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Once a month i cook for a Food Club at Trish’s house. We concentrate on a different topic for every class, the most recent was Beer from Emersons.  Not only did we have the pleasure of five of his finest but we also had Richard Emerson himself paring them with the food i demonstrated and cooked. It was a brilliant night with many great people.  Look forward to the next…


Homemade pork scratchings

Coarse Pork Terrine, Beer bread and chutneys from our pantry

Mexican (1812 Indian Pale Ale) marinated chicken, smashed avocado, wrapped in lettuce

Venison Pie

Homemade Truffles



2 Tbsp olive oil
175g onions, finely chopped
100g rindless back bacon, cut into small pieces
1kg belly bacon, cut into small pieces
175g lambs liver
2 small cloves garlic, finely chopped
Large handful parsley, finely chopped
1 ½ Tbsp chopped rosemary
1 ½ Tbsp chopped thyme
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Crusty bread


Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onions and fry gently until soft but not browned. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and leave to cool.

Put the pork belly into a food processor and chop, using the pulse button, into a coarse but not too coarse mixture. Add to the onions in the bowl. Put the bacon and liver in the food processor and again, coarsely chop, then transfer to the bowl.

Add the garlic, chopped herbs, salt and pepper and mix everything together really well – the best way of distributing the ingredients evenly is with your hands.

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Put the mixture into a lightly oiled 1.5 litre terrine dish or loaf tin and slightly round off the top. Cover with a lid or some foil, put into a small roasting tin and pour enough hot water into the tin to come half way up the sides of the dish. Bake for 1.5 hours.

Uncover the terrine and cook for a further 15 minutes, until it is lightly coloured on top. Remove the dish from the roasting tin and leave to cool, then weight down the terrine overnight in the fridge. The easiest way to do this is to cut out a piece of cardboard that will fit inside the rim of the dish, cover it with foil, then place it on top of the terrine and place a few weights or unopened cans on top.

To serve, remove the terrine from the dish in slices. Accompany with lots of crusty bread, chutney and some cornichons.


Makes 1 loaf
450g plain flour
1 level tsp caster sugar

1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
200ml buttermilk or sour milk
100ml beer


Preheat the oven to 230°C

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in most of the buttermilk (leaving about 60ml) and add the beer. Using one hand with your fingers outstretched like a claw, bring the flour and liquid together, adding more buttermilk if necessary. Do not knead the mixture or it will become heavy. The dough should be softish, but not too wet and sticky.

When it comes together, turn onto a floured work surface and bring together a little more. Pat the dough into a round, about 4cm (11/2in) deep and cut a deep cross in it.

Place on a baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to
200°C and cook for 30 minutes more. When cooked, the loaf will sound slightly hollow when tapped on the base and be golden in colour. I often turn it upside down for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Beer Bread

Serves 6 – 8

Venison Filling

4 tbsp olive oil
250 g speck, diced or good quality bacon
¼ cup plain flour
1.3 kg cubed venison
2 cloves garlic, chopped
10 shallots, diced
6 large mushrooms, sliced
400ml Emersons Old 95 or London Porter
300 ml beef or veal stock
2 Tbsp tomato paste
grated rind of an orange
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 level tsp juniper berries
extra stock if needed
2 sprigs of rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

Ensure the venison is trimmed of sinew and diced into small pieces. Roll the venison in plain flour, shaking off excess and setting aside. Bruise the juniper berries, cinnamon and cloves in a mortar and pestle. Heat the oil on medium heat in a large saucepan then add the onion and garlic, frying until transparent. Add the juniper, cinnamon and cloves and mix well. Then add the diced venison and speck cooking until browned for about 8 minutes. Add the stock, beer, orange rind, rosemary and mushrooms and cook on medium to high heat until bubbling. Reduce heat to low, place the lid on the pan and cook for approximately 2 hours, stirring occasionally until meat is tender and sauce is thick and dark. Add the seasoning to taste and set aside to cool. Prepare the pastry while the filling is cooking.

Maggie Beer’s Pastry
200 g of chilled unsalted butter, chopped
250 g of plain flour
½ cup of sour cream
1 beaten egg


Grease a 23 cm deep pie dish. Put the butter and flour into the bowl of a food processor, then pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the sour cream and pulse again until the dough just forms a ball. Carefully wrap the dough in plastic film and leave to rest in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200 C. Place the cooled filling into the greased pie dish filling till it is about 1 cm below the rim. Roll out the dough until it is about 5 mm thick, then carefully folding the dough back over the rolling pin, place it over the filled pie dish and press to seal the edges. Cut 3 slits in the top of the pie to allow the steam to escape. Chill the filled pie for about an extra 20 minutes, this will reduce shrinkage. Remove the pie from the refrigerator and coat the pastry top with beaten egg. Cook the pie for approximately 45 minutes until warmed through and the pastry is lightly golden.


Serves 4

400g chicken breast or boneless chicken thighs
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
200ml 1812 Indian Pale Ale
juice of half an orange
1 chilli , finely chopped
sea salt and black pepper
8 large crunchy lettuce leaves (iceburg or cos)
1 tbsp olive oil
4 spring onions
1 avocado, peeled and mashed with the juice of a lime
3-4 tbsp crème fraîche
Coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Cut the chicken breast in half lengthways with a sharp knife. Marinate the chicken in the olive oil, garlic, orange juice, beer chilli and seasoning for 30 minutes.

Heat up a griddle or heavy-bottomed frying pan until smoking hot and add the olive oil.

Top the spring onions and peel off the outer skin before chopping them up into 2-3cm lengths. Season with salt and pepper and put onto the hot griddle.

Pat the chicken dry with some kitchen paper and add to the griddle pan. Sear for a minute on each side (or 90 seconds, tops). Leave to stand for a minute on a warm plate while you finish cooking the spring onions. They should be soft and slightly charred. When the spring onions are cooked, remove from the pan, add the reserved marinade from the chicken and let it sizzle up before pouring over the chicken. Chop up the chicken on the angle into bite sized pieces.

Fill a lettuce leaf up with the chicken, spring onions and some mashed avocado, a drizzle of crème fraich and some coriander.

Eat up at once!


1 cup Crème Fraîche
320g Dark Chocolate (use very high quality, 70% cocoa solids)
180g Additional Dark Chocolate
1 ½ cups Cocoa Powder (the highest quality you can find)
3 Tbsp. Butter (optional)


Chocolate Ganache;

Break chocolate into small pieces and put in a large bowl.
Bring cream slowly to a light boil.
Pour boiling cream over chocolate and keep stirring until all the chocolate has melted and the batter is homogenous.

If you want to add butter, do so now, before the batter cools, and thickens.
This batter is called Ganache and is the base for all French truffle recipes!

When the ganache is warm it is very creamy. You can thicken it
1. by whisking it (the oxygen causes it to thicken) or
2. by putting it in the refrigerator.
You want the ganache to be just thick enough to easily form the truffle balls…

Forming the Truffles:

Using two spoons form even and round balls. Place them on parchment or wax paper.

Melt the rest of the chocolate in a bain-marie (double-boiler).

Dip each ball in the melted chocolate and then roll it in the cocoa powder.


Wairuna Carrots
(photo Sarah Cowhey)

CARROTS; are the fundamentals to so many meals. They add sweetness, valuable vitamins and minerals and of course add colour to so many of our dishes. Try experimenting with different forms of cookery such as roasting, steaming, grating raw into salads and marinades, great in juice and of course delicious in cakes!

Serves 4

200g quinoa
1kg carrots, peeled and cut on the angle into chunks
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tsp sugar
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 medium green chillies, finely diced (seeds removed)
Pinch ground cloves
¼ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp chopped preserved lemons (skin only)
Fresh coriander, roughly chopped
75ml natural yoghurt


Place the quinoa in a saucepan. Cover with cold water; bring to a simmer.

Cook until tender 10-12 minutes, drain and rinse under cold running water. Spread on a tray to cool and dry out – 10-12 minutes.

Bring a saucepan of boiling salted water to the boil. Add the carrots and simmer for 10 minutes or until tender but still have a slight crunch. Drain and leave to dry out.

In a large pan, heat the oil. Saute the onion until soft and slightly brown add the cooked carrots and the remaining ingredients except for the coriander and yoghurt.

Remove from the heat and season to taste, mix through the quinoa. Add the coriander and mix through. Drizzle over the yoghurt and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.


This is undoubtedly one of the most best-known vegetable dishes of French cookery.

Serves 4

500g carrots, baby-scraped and sliced on the angle about 5mm thick
50g butter
Pinch of salt
2 tsp sugar
450ml water
1 Tbsp chopped parsley


Put the carrots in a pot with the water, butter, salt and sugar cook for 20-25 minutes until nearly all the water has evaporated add the carrots are tender. Add another lump of butter and shake the pan so that the carrots do not stick. Add the parsley just before serving.

If using larger, older carrots cut and cook as you did for the above recipe you may need to add a little more water. Add a teaspoon of sugar with the final lump of butter, and let this mixture cook until it has formed a thick syrup which coats the carrots, but don’t let it turn to toffee.


The Farmers Market offers so many varieties of potatoes and this wickedly coloured and earthly flavoured variety is a firm favourite of mine.

Serves 4-6

900g purple-heart potatoes
200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
Salt and pepper to taste
2 gratings of fresh nutmeg

To serve
100g bacon lardons
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
75g butter

Place the washed potatoes into a deep saucepan and cover with cold water, add a generous pinch of salt and bring to a gently boil. Cook until the potatoes are tender (insert a small knife into the centre of the potatoes and if the blade has no resistance then it is cooked), about 30 minutes.

Drain when cooked and cool slightly. When you are able to handle them peel the skins off the potatoes and place directly into a mouli (old fashioned vegetable processor), ricer or sieve. You need to work fast as it is better to make the gnocchi mixture whilst warm. Mouli the mixture directly onto a clean work surface, grate over the nutmeg and sprinkling of salt and pepper. Knead to combine and gradually add half the flour, continue kneading lightly until you obtain a soft but elastic dough. You may or may not need all the flour it will depend on the potatoes!

Take a piece of the dough, sprinkle it with flour and roll it with your hands into a sausage-like shape 2cm in diameter. Cut the dough into little pieces about 3cm long. Repeat this operation until all the dough has been cut into pieces. Using a fork roll each gnocchi along the prongs, letting it roll off onto a tray lined a clean cloth. They should curl up like ribbed shells (it helps the sauce to stick).

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to the boil. Cook them in batches. They will float to the surface when cooked (1-2 minutes). If you are wanting to eat them later on or the next day you are best to pre-cook them for a minute as directed above and them simply reheat them in boiling water for a minute or two. Otherwise they become very sticky!

Heat a large fry pan up to hot, add the bacon lardons and fry until the fat renders down add the butter and rosemary and continue to cook until fragrant and the bacon has become crispy. Using a slotted spoon scoop out the gnocchi, drain well and toss through the bacon and rosemary infused butter, generously grind over cracked pepper and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Serve immediately!

Serves 6

1kg Topside of beef
425ml red wine
25g butter
2 bay leaves
Couple of sprigs fresh thyme
1 ½ Tbsp flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4-6 medium potatoes – waxy variety, peeled and cut into large chunks
12 cloves garlic, peeled
2 onions cut into wedges
4 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

Preheat oven to 140C

Take the casserole, melt 10 g of the butter in it and when it begins to foam turn the heat up high. Dry the meat thoroughly with kitchen paper and then brown it on all sides in the hot butter, browning one flat side first, then turning it over on the other side and moving it around to get the round edges browned as well. Add the herbs, the wine and some salt and pepper. Bring it all up to simmering point, put on a tight-fitting lid, using foil if necessary, then transfer it to the oven and leave it to cook for 1 ½ hours without looking at it.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the vegetables. When the pot roast’s cooking time is up, remove the meat from the casserole, add the vegetables and push them under the liquid and spoon some of the liquid over the meat cover it with foil and return it to the oven for a further 1 ½ hours. Remove it from the oven. Remove the meat and vegetable leave it to relax for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the herbs, place the casserole over direct heat and boil briskly to reduce the liquid slightly. Mix the flour and remaining butter to a smooth paste, then add this mixture in small pieces to the hot liquid and whisk with a small whisk until it comes back to the boil and you have a smooth, slightly thickened sauce.

Slice the beef and serve alongside the vegetables, drizzle over the liquid and enjoy!


Apple Fritters for Everyone
(photo from Sarah Cowhey)

These light, crispy apple fritters are fabulous. They make a wonderful casual ending to meal, you only need to sprinkle with them with icing sugar and cinnamon.

1 cup plain flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 large egg
½ cup, plus 1 Tbsp full-fat milk
3 large golden delicious, gala or braeburn
Canola oil for deep-frying
Icing sugar for dusting
Pinch cinnamon for dusting


Whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Lightly beat the egg and milk in a small bowl. Whisk the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients just until combined. The batter can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 hours.

Peel the apples and slice the fruit from the core. Cut the apples into 2cm thick match sticks. Gently fold the apples into the batter.

Heat about 10 cm of the oil to 160C in a wide, deep pot. Place a cooling rack over a baking sheet and line it with paper towels. Using two forks lift up about 5 or 6 of the apple matchsticks from the batter, allowing the excess batter to drip back into the bowl. The mixture should be irregular in shape, with just a very light coating of batter enrobing the apples. Gently lower the batter-covered apples into the hot oil.

Repeat, adding a few more fritters to the oil without crowding the pot. Fry the fritters, turning them from time to time, until crisp and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Use a skimmer or slotted spoon to transfer the fritters to the paper towels. Repeat with the remaining fritter batter, working in batches.

Stack the fritters on a serving platter, sprinkle with the icing sugar and cinnamon. Serve immediately



or follow me on facebook – TASTE OF MY LIFE

WELSH CAUL (with a few extra’s)

I love to prepare dishes like this it is hugely satisfying to think i am just putting a bit of this and a bit of that together and before you realise you have made a deliciously healthy and hearty meal and it has cost next to nothing!  I purchased an impressive knuckle of ham at the market and some lovely baby carrots, and leeks, cleaned out the freezer and come upon some lamb scraps and bones.  Put this all together and you can make a memorable dinner like i had many times whilst living in Wales.  This dish is very versatile and it doesn’t require expensive cuts of meat.  My memories of this dish varied depending on where i ate it and whom made it.  Sometimes it was heavier on the lamb/mutton, some had large pieces of bacon (fat and all) and others were laden with veggies.  Which ever way you may of had it it was always hugely satisfying and warming and always sprinkled with Caerphilly cheese (similar to sheep’s feta or cows).

Please note the dumpling are totally optional.  My children love them (they do work exceptionally well in this dish)!


WELSH CAUL (with a few extras)
serves 6

1 ham knuckle, hock or something similar
2 lamb/hogget shoulder chops, shanks or something similar (lamb bones are ideal)
3 carrots, roughly chopped
1/2 leek, washed and roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
sprig fresh parsley and thyme
2 bay leaves
6 peppercorns

3-4 baby carrots per person (if using large cut finger-sized pieces)
1/2 leek, cut into thick rounds
4 medium waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
250g swede or turnips, peeled and cut into chunks
freshly chopped parsley

3 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
200g self raising flour
salt and pepper
25g butter
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary or thyme leaves, finely chopped
100 ml milk (approx)

Begin by making your stock/broth.  Add the meat including any bones into a large deep pot, add the first amount of veggies and herbs.  Cover with cold water and bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently until the meat starts to fall of the bone and is very tender (1 1/2 hours). Remember to remove any scum that may appear on the surface of the stock.  I use a ladle or a spoon to do this!
Meanwhile put the potatoes on for your dumplings, by covering with cold water, adding a sprinkle of salt and cook until tender, drain and set aside.
Prepare all your vegetables; if using baby carrots, scape or peel, trim off the end, cut the potatoes and swede or turnip into even sized chunks, cover with cold water until required. Set all your vegetables aside.
Weigh out flour for your dumplings, add the butter and work in with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.  Add the chopped parsley and rosemary/thyme season with salt and pepper.  When the potatoes are cold mash them into the flour mixture with your hands until well combined. Do not add the milk until just before you are ready to cook them.

When your stock has cooked for a good hour, check on how the meat is going, if is tender and falling from the bone then it is ready to strain.  Obviously if it is not ready continue cooking until tender.
Strain the stock through a colander or sieve reserving all the liquid and meat.  Put the liquid back into a clean large pot and bring to the boil again.  Pick the meat off the bones and separate any large pieces, don’t be to fussy with the size it is good to have large and small pieces of meat.
Add all your prepared veggies to the stock and cook gently until tender (20 minutes).  Taste for seasoning i always find i need to be quite generous with it to get some depth of flavour. 

When your vegetables are tender add half the milk to the dumpling mix (you want the dough to be moist but not too sticky).  Add more if needed.  Roll into 18 even sized balls.

Dumplings ready for the pot

Place them on the top of Caul, cover with a lid and cook gently for about 10 minutes or until doubled in size.
Serve in large bowls with a little of everything including the delicious stock.  Sprinkle with parsley and cheese and enjoy every deliciously satisfying mouthful.


It has got to be the cold that is making me think only of food…..yes nothing but food!  Comforting casseroles, creamy mash potatoes, and puddings.  So damn good to eat, actually so good that i am finding myself having seconds – thank goodness i am doing “Boot Camp”.  But hey it’s not about me, i am just being a good mum and offering my children tasty treats (sound convincing?).



For some reason i had pushed my skillet to the back of the cupboard and done the same with my pikelet recipe. I am deeply ashamed to admit that i can’t recall busting out a batch of freshly cooked pikelets for my children.  I sometimes get so carried away with trying new dishes that i have forgotten just how good the classics are. 
If like me you probably have a great pikelet recipe that has pulled you through many impromptu afternoon teas then by all means stick with what you feel comfortable with.  I do like to play around with recipes a little and to be honest most of the time it comes from not actually having the required ingredients on hand.  As you may notice with this recipe i have used natural yoghurt or buttermilk works well. If by chance you don’t have any in your fridge you can add a teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar to milk, give it a stir and let it sit at room temperature to go sour.  Or you can simply increase the milk instead.If you are a novice to Pikelets, don’t be afraid they are quick, inexpensive and always a delight.  You can put almost any desired sweet combo on top and they will always be a winner.
Lets bring back the delightful Pikelet!!

Pikelet with homemade jam and cream


makes 24 medium
250g plain flour
100g sugar
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
2 eggs
125 ml natural yoghurt or buttermilk
250ml milk
25g butter melted, plus extra for cooking
Topping: family favourite
Homemade jam of your choice
Freshly whipped cream
Butter and hundred and thousands (do you remember them from parties?)

Heat up a cast-iron skillet if you have one or a heavy-based fry pan or something similar to a medium heat.
Meanwhile in a large bowl, sieve all the dry ingredients together.  In another bowl whisk together the eggs, milk and yoghurt.  Combine the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix together until well combined.  Melt the butter on the skillet or pan and pour into mixture, mix once again.  With the residue of butter left on the skillet,  wipe it well all around the surface with a paper towel (keep the paper towel as this is how you are wanting to keep the skillet/pan greased throughout cooking).
Using a dessertspoon; bring the bowl of mixture close to the skillet and scoop up the mixture and pour it with the tip of the spoon pointing directly down, so that the mixture falls smoothly and evenly onto the skillet.  This is how you will get a nice even sized round.  Continue leaving enough room so they don’t stick.  When they are bubbly on the surface, turn gently and cook on the other side for about 1 minute.  Do watch the heat as you will constantly be adjusting it from too-hot, too-cold.

Bubbles on the surface of the pikelete (ready for flipping)
pikelets cooking on skillet

Once they are cooked i place them between a clean tea-towel folded in half over a cooling rack (this keeps them soft). Continue until all the mixture is used.

You can serve them warm with lashings of butter or cool them down and top with your desired topping.  I like to let people put their own on as it is fun and socialable.

Enjoy and lets bring back the afternoon tea times…!


The weather held off and as usual another day of wicked food, enthusiastic people and exceptional produce!
Thanks once again to the vendors who gave me such delicious produce.  It is great to hear such positive feed-back in regards to the recipes which i create.  I am on a mission to get as many people as possible cooking, buying local and keeping it seasonal.

Thanks Sue from Waitaki
Loving your new range of products


Serves 4

4-8 escalope’s of pork (200g per portion)
12 sage leaves, chopped
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
160g panko crumbs (Japanese bread crumbs)
20g Parmesan cheese, grated
1 lemon rind, grated
125 ml milk
3 eggs
125ml oil for cooking
Knob of butter


Combine panko crumbs, sage and parsley, lemon rind and seasoning. Mix well and set aside.

Lightly beat egg and milk together. Set aside.

On your bench have your seasoned flour lined up first, followed by your egg mixture and finally your breadcrumbs. This is the order to crumb your pork.

Lightly coat your pork escalopes tapping off any excess flour before you dredge them in the egg mixture. Lift out from the egg mix and coat heavily in the breadcrumbs, pressing gently to ensure a good application. You can set aside on a dish in the fridge until required or cook straight away.

Heat a heavy-base pan up to medium-high heat add the oil and butter, when hot carefully add the pork cooking gently so the crumbs go a nice golden brown, turn and repeat on the other side until the crumbs are golden and the pork is cooked (6-8 minutes if 1/2cm thick a little longer if thicker).

Remove from the pan and drain on some kitchen paper, serve immediately with a wedge of fresh lemon.

Nigel our main-man from Brydone
thank you for the wicked cabbage


6 large waxy potatoes, scrubbed and cut into chunks
Handful sage leaves, roughly chopped
1 tsp juniper berries, crushed
2 onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ cabbage, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200C

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the potatoes and cook until almost done (10 minutes), drain and toss gently to rough the edges up a bit.

Heat a roasting dish up in the oven with the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter. When hot add the potatoes and roast until crispy and brown (20 minutes)

Meanwhile in a large wide saucepan or deep fry-pan heat up the remaining oil and butter, add the onions, juniper berries, sage and garlic and fry on a high heat for a couple of minutes. Stir in the cabbage and add about 250ml water. Season with salt and pepper, then cover and cook gently, stirring occasionally.

When the cabbage is soft and tender and the potatoes are crispy and golden, you simply combine the two. Mix it thoroughly; don’t worry if the potatoes break up a little. If you want it to be crispy you can simply add the dish back to the oven to crisp up the top layer.

Thank you Simon From Rosedale Orchards
Thank you for the delicious Pumpkins
(6.30  am)

Serves 6

500g pumpkin, peeled and cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, and thyme
Pinch Chinese five spice
35g toasted hazelnuts, skins removed, coarsely chopped

Generous handful winter leaves – rocket, endive, baby spinach 
1 Tbsp Hazelnut oil
1 tsp Sherry vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 150C

Combine pumpkin, garlic, oil, herbs and five-spice in a bowl, season to taste and transfer to a baking tray. Bake until pumpkin is caramelised (30 -40 minutes). Cool

Meanwhile make the dressing by whisking all ingredients in a bowl to combine, season to taste.

Place baked pumpkin in a serving bowl, scatter with roast hazelnuts, winter leaves and drizzle over the dressing, toss to combine and serve immediately.

Glorious, velvety pumpkin with a sprinkle of spice and creamy maple frosting makes for a sensational cupcake!

Makes 12-16 cupcakes

115 g unsalted butter at room temperature  
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 large free range eggs
½ cup buttermilk mixed with 1 tsp vanilla extract
350g cooked pumpkin, pureed

500 g cream cheese, softened
115 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups icing sugar
¼ cup pure maple syrup

To make the cupcakes
NB: I steamed my pumpkin until very soft, drain well and puree until smooth.

Preheat the oven 175C.
Put 12-16 pretty cup-cake papers into muffin tins.

Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy about 5 minutes. Meanwhile sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.

Add the eggs one at a time beating well. Beat in the pumpkin and mix until smooth. Alternate adding the flour and milk mixture (I like to begin and end with the flour). Mix until well combined. Spoon into the papers – you want them ¾ full. Lightly tap the pans once to remove any air bubbles. Bake the cakes until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the cupcakes completely on a cooling rack.

To make the frosting:
Add all the ingredients in a mixer and beat until fluffy and smooth. Ice generously, swirling decoratively!

Garlic is still in abundance, still pungent and still at the market!

Makes 12

90 ml olive oil
15 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
¼ cup coarsely chopped sage
480 g (3¼ cups) All-purpose flour
2 tsp caster sugar
12 g dried yeast (about 1½ sachets)

For the topping:


Heat 60ml oil in a small saucepan over medium heat, add the garlic and cook gently until very tender (1-2 minutes), stir through the roughly chopped sage, remove from the heat season lightly and cool.

Combine flour, sugar, yeast and garlic mixture and 1 ½ tsp sea salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook (or alternatively mix by hand) and mix to combine. With motor running, add 300ml lukewarm water and remaining oil, knead until elastic and shiny (6-8 minutes) or if kneading by hand it may take a little longer perhaps 10 minutes. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let sit in a warm place until doubled in size (30-45 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Lightly punch (knock) back the dough, divide into 12 pieces, then roll each piece on a lightly floured surface into a 30 cm long cylinder, join ends and then twist into a figure-eight. Place on a lightly oiled baking tray and let sit in a warm place once again until risen.

Meanwhile put the sage leaves and salt into a mortar and pestle, pound until you get a green, fragrant salt, add the garlic clove and pound again until the garlic dissolves. Loosen with the oil and brush generously over the dough twists. Bake until golden (10-12 minutes).

Lovely served warm alongside soup, they are also great re-heated the next day.

Alison would like to thank the following vendors for their delicious produce





To be honest i find muffins a little on the boring side, almost every cafe does some form of muffin.  To be fare some are moist, interesting and well baked.  On the other hand there are more than our fare share of dry, ridiculous combinations and over-mixed muffins that just bore you!  However i was thinking of quick lunch-box fillers and inspiration for a cold day like to day and i happened to be browsing through my main-mans cook book better known as Peter Gordon and low and behold he has a few wicked twists on the humble muffin; plum, currant and coconut, spinach feta and smoked paprika to name just a few.  So i dusted off the muffins tins and turned on the oven and whipped up a quick delicious batch of muffins (Peter Gordon Style).


makes 6- 12  depending on tins

240g flour
120g caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
a good pinch of fine salt
2 eggs
40ml (2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp) vegetable oil
180ml buttermilk or runny unflavoured yoghurt

1 banana, sliced
100g white chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp poppy seeds
1 tsp grated lemon zest


Preheat oven 190C
Prepare tins – either give a light spray, grease with butter and flour if your tins are getting old or simply line with pretty papers!

Sieve the dry ingredients.
Lightly whisk the eggs, oil and buttermilk together then mix this into the dry ingredients – don’t mix it too much, just bring it together.  Add flavourings (banana, choc and poppy seeds) combine gently.  Add spoonfuls of mixture into your prepared tins. Bake at 190C until a skewer inserted comes out clean (18-24 minutes).


I often make fishcakes when i either get carried away with my order for fish or when i am cleaning out my freezer and using bits of this and bits of that. I find them great anytime of the year and the variety of fish is totally up to you.  Sometimes i like a little smoked fish, sometimes i like a mixture of fish such as cod, salmon and prawns.  When leeks are in season i like to sweat them off in a little butter and fold them through the mixture. They can be made ahead of time (like the day before), simple to cook, liked by young and old. 

                        MY HOMEMADE FISHCAKES
makes 5 large

250g red cod fillets or any cheaper quality fish
100g prawns
1(100g) fillet smoked fish, bones removed
200g salmon fillet
5 medium-large sized potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 cup milk (optional)
1 clove garlic
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp fresh chives, parsley, fennel or dill leaves, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1/2 leek, washed and finely sliced (can substitute onion)
50g butter
Mayonnaise to combine
3 unwaxed lemons, cut into cheeks/wedges
100g good quality rocket, watercress or any good quality mixed leaves
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

To crumb
1 egg
2 Tbsp milk
panko crumbs
salt and pepper

NB if you have polenta in your pantry i often just roll my fishcakes straight into it and cook them like that.  It adds a little crunch, goes a delightful golden colour and saves a lot of time!

Put the milk, bay leaf and garlic clove into a saucepan large enough to hold the fish.  Check the fish fillets for any bones and remove if necessary.  Place the fish (not the prawns if using) into the milk mixture, if the liquid doesn’t cover the fish, top up with a little water.  Bring to a gentle simmer and poach the fish until tender, add the prawns if using and cook for about 1 minute.    Strain the fish through a sieve reserving the liquid.  Set the fish aside and return the liquid back to the pot along with the potatoes.  Once again if the liquid is not covering the potatoes then top up with a little more water.  Add a pinch of salt and cook until tender (10-15 minutes).  Drain well, this time discarding the liquid.
Meanwhile melt the butter in a pan and sweat off the leeks or onions until soft and translucent in colour (5 minutes).
In a large bowl add the potatoes and crush them up either with your hands or with a potato masher, (i like to keep a few lumps here and there as it adds texture).  Now add your fish, leeks, chopped herbs and seasoning.  Combine gently (i use my hands) as you want to keep largish flakes of fish visible.  Taste and feel your mixture as it is important to get a consistency that is not too dry or too wet.  Add 1 generous dessertspoon of mayonnaise to your mixture, mix gently, mould a little ball in your hand to see if it will hold together well.  If too dry than add the mayonnaise as required.
To crumb the fishcakes you will need three dishes, put about 1 cup of plain flour with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.  In your second dish break the egg and whisk lightly with the milk, set aside.  In the last dish add the panko crumbs (i sometimes add a sprinkling of chopped dill or fennel leaves).  Place them on your work bench in order of flour, egg and panko crumbs.
Mould the fishcakes into 5 large cakes, i mould them high and round and serve one large per person (obviously if you have small children mould them to suit). Crumb one at a time and try to use only one hand as it gets a little messy, and if the phone rings if gets complicated!!! Place the fishcake in the flour and coat well, pat off any excess flour and dredge in egg, drain off excess and coat well in panko crumbs patting them on firmly.  If they have become a little misshapen this is a good time to re-mould, place onto a tray and continue until all the fishcakes are done.  You can refrigerate them until required or cook immediately.
Preheat your oven to 190C
Heat up a fry pan with enough oil to cover the bottom.  Also have a baking tray with a piece of greaseproof paper on it at the ready.  When the oil is medium-hot (if unsure add a little piece of bread and if it fries immediately then it is hot), place the fishcakes in the pan and cook until a lovely light golden brown colour has formed (3-5 minutes), turn over and do the same on this side.  Remove carefully from the pan and place onto the baking tray and cook in the oven until hot in the centre (15-20 minutes).

Meanwhile pick over the lettuce leaves, wash and dry well and put into a bowl. Make the dressing by mixing together the extra virgin olive oil with 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Set aside.

To assemble; Drizzle over enough dressing to moisten the leaves and toss gently to combine. Place one fishcake onto your plate along with a handful of leaves, a wedge of lemon and a large dollop of mayonnaise or aioli. Enjoy!


These little moreish morsels are light, moist and slightly spiced, then to top it off the creamy, maple frosting is just that…..heavenly!
I have made these a few too many times now, i am going to push this recipe to the back somewhere (after i have shared it with you all).  I am trying to get fit and these little delights aren’t helping!  They are seriously delicious and easy to make.  At the moment whilst pumpkins are in season and reasonably priced they are a must.

Enjoy, and I look forward to your comments!

Makes 12-16 cupcakes

115 g unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
½ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 large free range eggs
½ cup buttermilk mixed with 1 tsp vanilla extract
350g cooked pumpkin, pureed

500 g cream cheese, softened
115 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups icing sugar
¼ cup pure maple syrup

To make the cupcakes

NB: I steamed my pumpkin until very soft, drain well and puree until smooth.

Preheat the oven 175C.

Put 12-16 pretty cup-cake papers into muffin tins.

Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy about 5 minutes. Meanwhile sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.

Add the eggs one at a time beating well. Beat in the pumpkin and mix until smooth. Alternate adding the flour and milk mixture (I like to begin and end with the flour). Mix until well combined. Spoon into the papers – you want them ¾ full. Lightly tap the pans once to remove any air bubbles. Bake the cakes until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the cupcakes completely on a cooling rack.

To make the frosting:

Add all the ingredients in a mixer and beat until fluffy and smooth. Ice generously, swirling decoratively!


For me this is one of the most succulent ways to cook and eat chicken!  Enclosing chicken in a pot/dish with vegetables and liquid obviously will keep the whole bird moist.  It is easy to prepare, cook and serve and you don’t have to worry about preparing a sauce as it is all there in the pot.  I simply cooked some savoy cabbage to serve alongside and let the chicken do the talking….

Pot-Roasted Chicken with Potatoes, Bacon, Garlic and Thyme
serves 4

50g butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 free-range chicken (1.5kg)
salt and pepper
130g cubed pancetta (i used bacon ends)
12 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
2-3 generous splashes of vermouth
1 kg potatoes,peeled and cut into large chunks
5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
300ml good quality chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 150C

Using a deep, lidded cast-iron pot (i used an oval Le Creuset or something similar) is the ideal cooking vessel.  Melt the butter with the oil.  Season the chicken all over and inside the cavity with salt and pepper.  Brown gently all over the chicken it will take about 15 minutes.  Once this is done carefully remove the chicken to a plate and add the pancetta and garlic to the pot, allow to sizzle and colour slightly.  Pour in the vermouth it will splutter and froth.  Add the potatoes and combine through this fatty residue until well coated.  Stir in the thyme sprigs and stock, return the chicken to the pot, burying it amongst the potatoes.  Bring it all back to a bubbling simmer  over a low heat, put on the lid and transfer it to the oven.  Cook for 1-1 1/2 hours, certainly until the potatoes are very tender indeed; the chicken itself will also be well cooked, but that is how it is meant to be in this particular dish.
I like to serve this directly from the pot at the table, carefully lifting the chicken as it is very tender, onto a warm serving dish.  Serve the all the yummy potatoes, garlic, thyme and very importantly all the delicious juices.