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Archive for August, 2013

Don’t file the slow cooker just yet…

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Yesterday, it is true, I started with the concept of a chilli con carne without the carne, but once I got in the kitchen and fired up the slow cookers, I got quite creative. The result is two inexpensive dishes which are simply bursting with flavour. If your budget allows, you can add a few tweaks, but basically they are the sorts of dishes which full stomachs cheaply and leave everyone satisfied. They are also really easy to make and once everything is in the slow cooker, there is nothing more to do until serving time. And they are good for you, as all the goodness from the vegetables stays in the liquid – unlike vegetables which are cooked in water and drained (and half the goodness goes down the plughole!).

I had my kids in mind when I made them – they are perfect flatters’ food! In fact, one of the best things a parent could do is buy their son or daughter a slow cooker when they leave home. I’ve got my old crockpot which still chugs along, but I’ve just got a new Goldair Slow Cooker and I love it more because it’s got an oval bowl making it easier to fit chickens and joints of meat with vegetables.

One of the dishes is made with dried beans, and it takes 3½ -4 hours to cook – there is no need to soak dried beans before cooking in a slow cooker (except for kidney beans), and the other one is made from canned beans and canned tomatoes which you can often pick up really cheaply, and takes a little less than 3 hours to cook. My son plays soccer on a Saturday and these are the perfect dishes for him to prepare before a game, and to return to afterwards when he is cold, exhausted and starving.

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You could make plenty of changes – use kumara in place of pumpkin, add a bag of baby spinach leaves at the end (they wilt in a matter of seconds), and use different types of beans and herbs to flavour. Leftovers are great, developing more flavour, or you can leftover potatoes or rice to them for the last 30 minutes to heat through, or serve the soups over steaming bowls of baby new potatoes or rice. Cheap. Cheerful. Good for you. And, importantly, simply scrumptious.

Cooking Classes

Monday, August 12th, 2013

There are very few spaces remaining on my classes for the next few months.

From Saffron to Sumac

Thursday 29th – 3 places

And a new class Return to Spain

(see the pics!)

7th September – 2 places

National Poetry Day

Monday, August 12th, 2013

It’s National Poetry Day this Friday.

Can you name 5 NZ poets? 10? 20?

There are hundreds of poets in NZ!

Support NZ poets and go buy one of their books!!poetry-day-logo-2013-web-1!



Something to warm you up or cool you down

Monday, August 12th, 2013


Hokkien noodle soup –
Serves 4
Clean, fresh flavours, nice little hot bite, good crunch from vegetables. Starting with a good unsalted stock is important.

250ml well-made unsalted chicken stock
1 litre water
6 spring onions
2 hottish red chillies
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 Tbsp coarsely chopped peeled ginger
Bunch of coriander
2 skinned and boned free-range chicken breasts
200g Hokkien noodles
1½ Tbsp soy sauce
1cup of cubed tofu
Peanut oil
6 leaves wong bok, left whole if small, or chopped, or a combination

1 Put chicken stock and water in a saucepan with 3 of the roughly chopped spring onions and 1 chopped chilli, and the garlic, ginger and coriander stems (set aside the leaves). Slowly bring to a gentle boil (this will extract more flavour), turn heat to lowest setting, cover pan with a lid then simmer for 20 minutes; it should not bubble. Turn off the heat and leave stock to infuse for 5-15 minutes.

2 Meanwhile, remove all fat from chicken breasts, rinse and pat dry. Cut off the small pieces of chicken fillet, then cut the breasts in half. Cut the two fat pieces through the middle to make all pieces a similar thickness or thereabouts. Cut remaining spring onions and chilli into slivers. Put noodles in a colander and rinse well under running water.

3 Strain stock into a bowl then return it to the pan adding ½ tsp salt. Bring it back up to a very gentle bubble (turn to the lowest setting), add soy sauce and chicken breasts. Poach for 5-6 minutes, until chicken is just cooked through (poaching means the water is rippling, not bubbling; to check if the breasts are cooked, remove the fattest one from the stock and slice into the middle – there should be the merest hint of a blush). Transfer chicken breasts to a board with a slotted spoon. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

4 Meanwhile, fry tofu in a little hot oil in small frying pan until golden. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.

6 Add noodles to hot stock and heat through for 2 minutes. Add wong bok and cook for about 2 minutes, until crisp-tender, but not soft. Slice chicken and add to soup along with tofu and coriander leaves. Dish into bowls and garnish with chilli and spring onion.