Sorry for the lack of updates. We’ve had terrible internet problems and I have not been able to use internet at home, so this blog has suffered.

I’ve been taking some photos as we cook, so I have a few ideas up my sleeve for future posts, but if you could request a recipe… would it be for something sweet or savoury?

Definitely coming up soon will be the recipe for an amazing Spicy Apple Pie recipe that the wife adapted from a few different recipes last week. I didn’t take any photos though so we will have to make it again. But shhhhh don’t tell the family that or they will want to share.

PS – the title of this post has the Bad Babysitter song running through my head. Thank goodness she doesn’t have a cooking blog. (Not entirely suitable for work / children although I don’t remember any actual swearing or nudity – the wife is on a work call behind me so I can’t preview it…you’ll just have to be brave.)

Nearly every NZ’er has an Edmonds Cookbook. It’s the classic ‘going flatting’ gift that your mother or aunt or nana gives you. (Flatting is what my American readers would call getting an apartment I guess).

I grew up baking from this book. It contains all the Kiwiana classics such as Chocolate Afghans, Scones, Pavlova, Sponge Cake etc. I just stick to the baking from it though as the old versions also include some classic examples of cuisine such as Aspic Salad and Mock Chicken. (The book has had 57 reprints so the more modern ones don’t have all the same old recipes.)

The copy of the book that I use is extremely well used. I think it is the only thing I was given when my much loved (but tyrannical to everyone else) Great-Grandmother died. She was in her 80’s and named Beebee as she believed she was too fabulous to be named grandma when my mother was born in the 1950’s. I believe this book is from the same era, but it arrived without a cover so I don’t know its publication date.

She loved to bake and taught me to make perfect pikelets, fabulous scones…and today’s recipe…banana cake.

Now I realise this is pretty standard fare for us Kiwi’s, but for those who don’t live in NZ, this turns out  a perfect airy banana cake every time.

The recipe calls for it to be baked in two flat ‘sandwich tins’ (and traditionally it was sandwiched together with whipped cream but I always make it in a ring tin. I prefer to ice it with a tart lemon icing, but some people prefer chocolate icing.

However, I baked them yesterday as cup cakes for a very sad reason. A wee 1 year old boy from our small local community, was run over in his driveway and died last weekend. His Mum was one of the stall holders at our local Indie Craft Market, so the market organisers ran a cake stall to raise funds for his family. I thought cupcakes was the best option as they could be sold individually. So these were:

Banana Cupcakes with Lemon Icing & Love.

cakes

Ingredients and Method:

I’m going to cheat here and post a picture of the well-loved recipe here. Please don’t judge me, I have had this book since I was 10 and I guess it’s at least 60 years old. I’ll add notes on any small changes I make under the accompanying photographs.

It’s easiest to use an electric beater to cream the butter and sugar. I use Tiffany. She has been with me since I left home at 16. Since I already had the Edmonds book, my Mum gave me an electric mixer instead.  I still can’t believe she’s still going. (Tiffany, not my mum.) She’s my longest serving female cooking companion. And a cheap one at around $20 for the original investment!

Trusty Tiffany

Trusty Tiffany

I’m sure you know to use over ripe bananas to get the best texture and flavour. And I’m sure I don’t even need to say Free-range eggs do I now? You can make a respectable version using No-Egg (Organ is my brand of choice), and / or a margarine / olive oil type margarine. But butter is best if you aren’t vegan or dairy free.

Good NZ butter, free-range eggs & over ripe bananas

Good NZ butter, free-range eggs & over ripe bananas

I use Tiffany to beat in the eggs and banana and then set her aside to put her beaters up for a well earned rest.

A tip in relation to the milk (and yes soy milk works fine), when you measure the 2 tablespoons, add a little extra as you’ll lose some as it heats. Pictured below.

Adding about one extra teaspoons worth of milk

Adding about one extra teaspoons worth of milk

When you stir the baking soda into the milk, ensure it’s really well mixed into the milk, then gently fold it into the batter. Some people’s banana cake tastes baking soda-y and I guess they don’t mix it in well enough. But that said, don’t over mix or it will lose some of its lightness.

Folding. Gently.

Folding. Gently.

My lazy version of mixing the flour and baking powder together is to roughly stir the powder into the flour whilst it’s in the measuring cup, then sift straight into the bowl. Too much of  a hoha (annoyance) to mix into another bowl then sift into the mixing bowl.

My favourite sieve, only holds one cup but it's so cute :-)

My favourite sieve, only holds one cup  at a time but it’s so cute 🙂

Mix the batter with a spatula or wooden spoon. Make sure it’s 100% combined, but do the minimum you need to so it stays light.

Mixing gently...

Mixing gently…

Then either put in teaspoon lots into greased patty pan type ‘tins’, or put into a greased (and I usually put a wax paper ring in the bottom to avoid tears later), or follow the recipe and put it into two sandwich tins. This makes one 20cm ring tin, or 24 baby muffin / cup cakes plus some extra that I made into two small cakes for Joyous and I. Don’t overfill the holes! Just one teaspoon in each.

Batter up

Batter up

Bake as per instructions. You can tell this is an old recipe book as NZ hasn’t used Fahrenheit since the 70’s, so for you metric people – that’s about 180 C. A skewer in the top centre of the cake will tell you when it’s cooked. I prefer ever so slightly undercooked and just leave it in the pan for a around 10 minutes covered with a clean tea towel. It’s a fine line, gooey in the middle is BAD. Over cooked is blah. This cake should be moist and light.

Icing:

I used a basic icing of approx 2 C icing sugar (powdered sugar for the US readers), a good squeeze of a large juicy lemon and about 1 desert spoon of soft butter. It’s really a matter of mixing it till it looks right, and adding the lemon to taste. I like mine tart (so actually added 2 good squeezes of lemon juice.)

Sift the icing sugar first, not essential but makes sure there are no lumpy bits. Really I just wanted to use another photo of my sieve.

So pretty

Sifting prettily

Combine all ingredients and mix with a fork till stiff enough to hold together, but runny enough to spread easily.

A fork in unmixed icing

A fork in unmixed icing

A fork in mixed icing

A fork in mixed icing

I find it easiest to spoon the icing onto the cupcakes, then use a knife frequently dipped into a glass of warm water to smooth out the icing. Then I used my micro-plane to add zest to the top of the iced cupcakes and added organic edible cornflowers from our garden for colour.

And….voila!

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Ready to enjoy

Early morning presents in bed (I was going to say ‘Surprises in bed’ but I knew your minds may wander off in another direction…). St Lucian cocoa tea and cereal accompany reading our books in the sunshine at our riverside campsite at Rarawa Beach. Followed by a long day driving to the most Northern point of NZ – Te Rerenga o Wairua. The first time Joyous had seen the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea meeting. Eventually making it back to our campsite in time to ponder  the dinner question.

It had to be special. It ought to be memorable. It had to be attainable.

We possessed one gas burner. A tiny grill. A gas BBQ we couldn’t use due to a total fire ban. Fresh local produce. A bottle of dessert wine. Chocolate. Fresh Northland summer fruit.

Birthday dinner campsite style.

 

Sunset Birthday Dinner

A red sky

Falling light

Into rich night

You taste everything

As I do

Maori Potato Salad with Manuka Smoked Snapper and a Basil Caper Mayo

Ingredients:

New potatoes, Smoked fish, Mayonnaise, Sour Cream, Sea Salt, Black Pepper, Capers, Sweet Basil, Sweet Peppers, Lime (or lemon) juice, corn on the cob.

Method:

Scrub the new potatoes. Preferably tiny Maori potatoes eg Peruperu, but Jersey Bennes would be good or any firm new potato.

Peruperu potatoes

Peruperu potatoes

Add water and a little salt and boil till tender (Peruperu are quite firm so perfect for this.)

Flake your smoked fish. If it’s super fresh you can use as is, but our manuka smoked snapper had been frozen then in the chilli bin (cooler) for a couple of days so we cooked it (once the one gas burner was available!) then left it to cool.

Manuka Smoked Snapper

Smoked Snapper

Mayo: I use half and half of the following – a decent mayonnaise (eg Best Foods or Heinz etc) & sour cream. So it was about 1.5 Tblsp of each.

Add some sea salt to taste (approx ½ tsp), a generous squeeze of lime (or lemon) juice, freshly ground black pepper, approx 1 large Tbsp of capers (roughly cut), around 6 medium sized sweet basil leaves sliced finely. Stir together and set aside. (By the way this is amazing  as a dip with raw carrot sticks, with roast potatoes etc.)

Basil caper mayo ingredients

Basil caper mayo ingredients

Finely dice a couple of small, or one medium sized capsicum (sweet pepper), no matter the colour.

Mayo & sweet peppers

Mayo & sweet peppers

Once the potatoes have boiled, drain them immediately then leave to cool down a little. (You want them just warm.)

Cooled & ready to assemble

Cooled & ready to assemble

While you wait, boil the fresh corn on the cob using the single gas burner!

To assemble the potato salad, add the ingredients into a large bowl in layers so that you won’t need to over mix it and risk making a big mushy mess.

Layering the salad

Layering the salad

Mix it gently

Mix it gently

Lay the table prettily whilst your love is busy inside pinning up the mosquito net. (I was pleased to have noticed that my Nana’s aunt’s hand embroidered table cloth was in one of the cupboards, and we’d used it at our wedding, so that was lovely.) Pour delicious NZ dessert wine into your best glassware. Light the candles and say ‘dadah’ when your love next steps out of the camper. (You can use one of the candles later to sing Happy Birthday and your love can make their birthday wish.)

Looking pretty

Looking pretty

Drain the corn and have butter and sea salt nearby for it to have a wee wallow in if desired.

Have some dark Ghana chocolate and delicious local sun ripened summer fruit ready to follow.

Now you are ready to…Make love with Smoked Snapper Peruperu Salad and Corn-on-the-cob! (Hehe, sounds knobbly.)

Blurry, but she's still gorgeous

Blurry, but she’s still gorgeous

Happy Camping 34th Birthday Joyous.

My love, on the occasion of her 34th birthday. At Rarawa in the Far North. Reading and drinking our special St Lucian style cocoa tea. The way any good birthday begins.

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I’m downloading photos and will do a ‘birthday road trip & camping dinner’ post once I get sorted.

Back in the winter of 2008, my (now) wife and I were just new. It was a wet, cold winter and we spent many hours snuggled up in each others arms reading and talking etc (ahem).

One stormy evening she (Joyous) arrived with some mysterious ingredients and set about concocting me a treat in the kitchen, while I lazed around on the sofa. Soon delicious chocolatey spicy smells permeated the house and she presented me with a steaming cup of Lucian Cocoa Tea.

It was hot so I blew on it, then took a small sip. Down my throat slipped a thick velvety creamy chocolate spiced drink, that was followed immediately afterwards with a hit of chilli. It was unbelievably delicious – seriously unbelievably delicious. Almost magical. Every sip made me feel like I was being enchanted, as it warmed my throat and lined my belly I felt I was swallowing a little part of her gorgeous chocolatey spiciness, and I was quickly becoming addicted.

We’ve had it a million times since, and I love it every time, but none so much as that first bewitching falling-in-love occasion.

It’s our celebration drink, our impressing visitors drink, our ‘remember the days’ drink, our special occasion drink, our comfort-in-hard-times drink… We took a thermos camping on a deserted beach and drank it at sunrise on New Year’s Morning 2009. We once took it in small plastic bottles to see the All Blacks win a rugby match (the bottles went in our pockets to keep our hands warm, before warming our bellies). NYE 2009 we took it for a picnic on a wild West Coast beach at sunset then when it got too windy we drove home and sat under an old walnut tree in our back garden finishing off the thermos of it and listening to the sound of parties going on around us in the neighbourhood. We have it every Christmas morning, at Easter, on birthdays. Some lazy Sundays I wake to the sound of the cocoa stick being grated, or the wafts of chocolate filling the house…

I recommend you make it for someone you love, (or would like to love), soon.

Joyous’ St Lucian Cocoa Tea

Ingredients:

Approx 6 tablespoons of freshly grated Cocoa Stick*

2 fresh (preferably) Bay leaves

Freshly grated Nutmeg to taste (or ground nutmeg)

1 good sized Cinnamon Stick (or a few smaller pieces)

2 C Water

2 C Milk

Raw sugar to taste

Optional:

1-2 Tbsp Cornflour (to thicken)

1-2 whole dried Chillies (Not traditional but awesome!)

A few fennel seeds (Traditional in St Lucia)

Approx 45g best quality grated dark chocolate (eg 70% +)

2 C Coconut Milk or 2 C Evaporated Milk can be substituted for the regular milk, or use half milk and half cream

Main ingredients

Main ingredients

Method:

Grate the cocoa stick (using your finest grater or a microplane zester), into a heavy bottomed pan, add the bay leaves, cinnamon stick/s, and some finely grated nutmeg (we use a zester), for your first time try about 1/4 of a whole nutmeg. Add the chocolate, broken into pieces.

Dry ingredients

Dry ingredients

Pour in the water and bring it to the boil stirring the whole time, then turn down to simmer for as long as you can wait (10 mins minimum).

If you want to reuse the cinnamon stick, you can remove it now and wash and dry.

Add the milk (or 1 C milk and 1 C cream if you are really trying to impress), add the chilli/s now if you don’t want it too hot (if you like it with a kick you can add them earlier on in the cooking process).

Lastly, if you wish to thicken it, whisk 1-2 Tbsp of cornflour into the milk before you add it to the pot. Obviously, the more you use, the thicker it will be. If you do this step, then whisk the milk into the pot so it does not form any lumps.

Bubbling away - the cocoa stick has quite a lot of cocoa butter in it.

Bubbling away – the cocoa stick has quite a lot of cocoa butter in it.

Simmer for at least 5 more minutes then pour into mugs. You may need to strain it if you did not use a zester for the cocoa as it may be a little grainy. It’s a good idea to fish out the chilli and chuck it back in the pot or you or your loved one may get a big surprise.

Add sugar to taste, stir well and…make love!

PS – If you are using this recipe as a seduction technique…make sure you do not handle the chilli…or your love may get a very painful surprise later on…

All gone.

All gone.

A poem to read on a stormy night whilst falling in love and drinking Cocoa Tea:

Rain – Hone Tuwhare

I can hear you making
small holes in the silence
rain

If I were deaf
the pores of my skin
would open to you
and shut

And I should know you
by the lick of you
if I were blind:

the steady drum-roll
sound you make
when the wind drops

the something
special smell of you
when the sun cakes
the ground

But if I should not
hear
smell or feel or see you

You would still
define me
disperse me
wash over me
rain

Joyous greeting the sunrise on New Year's morning 2009 with a hot cup of Cocoa Tea

Joyous greeting the sunrise on New Year’s morning 2009 with a hot cup of Cocoa Tea

* Sourcing/Substituting Cocoa Stick:

The best kind of course is Lucian Cocoa Stick which can be brought there at the markets. In the UK you can most likely purchase it in Brixton, in the US try a West Indian stockist if you have one nearby. As a substitute you can use Cacao Powder or the best quality, strongest Cocoa Powder available (eg a Dutch Cocoa powder.) In NZ, use Koko Samoa, available at the Otara Markets and some supermarkets, or give Cacao a go.

Her velvety hot chilli chocolate seduced me, cornmeal porridge comforted me, hot peppers thrilled me, uses of bay, nutmeg and plantain intrigued me…
My obvious and enthusiastic appreciation for her cooking made her want to please me even more, I licked my fingers and she smiled…
I baked cakes and treats, showering her with sweet sugar loving…

I bake with precision, she creates with abandon…Together we make love with food.

When we first fell in love we quickly realized we were communicating that love through food.

That first flush of love was regularly fed and continued to grow. Now we are married and hoping to be feeding a baby sometime soon.

We’ve settled into an easy rhythm of nurturing each other, and feeding each other is still an intrinsic way of showing how we feel. As well as cooking for each other, we cook for friends and family and share recipes too. We’ll be posting about the delicious organic fruit and vegetables we grow or source locally too.

We hope you like our recipes and enjoy this insight into how we make love with food..

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