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Fermented foods are increasing in popularity and availability — all in the name of good health. They can aid digestion and help with other health issues.  Historically foods were fermented as a way of preserving them. Microorganisms convert starches and sugar into alcohol or acids and these enhance the natural, beneficial probiotic bacteria in food. Kimchi — a Korean staple — is a traditional side dish made from salted and fermented vegetables including cabbage. Spici...

January 16, 2019


Holidays are the ideal time for quick and easy meals: those meals that don't use every pot in the cupboard; whole and healthy meals that can be cooked in an electric frypan, casserole or saucepan. In the 1950s, the electric frypan revolutionised small home kitchens. They saved power and were often used for roasting thus leaving the oven clean for baking. Electric frypans have gone out of fashion a little which is disappointing because they are the ideal one-pan cooker. As the name suggests, the ...

January 7, 2019


At one second past midnight on December 31 we start celebrating the New Year. Monday turns into Tuesday with one tick of the clock. If we are partying most of us will think, ‘Wow, it’s 2019.’ But why is the last minute of the old year the cause for so much jubilation? Is it because we have survived yet another year? Is it because we think that 2019 could be a fresh start? Or is it because we’re social animals and just love a party? Making New Year resolutions is great at the time because...

December 30, 2018


Throwing away food is throwing away cash. There is no excuse for tossing out leftovers from festive meals. For one thing it’s cheaper than ordering in or rushing off to the supermarket burning fuel and probably spending way too much on more festive fun food — some of which will probably be leftover too.  It’s easy creating enticing eats with leftovers. Tacos are always a winner: chopped cooked meat, crisp salad greens, avocado, a salsa and a little sour cream is all that’s requi...

December 26, 2018


Festive meats are great and salads, sides and sauces make them even better. What would a roast of be without the pleasures of an awesome sauce? If you’re planning on serving some simple steamed greens then a couple of flavoured butters will add to their appeal. Bring butter to room temperature and using about 150 grams for each flavour add a dash of smoked paprika; or crushed garlic and a squeeze of lime; or mashed anchovies. Roll the butter into small logs then roll up in baking paper twistin...

December 22, 2018


It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. There’s a touch of tension in the air. Who is coming to the Christmas feast? Why won’t the family make up their minds? It’s often a bit awkward with families. Some live in different towns; there are the in-laws, siblings and cousins to consider. What are we going to eat? Why don't you all just bring a plate! However, I’m not one for being caught short and the following recipes can all be prepared in advance.  Pavlovas are great — ...

December 17, 2018


Christmas is a time of celebration and festive foods. And if dishes can be prepared ahead — well great! The more time spent with family and friends the better. Turkey is an excellent special occasion meat and it can always be prepared in the slow cooker — if you have one large enough. This allows you can use the oven for baking and roasting vegetables without any hassles.  Make a sling for the turkey from a length of folded foil. Place some veggies on the base of the cooker...

December 11, 2018


Christmas is a time for giving, sharing and caring. It is a time for catch up with friends and neighbours. Whether the fraternising happens before Christmas or during the holidays, a small gift is a great way of showing the friendship is appreciated. Interesting wrapping papers or containers add individual flair to your gifts. And there’s always a chance you can recycle by keeping any interesting jars left over from pasta sauces or jams to fill with your own tasty creations. Sturdy wine glasse...

December 5, 2018


Tantalising smells are wafting across my backyard — it must be time to rev up the barbecue and compete with the neighbours in our annual competition for the best summer aromas. Whatever the type of cooker or fuel used, the secret to successful barbecues is the quality of the heat. You don’t need a mountain of coals on a charcoal barbecue — under normal circumstances, about 25 coals are sufficient. Allow 30 minutes between lighting up and cooking. The coals should be glowing under a...

November 29, 2018


“Bring out the figgy pudding” rings the Christmas song. But what is it and how is it made?  Originating in England in the 1600s, this fruit pudding was the forerunner of the Christmas plum pudding — neither of which generally contained figs or plums. The pudding was a mixture of dried fruits steeped in brandy or sherry, with bread, spices and suet and which was either baked, boiled or steamed. Originally animal casing was used to wrap the pudding while it boiled in the laundry ‘...

November 19, 2018

Jan's Dukkah

1/2 cup each: flaked almonds, sesame seeds, pumpkin kernels 4 tablespoons each: cumin seeds, coriander seeds2 teaspoons each: rock salt, oregano, fennel seeds1 tablespoon each: ground turmeric, paprika Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the almonds and seeds (but not the fennel) in different areas of a large roasting pan and bake for about 5-10 minutes. If some items cook more quickly than others, remove them with a spoon. Cool, then place in a food processor or blender with the remaining ingredi...

November 12, 2018


I recently relaxed for a few days in Fiji and noticed a change in the culinary climate. I’ve always enjoyed the tropical fruit, kokodu (marinated fish) and the local curries, which are often a little milder than the true Indian versions. However, a raft of new chefs have introduced a more modern approach to many menus. At the adults-only Koro restaurant at the Hilton, locals and tourists alike are relishing the shared small plates multinational menu. You could be anywhere in the world but for ...

November 7, 2018

Mercury Bay Estate Vineyard

Mercury Bay Estate Vineyard, Winery & Cellar Door on eastern Coromandel Peninsula is a showcase for local and Hawke’s Bay grapes. Simon & Veronica Ward purchased a piece of an original vineyard choosing a Pinot Noir block purely as an ideal location to live.   However, they have developed their Cellar Door & Restaurant so locals and tourists can relax and enjoy the beauty of the area while tasting wines — together with platters of local food. The current range of wines include ...

November 7, 2018


What I love about the warmer weather is the opportunity to dine al fresco with friends, enjoying a light lunch and a glass of rosé. This blush-coloured winner is now the ‘go to’ wine when invitees are unsure of what to bring to an event, or — if you’re the host — what to serve. And there are some very well-priced rosés to be enjoyed.   Rosé marries well with many light lunches including those featuring, cheese, raw or cooked fish, eggs and vegetables including aspa...

November 5, 2018


We’re expecting a truck load of visitors this coming month so I’ve been freezing a selection of mouth-watering meals in expectation. This includes a favourite way of cooking a whole duck — in a slow cooker. Asian spices flavour the duck which can be served in Chinese pancakes available frozen from many Asian supermarkets, or on rice or noodles. I like to freeze meals in the containers in which they will be reheated. Line the casserole or baking dish first with foil or plastic film, add...

October 23, 2018


The microwave oven is a winner when it comes to TV sporting events. There’s nothing better than watching a game while enjoying a delicious meal in a mug. It’s easy to hold and eat with a fork. And you can even prepare whole meals in a mug, and cover and refrigerate them until ready to cook at an appropriate time. Lasagne, scrambled eggs, omelettes and muffins can all be cooked in mugs. It’s easy to accidentally overcook in the microwave. And if microwave food is overcooked it is as bad as ...

October 17, 2018


1 slice wholemeal breadbutter or table spread2 cheese slices2 thin slices luncheon sausage or salami2 capers1 black olivesprig dill or fennel Place the bread on a plate. Lightly spread with butter or table spread. Top with 1 cheese slice. Using a small biscuit cutter or top of a jar, cut 2 rounds from the luncheon sausage to make a head and body. Place on the cheese. Use the trimming to make ears, arms and feet. Cut ovals of cheese to make a nose and the base of the feet. Place the capers above ...

October 9, 2018


With warmer weather approaching now is the time to say ‘no’ to deep-fried foods, muffins for morning tea and snacks before dinner. If you want to look your best at the beach then now is the time to start thinking ‘thinner’s a winner.’ Instead of nibbling on chippies it’s healthier to chomp on a carrot. It certainly curbs the appetite more efficiently and is much lower in kilojoules. A glass of water every so often will also add to that full feeling, as does a hearty helping of fresh ...

October 8, 2018


‘Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves’ has a musical ring — it could have been an alternative name for the Spice Girls. But no, the combination is one of baking’s most popular flavourings — mixed spice. Depending on the manufacturer, the combo may also include ground ginger, cardamom, coriander seeds, caraway and cassia. Cinnamon is obtained from the bark of the cinnamon tree. It’s one of the oldest spices known and is the predominant scent used in incense. It’s equally po...

October 2, 2018


As gastronome Andre L Simon stated: ‘Canned foods at times are essential — although there are probably many people who believe anchovies have been born and bred in a can.’ The French wax lyrical about their favourite restaurants, the first asparagus or strawberries of the season or the best ‘boulangerie’. It is therefore perhaps curious that a Frenchman was the first to preserve food in cans, thus introducing convenience to cooking. Nicholas Appert, a confectioner, was the father o...

September 26, 2018


Add a little variety and flavour to family meals with pickled or corned meats. The traditional method of cooking these treats is commonly known as boiling. However, the term is a misnomer. Boiling is spoiling — simmering or poaching is best as this prevents the meat from toughening.   Generally corned meats are placed in a saucepan of cold water to cover and slowly brought to a simmer. Placing the meat directly into boiling water causes the meat to shrink. Seasonings such as suga...

September 19, 2018


It’s ironic that we’ve come full circle. We start our lives eating or being fed from a bowl. And after years of designer food served on flat plates, there are now sections on restaurant menus dedicated to ‘bowl food’. Even Lonely Planet has published a book on the subject — The World’s Best Bowl Food. It is believed that the trend started in New York where time-poor hungry workers wanted healthy salads they could devour easily with a fork. Power bowls and Buddha bowls h...

September 11, 2018


Is this the year of the lemon? My tree is laden and so are the trees of all our neighbours. Gifts of our lemons are being refused — for the first time in my lemon-growing life. Mine are the Meyer variety which do not have the same tartness as the firmer Lisbon lemons. However, they do juice easily. Store these beauties in the fridge to keep them firm but return the lemons to room temperature before use so they juice more readily. Pop them briefly in the microwave or warm them in hot w...

September 7, 2018


The chimichanga might sound like a new dance craze but in reality it is a soft flour tortilla which is topped with a savoury filling then rolled and fried or baked. Tortillas — Mexican breads — have become popular because, like the hamburger, they are a meal eaten with the fingers.  Flour tortillas have been consumed in Latin American countries since Aztec times to mop up stews or chillis. They are the base for quesadillas, burritos, tostadas, fajitas and enchiladas or substitut...

August 18, 2018


New Zealand cheeses are overwhelmingly tops. And the variety is such that you could savour a different delight almost every day of the year. Cheese is the perfect after school snack and the ideal nibble with drinks. Many of our cheeses have their origins in Europe. Gruyère originated in Switzerland. With its nutty, fruity flavour and smooth creamy consistency, gruyère is a great melting cheese and is used traditionally in fondues, sauces and hot dishes. Several Kiwi cheesemakers have take...

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