7 November 2011

Spicy Pumpkin Soup

It's raining! That might not be a big deal where you live, but here in Doha it's an annual event for a few days at most, and today is the first day it is bucketing down. I may not be so excited about it in a few days time when the sandpit turns into a mudbath, but right not - having splashed and danced in the puddles with the little chefs, I'm feeling refreshed and happy.

It also gives me a good excuse to make my favourite spicy soup...

rain  =  winter  =  soup

I've had a pumpkin sitting in the fridge for a couple of weeks waiting patiently for someone to come and fix my oven. I'm giving up on that for now, and taking to the stove-top to turn this...

into this...

it's creamy and delicious with a refreshing hint of south east asia from the ginger and lemongrass, an earthiness from the ground coriander, a robust richness from the coconut milk, and a smidge of heat from the chilli. This is my idea of heaven in a bowl.

Spicy Pumpkin Soup
  • 1 small fresh red chilli, chopped finely
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 stem of lemongrass, center white part only, finely chopped
  • 3cm of ginger, finely grated (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
  • 800 grams of chopped pumpkin flesh (about 1.5kgs pumpkin with skin and seeds)
  • 1 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon chopped palm sugar
  • 3 tablespoons chopped coriander


  1. Put the chilli, lemon grass, ground coriander, ginger, garlic and a little stock into a blender and blitz into a paste.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the onion and cook over medium eat for 5 minutesAdd the spice paste and stirfry for another minute.
  3. Add the pumpkin and stock and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until pumpkin is tender.
  4. Cool slightly, pop batches into a food processer or blender and blitz until smooth (I often freeze this mixture in 2 cup batches, ready to defrost, reheat and add other ingredients).
  5. Rinse out the pan, put the pumpkin puree back in, add the coconut milk, palm sugar and chopped coriander and reheat. Serve garnished with coriander (if the pumpkin is really sweet, leave out the sugar and squeeze in some lime to liven it up).
By the way the photos are before the coconut milk was added. I didn't have any in the pantry, so will reheat the soup later with the coconut milk and coriander.

4 November 2011

Baked Cheesecake

Where did October go? What a fun month, with Halloween and two birthdays it's always busy and I don't get much chance to get in the kitchen. I did make two cakes though - a moist vanilla cake for little chef number two, who doesn't like chocolate cake (or icing either), and a rich creamy baked cheesecake for the biggest cheesecake fan ever, hubby. I'll share the vanilla cake another time though do check out the photo, he is a huge Star Wars fan and I loved being able to put this together for him.

And here's the recipe for the cheesecake.

Baked Cheesecake with Berry Topping

For the base
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 140 grams digestive biscuits, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar 
For the filling
  • 900 grams of cream cheese
  • 250 grams caster sugar
  • 3 tablespoons plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla essence
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 3 large eggs
  • 200 mls sour cream
For the topping
  • 500 grams frozen berries (I used cherries and strawberries)
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
Combine the digestive crumbs, butter and sugar and press firmly into the base of a 20 inch springform tin, bake for 10 minutes at 180 degrees celsius (350 degrees fahrenheit) to set.

Beat the cream cheese with the sugar for 5 minutes until cream cheese is soft and sugar incorporated. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add  the lemon juice, sour cream, vanilla essence and flour and beat briefly until combined and creamy.

Pour the filling into the well greased springform tin, and bake at 180 degrees celsius (350 degrees fahrenheit) for 20 - 25 minutes. Check it for wobble'ness (I'm sure that's a real word, I think.) What you're looking for is a cheesecake that is set around the edges and still a little wobbly in the center. Turn the oven off, but leave the cheesecake in the oven until the oven cools.

Pop the berries into a pan, add the sugar, bring it to a low simmer and cook for 5 minutes stirring frequently. Cool completely and add some cointreau or brandy if you fancy.

Take the cheesecake out of the pan and smother with the berries. YUM!!!!

30 September 2011

Red Wine Beef with Coriander Dumplings

I'm tired of waiting for summer to end to cook some hearty winter comfort food. Temperatures are still in the 40's but this week I cooked my first winter stew - Red wine beef with coriander dumplings.

The stews I remember from my childhood were hearty affairs with loads of vegetables, served with a mound of mashed potatoes and peas. I still love the simple flavours in the stews my mother used to cook, but I also like to punch them a bit with wine and herbs. I change out the mash as well with parnsip, celeriac or sweet potato and in this recipe I make some chunky floury dumplings to top it all off. As with any recipe, change things around to suit your tastes, subsititute parsley if coriander isn't your thing, leave out the parmesan cheese if you're not a fan, and add in potatoes or red kidney beans to change the texture.

Is there anything more comforting on a cold winters day (and I chuckle as I write that on a bright sunny Doha day) then a big bowl of stew, some fresh crunchy white bread and a pile of mash.

Red Wine and Beef Stew with Coriander Dumplings
This stew also freezes well, so make two, one in a tinfoil container so it's easy to reheat straight from the freezer.
  • 2 kgs beef chuck steak, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 rashers of bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large tomatoes diced (or 1/2 can diced tomatoes)
  • 2 large parsnips, chopped into 1cm pieces (I used carrots as couldn't find parsnips)
  • 5 cups good quality beef stock
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme)
  • 1 teaspoon worcestshire sauce
  • salt and pepper to season
  • 2 tablespoons cornflour mixed with 50mls water
For the dumplings
  • 1 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 5 tablespoons chopped coriander (or parsley)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  1. Heat half of the oil in a big pot and brown the beef (you might need to do it in two batches), set aside
  2. Heat the rest of the oil in the pot and fry the bacon (you lucky thing), onions and garlic for  few minutes
  3. Add the beef back in with the parsnips, wine, beef stock, thyme, tomatoes and worcestshire sauce. Cook stove top on a low heat for 1 hour.
  4. Thicken with the cornflour and water mixture. Cook for another 10 minutes, and season with salt and pepper - transfer the beef mixture to a casserole dish.
  5. To make the dumplings - whisk together the milk and eggs, and add the herbs. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl, then add the egg mixture and parmesan and stir. The mixture will be quite sticky.
  6. Put teaspoonfuls on top of the stew about 1cm apart and bake in the oven at 180 degrees celsius (350 degrees fahrenheit) for 15 minutes until dumplings are puffed up and golden on top. Serve quite simply in bowls with some crusty french bread to mop up the sauce.

15 September 2011

Arggghhhh...school lunches!!!

The kids are back at school and I'm determined not to let the school lunches overwhelm me. Last year I spent many an evening staring blankly at the fridge, wiggling my nose, or clicking my heels in the hope that I could magic up a filling and nutritious lunch for the little chefs. Instead, lunch invariably included yoghurt, a piece of fruit, some crackers and the inevitable vegemite sandwich. Filling - check, Nutritious - check, Boring - most definately check.

So this week I started a new regime, they still get the sandwiches and yoghurt a couple of times a week, but on the other days I mix it up a bit. This week I made a fabulous quinoa, sweetcorn and black bean salad, which they both ate or at least made an attempt to try. Quinoa is my new favourite no fat, high fibre, seriously protein rich carbohydrate - it has all of the essential amino acids that our  body requires. I'm surprised there was any left for the kids as I made it at lunchtime and scoffed half of it straight out of the pan.

I also baked some easy high fibre pear and apple muffins and popped them into the freezer in bags of 4 so they'll always have a treat in their lunchbox too.

I'm feeling very virtuous right now and determined to keep it up.

Sweetcorn, Black Bean and Quinoa Salad

You can put different vegetables into the salad if you like, it's fab with some pomegranate seeds and pinenuts as well and I quite often spice it up with a pinch of chile pepper (though not for the kids)
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 large red onion, chopped finely
  •  ¾ cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  •  400 mls vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernals
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup chopped coriander
  • 3 spring onions, chopped finely
  • juice of a lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste
1.       Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat, sauté, garlic, onion, and cumin for 5 minutes until onion is softened.
2.       Add quinoa and stir to coat, Add vegetable or chicken stock, and simmer covered for 20 minutes, add frozen corn and simmer uncovered for an extra 5 minutes
3.       Remove from heat, add in black beans, spring onions and coriander. Season with salt and pepper, squeeze in lime juice, mix and chill overnight.

Wholemeal and Rolled Oat Apple Muffins
·         1 egg
·         ¾ cup low fat milk
·         ¼ cup vegetable oil
·         1/3 cup sugar
·         2 medium apples, peeled, cored and grated
·         1 cup raisins or sultanas
·         1 cup wholewheat flour
·         1 cup rolled oats
·         1 tablespoon baking powder
·         ½ teaspoon nutmeg
·         ¼ teaspoon salt
·         2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  1. Beat oil, milk, egg and sugar together and add grated apples
  2. Mix dry ingredients, included dried fruit together
  3. Fold wet ingredients into dry carefully, don't over-mix as muffins can be tough
  4. Put into muffin tins or cases and bake at 180 degrees celsius (350 degrees fahrenheit) for 15 to 20 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

5 September 2011

Meringues for the Little Chefs

I was making some aioli this week and had egg whites left over, and what do you do with egg whites? Make the little chefs favourite treat - 'white cookies'. They really aren't white cookies, they're meringues, but the kids have always called them 'white cookies', so that's what they'll always be.

Meringues are easy to make, just a simple combination of sugar and egg whites. The trick is to beat the egg whites long enough for the sugar to completely dissolve, and to bake them at just the right temperature to get a blindingly white crisp hard shell and a delicate chewy texture in the middle. I baked mine on an extremely humid day (aren't they all in Doha at the moment), so cooked them for 30 minutes longer than the recipe suggests. I also like to make small meringues (about 5cm wide), but I make larger ones for dinner parties and serve them individually, loaded with freshly whipped cream and a mixture of berries.

Here I've served them with a raspberry & yoghurt puree, and fresh red currants, because that's what was in the fridge and I was too lazy to make my favourite combination - whipped cream with home-made lemon curd.

Meringues (White Cookies)
  • 4 medium egg whites (about 90 grams)
  • 150 grams caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  1. Heat the oven to 150 degrees celsius
  2. Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until they form soft peaks
  3. Add the sugar a tablespoon at a time, beating well between each addition, once the last sugar is added keep beating until the egg whites are thick and glossy and form stiff peaks, and there is no 'grittyness' in the texture.
  4. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and place spoonfuls on the baking paper (use two spoons, it's easier) or fill a piping bag and pipe the meringue onto the baking tray
  5. Lower the oven temperature to 100 degrees celsius, and cook for 90 minutes (about). Meringues should be crisp on top, but still white (if they start to colour during the cooking, lower the heat by 10 degrees).
  6. Turn the oven off, and leave the oven door slightly ajar, let the meringues cool completely in the oven, a few hours, or overnight to dry out. Serve with cream, yoghurt or icecream and fresh fruit.

3 September 2011

Asam Masak Merah (Tomato Chicken Curry)

Ok, so I'm taking a lot of license in calling this dish Asam Masak Merah. The traditional dish is usually prepared for special occasions like EID as part of a feast, it's spicy, crunchy, creamy and smells divine. My version is a creamier version, still with all the lovely fragrance and spice of the original, prepared quickly and served with lashings of spicy creamy sauce to spoon over the rice or mop up with flaky roti bread.

I've tweaked the recipe a little to make it easier to prepare, and most importantly I don't deep-fry the chicken first, which is the traditional way of preparing the chicken, and by far the tastiest as well - but adds a bit of time to preparing the dish. Don't shoot the messenger if this isn't what you're used to in this dish, but do try it as it's one of my favourite Malay curries.

I love cooking curries using chicken on the bone - the chicken stays moist and the marrow in the bone infuses a wonderfully earthy chicken flavour into the dish. Lately, I've taken it one step further and use a whole chicken which I cut up myself - finding good quality chicken pieces in Doha is not easy, and chopping the chicken makes me feel quite 'chefy' and a brings out the inner Hunter Gatherer in me.

Asam Masak Merah
Curry Chicken in a Tomato Sauce
  • 1 whole chicken cut into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 10 large dried red chillies, soaked in water
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 large shallots, peeled and halved
  • 5cm piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 2cm piece of galangal, peeled and sliced (optional)
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass, inner white bits only, chopped roughly
  • 5cm cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 4 cardamom pods, bruised
  • 420 gram can chopped tomatoes
  • 420 gram can coconut milk
  1. Rub the chicken pieces with the turmeric and salt and set aside for 30 minutes
  2. Pop soaked chilies, shallots, garlic, ginger, galangal and lemongrass into food processor with a little oil and blitz until it becomes a paste (alternatively use a mortar and pestle)
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a pan over medium high heat. Cook the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and star anise for a few minutes until fragrant, add curry paste and cook until paste changes colour and oil starts to separate from the mixture.
  4. Add chicken pieces and brown in the spices on both sides to seal
  5. Add tomatoes and coconut cream, turn to low, and simmer on low heat covered for 45 minutes until chicken is cooked, stirring occasionally
  6. Serve with roti and rice

19 August 2011

Layered Raspberry and Lemon Cheesecake

Cheesecake is one of my favourite desserts, I love the creaminess of the filling, teamed with the crispy crunch of the base and a lovely tartness in the topping.

I stumbled across the fabulous The Italian Dish recently, and this week she made little cheesecakes in jars. In a previous post she also made a cheesecake parfait in glasses. I fancied a dessert last night, but didn't want to spend hours mixing and baking a cheesecake, so I followed her idea and deconstructed a no bake cheesecake and served it in jars (because how cool is that). I used fresh raspberries and loaded up the cheesecake with lemon juice, and used wholemeal digestive biscuits for the crumb mixture, and it was a little jar of decadence. It would also be fabulous with strawberries or other berry fruit. I'm going to experiment with the idea and try a caramel sauce and grated chocolate version with Baileys in the cheesecake mixture instead of lemon. Then it will definately be time to get back on that treadmill.

Layered Raspberry and Lemon Cheesecake
  • 200 grams wholemeal digestive biscuits
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 400 grams cream cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 400 grams raspberries
  1. Crush the biscuits into crumbs using a food processor or by hand and mix with the melted butter
  2. Sprinkle the raspberries with a little sugar and mash slightly, set aside
  3. Beat the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth and creamy, add the lemon juice and sour cream and beat a bit more
  4. Put a layer of crumbs in the bottom of a jar or glass, top with some cheesecake mixture then with a spoonful of raspberries, repeat the layering until you get to the top of the jar, and finish with a sprinkling of the biscuit crumbs.

12 August 2011

Crumpets anyone?

I'm bored! And no, that's not the children saying it, it's me. One good thing about boredom though is I tend to experiment in the kitchen. So the other day I was walking around Lakeland (you brits will know it - for others, it's a kitchen shop with loads of gadgets and cooking stuff), and I saw crumpet rings. I'd never even considered that crumpets were something you could make, rather than spend a small fortune on imported ones. How much fun to try though....so I bought the rings.

I googled the recipe and cobbled together a bowl of batter based on a couple of good recipes. There is something very satisfying about seeing a lovely yeasty batter, oozing and bubbling like it's alive - which I guess in a way it is.

I heated a frying pan with the crumpet rings in it, well greased (important point), and starting cooking. The first batch didn't quite work out, the batter was too thick and they didn't have the lovely holes that crumpets should, so I added a little bit of water to the mixture. Too much it seemed as the mixture ran out under the rings. So I added some more flour back in (this could have gone on for a while), and whisked and the next batch were perfect.

They do take a little while to cook, but the result is worth it - light, crunchy golden brown goodness. The first one didn't even make it to a plate, I just globbed on the butter and devoured it while standing at the oven cooking some more. I was a little more refined with the next few, and ate them drizzled with golden syrup. The recipe made about 16, so I've popped some in the freezer to toast for brekkie tomorrow, I can't wait!

  • 450 grams white plain flour (if you have bread flour, replace half of the plain flour with that)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 300mls lukewarm milk
  • 300mls lukewarm water
  1. Sift together the flour, salt and cream of tartar.
  2. Mix the milk, water, sugar, baking soda and yeast together and set aside for 5 minutes to become frothy
  3. Pour the liquid into the flour and mix well with a whisk. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for an hour. Give the batter a stir and you're ready to cook.
  4. Heat a frying pan over medium low heat for about 5 minutes to heat fully, pop the well greased crumpet rings into the pan for a minute, then spoon in the batter. The batter will be thick, but shouldn't be too thick. Within a minute or so, little bubbles should have appeared on the surface of the crumpets, if not, the batter is too thick and you need to add a little water.
  5. Cook the crumpets for about 12 to 15 minutes, you can remove rings once they're set (about 5 minutes) and pop them into another pan to speed up the cooking process. Once the crumpets are cooked, flip them over and cook the top side for 2 minutes or until it is a nice toasty golden brown. Enjoy!!

9 August 2011

Balsamic Caramelised Onion and Goats Cheese Pizza

It's Ramadan and a time for muslims to fast and reflect. As a non muslim in Qatar during Ramadan, it's a lovely lazy hazy time, as there isn't much happening during the day, and to be honest, at 50 degrees it is getting too hot to do more than pop out to the supermarket once a day for supplies, or dive into the pool to cool off. That means a lot of time indoors.

The little chefs are busy doing craft, playing the Wii or turning cushions, blankets and chairs into houses and forts, which leaves me plenty of time to indulge myself in the kitchen cooking up a storm, including cooking some freezer meals for the Green Box to deliver. Today I used their lovely goats cheese - you can order it online at http://www.thegreenbox.me/, along with their fabulous hormone free chickens and quality fruit and vegetables.

I love goats cheese - on it's own with crackers, in a cheesecake, where it adds a sharp tangy loveliness, or mixed with cream cheese, parmesan, herbs and nutmeg, popped on top of portabello mushrooms and grilled to cheesy perfection.

My favourite way to use it is in a tart or on a pizza, paired with some caramelised onions, and that's what the Green Box customers are getting today. I'm using chapati flour, as it's a lot less refined than white flour and creates a nice chewy base that crisps up well.

Caramelised Onion and Goats Cheese Pizza

This makes two large thick crust pizzas - for thin crust, use less yeast. I like to prebake the base for 5 minutes before putting the topping on - the onions can be a bit moist and I hate soggy bases.

Pizza dough
  • 4 cups of wholemeal or plain flour (or a combination of both)
  • 400mls of slightly warm water
  • 3 teaspoons dried yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Caramelised Onions
  • 3 large white or brown onions, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Goats Cheese
  • 300 grams Goats Cheese with Herbs or 300 grams plain goats cheese mixed with 1/2 teaspoon each of thyme and oregano
  • Olive oil to drizzle
  • freshly ground black pepper

  1. To caramelise the onions, heat the oil in a large pan over low heat, add the onions and cook slowly, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes. When the onions are translucent, add the sugar and balsamic vinegar. Turn the heat up to medium and stir frequently for about 10 minutes until the mixture is rich and caramelised. Watch it while it's cooking as it can burn once the sugar is added.
  2. To make the dough, mix the water, sugar and yeast together and let stand for a few minutes until starting to froth. Put the flour, salt and olive oil in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook (or into a bowl, just get ready to exercise those arms).
  3. Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and mix. The dough should be moist, not dry, but not too sticky. Knead using the mixer, or by hand until the dough is smooth and elastic (if you poke it with your finger, it'll spring back into shape quickly). Have I mentioned before how much I love my Kitchen Aid.
  4. Pop this into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave for an hour or two to rise. Check out just how much it will rise.
  5. Heat the oven to 200 degrees celcius (400 degrees fahrenheit), put an upside down baking dish, or pizza stone in the oven and heat for 10 minutes.
  6. Roll half the dough out to about 0.5cm thick. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes
  7. Remove from oven and spread with half the caramelised onion mixture, crumble the goats cheese on top, season with freshly ground black pepper and drizzle on a little olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes till base is crisp and cheese is a delicious golden brown.

12 July 2011

Rhodes - Yummm!

I couldn't come up with a witty title, that takes too much thinking time, when we're only here for a week and it gets in the way of eating time. Rhodes is a typical mediterranean island, with it's emphasis on vegetables, fresh fruit, olive oil, pulses, grains, fish, poultry and little red meat is a diet low in saturated fat and rich in vitamins and healthy omega 3’s. The benefits of a Mediterranean diet are heralded in a number of studies, the most famous conducted by Harvard University’s school Public Health in the 1990s. Rhodes, part of the Dodecanese Island groups, showcases the best of Greece in terms of the Mediterranean diet and is part of an awesome Aegean Cuisine initiative - a campaign by the Dodecanese and Cyclades Island groups to highlight and protect the traditional foods of these islands.

We took a tour around the island with Nicklos, an Egyptian born half Italian/half Greek Rhodian who has lived in Rhodes for 20 years - how's that for multicultural. Driving through the countryside, we were amazed at the vast number of olive trees. Nicklos proudly shared that Greeks consume more than 18 litres of olive oil per year (seriously! I googled it to check), compare that to what is thought of as the olive oil capital of the world Italy where the amount is roughly 9 litres per person.

Rhodes is a large island, with 220 kilometres of coastline, so it is not surprising that seafood features as a nightly dish here.  Most common are fish like grouper, sea bass, and red snapper, sometimes cooked in sauces, but mostly grilled whole, drizzled with olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice and served with a fresh garden salad. A Rhodian favourite is to sandwich freshly sliced tomatoes, green pepper and oregano between two slices of feta cheese, wrap well in tinfoil and pop onto the grill while the fish is cooking, turning it often. What results is a beautiful creamy, salty, sweet (from the tomatoes) and fragrant dip that is fabulous with the fish and freshly baked bread.

We popped into a traditional Greek Taverna in the old city of Rhodes for lunch and were served a vast and varied Greek platter full of traditional dishes including Mezedes. Similar to Mezes in the Middle East or Tapas in Spain, Mezedes are a variety of small dishes. Our platter held some fabulous dishes like taramoe salad (a delicate fish roe spread), melizanosalata (a smoky aubergine salad), dolmadas (stuffed vine leaves dripping with olive oil and fresh lemon juice), keftedes (tender beef and lamb meatballs) and saganaki (creamy baked feta). There was also a hearty helping of olives, greek salad, tzatziki (creamy cucumber dip) and a glorious melt in your mouth Moussaka (a cheesy beef, tomato and aubergine dish).

We're loving Rhodes, it's a beautiful island with so much to offer - thousands of years of eventful history (I still can't figure out who 'controlled' Rhodes and when), super-friendly locals, crystal clear seas, fantastic scenery, and absolutely fabulous food, cooked simply and perfectly, using the freshest ingredients.

Keftedes with Tzatki

·         4 slices white bread, torn into pieces
·         2 tablespoons milk
·         1 clove garlic, minced
·         1 onion, quartered
·         2 tablespoons fresh mint
·         1 teaspoon salt
·         ground black pepper to taste
·         250 grams minced beef
·         250 grams minced lamb
·         3 eggs
·         1/2 cup flour for dredging
·         vegetable oil for frying


1.    Moisten the bread pieces with the milk in a large bowl, and set aside.
2.    Place garlic, onion, mint, salt, and pepper. Process until the onion is finely chopped. Add the onion mixture to the bowl with the moist bread, along with the beef, lamb, and eggs. Mix with your hands until thoroughly blended.
3.    Roll the mixture into balls measuring 4 to 5 cm in diameter. Place the flour in a shallow pan, and roll the balls in the flour to coat. Shake off any excess flour, and place the meatballs onto a plate or baking sheet, pressing to flatten slightly. This will keep them from rolling away.
4.    Heat 2cm of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the meatballs, 8 or 10 at a time, and cook until nicely browned on the outside and no longer pink in the center, about 10 minutes; drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining meatballs. Alternatively, place the uncooked meatballs on a lined baking tray, spray with oil and bake for 15 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius, turning once.


·         3 tablespoons olive oil
·         1 tablespoon vinegar
·         2 cloves garlic, minced finely
·         1/2 teaspoon salt
·         1/4 teaspooon white pepper
·         1 cup greek yogurt, strained
·         1 cup sour cream
·         2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
·         1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill


1.    Combine olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Mix until well combined.
2.    Using a whisk, blend the yogurt with the sour cream. Add the olive oil mixture to the yogurt mixture and mix well.
3.    Finally, add the cucumber and chopped fresh dill. Chill for at least two hours before serving.

1 July 2011

Filling the Biscuit Tins

I was born in the wrong era. I should have been born in the 50s when donning a frilly apron and spending all day in the kitchen baking was the way to fill the biscuit tins.
I have really fond memories of baking day with mum. Once a week she'd pop the oven on, get out her lovely old kenwood mixer with porcelain bowls and start mixing. At the end of it she'd have filled tin after tin with gorgeous home made biscuits (cookies for you American folk).
My favourites were:
  • afghan biscuits - delicious chocolate treats with sweet chocolate icing and a piece of walnut (never figured the walnut thing out, we always took it off to eat them)
  • hokey pokey biscuits - delightly soft and chewy golden syrup morsels, popped onto the tray as balls and squished down with a fork, they look and taste so wonderfully home-made
  • melting moments - which did what it said on the tin, and 'melted' delicately in your mouth. The trick was to shove the whole biscuit in, and let it dissolve while munching - a bit gross if you were watching, but hey, we were kids, and we didn't care (actually I still don't when it comes to scoffing bickies)
  • and finally, shortbread, so soft and buttery and divinely crumbly (mum would cut it into squares - I like to cut it into shapes, but then I don't have 6 kids to deal with and clean up after, so have lots more time)

It was the little chefs last day at nursery and school this week, so the 3 of us baked the teachers thank you gifts. Actually little chef number 2 got bored in the first 5 minutes so he went upstairs to play the Wii, followed about 10 minutes later by little chef number 1. That's ok, as much fun as it is baking with them, it's a teensy bit slower, and I had a lot to cook. I had so much fun recreating my favourite biscuits. I dusted off the Edmonds cookbook, a NZ institution - every household has one, so all credit for these recipes goes to the Edmonds team. I plugged in my fire engine red Kitchen Aid (I love my KA) and baked the afternoon away.
So here's the recipes.
  • 200 grams butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 2 cups cornflakes
  1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  2. Sift flour and cocoa together and stir into creamed mixture
  3. Fold in conflakes and put mounds of mixture onto a tray lined with baking paper
  4. Bake at 180 degrees celcius (350 degrees fahrenheit) for 15 minutes.
  5. When cold ice with chocolate icing - mix 2 cups icing sugar with 2 tablespoons water and 1 tablespoon cocoa
Hokey Pokey biscuits
  • 125 grams butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Heat butter, sugar, golden syrup and milk in a pot until butter is melted and mixture is nearly boiling, remove from heat and allow mixture to cool to lukewarm
  2. Sift flour and baking soda together and add to cooled mixture, mix well
  3. Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls and place onto a try lined with baking paper. Flatten with a fork
  4. Bake at 180 degrees celcius (350 degrees fahrenheit) for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.
Melting Moments
  • 200 grams butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • buttercream icing or raspberry jam
  1. Cream butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy
  2. Sift flour, cornflour and baking powder together and mix into creamed mixture, stirring well
  3. Roll dough into small balls the size of large marbles and place on a tray lined with baking paper, flatten slightly with a fork
  4. Bake at 180 degrees celcius (350 degrees fahrenheit) for 20 minutes.
  5. Cool and sandwich two biscuits together with buttercream or raspberry jam
oops - no photo here, there aren't any left over - excuse me while I wipe the crumbs off my chin.
  • 250 grams butter
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 cup cornflour
  • 2 cups flour
  1. Cream butter and icing sugar together till light and fluffy
  2. Sift flour and cornflour together and mix into creamed mixture
  3. Knead well
  4. Roll out to about 1.5 cm thickness (it mightn't roll well, mine started to break apart, so as I rolled it, I squidged it together)
  5. Cut shapes out or cut into squares, pop onto a tray lined with baking paper, and prick all over with a fork
  6. Bake at 150 degrees celcius (290 degrees fahrenheit) for 30 minutes until golden brown

I packed them all into jars and popped labels on, this one was for little chef number 1's  teacher Mrs Daniels - a great big thank you.