool.

    Place egg yolk in a bowl and lightly whisk till just combined, but not frothy or foamy. Add sugar and combine. Pour cooled cream mixture into the egg mixture and stir to combine, aiming, once again, not to create froth or foam.

    Wash the cream saucepan and pour the cream/egg mixture into the saucepan and place over low heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon till custard thickens and evenly coats the back of the spoon. Strain through a fine sieve to remove the cinnamon quill, zest and remaining particles of egg white.

    Allow to cool slightly before pouring into the apples.

Weekend Tea and Scones

Tea and Scones on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon is a great relaxed way to hang out with friends. I love date scones.

Unfortunately dates seem to be one of those fruit that many people dislike. To cover my bases I make a double batch. One with dates, one with currants.


I use the standard Edmonds scone recipe and just add a cup of dates or currants (some recipes suggest adding cinnamon and brown sugar as well but I don’t think it adds anything to the scones).

Here’s the full scone recipe for those without an Edmonds handy.

  • 3 cups of flour
  • 6 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 75g butter
  • 1 to 1.5 cups milk, approximately
  • extra milk
  • 1 cup of chopped dates or currants

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add butter (chopped) and rub in with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add fruit. Add milk and mix quickly with a knife until it forms a soft dough. Knead a few times. Lightly dust work surface with flour. Roll out dough on to this. I used a glass (floured rim) to cut out scones. Alternatively cut into 12 even sized pieces. Put on baking tray with even sized spaces between the scones. Brush the tops of scones with milk. Bake at 220C for 10 minutes or until golden brown.


Have a great weekend.

Greek Influenced Scallop Salad with Lemon Dressing.

This is a very quick and tasty light meal. I was worried that the olives would overwhelm the dish so I only put a few in. It ended up working well. It had the tartness of the olives, the saltiness of the feta and the sourness of the lemon dressing. If you don’t like olives I suspect capers would be a nice alternative.



  • Scallops
  • Feta
  • Olives
  • Avocado
  • Small Spinach Leaves
  • Garlic
  • Lemon
  • Extra Light Olive Oil or Canola Oil

Chop feta, olives, avocado and add to a bowl with the spinach leaves.

Heat the oil in pan to a high temperature. Add garlic and scallops. Don’t cook the scallops too long, as soon as they loose their translucency and turn opaque they’re done. I normally cook until lightly seared on each side, turning once (around 5 mintues cooking).

Once the scallops are cooked place on top of the salad. Quickly add some lemon to the remaining oil and garlic, stir for 20 seconds then remove from heat. Pour a little on to the salad as a dressing.