A few of My Favourite Quick Party Snacks

harissa and thyme toasted almonds

A few of My Favourite Quick Party Snacks

The  festive season is here and we are all ready to catch up with friends and family.  With that in mind here is a list of some of the things I like to eat and prepare at this time of the year – or for any party. For those of us who love to cook we love those moments in life where time is not a luxury and we have space and energy to make little morsels of delicious foods for people we care about, with those moments in mind I have listed some of my favourites from my blog later on the page for you to link to.  Maybe after Christmas if you are lucky enough to have a few days off. More often then not though in the real world for most of us, time is at a premium and we are looking for delicious food fast so we can get on with important things like spending time with family and friends.  With this in mind I have included some ideas that I have used and think are delicious.  I would love it if any of you would share your ideas, for quick tricks and snacks or store cupboard essentials  you use to impress and enjoy with your friends and family. DELICIOUS FAST SNACKS *Harissa and Thyme toasted almonds – simply made by tossing un blanched almonds in Harissa with a sprinkle of fresh thyme, salt and a splash of olive oil and toasting carefully, until crunchy in […]

vietnamese noodle salad

A Vietnamese Noodle Salad or Rice Paper Rolls

This is a little bit old school, but they are still flavours and textures that are hard to beat on a summer day.  It is the type of food that is great to make ahead and share with friends at a party or shared table or barbecue. Today I have made them with some beautiful Canter Valley Free Range Duck breast, but you could easily use Prawns (leave out the Hoisin sauce) or – leave them deliciously vegetarian.  Spicy peanuts, a little chilli and sesame oil, and lots of fresh Asian herbs are the basic elements that make the salad and Rice Paper Rolls sing, finished with simple dressing or sauce, it is the kind of food I love to eat and would be very happy if someone made to share with me. Cool healthy and delicious, the rolls take a little time but you are rewarded with the simplicity of presentation and taste, they are a great repetitive job to do together while chatting with friends or just zoning out in the heat. My biggest dilemma today was whether to add a dipping sauce or not for the rice paper rolls.  I’m not the biggest fan of shared dipping bowls, so I tried to make them tasty enough that they didn’t need any.  While I had felt I achieved this, when we sat down and ate them they were better with a little sauce spooned over.  I have since seen photos of them served in baby cos leaves which […]

sushi salad lettuce cups

Summer Sushi Salad Lettuce Cups

A spell of early summer days has hit Queenstown and with it happy times and a need for cool, soothing, quick and simple meals.  My photography today definitely doesn’t do justice to how delicious and easy these were to eat.  You need to check for Ed’s tips on lettuce preparation and enjoy these yourself while the summer days last.  There is plenty of scope here to ad-lib and to add all of the good bits you want a little more of in your traditional sushi. Sushi salads have long been popular at home and at work, but this week sushi salad randomly collided with a plan to make Prawn San Choy Bau for the blog.  The sushi salad was to be for our evening meal and the Prawns for San Choy Bau blog post, that will have to be another day!  It all came together by happy chance as dinner for family, and Marko, my hard working Cultural Exchange helper.  It was declared delicious and definitely blog worthy in its own right – so here we are!  The prawns, although providing another delicious crunch element, could easily be replaced with any other seafood – fish fillets, crab, calamari – or tofu, or as you see in the pictures  – some slices of avocado, cucumber, snow peas etc. (The snow pea sprouts unless chopped are not such a good idea in my mind – why do they always seem to end up hanging out the side of my mouth – is […]

Japanese inspired seeded salad

Popped and Toasted Seed and Nut Mix – And Salad Inspiration

Its beginning to gear up to the busy time of the year – when we all try and get prepared for the Christmas season, and, at the same time get out and enjoy the sunshine.  In my world that means lots of catering for summer, end of year break-ups, and festive parties.  It is an exciting time, full of the promise of good times with friends and family, and also, memories of the best of previous summers and Christmas seasons.  It is fun and busy,  and with the outdoor sunshine and warmth calling (you can’t take either of those things for granted here in the south) time in the kitchen can feel limited. Enter kitchen store cupboard essentials, and today I am talking about crunchy blends of  spicy toasted seeds and nuts. A jar in the pantry ready to snack on, put over salads, sprinkle on top soup, scatter over roast or mashed vegetables, tumble through your grain salad, buddha bowl,  or over your breakfast  shakshuka  –  the texture, the taste and the well seasoned spicy flavour makes food better.  If you are anything like me, you will feel better too, for eating something tasty, good for you and quick to assemble.   This – as always – is an idea more than a recipe it is a reminder to toast a batch of what you have to hand so you can have a jar ready to add some excitement and extra nutritional value to your next meal.  Of course while […]

medjool date and char grilled broccoli salad

Medjool Date and Char Grilled Broccoli Salad

Another salad with enough weight and complexity to be eaten as a meal on its own – as lunch or supper,  but also fantastic as a side to whatever else might be on the menu.  Although my mind is on spring this salad would work in any season.  It has all the elements you are looking for in a delicious salad – something raw and zingy in the red onion, something crunchy with your croutons and almonds, something rich to carry the flavours and make it a substantial in the cheese, and something green and virtuous in the broccoli.  Spinach or rocket tossed through this is also a great idea. Medjool dates are certainly a luxury item and I will often use ordinary dry dates in  baking recipes soaking them to reconstitute if necessary.  But if you haven’t tried them before I suggest you treat your self to a handful of  fresh medjool dates.  Easy to prepare,  you can simply tear them in half and remove the seed and put a brazil nut in its place for  one of the best instant healthy treats you will ever eat – great for two or three o’clock in the afternoon when you start circling the refrigerator ready to eat anything quick and easy and usually not recommended for best health.  Or you can take them to the next level, by warming a little olive oil in a pan and sautéing them carefully with a pinch of flakey malden sea salt (as I […]

muhammara

Smokey Pepper and Walnut Muharrara

Another taste of the middle east, another condiment to make life better, to make the ordinary extraordinary.  Maybe I am over stating the case – trying to catch your attention with bold claims.  In truth – I really do love the way having bold flavoured condiments in my pantry and refrigerator can take a group of ingredients and make them special. I wrote a while ago about trying to cook once and eat twice and in many ways I fail absolutely in this – there is either too much or not enough when it comes to leftovers and somehow they rarely work out to be that clever meal remade into something new and exciting the next day.  Condiments are my exception to this, they really are the magic to make meals great and I love having a changing mix of these to make my every day meals better. This sauce is great in that the flavours come together and get even better over a few days and keep for up to a week in your refrigerator.   There are so many ways you can use your Muhammara … In your favourite burger or slider or wrap. Dolloped over your roast vegetable salad. Beside your roast beef, lamb or chicken. Spooned into a jacket roast potato or sweet potato. On your antipasto platter with crusty bread, olives, aged hard cheeses such as goudas, pecorino and chedder and chargrilled vegetables. As part of your mixed lunch salad bowl with some grain,avocado, tomato, […]

superfood spinach pici pasta

Super Foods, Super Simple, Spinach Pici Pasta

Did I get the all important catch phrases in there.  No kidding, this is super simple and fun. Make it – on your own, with friends or even your favourite four year old – standing at the kitchen bench creating memories and spending time with people, its all about sharing simple seasonal food, nothing fancy and no need to be hoping for perfection. The recipe for this Pici Pasta is based on Jamie Olivers recipe, from his book Jamie’s Super Food Family Classics.   The pasta dough literally comes together in under two minutes in the food processor and is made with flour and  fresh spinach – nothing else!  The rolling does take a little time but it is not a practise of perfection just a spell of mindless  hand rolling, chat to a friend, listen to a podcast, plan your next move, day dream……The pasta I made came out a little slimmer than size of green beans and actually looked like green beans when cooked, they weren’t perfectly formed and I think this is part of their charm.  The original recipe calls for them to be rolled to the same thickness as green beans but I found this hard to cook through, so I have made them thinner. You can make the dough and cook it straight away or put it aside for later or the next day.  Paired with a pasta sauce consisting of vegetables from your fridge and pantry a dusting of parmesan basil and or pinenuts […]

spicey cauliflower and kimchi salad

Spiced Cauliflower and Kimchi Salad

Add some probiotic goodness to your everyday salads with Kimchi.  It tastes good and it is good for you –  and I think that is mostly what we are all hoping for in our cooking. I have used roughly chopped kimchi  here to act as a salad dressing with a spicy fresh kick. I’m using it in the same way you would add vinegar to your  salad vinaigrette – which gives balance and liveliness to the richness of the roast vegetables and the fresh flavour and texture of the herbs. I was very lucky to have been given a big handful of beautiful fresh purple sprouting broccoli grown right here in Queenstown.  Amazing what will grow here, planted in early autumn, wintered over and finished in spring.  It needs just a little luck ( read lots of luck), with the weather and clever gardening skills – not mine, I might add – thanks Isabel and Sarah.  The sprouting broccoli went perfectly with the cauliflower, and the leaves crisped up when roasted in the same way kale leaves do. Other than the gardening none of this is really all that clever, we have all made lots of lovey roast vegetable salads, but the idea of adding the Kimchi as a dressing in the salad is definitely new for me, and lends itself to further using kimchi as a salad ingredient in its own right.  I can also imagine it chopped and tossed through a grain, quinoa or rice salad salad, or […]

beetroot burger patties

Beautiful Black Bean, Beetroot and Brown Rice Burger Patties

  Explanations to follow, but that said – you really should start making these now! They are so much more than just a vegetarian, dairy and gluten free patty.  To have them made in the refrigerator means you have an easy meal in a multitude of guises ready to go for breakfast lunch or dinner.   I was definitely a reluctant starter but I am now thoroughly in love with these. With winter now officially behind us, I am very excited to start thinking about casual spring and summer eating, barbecues and picnics.  Unfortunately the new seasons vegetables are slow to appear in these southern areas so I am reinventing those same vegetables we have enjoyed over winter in different guises – cutting them differently, cooking them in a lighter style and eating them in fresher simpler ways. With this all said the story for these patties begins with my friend and employer, Angela. Angela had requested a  vegetarian burger patty for work. To be honest I was a little under whelmed by the idea, not something I have ever really considered eating, and because of that I was slow to get going with recipe development.  Moving on though, and not prepared to say no to the challenge, I did get going and have been working on these vege burger patties for a while – there have been quite a number of unfortunate fragile fall apart piles of deliciousness around here! The challenge I made to myself was to make […]

spring green vegetable soup

Spring Green Vegetable Soup

Simple, elegant, soothing, green vegetable soup.  This delicious soup is made in minutes and is full of flavour and made complex with the layering of textures – lentils for substance, snow peas for crunch and lemon for zing – just before serving. Spring green vegetable soup follows on the heals of my green vegetable salad.  The weather turned snowy and I still had lots of odds and ends of beautiful green vegetables in the refrigerator and freezer.   As is mostly the case with my home cooking there is quite a lot of ad-libbing and swapping ingredients. Mint was the one ingredient I didn’t have which I think this soup gains from but it was buried under our late snowfall.  Luckily the coriander I did have gave a similar fresh feeling and a slightly Thai twist to the soup.  I think the lesson is that you can mix the herbs up, it might change the feel a bit – but it will still be delicious. This lovely soup is light, yet still manages to feel satisfying without any of the heavier soup staples such as potato, pumpkin and kumara.  I think it relies on the vegetables belonging to the family of sweeter greens, the amounts can be played with as long as you try to include at least some peas, I wouldn’t put stronger greens such as spinach or kale in this gentle brew as their flavours will overpower it.  The lentils add a lovely soft chewiness, the snow peas […]