Category: Recipe

Living Small

We were recently featured on the amazing blog Living Small, where a fellow New Zealander interviews and photographs those who are making small apartments work for their families. In a difficult renting market such as San Francisco, these stories make up every day conversations at the playground, cafe or bar and it is fascinating to hear how many people you can fit in a small space (family of four in a studio apartment anyone?). Yes, it is difficult not having a laundry and having to carry a baby and stroller and groceries up nine flights of stairs. But I also think it is wonderful for our daughter to have this beautiful city as her back garden. You never know who you may walk past on the street or what may be going on in the park; there is always something to see or do.

Speaking of which, we have tickets to go and see Yotam Ottolenghi in a couple of weeks. I am so excited- he really has changed the way I cook and I can’t wait to hear what he has to say. So after flicking through his cookbooks, I mixed a few ideas together and made this- an Ottolenghi inspired salad for your weekend.

Kumera and Eggplant Salad

Serves two with enough for lunches the next day, or four for dinner with a nice piece of meat.

1/2 cup of quinoa
1/2 cup wild rice
2 large Kumera (sweet potatoes)
1 large eggplant
1 large handful of baby spinach
1 small handful of fresh coriander
Feta
Pistachio nuts
Sunflower seeds
1Tbsp pomegranate molasses
Juice of one lemon
Olive oil
Salt

Cut your kumera into wedges and your eggplant into cubes. Put these in to roast with some olive oil and salt for about 45 mins at 180/350 or until they are beautiful and golden, a bit crispy on the outside but soft on the inside. Now cook your quinoa and wild rice and leave aside to cool. Finally, roughly chop the spinach and coriander.

The great thing about most of Ottolenghi’s salads is that you can eat them at room temperature. This means that you can make them when you have a minute and then come back to them when it is time to eat- ideal for entertaining or if you manage to get your baby to have a sleep during the day!

So, when you are ready, combing the quinoa, rice, vegetables and herbs in a big bowl with the dressing of pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, salt and olive oil. Crumble some feta and sprinkle some shelled pistachio nuts and sunflower seeds on top for a bit of crunch. Voila! You have a delicious and satisfying dinner all ready to go.

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A Sunday Salad 

Italy has been on my mind over the last couple of weeks. I bought Rachel Roddy’s beautiful cookbook, FIve Quarters and have been happily cooking my way through it. Peperonata, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, grilled eggplants, pasta and more pasta- making the most of the sweet, ripe produce lying in the sun at the market on Sundays. We watched this episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix which reminded me of the absolute love and respect Italians have for food. And I have been storming through Eleanor Ferrante‘s engrossing Napoli series as I sit and feed and feed this hungry baby. She is taking me in to 20th Century Italy with a woman’s eyes- political control, marital control, family control. Passionate and powerful writing I would definitely recommend.

Sometimes though, you need a break from Italian food. Here is a quick and easy salad I made for dinner last night – fresh and tasty but still satisfying. We had it as is, but it would be great with grilled lamb. 


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Herby quinoa and rice salad
Serves two for dinner with enough left over for two lunches the next day

1 cup quinoa
1 cup basmati rice
1 large eggplant or 2 small eggplants
1 lemon
A handful of each- parsley, coriander, mint and baby spinach
4 spring onions
A handful of pistachio nuts
100g feta
1 green chilli
Olive oil
Sea salt

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Cut the eggplant into small cubes and bake on a well oiled oven tray until golden brown. While these are in the oven, cook the rice and quinoa then set aside to cool. Chop the herbs, spinach, chilli and spring onion and put in a large bowl with the pistachio nuts, feta, a generous slug of olive oil, salt and the juice and some zest from the lemon. When the eggplants have cooked, combine everything together and serve. We had this salad at room temperature which worked well and meant the heat of the eggplants, quinoa and rice didn’t discolour or wilt the herbs. Perfect with a glass of cold white wine at the end of a busy weekend.

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Tonight for dinner? Pasta of course!

While the baby sleeps, we eat

Lilias Madeline arrived early on Wednesday the 15th April. A San Francisco spring baby with a raging appetite, legs and arms always on the move, she has won us over completely. Her smiles and giggles are enough to make up for her disdain for sleeping during the day and she never fails to make us laugh with the faces she pulls.

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Her arrival has meant a return to basics in the kitchen. Meals that can be thrown together quickly, or put together earlier in the day to slowly cook in the oven over hours at a low heat. The first few months it took hours to get her down at night- rocking, feeding, crying (sometimes me as well as her) until finally she was out around 10pm, when we would eat something quickly before falling into bed ourselves. Recently though, I have managed to have her in bed and asleep by 7.30, perfect timing for me to prepare dinner and feel like a normal person.

Last night we celebrated a sunny couple of days and a baby who went down to sleep without crying for the first time ever, with a crisp, cold glass of white wine and spaghetti alle vongole. This is a dish I first really had with my friend Marco on holiday in Naples. He told me I had to order it, and so I did. It was divine. This one I made wasn’t bad either.

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Spaghetti alle vongole
Serves four

1kg clams
Olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
Pinch of chilli flakes
10 cherry tomatoes
Small bunch of fresh parsley
Glass of white wine
Spaghetti
Salt and pepper

A couple of hours before dinner, put your clams into the sink with cold, salted water. This will clean them and remove any sand. When you are ready to get started, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Finely slice the garlic and parsley stalks, and quarter the cherry tomatoes. (Side note, it is very controversial topic in Italy whether you should use tomatoes in this dish or not. I personally think that the sweet and fresh taste they bring is the perfect compliment to the salty, fleshy clams, but it is up to you.) When the water comes to the boil, salt it well and cook your spaghetti. Now glug a generous amount of olive oil into a pan with a lid. Add the garlic, and fry gently until it has softened. Next add the tomatoes, chilli and parsley stalks and fry for a few minutes. Last add the clams and the glass of wine and put the lid on. It will begin to steam and spit, so give it a good shake so that everything gets cooked. (I was using quite large clams, so they obviously took longer to cook. If you are using the smaller sweeter ones – better for this dish – cook them closer to your pasta being done.) You will know it is done because the clams will have opened and the tomatoes softened and broken down. If any clams do not open, throw them out. Drain the pasta and stir it into the clam mixture when it is still almost, almost cooked so that it soaks up the salty juices from the pan to finish. Roughly chop the parsley and stir through.

You are ready to pour a glass of wine, dish up and take a break from reality pretending you are back in Italy on a balmy summer’s evening. Or just a proud mother in San Francisco with a happy, sleeping baby.

Pasta primavera

This is my version of pasta primavera, or springtime pasta. A deliciously easy way to enjoy all the fresh green things that this season has to offer us. With cheese. Obviously.

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Pasta Primavera

Olive oil
1 big garlic clove
A bundle of asparagus- try and find the young skinny ones
2 spring onions
A handful of baby spinach
About 8 basil leaves
A handful of freshly podded peas (or frozen ones if you can’t find the real deal)
Juice of half a lemon
A ball of mozzarella di bufala (or feta if you prefer)
Salt
Pasta of the short variety

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Start with golden, grassy olive oil in a frying pan. Add a fresh garlic clove and two spring onions, finely sliced, and a bunch of tall, skinny asparagus cut into fives. Slowly and softly fry these.

Next add your dark green baby spinach leaves, a squeeze of lemon, then the basil and finally the freshly podded peas. These only need a minute to bring out their colour and sweetness all ready to burst with sweet flavour in your mouth.

Finish the dish off with some creamy mozzarella di bufala broken on top and another drizzle of olive oil. This dish works best with a shorter pasta and is delicious cold for lunch the next day.

I added chilli flakes to the olive oil at the beginning of the cooking process, which is, like everything in cooking, entirely optional. I am just doing anything in my ability to encourage this baby out of me and into the world. Tonight? Super spicy tacos from the hole in the wall round the corner. Wish me luck!

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Waiting with Banana Bread

I have officially finished work and have two and a half week left until my due date. After hearing that more babies are born on the full moon, I am hoping for an early Easter arrival as I am getting impatient playing the waiting game. I want to meet the wee bub! The baby room/actually a cupboard is almost ready, I have washed all the tiny little clothes, and I am about to start cooking things to go in the freezer to pull out when I am also pulling out my hair over a crying new born.

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Today dawned so beautiful, I couldn’t bring myself to make a soup or a pasta sauce to freeze. I wanted to bake something fresh and tasty to enjoy at our sunny window with a good book. I came across Ottolenghi’s banana bread in his new book Plenty More and decided that it would be perfect, even though I had to modify it a bit due to lack of ingredients in the pantry. He says to grill it after cooking with fresh sliced banana, tahini and honeycomb which sounds absolutely glorious. Instead I just had it warm from the oven with coffee. Bliss.

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Banana and Pecan Bread

1 cup of pecans
3 large ripe bananas
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups of brown sugar
1/2 cup of full fat milk
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt of salt

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Preheat the oven to 175°C  and line a loaf pan with waxed paper. Toast the pecans in this for about ten minutes, take them out and roughly chop them. In a bowl, beat the bananas, sugar and eggs until combined. Next add the salt, milk and oil. Sift the dry ingredients in and continue to mix for a few more minutes. Finally add the pecans and pour into the loaf pan. Pop in the oven for about an hour ten and then put on a baking tray to cool (if you have one).

The result is a deliciously moist and tasty banana bread. I would definitely track down the full and proper recipe in Plenty More and try that, but for today, this one made me particularly happy.

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Orange and Coconut Cake to Celebrate the Sun

Spring is in the air in San Francisco, the sun is shining and there is the smell of blossom wherever you walk. I love the idea of having a spring baby, new life as the city wakes up after winter.

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Here is an easy cake to celebrate the sunshine, fresh flavours and the plentiful citrus fruits on offer at the moment.

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Orange and Coconut Cake

1 orange
3 eggs
150g butter (melted)
1 ½ cups icing sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup flour
1 cup desiccated coconut

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Boil the whole orange, skin and all, for about half an hour, checking the water level. This will make your house smell delicious and make sure the cake isn’t too bitter. Leave the orange to cool then cut into quarters and remove the seeds. Put in a blender until you have a smooth consistency. In a bowl, beat this with the eggs, butter and sugar then fold to combine the baking powder, flour and coconut. It’s as simple as that! Pour into a well greased cake or loaf tin and pop into the oven for about 40 minutes at 190 degrees celcius, or until a skewer comes out clean.

This cake is delicious warm from the oven, or cold the next day. I like it with a tart and creamy Greek yoghurt and a cup of tea in the springtime sunshine.

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Make-Me-Better Citrus Salad

Since returning from New York, I have been holed up in the apartment moving from my bed to the sofa and back to bed again. Pregnancy seems to mean that a cold that would last a few days is stretching out over a whole week with no signs of letting up. With the extra time off work, we have been making hearty and wholesome meals, slow cooked lamb shanks in tomato with pasta, a Moroccan tagine with plenty of spices and chickpeas, and lots of fresh and crunchy salads in the hope of a miraculous recovery. This one is a zingy citrus salad using the best of the Californian produce- there seem to be at least twenty different citrus fruits for sale at our local shop. Please excuse the iphone photos- finding the proper camera seemed more effort than it was worth!

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Make-Me-Better Citrus Salad

Flesh of 1/2 a pomelo
2 small blood oranges, sliced
Seeds from 1/2 a pomegranate
1 bulb of fennel, finely sliced
Bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
Rocket
1 cup quinoa
Juice of one lemon
Olive oil
Salt

For the chicken
2 chicken thighs
1 Tbsp ground coriander seeds
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Olive oil
Salt

Start by making up a paste with the spices and oil. Rub this all over the chicken and pop in the oven for about twenty minutes at 180. At the same time, cook your quinoa- it should take about 20 minutes too. While these are cooking, you just need to combine the rest of the ingredients in a big bowl. It is just the pomelo that takes time as you have to get the flesh out of each individual segment. I waited for the quinoa and chicken to cool before combining with the rest of the salad and a simple lemon, salt and olive oil dressing. The result was fresh and tasty, an easy way to brighten a dark winter evening. Although, I imagine it would be even better with a glass of rosé in the summer sunshine…

 

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A Whiter Shade of Pale

It’s amazing how sometimes when you look in the fridge, it may seem like there is nothing and yet that is the exact time you will put that nothing together to make something you want to make over and over again. Today the fridge held some brussel sprouts, a cauliflower and a forgotten fennel bulb. This ended up being this rather pale but rather delicious salad. It matched the grey concrete sky out the window and also meant that I could play this while I cooked.

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A Whiter Shade of Pale Winter Salad

Brussel sprouts, woody end removed
1 cauliflower broken into florets
1 fennel bulb roughly chopped
2 tbsp cumin
Big pinch of flakey sea salt
Juice of half a lemon
2 spring onions
Big, generous handful of fresh coriander and Italian parsley
1/2 cup quinoa
Some garlicky hummus to garnish

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Heat your oven to 200°C while you prepare the brussel sprouts, cauliflower and fennel. Scatter in a roasting dish with plenty of olive oil and the ground cumin. These should take about half an hour to cook, you want them to still have a bite, but the fennel will have started to get lovely and sweet. You can cook your quinoa while the vegetables are roasting (half a cup of quinoa to a cup of cold water. Bring to the boil and then simmer until all the water is absorbed). When you pull the vegetables out of the oven, squeeze over the lemon juice and add a generous amount of salt. This will smell delicious and nothing like over boiled, sulphury brussel sprouts from school lunches in England (especially that time when you sat in Alex’s brussel sprouts with mince and mashed potatoes that you then carried round on the back of your school skirt for the afternoon). Mix this in with the quinoa, finely sliced spring onions and the herbs. Although it doesn’t add any colour, garnishing with some hummus really completes the sweetness of the fennel, the earthy flavours of the cauliflower and sprouts, the fresh herbs, nutty quinoa and the spicy cumin.

Perfect to serve hot with lamb and pita breads, or to put in a container to take for a work lunch when your work has no microwave.

Happy grey day x

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Happy Fall Y’all

The changing season may not be as evident here in San Francisco as other parts of the US, but leaves are turning, darkness arrives earlier every day and there is new autumnal fruit and vegetables at the local farmer’s market. Blushing apples, pears, pumpkins and squash. Leading up to Halloween the pumpkins started taking over- pumpkins in piles at the market, in window displays, carved or whole on doorsteps. Pumpkin spiced everything appeared on menus, as well as in coffees and other places pumpkins don’t belong. But it made me start thinking of ways I like to eat pumpkin and decided to have a few friends over for dinner to celebrate pumpkins and the arrival of autumn.

 

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I bought four different pumpkins and squash at the market to see what they were all like and made two meals out of them. (I love it when you can prep once, eat twice- speaking of which, my favourite blogger has just done a series for The Guardian which is about exactly this. She is an English woman living in Rome and her recipes are so fantastically Roman. I love them and whole heartedly recommend the braised lentils two ways.) Anyway, from these pumpkins I made ravioli di zucca for the autumn dinner with friends and then a spicy Thai pumpkin soup for Ollie and I to have on the Sunday night. PLUS I put the off cuts from the pasta in the freezer and we had these with a beef sugo a week later.

 

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Ravioli di Zucca

For the filling
A variety of pumpkin/squash (I am still trying to work out the difference and how this compares with our NZ naming of this family of round orange vegetables) enough to cover a roasting dish
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
Half a grated nutmeg
Butter
Salt and pepper
A splash of cream
6 sage leaves, finely chopped

For the pasta
5 cups of flour, tipo 00
5 large free range eggs

For the sauce
A big lump of butter
A handful of sage leaves

Peel, seed, cut into cubes and roast the pumpkin at 180 for about 40 minutes or until it is well cooked.  While this is cooking, finely dice the onion and garlic and  fry in plenty of butter until very tender. When the pumpkin is ready, add it to the onion and garlic with the grated nutmeg, finely chopped sage leaves, cream and a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Mush it up with a fork so you have a smooth filling with all the flavours combined.

Now start with your pasta dough- you just need 1 cup of flour and 1 egg per person. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the eggs. Whisk the eggs with a fork, and when they are mixed, slowly bring in the flour until you have a dough. Now you can take out and unwanted anger on the dough as you knead it for at least five minutes. You’re aiming for a smooth and silky consistency. Cover with flour, glad wrap and leave in the fridge for half an hour.

This now gives you time to realise that your guests are due to arrive, quickly clean up the apartment, open a bottle of wine, and pretend that it was your intention all along to be rolling out pasta when they arrive rather than be organised beforehand.


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Making pasta is best when you have two people involved, one to do the rolling and one to do the ravioli making. The roller wants to work the dough through the machine down to the smallest setting, making sure the pasta is well dusted so it is easy to manipulate and doesn’t stick. The ravioli maker wants to put about a teaspoon of mixture evenly spaced down half of a sheet of pasta- you should be able to fit two across. Then fold the other half over top and tuck the little pumpkins into bed, pressing down so that all the mixture is sealed in. You can now cut them with a knife or use a ravioli or cookie cutter to make them into ravioli. Keep on doing this until you have used all your pasta and you have a plate of beautifully dusted ravioli ready to cook. The dusting part is really important, there is nothing more frustrating than all your hard work sticking together.

 

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These will only need 4-5 minutes in boiling, salted water to cook. While they are doing this, melt down a big hunk of butter and fry the remaining sage leaves until they are nice and crispy. Drain the ravioili, plate up and pour over the burnt sage butter. Buon apetito!

 

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And then the next day…

Thai Pumpkin Soup

Olive or sunflower oil
One onion
Four cloves garlic
1 stalk celery
2 carrots
2 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1Tbsp of chilli flakes
The other half of the roasted pumpkins that you didn’t use for ravioli
200mL Coconut milk
100mL stock or water
Fresh coriander and natural yoghurt to serve

 

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Coat the bottom of a heavy bottomed pot with plenty of oil and add the spices so that you have a delicious paste to start your soup. Add the roughly chopped onion, garlic, carrot and celery and cook on a gentle heat for about 15 minutes. Add the pumpkin coconut milk and stock and simmer for at least 15 minutes to combine the different flavours and textures. Use a mixing stick to blend it all together, or if you don’t have one, transfer to a blender. It is up to your personal preference whether you like to keep this chunky or blend until it is smooth. Simmer for ten minutes longer to make sure they flavours have all mingled together in a delicious way and then serve in deep bowls with fresh coriander (and natural yoghurt should you wish) and toasted bread or naan breads.

 

 

A perfect Sunday night dinner for when it is cold outside. Happy fall y’all.

 

And I’m back… with some midweek spaghetti

A couple months back, I finally found myself a job and started working. As well as being busy during the day again, I was a little under the weather and I didn’t feel like cooking much. Uninspired, I fell back on old favourites. I stopped blogging. Things got busy, new habits developed and in this case, they didn’t involve blogging. Life ambled on.

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I hadn’t really thought much about the blog until a few days ago when I received a beautiful email from a wise student who inspired me, kind words from another friend about how she misses my recipes, another wanting to know what I have been reading. And so I’m back. Back to the blog and looking forward to it. I’ve been talking with a very-talented-certain-someone about making it look prettier and have been thumbing through new and old cook books getting excited.

I thought I would start with a quick and easy pasta dish that is perfect for a midweek, after work dinner. It’s quick to throw together, and can be used by scrounging around at the back of the fridge- there always seem to be half eaten jars of olives back there. I think it is great because of my love of anything that is either salty or vinegary. Don’t worry about chocolate or cakes for me, but salt and vinegar chips are a winner. Pickles, olives. fries and mustard are also good options. This is slightly healthier than the items on that list, but tastes just as good.

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Midweek Spaghetti 

1 handful of olives, I used a mix of green Sicilian olives and black Kalamata
3 diced tomatoes – I used Early Girl
1 big handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 red onion very finely chopped
1 Tbsp capers
Salt and pepper
Big, big glug of olive oil
Small glug of balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano
1 handful of rocket
1 handful of fresh basil and Italian parsley
Spaghetti

In a large bowl, add the destoned, halved olives, capers, tomatoes, red onion, tomatoes, oregano, salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic. If you leave these for half an hour, they will slowly marinate in their own goodness and the bite will go from the red onion. While the spaghetti is cooking, add the rocket, basil and parsley to the bowl, then toss in the spaghetti. You want to eat this immediately, while the spaghetti is still hot, and it tastes great with some slithers of parmesan over the top.

DSCF3983It’s fresh and tasty and perfect for a summer’s evening.

It’s good to be back.

Anna x