Instead of a starter when I have people over I like to serve nibbles… it takes the pressure off in that I don’t have to make lots of things plus if dinner runs late people don’t go hungry.

I served some really bright green olives, sourdough bread, mozzarella and some beautiful figs.

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Before the main event and my new favourite thing… risotto!

You need;
2 pints stock (chicken, or vegetable) note that if you don’t have fresh buy the best cubes you can find
2 tbsp olive oil
knob of butter
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
½ head celery, trimmed and finely chopped
400g risotto rice
2 wine glasses dry white wine
1 small butternut squash, cut into bite sized cubes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
70g butter + more for sage leaves
handful of fresh sage
115g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
150g mascarpone cheese to serve

So…

1. You need to roast the squash pieces first, peel and cut your squash and put in the oven for 30-40 minutes, coat in a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

2. Heat the stock.

3. Put the oil and butter in a saucepan, add the onion and garlic and cook very slowly for about 15 minutes without colouring… This is called a soffrito. You want everything to go translucent.

4. Then add the rice and very briefly lightly fry until the edges go a little translucent. Add the wine and keep stirring – it will smell fantastic.

5. Once the wine has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a good pinch of salt. Turn down the heat to a simmer so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside.

6. Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring and massaging the creamy starch out of the rice, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take around 15 minutes.

7. Taste the rice to check if it’s cooked. If not, carry on adding stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite.

8. When the rice is nearly cooked, and just before you add the final ladleful of stock, stir in the butternut squash. Remove from the heat and add the butter, and parmesan.

Season now to your taste…

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Put a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 2 minutes so it gets all creamy. Meanwhile quickly heat up a big knob of butter and fry your sage leaves until it starts to brown.

Serve your risotto with the sage leaves on top and add a cool dollop of mascarpone on top, let it melt into the hot rice… its amazing trust me.

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I served this with a beautiful kale salad, which I will have to share with you soon!

 And my second favourite thing about having friends to dinner? Leftovers! Figs and mozzarella and honey. Yum.

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Hot Sweet Potato Bowl

December 17, 2012

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This dinner was inspired by Sarah Yates at House in the Hills… and is my new favourite.

It’s so delicious and so healthy, and also very filling!

This is the way I had it but you could throw in whatever veggies/salad you have…

You need – for one;
1 sweet potato
1/2 an avocado, chopped
5 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 lime
1 small bunch coriander
1 dollop creme fraiche
plus sea salt and black pepper and ground cumin

1. Roast your sweet potato, coat the skin in a little olive oil and sea salt and pop in a medium to high oven for an hour… this is approximate as the time and temperature will fully depend on the size of your potato… just keep your eye on it after about half an hour.
Wait till the skin in nice and crispy and the inside is fluffy, then sprinkle some cumin on the inside and season.

2. Put your potato in a bowl and cut open then cube it inside the skin, add the cubed avocado, tomatoes and coriander, then zest some of the lime and squeeze a little of the juice over before adding the creme fraiche.

Season some more and enjoy!

I made double and took some to lunch the next day, it was really good as a cold salad as well.

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This is a new staple in my house. I have already made it twice and that Kale salad… third time is on tonight. 

 

Stacked with ‘super foods’ this meal is so full of goodness that you feel it when you’re eating. I swear.

For 2 people you need;
2 salmon fillets
1 red chilli, chopped
1 lime
1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce (or salt)
1/2 tsp sugar

250g kale, finely chopped
2 small-medium sweet potatoes, chopped into bite size chunks
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 shallot, finely chopped
parmesan chunks to taste (c. 100g)

1. Roast for sweet potato chunks in some olive oil, salt and pepper for about 20-30 minutes at 200c.

2. Mix your marinades, first the kale; olive oil, red wine vinegar and the shallots and mix well with the kale and coat it using your hands. This ‘cooks the kale’.
Then the salmon, the chilli, lime, ginger, soy, fish sauce and sugar, put to one side.

3. When the potatoes are about halfway done, and if your salmon has a nice skin on it fry them in a non stick pan briefly to crisp this up, I love crispy skin but hate it soggy! Then transfer to some foil and pour over the marinade and bake for 6-7 minutes (or more if needed)

4. Mix the potatoes with the kale and add the parmesan chunks – made them thinnish slices but thick enough you can bite them and taste the cheese. Serve with the salmon, with the extra marinade poured over.

Recipes for the Kale Salad and Salmon the (adapted) from Refinery 29

Mushroom Risotto

October 9, 2012

Many of you probably know how to make risotto… I never really made it before. Its my husbands thing, he does it so well I never tried.

So when I went to the Square Food Foundation and learnt how to make it from a top chef… It was a surprise how easy it was… I know I know everyone says this.

They taught us little chef tricks; how to slice an onion really small and tips on how to make a risotto really great, and how important it is not to brown your onions.

So for a really amazing mushroom risotto you need;
2 pints stock (chicken, or vegetable) note that if you don’t have fresh buy the best cubes you can find
2 tbsp olive oil
knob of butter
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
½ head celery, trimmed and finely chopped
400g risotto rice
2 wine glasses dry white wine
100g sliced mushrooms – I used a mix of exotic mushrooms but chestnut would also work
salt and freshly ground black pepper
70g butter
115g freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the stock.

Melt a knob of butter in a pan and add the mushrooms and the leaves from a couple of sprigs of thyme. Cook over a gentle heat, stirring until the mushrooms soften and turn golden. Stir in 1 chopped clove of garlic and cook for a further minute and put to one side.

Put the oil and butter in a saucepan, add the onion, garlic and celery and cook very slowly for about 15 minutes without colouring… This is called a soffrito. You want everything to go translucent.

Then add the rice and very briefly lightly fry until the edges go a little translucent. Add the wine and keep stirring – it will smell fantastic.

Once the wine has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a good pinch of salt. Turn down the heat to a simmer so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside.

Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring and massaging the creamy starch out of the rice, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take around 15 minutes.

Taste the rice to check if it’s cooked. If not, carry on adding stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite.

When the rice is nearly cooked, and just before you add the final ladleful of stock, stir in the mushrooms. Remove from the heat and add the butter, parmesan and 1 tbsp of  mascapone if you like.

Season now to your taste…

Put a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 2 minutes so it gets all creamy. Then eat!

This is now my favourite thing to make and I have already made a few different risottos, and I am now going to make sure I always have risotto rice in the house.

Colibri, San Francisco

August 28, 2012

Colibri was recommended to us by San Fran natives… we asked for Mexican food and they said this was the fine dining version. Since we had eaten more than our fair share of food truck fish tacos and burritos from suspicious places we thought we’d treat ourselves.

It was very old world Mexico decor… Love that.

 They start everyone off with spicy dips and tortillas.

 

And the best margaritas I have ever had. Strong too.

 And we had to order guacamole and tortilla chips… All home-made of course.

Then I ordered… Callos con crust de tortilla

Corn tortilla crusted scallops over purple Peruvian mashed potatoes and sautéed poblano pepper, cactus leaves, corn and Portobello mushrooms

Which was amazing. I do adore scallops in any form, put them in Mexican food and I am in love.

My husband ordered… Carnitas

Michoacan style marinated tender chunks of pork served with guajillo and chile de arbol salsa

What our naughty server didn’t tell us was that we probably needed sides. Although we did have chips and dips we had already been for drinks and their major margaritas fuelled us further.

Order sides!

 

We finished with some churros. We couldn’t leave without having one more lot of churros.

 Then we headed to a dive bar to drink more! See Swoon for the information.

 Colibri, San Francisco

animal, Los Angeles

July 26, 2012

So to LA, a place I was very excited to visit. A place I did endless research on, as a blogger I read a lot of other blogs a lot of which hail from this town. However when we were in LA, and we realised how difficult it was going to be to visit all these spots we kind of didn’t… and just explored instead.

The one place I did not let slip was animal, having been recommended by East Side Bride, as the one place you have to go I booked us in when we were in Australia.

My husband was always laughing at me for this, and hates hype so thought it was never going to live up to my expectations. But it really did.

It an unassuming front, in a very cool neighbourhood (that I wish we had found a day earlier, we left the next morning) but the buzz around it was unmistakable.

While we were there countless people dropped by hoping to get in, you really have to book quite far in advance to eat here, they do have 4 seats at the bar too which are for walk-ins but they were full the whole time, you’d have to get lucky.

I loved the menu, (reminds me very much of Flinty Red) just the ingredients are listed and is a sharing plates idea… we had a ton of questions and as always in the US our server was amazing and answered all of them with knowledge.

We started with the chicken liver toast, my husband hates pate but even he enjoyed this. The flavour was insane and that ‘jelly’ on top was tart with the smooth pate. Amazing start.

I also picked the baby kale, pecorino, lemon chilli vinaigrette and breadcrumbs for some greens, but I really loved this salad. Kale is plentiful is California I saw it on so many menus normally served raw with some citrus it’s so fresh and full of flavour. I really need to seek out some good kale now I am home.

A pick from my husband; crispy pigs head with pickled vegetable aioli. Now we are at animal, it is all about the meat but I have to say I was a bit scared of ordering a few things that he wanted… pigs head got through because I had seen it served like this at a restaurant I had worked at… so I just had to not think about what I was eating and get through it.

As soon as I tasted it I forgot. Amazing tender meat and the veggies were great too. We wanted another.

Another pick from me; not meat, it sounded too good, ricotta gnocchi, mikes liver sauce, black trumpet, green garlic.

My H still won’t believe me but it was one of my favourite dishes of the night. I love gnocchi anyway and this was the best I have ever had.

A little peek at the restaurant; very trendy as my H put it… I liked it, very plain but stylish (as were the diners, I saw a lot of louboutins!)

So the next pick was steak; this was the knife we were given. I felt like Crocodile Dundee, this is a knife!

Flat iron (onglet I think) sunchoke hash, truffle parmesan fondue.

This was insane, for a lean steak it was so tender and had so much flavour. Real good meat; the reason you come here. The fondue on top? Beautiful. Man I wish I could have this for breakfast!

The one thing East Side Bride said I had to get (repeatedly on the blog and then on twitter) was the loco moco; foie gras loco moco, quail egg, spam, hamburger.

We had decided on the way over not to get this, both of us feeling a bit squeamish about the foie gras, but having eaten all of the above and feeling like we could possibly fit one more thing in we decided we had to try it, everything else had been so amazing that since this was supposed to be the best thing we couldn’t leave without trying it.

It was so good. We both loved it.

It really was the best thing we ate (along with the gnocchi)

We finished with berries, vanilla custard, lavender crumble, opal basil. A dish so pretty I could barely eat it, and a kind of simple delicious too, much-needed after all the decadence of the meal.

So I guess you can tell I loved animal, definitely lived up to my hype, and huge thanks to East Side Bride for the recommendation… if you are going to LA she has this awesome guide right here

animal – Los Angeles

animal now have a sister restaurant; Son of a Gun, which I think is all about seafood and fish… wish I had know about this!

My last recommendation for New Zealand… Foxglove in Wellington was somewhere we spotted on our first night in town where we had some really great food, then I insisted we came back here on our last day to drink rose on the balcony day beds.

I am so tired in this photo, no make up just my trusty hat.

 I loved the glamorous sign on the side of the building. It’s what hooked me in for sure.

All the decor is cool, the terrace outside… 

 The beautiful green tiles on the bar…

 I loved these brass lamps… hung around record shelving on the stairs.

We drank some Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough with our meal, and later drove past this very vineyard on our trip through.

We ate handcut agria chips with smoked tomato mayo, these were pretty special.

Crispy wasabi salt and pepper calamari with coriander alioli, if squid is on the menu we cannot go without, this was beautiful although we couldn’t really taste the wasabi.

These were my favourite, goats cheese and mozzarella balls centred with apple and manuka honey which you had to squeeze into the ball before you ate it. So fun.

We just ate bar bites, it was late and we had just flown in, but the full on restaurant looked amazing so book in and have a blow out meal then go and sit on the beds upstairs on the deck and look at the stars.

Perfect.

Foxglove – Wellington, New Zealand