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    Monday, June 23, 2008

    Tahiti Here We Come

    We are just home from Tahiti…9 days in Paradise.
    Our first dinner at home it had to be vegetables. We ate a lot of protein and bread in Tahiti…lovely as it was I felt we needed a little vege dish.
    This is so simple but tasty.

    Cauliflower and Mushroom Bake
    1 cauliflower stripped of leaves kept whole but core out.
    2 tablespoons butter
    4 large mushrooms chopped
    1 shallot chopped
    Slosh white wine
    Sea salt and freshly ground black freshly ground black pepper
    2 tablespoons flour
    2-3 sprigs of thyme
    Cauliflower liquor
    Frozen peas
    1 red chilli finely chopped (optional)
    Grated cheese

    Steam cauliflower
    Place into casserole dish
    Reserve liquor

    Melt butter add mushrooms
    Saute till tender add shallots
    Cook 3-4 minutes
    Add white wine.
    Boil and reduce till it is absorbed
    Add flour and cook for another 2-3 minutes
    Add liquor and enough milk to make a sauce
    The consistency of pouring cream

    Add peas and chilli

    Pour over cauliflower

    Cover with grated cheese and bake 180C about 25 minutes
    Just what we needed
    Comfort food.

    “So now are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.”

    We decided on the spur of the moment to join our friends Sheryl and Michael in Moorea.
    We managed to get a good fare and we spent the next few days organizing our trip.

    About 3pm on the day before we left I decided to grab all the documents to put in my travel wallet.

    Opened up my passport
    Quelle domage…it expired yesterday.I urgently rang my trusty Travel Agent and good friend Tony Rogers click here for information about his travel agency Travel Managers

    “Yes Virginia there is a Santa Claus” the famous quote from the editorial from Francis P Church of the New York Sun 1897…
    change that to "Yes Gilli there is someone up there who likes you"...
    They do urgent passport renewal. But at a cost...$650.
    All our savings on the airfare had disappeared. C’est la vie!

    So I made arrangements to go into the city at 7pm complete with photo and credit card.
    It was annoying but it was a solution. Imagine if I turned up at the airport. I can’t think about that I’m afraid.

    Meanwhile Dale came home with a huge smile on his face and opened his wallet there was a wad of cash.
    “I have just won Lotto $708”…he was so excited.
    Well isn’t that Divine Intervention
    I explained my dilemma.
    His face fell he couldn’t believe it.

    It was likened to the All Blacks major loss in the Rugby World Cup 2007.

    He was devastated.
    But our daughter Katie (Pollyanna!) worked it out.

    $650 for the passport - $12 for the photo - $14 for the ticket
    He was still up $32.
    Dale you’re still a winner

    So we arrived in Papeete Aeroport Faaa
    Grabbed a cab and off to our Hotel Kon Tiki Pacific.
    I found it on the internet.
    The position was excellent right opposite the Moorea Ferry.
    A little shabby but hey it was relatively cheap.
    Up to our room.

    It was fine, the bathroom left a bit to be desired…a good clean would have helped.
    We set off to have a drink in the bars of Papeete.

    The Kon Tiki is right in the middle of the bar scene and it was lively.
    We had a Gin and Tonic…but it is quite expensive, so we decided that we should really be drinking our duty free.
    We wandered back to the hotel. We decided that perhaps the hotel might have more uses than Les Touristes....possibly renting the rooms by the hour to the ladies of the night!
    That said, the staff were pleasant, got us a bucket des glaces and we retired to our balcony and listened to music on the ipod...with several vodka and butterscotch schnapps.

    Sleeping device you know!

    6.30 am from the balcony at Kon Tiki awaiting our Ferry
    If you have only a few hours to spend while waiting to get to the outer islands.
    This is perfectly acceptable accommodation.
    The bed was comfortable, we got our wake-up call the staff were pleasant.
    I’ve been in worse.
    But back to the les vacances.
    Quick le petit dejeuner at Les 3 Brasseurs, very good croissants and café.
    They were setting up for a Music Festival, which was on for the next week, unfortunately we were going to miss it, but I love the way Tahitians decorate everything.
    Those wonderful palm leaves cover all sins.

    On the Aremiti 5.
    The rapid ferry 30 minutes to Moorea…
    Last time I was in Moorea in the 80’s, we flew as the ferry was very slow. and it can be a rough patch of water. but on these fast ferries not a problem
    We arrived and there was Michael our chauffeur to meet us
    Into the jeep, and he delivered us to join Sheryl at our accommodation at
    Tamara’s Beautiful Bungalow "La Baie du Nuarei"
    Isn’t this just wonderful?
    My next post will be about this superb destination.

    Tuesday, June 10, 2008

    Vegetarian Delight

    I know I said that last night would be the last blog till our return from the Islands but tonight’s dinner was divine and I have to share it.

    Alton Brown from Good Eats did a programme on Broccoli and I was very taken with this Broccoli “Coleslaw”
    The dressing is wonderful and we just loved this salad.
    I had forgotten to buy any protein for dinner so it was eat the vege in the fridge night.
    So we had an appetizer

    The Coleslaw.
    1 head Broccoli
    Remove any stray stems from the broccoli stalk and peel the hard bits off
    Finely slice on mandolin

    Make the Dressing

    1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
    Zest of 1 lemon
    1 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    1 teaspoon salt
    Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
    ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

    Mix everything, except the oil with a whisk
    to make an emulsion
    Slowly add the oil and whisk
    Voila the dressing

    Toss the broccoli in the dressing and pop into the fridge for least
    1 hour.

    Add 6 ozs cherry tomatoes sliced
    3 oz toasted nuts I used walnuts
    2 tablespoons basil chiffonade toss to combine
    I didn’t have any basil but there you go

    Sit about 15 minutes then serve

    Fresh, clean, pretty and it tasted sensational

    On the side some Balsamic Glazed Beetroot
    This is so simple but divine
    I saw this on Britain’s Best Dish
    It accompanied a Trout Mousse but I didn’t have trout but I did have beetroot.

    So peel the beetroot and cut into thin strips.
    Place in a pot of cold salted water
    Bring to the boil
    Simmer till knife tender about 10 minutes
    Drain and return to pot.
    Good slurp of Balsamic vinegar
    Same size slurp of Extra virgin olive oil
    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    Toss around
    That deep colour, so shiny and appealing.
    There were leeks in the fridge and I had a kumara so I devised

    Leek and Kumara/Sweet Potato Bake

    I love braised leeks
    Just slice the leeks finely
    Sauté gently in a little olive oil
    Season with salt and pepper
    Add a little water bring to gentle simmer.
    Cover and leave for about 6 minutes.
    The leeks are a wonderful colour.

    Served just like that with a knob of butter. Superb.
    BUT I wanted a meal so

    I drained the leeks
    Into the pan 2 tablespoons butter
    2 tablespoons flour
    Salt and white pepper
    1 teaspoon mustard
    1 cup milk

    Make a roux.
    Add the leeks and prepare to layer the dish
    Check your seasoning and adjust if necessary

    I sliced a peeled kumara on the mandolin.
    Greased a casserole dish
    Layer of kumara
    Grate some cheese over that I used Gruyere.
    Season with salt and freshly ground black pepperThen leek mixture
    More kumara, season
    Grated cheese
    More leeks
    Pour about 3 tablespoons milk over the dish for some extra moisture
    Lots of grated cheese on top
    Cover and bake 180C 50 minutes till kumara is tender
    Remove lid
    Another 10 minutes to brown the cheese
    This was just beautiful.
    We ate it alone but it would make a great accompaniment for any meat dish. The sweetness of the leeks, and the kumara, with the lovely nutty flavour of the gruyere.


    Also Stunning another shot of where we will be in a couple of days. Tahiti here we come!

    Monday, June 09, 2008

    Good Comfort Food...Meat Pie and Fish Soup

    After a wonderful weekend on the boat we are home again, and today the children have come to visit. Barney has a new convert our baby Cleo… she is entranced with him, just like children have been for years. Both on the TV and in print.
    Big sister Mia is reading her a story from a Barney Book

    During the last couple of weeks there has been a programme on Food TV
    Britain’s Best Dish, a competition to find Britain’s Best Dish cooked by amateur cooks.
    Being of Welsh stock of course my food heritage is British, and most of the dishes on the programme were familiar to me.
    There were some excellent recipes, and I have tried a couple of them.
    The winner of the Starter Section made “Somerset Tiddy Oggy’s.”
    This is a pasty similar to Cornish pasties.

    I decided to try the pastry, as it was given the thumbs up by the judges.
    It was excellent and very simple.
    I turned it into a delicious meat pie.
    I only had a piece of sirloin steak on the boat, which is not fabulous for a stew,

    but I decided to make the sauce first, and add rare steak to the sauce and see what happened.
    So I seared the steak.
    Cut the rare steak up and add to the sauce,
    Mix together and leave for at least 3-4 fours hours for the flavours to combine.
    It worked . Melt in the mouth, beautiful meat.
    You need
    100g lard
    100g butter
    450g plain flour
    1 teaspoon salt
    Cold water as needed

    Place the lard, butter, flour, in the blender and whiz.
    Add cold water till a ball is formed
    Leave pastry to rest for 45 minutes in the fridge


    Olive oil 2 tablespoons
    1 onion finely chopped
    1 carrot finely chopped
    4 large brown mushrooms cut into small dice
    Worstershire sauce 1 tablespoon
    Tomato ketchup 1 tablespoon
    1 teaspoon Hot English mustard
    1 tablespoon flour
    Beef stock

    100 mls white wine
    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

    1 piece New York cut sirloin steak

    In a wide pan sauté the onion in olive oil till soft and translucent
    Add carrots and mushrooms
    Sauté another 2-3 minutes
    Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper
    Add ketchup, Worcestershire and mustard.
    Stir well
    Add white wine and let it cook off
    Add flour and cook out for a couple of minutes
    Add beef stock just to cover
    Stir till it thickens,
    then let simmer gently for about 5-10 minutes, to reduce and continue to thicken
    Watch carefully, as it can stick.
    The idea is to get a nice base sauce for the meat.

    Heat a pan till it is really hot
    Season and oil the steak.
    Cook one side about 2 minutes to get a good colour
    Turn and another 2 minutes.
    Rest for a couple of minutes. It will be quite rare...just what we want.

    Remove excess fat and slice the meat and add to the sauce.To complete the pie.
    Grease your pie dish
    Roll out the pastry in two discs
    Line the dish
    Fill with the filling
    Top with pastry

    Brush with egg wash for a nice golden finish
    Bake about 30 minutes at 180C
    Broccoli went well with it.
    A yummy dinner.
    From the same show there was this beautiful Fish Soup
    It did take a bit of fluffing about but it was worth it.You should try it .

    Orange Infused Fish Soup
    First make the stock at least 24 hours before you need it.
    I didn’t have any Calvados so I used Grand Marnier
    Also I didn’t use monkfish just the grouper/hapuka
    For the
    2 Fish heads and bones
    120 ml dry white wine
    1 ½ litres water
    Four or five raw prawns with heads on
    a good knob of butter
    1 tablespoon Grande Marnier/Calvados
    2 onions
    2 stalks of celery
    1 carrot

    In a large pot simmer the fish bones in the white wine for 3-4 minutes
    add 1½ litres water of and bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes
    Roughly chop the onion, celery and carrot.
    In a pan, sauté the prawns in the butter and Grande Marnier/Calvados.
    Add the prawn mixture to the stock and simmer for 20 minutes.
    Put the stock through a sieve
    Back into the pot and add the chopped vegetables

    Bring the stock back to boil and simmer for 45 minutes
    Sieve the stock again and refrigerate for up to 24 hrs

    Now The Soup
    You will need
    200 gms peeled prawns

    1x small squid cleaned and sliced
    ½ a monkfish tail
    200g clams
    200g grouper/hapuka
    1 medium to large size onion
    5 garlic cloves
    2 heads of celery
    1 bulb of fennel
    1 large leek
    Peel of 1 orange
    a red chili
    Fish stock [as above)
    lemon thyme
    lemon balm
    flat leaf parsley
    2 fresh bay leaves
    salt and pepper
    olive oil
    1 dried red chilli
    2 tablespoons dry vermouth or white wine
    Parsley leaves

    1 tablespoon Grand Marnier/Calvados to taste

    Chop the white fish into chunks.
    Finely chop the onion, garlic, celery, fennel and leek.
    De-seed and chop the chilli.
    Sweat the vegetables and orange peel in olive oil in a large pan for 5 minutes
    Add the stock, whole herbs and vermouth/wine and simmer for 12 minutes.

    Put the soup through a sieve.

    Then add the squid, monkfish tail and grouper/hapuka and simmer for 5 minutes.
    Add the shellfish and simmer for another 5 minutes.
    Taste and add Grande Marnier/Calvados as required.
    Chop the parsley.
    Add parsley just before serving in a soup bowl.

    Well this the last post for a while we are off to Tahiti on Friday
    It is one of my favourite places in the world

    How about this lovely place check out Tamara’s lovely bungalows in Moorea here
    Think of us at the end of the week…Can’t be too bad. Can't wait!

    Tuesday, June 03, 2008

    Baked Mushroom Pasta By the Sea

    Last week we were on the boat again.

    It is Winter and it was a wonderful day

    You can’t beat Auckland on a good day.
    Crisp clear air, the water so still, just like floating on gin

    I had brought a package mushroom soup from the supermarket
    I thought that I could incorporate it with some fresh mushrooms into a pasta dish for lunch.
    The soup is 97% Fat free. I soon fixed that.
    Fat is flavour after all! No really not too bad at all.

    Only a bit of olive oil and some cheese.
    I love baked pasta. I know the pasta becomes a lot softer than the al dente recommended normally, but I think that is half the charm.

    And scraping at the sides of the empty dish is a real treat.

    Crispy cheesy pasta! Yum.

    Thought this would be a good entry for Ruth's Presto Pasta Nights have a look here at loads of fabulous Pasta dishes. Every week, heaps of people send Ruth
    their favourite recipes. It's great fun.

    You will need
    400mls mushroom soup
    4 large flat brown mushrooms cut into chunky bits
    1 onion chopped

    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 tablespoon chopped thyme

    150 gms cooked penne

    Good handful grated tasty cheddar cheese

    2-3 tablespoons breadcrumbs

    Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the onions till soft
    Season with salt & freshly ground black

    Add thyme
    Raise the heat and add the mushrooms.

    Saute another 3-4 mushrooms to get some colour

    Butter a casserole dish
    Add the sauté vege, the pasta and the soup.

    Mix well
    Check seasoning and adjust if necessary

    Mix grated cheese and breadcrumbs and scatter on top.

    Into 200C oven for about 20-30 minutes till bubbling.
    Serve with a nice glass of chilled white wine and enjoy the view.
    I love these serviettes they are so us.

    Pears Stuffed with Chocolate

    Many years ago… a dessert I took a fancy to was Pears Supreme.
    Straight from the pages from my trusty “Triple Tested Cook Book”,
    (It is a version of Pears Helene really).

    It consisted of
    8 canned pear halves
    4 dessertspoons of cocoa
    ½ cup cream
    1 beaten egg yolk
    ¼ cup icing sugar
    1 ½ teaspoons brandy

    Drain pears, reserve the syrup
    Place 1 dessertspoon of cocoa in each of 4 pear halves
    Top each pear half with inverted unfilled half
    Refrigerate overnight, in order to dissolve the cocoa
    Sit them in the reserved syrup
    Just before serving whip cream
    Fold in beaten egg yolk, sugar and brandy
    Spoon this mixture over pears
    1 per person

    The first time I made it, it was sensational, the cocoa had turned into chocolate
    A lovely surprise for the lucky diner.
    But on other occasions it was just kinda wet cocoa…
    Could never work out why it worked sometimes and not others.

    We were off to family dinner, I asked Karen our host for the night, instructions for my contribution.

    She suggested I supplemented the Vanilla Rice Risotto (Nigella’s Rice pudding)
    that she was making for dessert.

    What better than a pear dish. They are in season you know.
    I was a little worried that the Pear Supreme could be a disappointment, so I devised a modern version.

    I bought and poached Beurre Bosse Pears

    And stuffed them with a chocolate Ganache
    Chilled and the plan was to drizzle a reduced syrup over them just before serving.
    So you need
    1 pear per person
    1 prune per pear

    And make a syrup
    1 cup wine
    2 cups water
    1 cup sugar
    1 cinnamon stick
    1 strip lemon peel

    Peel, and well core the pears, to make a good size cavity for stuffing
    Then sit in acidulated water to keep white
    Poach in liquid gently (seemed to take about 25 minutes)
    Cool in fridge

    Meanwhile make the Ganache

    2 parts cooking dark chocolate
    1 part cream
    Knob of butter
    Few drop vanilla extract
    Heat gently till melted

    Chill a little
    Place Ganache into a piping bag
    And fill the cavity vacated by the core
    Place prune on bottom of pear to hold the Ganache in
    Leave them on their sides in the fridge till the Ganache sets.
    Meanwhile reduce the syrup and chill

    To serve place pear in dessert dish
    Spoon over with a little syrup
    Accompany with either whipped cream or icecream
    Or in our case, all of the above and also the Rice Pudding.



    There was a slight problem with the syrup
    You know how it takes for ever to reduce…and you stand there, and stand there, and then you walk away, come back, and blow me, it’s caramel!
    It happened…I swore loudly.

    I quickly poured cream into it to stop it from burning.
    Hey Presto a wonderful Caramel Sauce.
    So “an about to be failure” was a “Supreme Pear and Wine Caramel Sauce”.
    Maybe I should still call this dish Pear Supreme.