Nutella rocky road

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This rocky road is seriously something special.

Mixing the melted chocolate with the Nutella creates a texture to the rocky road that’s almost like a truffle of the Guylian variety. The richness of this is offset by the chewy marshmallow (best served straight from the fridge) and crunchy salted nuts. The sprinkles on top aren’t essential, but they’re so cute I might as well deem them totally necessary. It hasn’t taken me long to answer how easy it is to use up nearly 800g of Nutella in the space of a week: the jars in the pantry are proof.

Oftentimes, purchasing the components to make what is essentially many delicious things (marshmallows, nuts, etc) cemented together with chocolate can wind up being a little expensive. When Cadbury is on special for 2 for $5 family size blocks, however, this magical treat can be whipped up for under $20. It’s ridiculously easy to make and even easier to eat. It’s the perfect gift to whip up in 10 minutes – and ready to slice in an hour or two, however it’s actually so delicious I have a hard time not devouring the entire batch myself…

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siracha roasted chicken with potatoes, leeks and garlic yoghurt dressing

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The beauty of this tray bake is that it can simply be served with the rocket sprinkled on top, drizzled with dressing, making it a veritable one pan meal. It’s the ultimate in lazy dining, however while it takes less than twenty minutes to prepare and an hour to cook, the caramelised leeks and punchy dressing make it taste vastly more involved. I love the sweet flavour of the leeks with the chicken, and cooking with bone-in, darker meat cuts mean there’s no risk of serving a dry dish.

My luscious aunt Linda is an absolute whizz in the kitchen, especially when it comes to impressively presented meals she claims she has just “thrown together”. It comes as no surprise that she introduced me to this incredible autumnal meal. Leeks are in season for the colder months, but so easily forgotten in the vegetable aisle; I have her to thank for this delicious reminder. I seriously think this dinner is going to become one I’m in danger of getting sick of from cooking it so regularly. The variety of colours and textures mean it looks elegant enough to serve as part of an easy get together with friends, but it doesn’t require so much fuss or fancy ingredients that it’s not a possibility on a school night. This is exactly the kind of food I’m proud to cook for people, and it’s beauty is in its simplicity to prepare.

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chocolate mud cupcakes with Nutella buttercream

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If my Instagram feed is anything to go by, the hybridisation of treats is huge at the moment. My appreciation for iterations on lolly cake based cheesecakes and gigantic lamington cakes led to my own imagination coming up with these cupcakes – turning afghan biscuits into cake form, with the addition of Nutella. The recipe I’ve provided here is a simplified version – in part because my gluten free afghan biscuits were if anything, too buttery (and that’s coming from me), and also because four components to a cupcake feels like I’m overcomplicating things for the sake of it.

And what more could you want from a cupcake beyond a tender cake crumb and adequate frosting:cupcake ratio? The Nutella buttercream is ridiculously fluffy and delicious – with the yoghurt addition cutting through the sweetness just enough. The chocolate mudcake underneath is a recipe from Bake Play Smile that I just can’t quit. It’s foolproof, uses simple ingredients, and yields a surprisingly rich and moist result. It also makes a gigantic quantity of cake – as evidenced in my photos via the loaf cake I opted to make in lieu of extra cupcakes. I always find myself compelled to bake things while on night shift – perhaps because I have so much difficulty sleeping that the kitchen provides an alternative form of soothing. In any case, bringing along this platter is always an excellent test for crowd pleasing, and these treats was an all round success.

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salted coconut drizzled feijoa banana loaf cake

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Feijoa season is upon us in New Zealand, and there are bags bulging with the fruit adorning roadsides if you aren’t fortunate enough to have a friend, neighbour or distant relative with a tree producing them in abundance at this time of year. For those not in the know, feijoas are egg-shaped fruit hailing from South America, with the almost gritty texture of a pear and tangy taste of … well, feijoa, but perhaps a little like a guava. April-May is prime feijoa time, and I have the most vivid childhood memories of piling up the skins in a tower while absolutely gorging myself on them.

As for this cake, it’s the ultimate autumnal afternoon tea treat. It’s moist (there’s really no other word to go here – soggy and wet cakes sound even worse, right?) with a delicate crumb, and made with coconut instead of refined sugar. This wasn’t so much for health reasons – sugar is sugar after all, as for the fact that the coconut variety lends itself a delicious caramelised flavour, which works incredibly with the fruit and coconut. The salted coconut syrup absolutely makes the cake, and by poking holes throughout the loaf and drizzling it on immediately on removing from the oven, each piece is an utter delight to eat. I should know, I had multiple. The cake is not so much rustic as it is ridiculously delicious for such simple, seasonal ingredients.

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stuffed peppers with ground beef, mushroom, goat feta and hazelnut crumb

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While the roasted capsicums make for a deliciously edible vessel, it’s the beef mince within that really steals the show here. The pomegranate molasses used is a relatively inexpensive pantry staple, and now easily found in many New Zealand supermarkets. It adds an incredible depth of flavour here to this dish, and I promise you won’t be short on opportunities to use it elsewhere. The warmth of the meat is a welcome to winter, however the abundance of capsicums (or bell peppers) in which they are served keeps things from getting too heavy. It’s a dish that lent itself naturally to being low carb – I bulked out the meat with grated courgette instead of rice or quinoa, with flavour and texture variation coming from the creamy goat cheese and crunchy nuts.

Storing the meat in the capsicums themselves also makes this dish the tidiest meal prep dinner ever. I served these to my new housemates for an easy dinner, and the leftovers were easily reheated in the oven for lunch the next day. I love dishes like this, where the flavours developed the longer they’re left to do so, and so this is perfect for preparing in advance. It’s also easily made completely dairy free with the omission of the goat feta – perhaps to be replaced with pine nuts.

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double chocolate Anzac caramel slice

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The long weekend is upon us in Australasia, and I always feel compelled to bake for such occasions! I clearly have an absolute penchant for making slices – perhaps because I find them so simple but impressively effective. Luckily I didn’t have to search too far for inspiration for this: Anzac biscuits have been turned into slice form, with the help of inspiration from ginger crunch and chocolate caramel slice/millionaire’s shortbread.

ANZACs was the name given to Australian and New Zealand troops after Gallipoli in WWII, however there were no biscuits present there, rather they were sold at fundraisers back home for the war effort. I’ve gone beyond simply making them with golden syrup, oats, sugar and butter, and have added chocolate to the topping, along with a thick, caramel filling. I’ve also added ginger to add some zest and depth of flavour to the base, but this can easily be omitted, and the coconut swapped for more oats if you are not yourself a fan.

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(low carb) peanut butter cheesecake brownie cupcakes

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These brownies are another archived recipe, from the days (2013-2014ish) when I fastidiously stuck to a low carb diet, utterly convinced that sugar was the enemy. While my view on diets has taken a significant turn towards the unrestricted, sometimes it just feels a bit better to cut down on sugar for a period of time. For me to explain my perspectives on “how to eat well” would involve a lengthy, personal post that I’m not sure would even begin to articulate what I really think. In any case – my body and how I have come to love, respect and nourish it is always going to be a work in progress, reflective of my current lifestyle and priorities. Two years ago, eating less than 25 grams of carbs a day and being in ketosis evidently felt incredible for a mere few months, however when I forced it in spite of not feeling my best doing it, I gained weight and barely had any energy for the Crossfit workouts I was determined to push myself through.

I made these brownies at a time where I had very little interest in baking for myself. With ridiculous restrictive tendencies, it was vastly easier to create something with plain flour to prevent me from being able to lick the bowl (and the subsequent fear of eating the whole batch). The recipes you see on my blog this year are all ones I make for the joy of eating myself, and sharing with others. That fear is gone.  My relationship with food and my own body image (unfortunately not always mutually exclusive) has changed hugely over the last five years, but the acknowledgement that there is a time and place for treats – and that they should be utterly delicious, and celebrated – has been paramount.

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smoked salmon salad with lemony dill dressing

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While I may have made this salad during my week off, it’s the perfect thing to bring to work for a healthy lunch.

Made with creme fraiche, the lemony-dill dressing can be drizzled over your leaves on the morning of serving – it’s creamy enough not to let the leaves go soggy, and nor is it liquid enough to leak through your bag (something that has unfortunately left a few of my own smelling like meat marinades – not the most welcome smell in such a place, let’s be honest). I brought it along for a lunch date catch up with a dear friend, however the ingredients could just as easily be prepped on one day to be spread out over two. It was obviously utterly dreamy to make this in my family kitchen (below), however it requires minimal equipment and expertise to create an elegantly flavoursome salad such as this!

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spiced lamb with aubergine and pine nuts

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In preparation for my life taking a turn for the nomadic (the movers come today, I have a few days at home, and then two months of subletting up here at the Mount before I move back to Wellington “permanently”, only to locum all over New Zealand for the last six months of the year, punctuated by travel, etc. etc.), I’m bringing back a few of my favourite old recipes from my very first food blog, Full Fat Friendly.

This lamb dish is a loosely adapted, deconstructed version of an Ottolenghi recipe that is as simple as a stirfry to prepare, making it perfect for a quick family weeknight dinner, or in my case, meal prep for every other night this week. Thankfully, this freezes/reheats perfectly without compromise in texture, and the development of flavours gets better the longer it’s left in the fridge. Aubergine has got to be one of the most incredible vegetables: I find it practically inedible if merely partially cooked, but give me a charred, melt in your mouth piece of egg plant and I’ll be devouring it voraciously. If serving to fussy eaters (children), cut the cubes as small as possible to disguise them amongst the mince and pine nuts. Lamb mince is perhaps a little fattier and more expensive than the premium ground beef you may usually reach for, but it is vastly more flavoursome and decadent – and thankfully bulked out by vegetables. Grind the spices fresh for the most fragrant of dishes – either by hand or in an electric grinder – just don’t be scooping the powders from packets!

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paleo banana bread

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While it’s inarguable that all baked goods are decidedly better fresh and warm, with respect to this banana bread, a small slice of it is enough to make an excellent case for the best things for breakfast being straight out of the oven and slathered with butter.

Despite the fact that this quick bread is dairy, gluten/grain and refined sugar free, it has a surprisingly delicate crumb and crunchy crust. While it’s perhaps not as texturally dense as your usual café banana bread fare, it has a rich mouth feel from the ground almonds and coconut oil that make it vastly more satiating throughout the morning. Because of this, it doesn’t beg for butter on top so much as appreciates its presence if it happens to be there. The addition of a little cocoa and cinnamon help add to its depth of flavour without being predominating.

I sliced my loaf into around ten even pieces to be stored in the freezer, right next to my container of frozen, over-ripe bananas. While these have been an absolute staple for me this summer in nice cream and green smoothies, it’s nice to have a use for them that carries all the comforts of something freshly baked after mere minutes of warming in the microwave.

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