Monday, June 11, 2012

Golden Kumara Cake

The smell of woodsmoke in the air and the crisp bite of autumn chill nipping at my nose send me into paroxysms of glee every year.  

They used to remind me of camping trips, building fires to roast marshmallows over, and making big meals to freeze for the nights when you just want to shove something in the oven and be done with it.  

Now they just make me jealous that I don't have a wood stove in my house and that my kitchen is freezing cold from June to October unless I'm baking up a storm.  And even then it's a challenge to see how long I can stand the cold in there, or how many layers I have to put on, before I get hypothermia.  And that the marshmallows here are not jet-puffed and there are no graham crackers and therefore no s'mores and this makes me sad.  I cry.  Mom, send graham crackers and marshmallows please!!

Ok, back to reality.  The reality that I am still seasonally challenged.

My internal body/weather clock keeps telling me Thanksgiving should be around the corner, and it isn't helping that the grocery stores are flooded with all kinds of root veggies and squashes.  Yum, orange food. 
So instead of making the traditional pumpkin pie, I've made a kumara (sweet potato) cake!

You could also freeze this cake (un-iced), and just warm it up and serve with custard on a chilly rainy night.

Golden Kumara Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2 1/2 cups wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 ground cardamom
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups peeled & grated golden kumara (about 2 medium kumara)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup raisins or sultanas
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups oil
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 250g cream cheese, softened
  • 30g butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  1. Preheat the oven to 170 C.  Grease and line the base of a 23cm springform pan with baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and cardamom.  Stir in sugar, kumara, nuts and raisins/sultanas.
  3. In another bowl, whisk eggs, oil and orange juice until the mixture has emulsified.  Stir this egg mixture into the kumara mixture.
  4. Pour into prepared baking tin and bake for 50 or so minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Let cool completely before icing.
  5. While the cake is baking, make the frosting: combine softened cream cheese, butter, icing sugar and orange juice together in a bowl.  Whisk until smooth.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Eggplant & Zucchini Parmesian

Last night I declared a “night off from everything” for me and Jonno.  That included any form of exercise, any kind of being responsible, and anything work-related.  I put the kaibosh on and we had to actually interact with each other, face to face.  Well, at least for a few minutes anyway.

What does one do with a whole evening in which to engage with their partner?? 

Our answer: eat dinner while watching a superhero movie and scoffing two bottles of tasty red wine.  

What?  We were thirsty!

A model of relationship communication and how to spend quality time together, we are. 

Geek girl tangent: Can I just say that Joss Whedon really should direct all the superhero movies from now on?  I mean, have you seen The Avengers?!  For shiz, it’s great for comic books nerds and newbies alike because JW really knows how to strike the balance between interesting plot lines and subplot, a little implied but not in-your-face romance, lots of humour, and relevant political issues.  I’ve even mended my feud with Scarlett Johansson because Joss managed to make her into an ass-kicking, wrong-righting, smart as hell but under the radar superhero.  In case you were wondering, ScarJo and I had a falling out after she divorced Ryan Reynolds.  Imagine what kind of superhero power couple they would have made if they stayed together – the Green Lantern and the Black Widow.  Rawr!! 

Back to veggies delicately resting under blankets of sauce and cheese and bread crumbs.  Jonno swears that it is the bread crumbs that really make this dish, and I can’t say he’s wrong. 

And who wouldn’t love to sleep under a blanket made out of cheese? 

On second thought, that sounds stinky, maybe not.

Apologies for the lack of photos, but just imagine roasted eggplant and zucchini covered in rich red sauce and lovingly dusted with melted cheese.  Nom.

Eggplant & Zucchini Parmesian

Makes enough for 4 dinners

  • Vegetable or olive oil
  • One medium-large eggplant
  • One medium-large zucchini, or two small zucchini
  • Flour
  • 1 c. breadcrumbs
  • 1 c. grated Parmesian cheese
  • 1 jar prepared tomato-based pasta sauce
  • 1 c. mozzarella or tasty cheese, shredded

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C/350 F.
  2. In a decent-sized skillet or fry pan, pour enough oil to cover the bottom and turn on medium heat.
  3. Slice eggplant and zucchini into 1cm rounds.  Dredge the veggies by coating in flour on all sides.
  4. Once the oil is hot (fling a drop of water into it and it should sizzle), fry veg slices in batches til golden on each side.
  5. Shake excess oil off and remove to a 9x9” baking dish, arranging eggplant on the bottom layer and zucchini on top.
  6. Sprinkle half the breadcrumbs over the veggies. 
  7. Pour contents of tomato pasta sauce over the top.
  8. Top with remaining breadcrumbs and allthecheese. 
  9. Bake for 20 minutes, or until you think the top is sufficiently golden and bubbly. 
  10. Boil up a packet of fettucine pasta and serve alongside the E&P Parm and some garlic bread.  And a nice red wine.

Proceed to GO and collect $200.  I wish. 

Zucchini Bread - Yes, Veggies in Baking!

There is something about being forced to sit in front of a computer for eight hours a day that gets my creative juices flowing.  Please note however, that I do compose these posts on my own time, not on company time – I just tend to come up with the ideas while staring at something completely unrelated.

So yes, after three months of unemployment/couch occupation, I have a job!  Which is slightly diabolical for a food blogger, because while I didn’t have a job, I had heaps of time in which I could have done a lot of blogging…if I had had the money, creativity and motivation to do so.  But there was something about having alllll that free time – it just got sucked up by more important everyday life things, like watching Dance Academy and Ellen.  

Also, Motivation and I are not really friends, not when there’s heaps of time to get something done.  It’s Motivation’s evil twin Procrastination that is my BFF when I have plenty of time to get shit done.  I’m sure most people are like that, it’s nothing new.  But it’s funny what I would call a “good reason” for not doing something. Here are some popular excuses: 

-I can’t get out of bed yet, I have to read all the Internets before I can start my day properly!
-I can’t do the dishes right now, a cat has just taken possession of my lap and desperately needs my love and affection.  For the next two hours.
-I can’t possibly do laundry right now, there’s a could in the sky that could potentially produce rain that would get any washing I hang out wet.
-I can’t go for a swim right now, I’ve just eaten lunch!

But here’s something you can’t procrastinate on: baking with in-season veggies.  

What what?!  Baking something sweet with veggies?!  Cue Jonno’s horror-stricken face; he has declared that it is an abomination to have vegetables in a cake.

Back when we were working together and someone would bring in carrot cake for afternoon tea, we used to tell him is was a “spice cake” so that he would eat it.  Then later we would enjoy telling him he had indeed just eaten a CARROT CAKE.  Gah!

Anyway, this zucchini bread/loaf/cake is great if you include both raisins and some kind of nuts, because it adds great texture and crunch to an already great dish.  Make it now while the zucchinis are big and glorious!!

Zucchini Bread

Adapted from Love & Confections
Makes 2 loaf pans


·         2 cups Zucchini, grated & drained - about 3 medium zucchinis
·         4 Eggs
·         1 cup Vegetable Oil
·         2 cups Sugar
·         3 cups All-Purpose Flour
·         1 tsp salt
·         1 tsp Baking Soda
·         1 tbsp Cinnamon
·         1 tsp Vanilla Extract
·         1 tbsp Baking Powder
·         1 cup Nuts - walnuts are good
·         1 cup Raisins


1.      Preheat oven to 325°F/160°C.
2.      Grease and flour loaf pans
3.      Beat Eggs well
4.      Add Oil and Sugar to Eggs and beat well
5.      Add Flour, Salt, Baking Soda, Cinnamon, Vanilla Extract, and Baking Powder.
6.      Mix to combine.
7.      Add Zucchini, Nuts (optional) and Raisins (optional). Mix to combine.
8.      Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean when testing.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Hazelnut Mocha Cake for BBQs and Sweet New Zealand

Oh summer BBQ's, how I love you.  As an affirmed eater-of-all-the-meats living with a man who has a strange aversion to the red side of things, I love any time I can have a selection of protein that didn't start off life with wings.  I'm talkin juicy steaks, lamb chops, and sausages, yum.  That's for the Kiwi BBQ at least.  I do miss the American BBQ, of which the staple is hamburgers and hotdogs.  Anything else and you're just gettin fancy.  

But you really can't beat anything grilled.  Just ask my Daddy, he has his grill set up right outside the back door, with a big umbrella opened over it for shelter from all kinds of weather.  He has grilling down to a science, a deliciously mouth-watering science.  *Homer drool*
Mmmm, ganache.  The older, more sophisticated sister to icing.
That's not what this is about though, as much as I love the meat.  It's about the plate you bring to the BBQ.  When I was a kid, our summer pool had a potluck BBQ every Sunday night - just bring something to share and something to throw on the grill for yourself, let the kids work up an appetite in the pool and drink with your friends - what could be better?  There were always the obligatory deviled eggs, potato salads, pasta salads, and green salads to share on the big table, but my Mom was famous for her fruit salad.  It was different each week - different fruits, different toppings - but always good and always gone by the end of the night.  

I am striving to be famous for my desserts, and I'd like to think I've made a good dent in that so far.  Last week I made this cake from the Donna Hay magazine, which was supposed to be iced with ganache and then rolled in crumbs for an "inside out" look, but I could not be bothered, especially after I burned the crumbs.  Cake doesn't need to be fancy to be good!!  
Attention cake: you are about to be nommed. 
This Hazelnut Mocha Cake is perfect for BBQ's - it does require a little bit of extra effort (lots of sifting and extra beating!) but it feeds a crowd and you get the glory.  Just make sure you serve it with vanilla ice cream, or cheesecake, or something equally sugary and creamy, because this is a rich dense dark cake that needs a lighter counterpart to truly shine.  

Now, when't the next BBQ so I can show off me baking skillz??
I may have made a wee bit of a mess ganaching this cake.  I didn't say I had mad ganaching skillz!
Hazelnut Mocha Cake
from Donna Hay magazine

  • 1/3 c instant coffee
  • 1 tbsp hot water
  • 10 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups (550g) caster sugar
  • 450g butter, softened
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (300g) plain all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 cup (100g) ground hazelnuts, sifted
  • 1/2 cup Dutch cocoa, sifted
  • 1 tsp baking powder, sifted
  • 1/3 cup (80g) sour cream
  • chocolate ganache
  • 1 cup (250ml) cream
  • 300g dark (but not too dark!) chocolate, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 160 C (325 F).  Grease and line two circular 20cm cake tins.
  2. In a small bowl or measuring cup, put coffee and hot water and mix well to form a paste.  Set aside.
  3. Grind up hazelnuts if needed and sift the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, baking powder, hazelnuts) together into one bowl.
  4. In a large bowl, crack the eggs and beat for 1 minute using a hand-held mixer.  Trust me, you'll need your mixer later.  Add in 1/4 cup of caster sugar and beat for another 4 minutes, or until pale and fluffy(!).  Set aside.
  5. In your mixing bowl, place softened butter and vanilla and beat for a minute.  Add remaining (2 1/4 cups) caster sugar and beat for another 4 minutes.  Add in the egg mixture, dry ingredients, coffee mixture and sour cream and beat until just combined.  
  6. Divide between cake tins and bake for 1 hour (ish) or until a skewer comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minute in the tin before turning out onto wire racks to cool completely.
  7. To make the ganache, put cream and chocolate into a small saucepan over low heat and stir until melted and smooth.  Take off the heat and allow to cool to room temp.
  8. This is where DH gets all fancy with the crumbs, but I burned mine and made the house reek, and thus no crumbs.  Once the cakes are cooled, use a serrated knife to trim the mounded tops off, so both are flat.  DH used the excess trimmed bits for the crumbs: toast in the oven for a few minutes to dry them out, then pulse in the food processor to get crumbs.  Or just eat the extra pieces to make sure the cakes taste appropriately amazing, whatevs.
  9. Spread about 1/2 cup of ganache on top of one cake and then put the other on top of that.  Use a palette knife for spread ganache on the sides of the cake (but not the top!).  Put in the fridge for a few minutes to set, or skip this, finish of the top with more ganache and you're done.
  10. If you're going the crumb route: put down a sheet of baking paper and spread the crumbs out on it, then carefully roll your ganached cake on the crumbs to coat.  Plate the cake, spread the top with ganache and sprinkle over the rest of the crumbs.
  11. Remember to serve with ice cream or something creamy and sugary to cut the dark richness of the cake!!
Seriously, when's the next BBQ, I've got loads of cakes to make!

I'm submitting this post to Sweet New Zealand, a monthly blog round-up of sweet things posted by New Zealand food bloggers, hosted this month by the lovely Shirleen at Sugar & Spice.  Be prepared to drool!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Summer Shrimp Stir-fry

I never in a million years thought my summers would look like they do in Wellington.  First of all - it's January, and all of the calendar-y type things that the teachers put up in my classrooms had snowflakes for January.  Hearts for Feb, shamrocks for March, eggs for April, flowers for May, sunshines for June, ice cream cones for July, sailboats for August, fall leaves for September, pumpkins for October, turkeys for November, and evergreen trees for December.  And that's how the year went, none of this sailboats in January business. 

Oh!!  And the crappiest thing about it?  My birthday used to be in the summer time, and we'd do really cool stuff for it like go to the water park.  The place that has water slides and wave pools and things that generally involve hot weather and cool (but not freezing!) water to submerge one's self in.  And usually sunburn.  Now I only get sunburned because there's a big frickin hole in the ozone layer above NZ and Aus, not because I spend all of my time running around in a bathing suit. 

Now what do I do for my birthday?  Curl up on the couch under 17 blankets and make the hubs watch girlie movies in an effort to conserve heat.  Last year we did rent a bach at a winery and spend the weekend, but all the vines were dead for the year and it wasn't that pretty.  Mostly we sat in front of the fire. 

Anyway, back to summer things that are different. 

Please note, I am not complaining, just observing.  [Mom, I'm lookin at you!]

Exhibit A: The beach. 
Me and Jonno's private beach and I'm not telling you where it is!
Back in the US, we would go to the beach for a week each summer because it was over 2 hours away.  Here in NZ, I can walk to a beach.  In fact, I can walk to many beaches.  And I'm within driving distance of a few different surf beaches, depending on which way the wind is blowing.  The problem?  You need a wetsuit to go anywhere near that water, what with our proximity to Antarctica and all.  Yeah, that always puts a bit of a damper on my ocean swimming intentions.  It does however make a great ice bath for the legs after going for a punishing run - just wade on in on the way home. 

Exhibit B: Baking???

Plum and Lemon Cake - an easy way to glory among your workmates.
The only baking done in a Washington DC summer time was when it was rainy outside and the air-conditioning was going full blast inside, therefore making going near a hot oven bearable.  In Wellington?  Lots of baking can still be done!!  Good for my taste buds, not for my fitness resolutions.  Last weekend I made Mairi's Plum and Lemon Cake to bring to work, and by the time I remembered to go take a photo of it, this was all that was left. 

Exhibit C: Stif-fry in the summer

I'm not sure why this is so different, but in my world it's light years away from anything I've had back home.  But!  That's doesn't mean that people back home shouldn't make this in the summertime.  You should.  If you appreciate summer veggies like I do, then you. should. make. this.  Just please wait until June or July when the stuff is in season.  You really don't need to be eating a tomato that's traveled farther than you ever will, ever, coz you know that's where those winter tomatoes come from - Mars.

Difference difference difference, argh!! 

Ok, as Jonno would say, "rant over".  I'm adaptable.  I'm happy.  But for my 30th birthday next year, we're damn well going somewhere warm to celebrate!

It's a rainbow for summertime!  With tomatoes on the side for picky husbands.

Summer Shrimp Stir-fry
serves 2 with leftovers
  • two handfuls of frozen shrimp, whichever size you like
  • one tin of sweet corn, or two ears of corn that have been already cooked
  • 1/4 of a red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 punnet cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 small zucchini, diced
  • large handful of fresh greenbeans, end snipped off and broken into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 red capsicum
  • 1 cup rice
  1. In a wok or large fying pan, heat some olive oil on medium heat.  Throw in the onion, capsicum and zucchini and saute' until soft.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the rice according to the directions.
  3. Also, boil up some water in the jug and pour over the frozen shrimp in a bowl to defrost.  Use the rest of the boiling water to start the green beans in a small saucepan.
  4. Drain the shrimp and add them to the wok/pan, adding a little more oil and some salt and pepper as well, stir to coat and combine.
  5. Once the greenbeans are cooked, drain and add to the pan.
  6. Stir the cabbage into the mix and take off the heat.
  7. Serve the stir-fry over buttered rice and top with tomatoes.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Meatballs FTW!

One night after a run, Jonno and I got home absolutely starving and with a whole lotta nothing in the kitchen, except for some beef mince and the occasional about-to-go-off onion.  I was groaning to myself, moaning, "what the hell do you make with mince other than meatloaf and burritos that is also quick and filling and doesn't take too many other ingredients?!"
Please excuse the neon nature of these photos, they may have been slighly retouched.
Well, what we made didn't turn out to be too quick, but hot damn it was der-ish-us!!  (Say it out loud if you're confused as to my new word.  Patented by C.Hoey 2011)

I have never in my life made meatballs, and usually don't eat them if they're on a stick (and therefore lukewarm!) or a platter as someone's dish at a potluck.  Don't know why, maybe I had a cold-meatball-related trauma as a kid.  Maybe one rolled off a table and bowled me over, thus causing me untold embarrassment and shame.  

Well, I'm over that trauma now, because these meatballs undid me that night.  Jonno made some mashed potaters to go with them, and I went back for seconds, even when I felt my running shorts getting a wee bit tight.  No amount of spandex-induced pain was going to stop me - off came the pants!!  Any peeping neighbours certainly would have gotten a strange show indeed.

Now, if you will excuse me, I'm off to run a bagillion more times around the penninsula to work off these babies.

Comfort Meatballs

The meatballs

  • 500-700 grams of minced beef
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs (PW calls for quick oats, but we didn't have any)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp finely diced onion
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • ground black pepper
The sauce
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 4-6 tbsp finely diced onion
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika (my addition)
  1. In a large bowl combine the mince and bread crumbs (or oats).  Add in diced onion and salt.
  2. Add the egg and use the back of a large spoon to mash all the ingredients together, adding the milk in spurts to keep the mixture at a paste-like consistency.  It doesn't sound fabulous, but it's worth it!
  3. Roll into balls of 4-5 cm in size.  If the mixture is too warm and the balls don't hold together well, stick them in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180 C.
  5. Pour some flour onto a plate and heat up a decently-sized skillet or frying pan with some oil.
  6. Dredge each meatball in the flour to coat, then gently lay them in the oil.  Turn to brown all over, continuing in batches, and once completely brown place them into a rectangular baking dish.
  7. Mix together the sauce ingredients and pour over the meatballs.
  8. Bake for about 45 minutes or until sufficiently bubbly and gorgeous.
  9. Serve with some kind of potato side dish or bread so you can mop up the extra sauce.  You won't want to waste any of it!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sesame Beef and Noodle Salad

Noodles!! Noodles are fun, aren't they?  Even the word is fun.  Noodlenoodlenoddle.  Use your noodle! 

And other such silly things.

Now for the serious.  This noodle-y salad thing is seriously good.  So good that Jonno went back for seconds, even through it had some kick to it.  Jonno does not like much kick.  If you could measure the heat in something in terms of a soccer/football goal kick, Jonno likes things at a gentle tap to the goalpost that the goalie doesn't seem to be leaning towards.  This dish seemed to have somewhere in the region of a decent sock right at the goalie's head kind of kick. 

Oh dear, I think I've really been affected by living with Jonno (he who watches only sports on television) when I start using sport analogies in my food posts.  *Headdesk*


I don't know if it was because I made this dish at 8:30 at night after we'd gone for our run and were starving like some lions in the middle of a gazelle shortage, or what, but hot damn it was tasty.  Perfect for the summer time, nice and quick and you can use any extra veggies you might have on the verge of 'science experiment' status lounging around in the fridge.

Sesame Beef and Noodle Salad
adapted from Taste Magazine
  • 800(ish) grams thick lean steak, trimmed and sliced thinly
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, depending on how much garlic you like
  • 1 tbsp sambal oelek (Indonesian chillli paste, found in Asian grocery stores)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1/8 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 450g packet udon noodles
  • 1/4 red cabbage, shredded
  • 3 spring onions, finely sliced
  • any other veggies you have on hand, I threw in some red capsicum
  1. In a wok on medium heat, toast your sesame seeds until they begin to darken, about 7 minutes.
  2. Dump the sesame seeds and garlic into a medium-sized bowl, and use the back side/bottom end/pestle to smush the garlic and sesame seeds together.  Add sambal oelek, soy sauce, caster sugar, white vinegar, and oil and mix together. 
  3. Add the meat to the sauce mixture and then dump it into the hot wok.  Add the noodles to the wok and work them into the sauce to get them coated.
  4. Cook steak for 1-2 minutes on a side while the noodles cook in the sauce at the same time. 
  5. After a few minutes, add the veggies, stir through the mixture, then remove from heat.  Dinner is served!