Demystifying macarons…

French chocolate macarons with coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache

Here’s my basic recipe, with lots of extra hints and tips (as demonstrated at The Chocolate and Coffee Show, Auckland) plus two filling recipe options.

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Makes 60-80 macaron shells = 30-40 sandwiched macarons, depending on size

Step 1: Basic French Meringue Macaron batter and baking

INGREDIENTS:

200 grams icing sugar

125 grams finely ground almonds

15 grams quality cocoa powder

100 grams egg whites (approx. 3 eggs), at room temperature

65 grams caster sugar

PREPARATION:

– Preheat oven to 180°C (do not use fan bake). Place oven racks in the lower part of the oven.

– Draw 3cm diameter circles onto baking paper, leaving 3cm between each circle to allow for macarons to expand during cooking. Turn papers over and place on baking trays.

– Measure accurately, using digital scales.

METHOD:

  1. Use a small food processor to process icing sugar, almonds and cocoa together to pulverize until fine and aerated. Sieve mixture to remove any remaining lumps and set aside.
  2. Place egg whites in a clean bowl, and using and electric mixer, whip egg whites until foamy soft peaks hold their shape. Gradually add caster sugar and beat for 2 minutes until sugar dissolves and ‘meringue’ mixture is glossy.
  3. Add cocoa/icing sugar/almond mixture in 2 batches. With a spatula, mix using broad strokes against the side of the bowl, to combine – you can be quite vigorous at this stage. Don’t worry about deflating the mixture, as this needs to happen, to reach the right consistency. Stroking the mixture in this way is known as ‘macaronnage’ – it may take up to 50 strokes to reach the correct texture (known as the ‘lava’ stage).
  4. Test a small amount on a plate, if necessary – if tips flatten on their own then you have reached the correct consistency. If the tops are lumpy and small peaks stay in shape then give the mixture a few more folds. There’s a fine line, so do not over work the mixture or it will be too runny to pipe; the macarons will be flat, and the characteristic ‘feet’ may not form.
  5. Transfer mixture to a piping bag fitted with a 1cm plain nozzle. Using the drawn circles as a guide, pipe 3-cm rounds onto baking paper lined baking trays – pipe from the side and flick off in a circular motion to complete – the rounds will be approximately 1-cm high at this stage. Bang trays against a bench-top 3 times, turn trays around and bang 3 more times – this breaks any air bubbles and helps settle the mixture.
  6. Leave to sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes so that the surface dries out. This will help produce smooth, crisp crusts. The surface should be glossy and not sticky when touched, indicating the macarons are ready to be baked.
  7. Place one tray in the oven at a time – work in a production line so while one tray is baking the next tray will be being piped and sitting and resting. As soon as the tray goes into the oven, immediately turn temperature down to 140°C. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until macarons are crisp and set and can be gently lifted off the baking paper. After 10 minutes, very carefully open oven door to let steam out and turn trays around, for even baking.
  8. Slide the baking tray out from under the paper; leave macarons on the paper on a cold bench top. Or, spray a little cold water under the paper to help loosen the macarons. Leave shells to firm and cool on the paper, then carefully peel off.

Note: When making other flavours, remove the cocoa powder and replace it with an equal amount of icing sugar. If using edible food colouring it is important to use a powder or gel food colouring (not liquid). Once the meringue is made, mix in colouring briefly to incorporate. It is best not to use liquid food colouring, as this can effect the meringue consistency and make it too wet and sticky (remember, liquid is the enemy of meringue!). Alternatively, leave out the colouring altogether and add a few drops of vanilla extract or essence flavourings, such as coconut. Freeze-dried fruit powders also work well, as these are dry powders so do not affect the meringue mixture. Plus they add both natural colour and flavour to the macarons.

Step 2: Coffee butter-cream

INGREDIENTS:

75 grams butter, softened

225 grams icing sugar, sifted

2 tablespoons hot milk mixed with 1 tablespoon instant coffee

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

METHOD:

  1. Place butter in a bowl, and beat until pale and creamy. Beat in icing sugar, hot coffee/milk, and vanilla until the mixture forms a smooth icing.
  2. Place mixture in a piping bag fitted with a 1-cm plain nozzle. Pipe small amounts onto flat sides of macaron shells and sandwich together with remaining shells.

Step 3: Chocolate Ganache (alternative filling)

INGREDIENTS:

150 grams quality dark chocolate

100 grams cream

10 grams unsalted butter

METHOD:

  1. Break up chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl. Heat cream until just below boiling point.
  2. Pour hot cream over chocolate and set aside for a minute or two, to melt. Stir until blended and smooth. Add butter and stir until melted and incorporated.
  3. Cool to room temperature so the ganache thickens and can be spread or piped easily onto macaron shells.

Step 4: Assembling and storage

  1. Once cold, pipe or spread flat sides of half the macaron shells with a teaspoon-sized amount of chosen filling.
  2. Now sandwich together with remaining shells, keeping flat sides together. Match same-sized macaron shells into pairs.
  3. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Best made the day before so that flavours meld and macarons set.
  4. Store filled macarons in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  5. You can store unfilled macaron shells in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost shells before filling in the usual way.
  6. Good luck and enjoy!

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Yotam Ottolenghi and me…

I recently came across this lovely story and recipes by talented London chef, Yotam Ottolenghi, who writes for The Guardian newspaper in the UK. What a delightful surprise I got to read that Yotam had found inspiration in my Little Cafe Cakes cookbook.  I was totally chuffed to see he likes my work as much as I like his. Thanks Yotam!

As featured in The Guardian, UK, Saturday 28 August 2010.

By Yotam Ottolenghi

A long time ago, when I was taking my first steps on the road to chefdom and devouring cookbooks like there was no tomorrow, I came across a charming little book on a charming little subject: Little Cafe Cakes, by Julie Le Clerc, featured miniature versions of cakes and other small sweet delights. The idea appealed to me for some reason. Why do the Japanese love bonsai? Why do some people collect model cars? Maybe they give us a sense of greatness, reducing an object that is usually too large to hold in one hand or, in the cake’s case, swallow in a mouthful or two. Is it some kind of ego boost, or is it that small things are more aesthetically pleasing? The most convincing explanation to me is that mini versions mean you can have many more of them than you’d otherwise dream of.

Whatever the reason, as a now mature proprietor of a business that prides itself on its cakes, I can tell you that bonsai cakes and other one-to-three-bite items are taking over. Gone are the days when you went to a cake shop for a slice of this or a chunk of that.

Today, everyone wants small, compact, cute: cupcakes, muffins, tartlets and cookies; truffles, bars, brittles and bites. These cutesie little sweets have obvious advantages and appeal. They’re convenient both to sell and to carry (they’re ideal for picnics), they look good, they don’t dry out as a cake does when you cut off a slice, and they prove that you actually can have your cake and eat it – or at the very least another one just like it.

Recipes by Yotam Ottolenghi, as printed in The Guardian, UK, 2010

Blackberry & star anise friands

Un-iced, these baby cakes are made for the cookie tin – they keep well and are ideal for grabbing on a whim. Iced, they would not look out of place in the poshest of afternoon tea selections. Makes 10.

340g egg whites (10 egg whites)

100g plain flour

300g icing sugar

180g ground almonds

2 tsp star anise, finely ground

⅓ tsp salt

Grated zest of ½ lemon

220g unsalted butter, melted and left to cool, plus extra for greasing

150g blackberries

For the icing (optional)

70g blackberries, plus 10 extra, to garnish

2 tbsp water

300g icing sugar, plus extra to dust

Heat the oven to 170C/335F/gas mark 3. Use melted butter to brush the bottoms and sides of 10 mini loaf tins (4.5cm high x 9.5cm long x 6.5cm wide), or similar small baking tins, and chill. Put the egg whites in a large bowl and whisk to froth them up a bit; don’t whip them completely. Sift the flour, icing sugar, ground almonds, star anise and salt, add to the egg whites and stir until incorporated. Add the lemon zest and melted butter, and mix just until the batter is smooth and uniform.

Pour into the baking tins, filling them two-thirds of the way up. Halve the blackberries and drop into the batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven, leave to cool a little, take out of the tins and leave until completely cool.

To ice the cakes, put the berries and water in a small bowl and use a fork to smash the fruit in the water. Pass through a fine sieve, pressing the pulp against the sides. Pour three-quarters of the purple juice over the icing sugar and whisk vigorously to a uniformly light-purple, runny paste. It should be just thick enough to allow you to brush it over the tops of the cakes, and will set as a thin, almost see-through coating on top with some icing dripping down the sides. (If not, add more juice.) Place a blackberry on each friand and dust with icing sugar.

Dried blueberry & white chocolate chip cookies

These tend to lose their crunch the next day, even in a sealed container, but pop them in the oven for a few minutes, leave to cool and they’ll regain it. Use currants or cranberries instead, if you prefer (the latter are good if you don’t like things too sweet). Makes 35.

150g unsalted butter, softened

70g dark muscavado sugar

70g caster sugar

1 free-range egg, beaten

160g plain flour

¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

¼ tsp salt

80g roasted hazelnuts, with their skins, roughly chopped

60g white choc chips

100g dried blueberries

Put the butter and sugars in a bowl and use a wooden spoon or a hand-held mixer to cream until pale and aerated. Mix in the egg a bit at a time. Sift the flour and bicarb, stir into the mix with the salt, then fold in the other ingredients. The mix is very wet and sticky, so chill for at least an hour.

Roll the dough into roughly 20g balls. Lay these on a lined tray and spaced well apart (they will spread a lot) and bake at 170C/335F/gas mark 3 for eight to 10 minutes, until golden brown. Leave to cool, then store in an airtight container.

Spicy corn muffins

The ideal home for these is the picnic hamper. Makes 12.

150g corn kernels (fresh or frozen)

140g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp bicarbonate soda

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1½ tsp salt

½ tsp crushed black pepper

60g muscavado sugar

180g quick polenta

360g soured cream

2 free-range eggs

120ml olive oil

4 spring onions, roughly chopped

10g coriander leaves, chopped

1 red chilli, finely chopped

For the topping

200g feta, cut into 2cm dice

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 red chilli, thinly sliced

Heat the oven to 160C/320F/gas mark 2½. Cut out 12 12cm-square pieces of baking parchment, and use to line 12 small muffin tins (or shallow tart tins 5-7cm in diameter and 3cm deep). Put the corn in a hot cast-iron pan and toast on high heat for five to six minutes, stirring occasionally, until blackened a little on the outside. Leave to cool.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking powder, cumin and cayenne into a large bowl and stir in the salt, black pepper and sugar. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the polenta, soured cream, eggs and oil. Pour the wet mix into the dry ingredients, add the onions, coriander, chilli and corn and fold just to combine. Divide the mix between the cases, filling them to the top. Mix together the topping ingredients and divide between the muffins. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.

Lemon cheesecake & poppy seed tartlets

Simply delicious. Makes eight.

200g cream cheese

60g caster sugar

2 small eggs

90g soured cream

Grated zest and juice of 2 small lemons (50ml juice, 1 tbsp zest)

Melted butter, for brushing the tins

Icing sugar, to finish (optional)

For the pastry

170g plain flour

50g icing sugar

90g cold butter, diced

Grated zest of ¼ lemon

1 tbsp poppy seeds

⅛ tsp salt

1 egg yolk

Roughly 1 tbsp cold water

Start with the pastry. Put the flour, sugar, butter, zest, poppy seeds and salt in the bowl of a food processor and work to uniform crumbs. Add the egg yolk and just enough water to bring everything together, collect the pastry into a flat block, wrap in cling-film and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 160C/335F/gas mark 2½. Brush eight small muffin tins (or shallow tart tins, as before) with butter. Roll out the pastry 2-3mm thick and cut out eight circles to fit the tins. Line the tins with the pastry, rest in the fridge for 20 minutes, then line each pastry case with baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden. Remove, take out the beans and leave to cool down.

Lower the heat to 150C/300F/gas mark 2. Whisk the cream cheese and sugar until smooth and uniform, whisk in the eggs, then the soured cream, lemon zest and juice. Fill the cases to the top and bake for 15 minutes, until just set. Leave to cool, then chill for at least an hour before taking out of the moulds. Dust with icing sugar, if you like.

  • Yotam Ottolenghi is chef/patron of Ottolenghi in London, and author of several gorgeous cookbooks.

The best Easter buns

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Home-made Easter buns studded with fruits are an extra special way to start the day on Easter Friday, either for breakfast or brunch feasting, or with an afternoon cup of tea.

Makes 12

1 tbsp active dry yeast

1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp caster sugar

1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk

4 cups plain flour, sifted

2 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted

2 tbsp mixed spice

1 cup raisins

1/2 cup dried cranberries

50g butter, melted

1 egg, lightly beaten

CROSS MIXTURE:

1/2 cup flour

1/3 cup cold water

GLAZE:

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup water

1 tsp gelatine

1 Place yeast, 1 tablespoon of measured sugar and 1/2 cup measured milk in a bowl and leave for 5 minutes until foamy.

2 Combine flour, cocoa, spices, raisins and dried cranberries and remaining sugar in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add yeast mixture, remaining milk, melted butter and egg to well. Mix together until a sticky dough forms.

3 On a lightly floured surfaced, knead dough for 5 minutes or until dough feels smooth and elastic. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and stand in a warm place until doubled in size (this will take up to 1 hour).

4 Grease a 20 x 30cm lamington tin and line with nonstick baking paper. Divide dough into 12 equal portions; roll into balls and place in tin in neat rows. Cover and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes to rise.

5 Preheat oven to 200°C. Make crosses by blending flour and water together until smooth. Place in a piping bag and pipe crosses onto buns. Bake 25-30 minutes or until browned and springy to touch.

6 Remove to cool. Brush with warm glaze made by boiling all glaze ingredients together until sugar and gelatine dissolve.

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Chef’s tricks: Foaming yeast mixture indicates that the yeast is activated. It is important to leave the dough to rise in a warm place to stimulate the yeast. Cover the bowl of dough with either plastic wrap or a damp, clean tea towel.

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Serve hot (or toast to reheat) with lashings of butter and jam.

Feijoa season is short but sweet…

Cook up a heavenly treat using some of the best fruits of autumn: feijoas. Although these fruits require no work to eat fresh and at their best, when cooked they are transformed into warm, sticky, translucent, sweet creations. Feijoas have a natural affinity with pastry, butter, sugar, cream, coconut, dried fruits, nuts and spices, so lend themselves beautifully to sweet muffins, cakes and comforting puddings. Originally cultivated in South America, the feijoa is now a classic New Zealand fruit that seems to be grown in nearly every second back garden. Here’s my most favourite Feijoa cake recipe for you to try.

LITTLE FEIJOA AND COCONUT CAKES

While the cakes cook the slices of feijoas caramelise giving the fruit a more intense flavour that is further heightened by the tangy lemon syrup. If you like feijoas then you will find these cakes truly scrumptious.

Makes 6

100g butter, softened

1/2 cup caster sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup fine desiccated coconut

3/4 cup plain flour

1 teaspoons baking powder

4 feijoas, peeled and sliced

1 Preheat oven to 160°C fan bake. Grease and lightly dust with flour 6 x 1 cup capacity cake tins.

2 In a bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and creamy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in coconut, sifted flour and baking powder. Spoon mixture into prepared cake tins. Arrange a few feijoa slices over the surface of each cake.

3 Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool cakes in tins. Once cold, remove cakes from tins and saturate with hot lemon syrup (recipe follows).

LEMON SYRUP:

Makes 1 1/2 cups

Juice of 6 lemons

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1 To make the lemon syrup, place all ingredients in a saucepan.

2 Bring to the boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer hard for 3 to 5 minutes or until thick and syrupy.

 

Happy National Nut Day New Zealand!

I’m nuts about nuts! So, to celebrate National Nut Day, which is today folks, here are a couple of recipes that I know you’ll find useful over the coming summer months.

ROMESCO SAUCE

Romesco (a Spanish almond and red pepper sauce) is delicious dolloped over the following salad and many other salad combinations. It also makes a great sauce for barbecue seafood or roast chicken.

Makes 2 cups

1 cup natural almonds

3 cloves garlic

2 large preserved red peppers, well-drained

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp smoked paprika

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Place almonds and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and process to chop. Add peppers; process to from a thick puree.
  2. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until amalgamated. Add paprika, salt and pepper to taste. Keeps well for up to 1 week if stored in the fridge.

HAZELNUT, BUCKWHEAT & RAW ASPARAGUS SALAD WITH ROMESCO SAUCE

Serves 6

1 recipe Romesco sauce (see above)

1 1/2 cups whole buckwheat (groats)

2 bunches fine asparagus, trimmed

1 cup hazelnuts (or walnuts, if preferred), toasted and chopped

1/3 cup sunflower seeds, toasted

1/3 cup flaxseeds

1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped

1/4 cup extra virgin olive or avocado oil

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Method:

  1. Cook the buckwheat in plenty of boiling water for 8-10 minutes, or until tender to the bite. Drain well and set aside to cool.
  2. Finely slice the asparagus on an angle. Combine cooled buckwheat with the remaining ingredients and toss well. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Serve topped with dollops of Romesco sauce.

Slowly does it…

When life seems to get busier by the day, it’s worthwhile taking the time to linger over a cooking pot and to relish its gentle, unhurried bubbling. To watch a delicious meal simmer, slowly, can be a very restorative diversion. And when you don’t have the time then it’s good to know some slow-cook dishes can even be left alone to do their thing while you get on with something else. Slowly simmering food is one of the most ancient forms of cooking and the results deeply satisfying. Whether the recipe you choose to follow is an age-old soup or stew or a modern combination, the finished all-in-one meal will surely revive any flagging spirits or jaded palates.

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Bean and Lentil Soup

Bean soups are wonderfully satisfying and tasty – this one can also be cooked in a crock-pot, if preferred.

Serves 6

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely diced

1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced

2 sticks celery, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

400g can crushed tomatoes

4 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1/2 cup green lentils

1 cup macaroni or other small pasta shapes

400g can white cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

400g can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Heat oil in a large saucepan, add onion, carrot and celery; cook over a low heat for 10 minutes until soft but not browned. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

2 Add tomatoes, stock and lentils. Bring to the boil then simmer for 20 minutes.

3 Add pasta and beans and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until pasta is tender. Add oregano and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Chef’s trick: This soup can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for reheating throughout the week. You will find the flavours develop and improve with time.

Red between the vines

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Tomatoes that have been allowed to ripen on the vine while the suns turns their skin a deep crimson are pure pleasure to eat. Big, small, round or oval, tomatoes are ripe with the promise of flavour. And these days, tomatoes come in many colours and types, as well – red and yellow, multi-coloured heirloom varieties, cherry, beefsteak, Italian plum or roma tomatoes, green, purple, vine-ripened and pear-shaped – they’re all delicious. Whichever variety you choose, the tomato forms the heart and soul of many recipes for sauces, tarts and pies, bakes, soups and preserves. And nowhere does it shine better than in a salad, tossed with a tasty dressing. So I say, don’t hesitate – dive right into the wide variety of summer-sun-ripened tomatoes while at their peak and most flavourful.

 

COUSCOUS AND FETA STUFFED TOMATOES

Baked tomatoes are an easy summer meal solution. In Mediterranean countries, tomatoes are traditionally stuffed with either meat or rice. I’ve stuffed these tomatoes with fluffy couscous, salty feta and the fragrance of fresh herbs for a change.

Serves 6

1/2 cup couscous

1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock

3 tbsp chopped fresh mint

3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander or parsley

1/4 cup pine nuts

100g feta, crumbled

3 tbsp olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 large ripe tomatoes

1. Place couscous in a bowl. Place stock in a saucepan and bring to the boil then pour over couscous. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave to steam for 10 minutes until softened.

2. Fluff up couscous with a fork and mix in herbs, pine nuts, feta and olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Slice the stem end off each tomato. Using a teaspoon, hollow out the centers, removing and discarding the seeds. Fill each tomato with couscous and replace the ends as a lid.

4. Heat oven to 190°C. Place stuffed tomatoes on a lightly oiled baking tray and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until heated through and golden brown. Serve hot with perhaps roast chicken, grilled steak or pan-fried fillets of fish.

Chef’s secret: Never store tomatoes in the fridge as this impairs their falvour. Place tomatoes in a bowl as you would any fruit, and leave them at room temperature. Tomatoes are a sub-tropical fruit and so respond to warmth and sunlight. Once tomatoes are at their optimum state of ripeness, they should be eaten as soon as possible.

 

Talking Turkey

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I’m a sucker for tradition and turkey is what I crave as the centerpiece of my Christmas table feast. I always choose to serve free-range turkey and I have to say that Crozier’s produce the best gobblers I’ve ever tasted. Raised on the clean, green, sunny mid-Canterbury plains and allowed to range freely, this natural lifestyle really contributes to a Crozier’s turkey’s fuller flavour and tenderness.

Over the years I’ve tried a variety of twists on the turkey tradition – everything from boning, stuffing and rolling a whole turkey; and various or multiple stuffing recipes; to cooking just the turkey breast-meat and adding this to a salad. About ten years ago, wet-brining became all the rage and so I tried this concept too.

Brining is the process of soaking the turkey overnight in a salty water solution before roasting and it works to inject the meat with both flavour and moisture producing juicy, tasty results and extra crispy skin. However, this process is a bit of a palaver and you have to find a vessel big enough to hold the turkey and the brine solution and space in your fridge to store the whole thing.

Now I’ve discovered an easier method and so I’ve moved on to dry-brining (also called pre-salting) – this gives all the flavour and texture of wet-brining but is less awkward to accomplish. I’m going to share with you exactly how to do this so you too can cook the most succulent and delicious turkey you’ve ever tasted.

This year, I’m loving using pomegranate molasses to glaze my festive turkey because it gives a wonderful sweet-sour flavour to the meat and to the gravy plus a fantastic bronzed colouring to the skin. You can buy pomegranate molasses from specialty food stores and some supermarkets.

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Pomegranate molasses glazed turkey with onion gravy

Serves 10-12

4.5 kg Crozier’s free-range turkey, thawed

3-4 tablespoons sea salt

3 large onions, thickly sliced

1/4 cup pomegranate molasses

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 bay leaves

2 pomegranates, to garnish

Start with a thawed, natural (not pre-seasoned) turkey such as Crozier’s Free-range Turkey. Remove the giblets (and reserve in the fridge for gravy making). Rinse the turkey inside and out and dry with paper towels.

Sprinkle the salt all over the turkey, starting on the underside, then the cavity, and finally the breast.

Place the turkey, breast-side up, on a rack set over an oven pan (to catch any drips) and refrigerate uncovered for at least 1 day but ideally up to 3 days. You do not need to pat it dry before cooking.

Remove the turkey from the fridge one hour before roasting and let it stand at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 170°C and position the oven rack in the lowest part of the oven.

Place one sliced onion into the turkey cavity, tie the legs together with heatproof kitchen twine and tuck the wing tips under the bird. Scatter two sliced onions and bay leaves over an oven pan and place the turkey on top. Pour 1.5 cups of water into the roasting pan and add the giblets. Drizzle the pomegranate molasses all over the turkey and smear this into the skin. Drizzle over the oil.

Roast for 2 hours 15 minutes (as a guide, allow 15 minutes per 500gms plus 15 minutes extra), basting regularly and adding more water to the pan, as necessary. Cover with foil half way through cooking if the skin gets too dark. Remove the turkey to a platter to rest, covered with a tent of foil, for 15 minutes before carving. Garnish the platter with halved pomegranates, if desired.

Meanwhile, make the gravy. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the fat from the roasting pan and place in a saucepan. Remove the onions and all the pan juices (discard bay leaves) and puree together in a food processor. Stir 2 tablespoons of flour into the fat and whisk over heat to brown the flour. Whisk in the puree and pan juices and simmer until the flour has thickened and the gravy is smooth. Add a little extra water or stock if necessary. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper or perhaps a little extra pomegranate molasses, to taste.

Enjoy! And happy Christmas to everyone. Julie xx

Crozier’s Free Range Turkeys are not available from supermarkets, but can be ordered from butchers nationwide or specialty food stores, see this website for stockists: http://www.croziersturkeys.co.nz/products/where-to-buy/

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Gifting made easy

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I’ve always been keen on making Christmas gifts centered around giving foodie treats to friends and family. This year, I’m packaging up some wonderful Alison’s Pantry delicious foodstuffs in a variety of craft creations. I thought I’d share my ideas with you because they’re a great way to make fun, low-cost, homemade gifts and I hope you find them inspiring.

You really only need a few simple craft items to make my creations. Check out Alison’s Pantry at New World stores nationwide (NZ) and stock up on their delicious dried fruits, nuts, treats and blends so you can get started. These are just a few crafty ideas to help you share the love of homemade giving this Christmastime.

And be sure to visit http://www.alisonspantry.co.nz for more great festive food recipes.

Reindeer Noses:

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First up, I’ve popped Alison’s Pantry Choc’o Berry Bites into little brown paper bags and decorated the bags to look like reindeer faces. You need some brown pipe cleaners to twist into antlers, stick on some googly eyes and pompom noses. I call these gift packs “Reindeer noses” and they’re perfect to give to children.

Santa Snacks:

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Fill recycled jam or pickle jars with Alison’s Pantry Superboost blend – a great mix of dried fruits and nuts studded with chunks of dark chocolate. Decorate the jars with a wide red ribbon around the center (to look like Santa’s belt) and stick on a belt buckle cut out of gold or silver card. Stick on a few buttons if you like and top the jar with a fluffy Santa hat cut out of red felt. Superboost is a delicious snack for active people (a bit like a trail mix). I also like to add this blend to rolled oats to make an awesome natural muesli.

Snowman Body Fuel:

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I’ve got a couple of different snowman concepts going on here. Both contain Alison’s Pantry Body Fuel – a tasty blend of nut and seed bites, chocolate chunks, and various toasted nuts – it’s great to serve as a healthy nibble with festive drinks. Either, fill recycled jam jars with Body Fuel and then decorate the jar lids with snowmen made of white pompoms. Stick on eyes and carrot-coloured felt noses and tie a ribbon around each snowman’s neck to look like a scarf. Or, fill cellophane bags with Body Fuel and pop inside white paper cups. Decorate the cups with googly eyes, a felt nose, and a big smile.

Festive Fruit & Nut Loaf Kit:

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This one is for the bakers out there. I’ve printed out my favourite Fruit and Nut Loaf recipe, rolled it up like a scroll and tied it with a red ribbon. I purchased some loaf tins and packed the quantities of Alison’s Pantry Orchard Fruits and Deluxe Natural Nuts required to make the Fruit and Nut Loaf recipe into each tin. You might like to search on-line to find some fun labels to print out, like the one pictured here, or simply cut a label out of coloured card and write your own words onto it. Adding a spatula or wooden spoon is a nice option too. Tie the whole thing together with a ribbon or two and you’ve got a wonderful gift for your favourite foodie friend.

Gift Boxes:

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This idea is super easy, inexpensive and very stylish. Noodle boxes are the perfect gift vessel for filling with any combination of Alison’s Pantry dried fruits, nuts or snack blends. All you need to do is tie a festive ribbon around the middle and voila, you have a beautiful gift box of healthy deliciousness.

Enjoy the festive season and I wish you happy creating and happy gift giving! Julie xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The magic of Pavlova

 

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There’s a magic about the alchemy of combining eggs whites and sugar to create fluffy, whipped peaks of white meringue. This magic, combined with nostalgia and a big dollop of deliciousness are the reasons why the great Kiwi Pavlova holds such a special place in our hearts as our most loved egg-based dessert. My twist on this wonderful tradition is the individual Pavlova. Made with brown sugar, these Pavs have a caramel taste and gooey texture that guarantees they will be a memorable treat and a highlight of any celebration.

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Individual brown sugar Pavlovas with mango, passionfruit and toasted coconut

Makes 12

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4 egg whites, at room temperature

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

3/4 cup caster sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 vanilla bean, split in half

400ml thickened cream, to serve

1 mango, thinly sliced

Preserved passion fruit, in syrup (available from supermarkets)

Toasted fresh coconut, or threads (see chef’s trick)

  1. Preheat oven to 130°C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Whisk egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually add caster sugar, whisking continuously until the mixture is very thick and glossy.
  2. Add brown sugar, whisking well until dissolved. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean and whisk seeds into the meringue mixture.
  3. Spoon mixture onto prepared baking trays to make 12 mounds. Bake for 1.5 hours (do not open the oven door during this time). Turn oven off and leave Pavlovas in the oven to cool completely.
  4. Spoon cream on top of Pavlovas, top with sliced mango, passion fruit pulp and toasted coconut.

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Chef’s trick: Buy a whole fresh coconut and break it open to remove the flesh. Using a vegetable peeler, peel thin strips of coconut. Place on a baking tray and bake at 180°C for 5-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Alternatively, toast desiccated thread coconut in the same manner.

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