29 February 2012

{round up} sweet new zealand february

When I took over hosting Sweet New Zealand from the lovely Arfi of HomeMades at the start February, I must admit I was a tad nervous.  What if I only get a small handful of contributions?  What if I don't do justice to the contributors' entries?  What if, what if, what if...

All my apprehensions were put to rest when Sweet New Zealand February started with a bang - I had 2 entries on the first day - that's  a 'bang' to me!  And then I received a reassuring email from Alessandra who created Sweet New Zealand.  It was not long before the entries starting coming in and I had fun introducing each blogger and their entry.

Here's a round up for February's Sweet New Zealand:

First to kick it all off for February was my favourite food blogger, Emma of My Darling Lemon Thyme.

Emma is a Kiwi currently living in Perth with her husband and two littlelees.  Her recipes are always healthy (and gluten-free), easy to follow and most definitely drool-worthy.  You don't have to be gluten-intolerant to enjoy her recipes - I'm not!  And I can say this with authority as I've personally made many succesful meals and sweets from her blog!

Emma's scrummy gluten-free banana cake is an all-time Kiwi favourite - it's iced with passionfruit icing and looks picture perfect.  I'm certain it'll be excellent eating as well!

white chocolate chunk cookies

This is exactly why Sweet New Zealand has been a success - if it wasn't for this monthly event, I would not have known about this lovely blog, YoungBaker.  Nor is this blog vibrant, addictive and filled with posts that just makes you smile, the face behind this blog is 15 year-old Kimberley, who can seriously bake.  When I think about my own culinary 'prowess' at 15, all I can come up with is dressing up instant noodles and making sandwiches.  Yeeeesh...

Kimberley who is from Auckland has baked us some white chocolate chunk cookies - dunked into a cuppa or enjoyed with a tall glass of cold milk.  You decide.  Either way, I don't think they'll last long enough to share!

nutella cake {gluten-free}

If you haven't been following this blog - Grace Cakes - might I suggest you do if you're a cake and cupcake fiend? Which I'm going to assume you are since you're here. :) Lydia who is the talent behind Grace Cakes has been blogging since 2010, and I suspect honing her baking and decorating skills since forever (the photos on her blog attest to this).

This gluten-free Nutella Cake from Lydia may be the best way to spoil someone dear to you. Or you could just keep it all for yourself!

good old fashion ginger cake

Next up is Allison of Pease Pudding, a regular contributor to Sweet New Zealand.  In addition to this blog, the amazing and multi-talented Allison also runs culinary workshops (The Gourmet Gannet) and writes reviews for local papers.  Oh...did I tell you that Allison also started and ran our little country's first food bloggers conference last year? :-)

For this month, Allison is offering up a classic sweet treat for when you have 'the girls' around for a cuppa and a chinwag on a Saturday/Sunday afternoon - good old fashion Jamaican ginger cake.

I strongly recommend dressing up in a summery frock for this get together.  Its the perfect pairing - ginger cake and a cheery summer dress!

gluten-free chocolate and almond fingers

And now, we have Alessandra.  Alessandra hails from northern Italy but has called NZ home for the last 15 years.  Having published two cookbooks in English and two in Polish, Alessandra is also a food and travel writer.  Her blog, Alessandra Zecchini is filled not just with recipes, but also stories of family travels, her garden, culinary adventures, her children, etc.

She also happens to be the creator of Sweet New Zealand!

Now if you're after a recipe for some homemade gifts or the week's home baking, I think Alessandra's gluten-free chocolate and almond fingers are just right.  Crumbly, nutty and topped with chocolate...what's not to like?

brandy snaps cannoli

Alessandra has been busy at sweetening the week up, again.  This time she's made brandy snaps cannoli - another Kiwi favourite, with an Italian slant.

I reckon this is just perfect for Valentines Day...or any other day really!  It's quick and easy to make, and sure to impress.

I noticed this when I was at NZ's first food bloggers conference last year - a good percentage of our blogging community is made up of a melting pot of different cultures, including immigrants who now call NZ home - Italian, Americans, South Africans, English, Malaysian, Singaporean, French, Japanese, etc.  And it is due to this patchwork of cultures that make NZ's food blogs such interesting reads.

hazelnut mocha cake

Christina hails from America and her blog gninwordon, is not just about the food she makes and eats.  Her posts are often peppered with snippets on growing up in America, her family there, the culinary differences between the two countries and also her life now in Aotearoa.

Christina recently made this utterly decadent hazelnut mocha cake.  Apart from impressing her friends with this cake, she may be trying to out-do her mother's famous fruit salads which she was known for at Sunday bbqs.

I think Christina might just have a slight edge with this cake, don't you?!

swedish midsummer cake

Another blogger who now calls NZ home, is Suzanne of The Upside Down Life.  Suzanne's another newbie to our food bloggers community - always so exciting to have one more person to obsess over food with.  Welcome!

This Swedish midsummer cake is Suzanne's first entry to Sweet New Zealand.  How utterly gorgeous does this cake look?  And I bet it tastes heavenly like only a marriage of strawberries and cream can.

nectarine & plum sponge cake

Lovely Sue from sunny Nelson writes her blog Couscous & Consciousness from her kitchen, in which she also runs cooking classes.  Sue also teaches yoga as well (not in the kitchen!).

Staying true to local produce, Sue churns out all kinds of yumminess from what's available seasonally - like this delightful nectarine & plum sponge cake for this month's Sweet New Zealand.

chocolate & coffee bean ice cream

If you love your sweets and desserts, but moan that there just isn't enough decent recipes out there that is slim on the hips, yet big on taste - you need to check out Time for a Little Something.

This blog is written by Jemma, who is probably one of our most prolific food bloggers.  Jemma started blogging around 8 months ago and has already clocked up over 120 posts!

Now if you're a huge ice cream lover like me, you might just want to give this chocolate & coffee bean ice cream a go.  Its so easy to make and so delish, you could make more than one batch to enjoy the late summer days (or nights) with.

Food-wise, I don't think any fruit epitomises summer like stone fruits do.  Personally I'm not a huge fan since the varieties sold at supermarkets are often hard and tasteless, and I'm not lucky enough to be able to grow any of my own.  However, that's not to say that I don't drool over photos and recipes posted by fellow bloggers on the many sweet delights that stone fruits lend themselves to.

greengage clafoutis

Vanille from @ Down Under definitely had me looking at her greengage clafoutis with longing.  It's rustic and feminine (you know what I mean right?) - just the kind of sweet dish to enjoy on a sunny Saturday afternoon with your favourite people, sat on white wicker chairs on a patio with your pets (if you had any) dozing under your feet.

So if you're into unpretentious food and beautiful daydream-inducing food photography, then you must head to Vanille's bi-lingual blog.  It's filled with recipes for simple gorgeous food and glimpses on her life now in NZ (Vanille's French).

fijian black forest gateau

Bake Club is the brainchild of Frances. , who with her baking-mad family and friends all contribute to the delectable number of sweet pleasures on this blog.

For February's Sweet NZ, Frances has baked us this very special fijian black forest gateau.

Black forest gateau is the cake of my childhood.  I seem to remember having this cake for many of my birthdays!  So if you're looking to bake one yourself for a special occasion, you might just like Frances' post on this oldie but goodie.

french farmhouse cherry pie

Just the name of the pie itself conjures up images of white distressed painted cabinetry, a metal pitcher of field flowers on the bench, large wooden dining table with mismatched chairs, with a fat cat by the back door.  And sitting with pride of place in the middle of that table, is a cherry pie.

This special cherry pie is a particular favourite of Emma of Muffin Mum.  One could say that the recipe has been 'in the family' (of sorts).  I think it's a perfect pie to see the end of summer and coming autumn.

walnut, honey and orange blossom cake

I'd been following Mairi's blog, Toast, for a while before meeting her for the first time at last year's food blogger's conference.  And she's every bit as warm, inviting and real as her blog.

As food bloggers, being food mad is par for the course.  But I reckon that Mairi's particularly obsessed (don't think she'll mind me saying!) - if all the gorgeous food photos she tweets daily is anything to go by.

choc chip & espresso cookie bars

Lastly, here's my own contribution - a cookie that's between a cookie and a slice.  I made these as part of a care package that my bestfriend sent to her son who is in his 1st year at Otago University.

I did put some aside for our own consumption of course.  Eaten with a glass of cold milk or hot strong coffee...I'm thinking it's a recipe that I'll be making again, soon.

I had a blast hosting Sweet New Zealand this month.  Thanks to everyone who contributed - you're all an amazing and talented bunch!  And now, I have the pleasure of passing the hosting of March's event to the gorgeous Emma at My Darling Lemon Thyme.  See you all there!


choc chip & espresso cookie bars

Cakes don't feature in a big way on my blog, not because I don't like cake - I do!  It's just simply down to the fact that I'm not a confident baker and tend to steer away from baking cakes (eating is another story of course). I don't think I have the 'lightness' of hand and instinct for it.  For some reason, cookies though, don't instill such a feeling of hesitance.

So when my bestfriend told me that her first born's birthday was coming up and that she was putting together a care-birthday package for him, I volunteered to bake some cookies to add to the loot.

Now I have multiple lists each as long as my arm, if not longer, of baking want-to's.  There's the favourites list from blogs I follow, stack of cookbooks with post-its scattered through the pages, a growing pile of magazines with more post-its, a ringbinder (yes, yes, I know) with recipes torn from newspapers/magazines and hand-scribbled recipes, and...

Admittedly, I'm a little freakish when it comes to anything I like or passionate about.  Aren't we all?  No?  Really?  Nah...come on, just admit it already! :-)

Okay, back to what I made for the care package.

I toyed with the idea of those peanut & cashew cookies that I had made for Chinese New Year - those were a big hit.  But the cookies don't travel well since they were quite crumbly.  Didn't think they would stay intact by the time they made their way from Wellington down to Otago University. Remembering a recipe that had been bookmarked not so long ago from a blog called Hungry Girl por Vida (I do have many recipes bookmarked from this blog), I took another quick look at decided that Cindy's Choc Chip Cookie Bars was the perfect choice.  It was between a cookie and a slice, and would travel well.

Cindy blogs from America, so I had to convert all the US measurements into metric.  That wasn't a biggie - it took only 10 mins to go online and make all the conversions.  I did make teensy tweaks to the recipe, based on what I had in the pantry and addition of espresso coffee to emphasis the chocolate.

I hope he liked it!

Choc Chip & Espresso Cookie Bars
Adapted slightly from Hungry Girl por Vida

113g butter - I used salted butter and omitted the salt from the original recipe
113g cream cheese
1/4 cup granulated raw sugar
3/4 cup soft brown sugar, lightly packed
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp instant espresso granules
340g dark chocolate, chopped or semi-sweet chocolate chips
140g walnut, toasted and cooled
  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Prepare your baking pan - grease the pan, line the bottom with baking paper and then grease again.  Type of pan - you can use a 10” square cake pan or the type of rectangular pans you'd use for baking slices, lamingtons or brownies.
  3. Toast the walnuts in the oven until lightly browned, remove and set aside to cool.
  4. Melt your butter in a small pan over medium-low heat until the milk solids are brown and fragrant.  Be careful not to burn the butter.  Transfer the browned butter into a large mixing bowl to cool.
  5. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and espresso granules.
  6. In a separate bowl, toss the chocolate and nuts together.
  7. Add the cream cheese and sugar to the browned butter and cream until light and fluffy.
  8. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing each egg in well.  Remember to stop and scrap down the sides every now and again.
  9. Add the vanilla and mix.
  10. Fold in the flour mixture and mix to just combined - there should be still some streaks of white flour through the batter.
  11. Fold in the nuts and chocolate lightly, taking care not to over mix.  By this time the remaining streaks of white flour will be fully incorporated into the batter.
  12. Spread the batter into your prepared pan - I used a lightly greased silicone spatula to flatten out the batter.  You could use clean lightly oiled fingers as Cindy's recipe suggested.
  13. Bake in the middle of the oven until the top the golden and the centre is just set.  Remove from the oven and cool in the pan.  Once cooled, remove from the pan and slice.

This is also my own contribution to February's Sweet New Zealand.

23 February 2012

crepes | pancakes

Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day was three days ago.  I woke up that morning and had no inclination whatsoever to make any pancakes that day.  Although I was brought up in a rather strict Roman Catholic way, I'm no longer religious and don't observe Lent.  So Shrove Tuesday was lost on me.

But when I came home later that morning after yoga - not that yoga has anything to do with it except that I was super hungry - I decided that I've made pancakes enough times in the past that I ought to be able to just throw a few together.  To be really honest, it was the bowl of sugar pears on the table slowly over-ripening and a freshly opened jar of Nutella that gave me the push I needed.

After some umming and ahhing, I decided that something more crepe-like rather than the slightly more spongier pancake or pikelet was the way to go.

Now since it's impossible to make a small batch just for lunch, so I ended up with enough crepes for savoury and sweet crepes for lunch, and more sweet crepes for dessert that night.  Not that I'm complaining, 'cos who (in their right mind) would say no to Nutella smothered crepes, right?

Most of you will already have your go-to recipe for crepes or pancakes.  But if you're after a simple one that's not sweet or doughy and a perfect foil for any accompaniement, try the recipe below.  Its never failed me.  The savoury and sweet crepe fillings below are not recipes as much as just me showing you a couple of ways you could go with the filling.  There is simply just no rules to what you could fill your crepes with - well except in my opinion (umm...and experience), sausages and crepes should never meet on the same plate.


25g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Plus a little more un-melted butter for frying
150g plain flour
325ml milk
1 egg

  1. Season your pancake or crepe pan, or use a medium-large flat bottomed frying pan with low sides.  To season your pan - melt some butter in the pan and then wipe the pan with a paper towel.  Put pan aside once seasoned.*
  2. If you have a handheld whizzer, use the large tumbler and the whizz attachment that the set normally comes with.  If not, mix it all in a mixing bowl with a whisk.
  3. Whisk the flour, milk and egg together until smooth.
  4. Whisk the melted butter in just before you start to cook, whisking until just mixed.
  5. Heat your seasoned pan over medium heat with a tiny knob of butter.
  6. Pour 1-2 ladles (depending on the size of your ladle) of the batter onto the middle of the pan, then lift your pan off the heat a little and tilt it around so that the batter coats the entire bottom of the pan.  Try and do this evenly.
  7. Then put the pan back onto the heat and cook for about a minute (the top will start to dry out a little) before flipping** the crepe over and cooking the other side for around 30secs before removing onto a plate.***
  8. Repeat steps 5 - 7 until all your batter is used up.
* If you're filling your crepes right after you finished cooking all of the crepes, do not wash your pan - leave it seasoned.

** If you're very confident and able to flip a crepe with a flick of the wrist, good on you.  If not, you could do as I did - I slid an icing spatula/palette knife under the crepe on one end and lifted the crepe up with the spatula, high enough to be able to quickly flip the crepe back onto the pan.

** I didn't cook my crepes completely through because I knew that I would be warming each of the crepes through again when I topped them with the fillings.

Sweet Crepes ~ Pears, Nutella & Almonds
This serves one person.

Cooked crepes
1 small pear - I used sugar pears, sliced
1 tbsp of Nutella, or however much you want to use really!
*Another 1 tsp Nutella, softened with a few drops of milk & stirred to make a thick sauce
Small handful of almonds, chopped

  1. Use the same seasoned pan that you just cooked your crepes in.  If not, season the pan first.
  2. Place a crepe in the pan, heated over medium heat.
  3. Spread the Nutella over one 1/2 of the crepe, taking care not to tear the crepe.  I use the back of a metal teaspoon to do this.
  4. Working quickly, lay the sliced pears over the Nutella and scatter the chopped almonds over the pear slices.  By this time, the edges of the crepe will start to turn a little crispy - that's okay, believe me.  It's nice, you'll like it!
  5. With a spatula, fold the crepe over in half and then half again.
  6. Place on a plate and drizzle the Nutella sauce over your filled crepe.  Enjoy!!
* Put the Nutella and milk in something small and microwavable. Zap on high for 5-10 secs, and then stir briskly to mix and form the sauce.

Savoury Crepes ~ Smoked Chicken, Scrambled Eggs & Greens
This serves one person.

Cooked crepes
1 egg, beaten with 2 tbsp milk
1/4 smoked chicken, chopped into small chunks
Tasty cheese, 2 tbsp grated or use a vegetable peeler to peel thin slices to cover 1/2 of the crepe
Handful of baby salad greens
Salt & Pepper

  1. Use the same seasoned pan that you just cooked your crepes in.  If not, season the pan first.
  2. As the pan is heating up, quickly scramble the beaten egg.*
  3. Place a crepe in the heated pan.
  4. Working quickly, scatter or lay the cheese over 1/2 of the entire crepe.  Once the cheese starts to melt, add the scrambled eggs over the cheese and scatter the smoked chicken, then top with the baby salad greens.  Season with salt & pepper.
  5. Again, working quickly, use a spatula and fold the crepe over in half.
  6. Place and Enjoy!!

* To do this quickly, beat the egg & milk in a microwaveable bowl. Zap on high for 30 secs, and then stir quickly with a fork or small whisk to scramble up the mixture.  Zap for another 30 secs and stir to scramble again.  Repeat for another 20 secs if mixture is still too raw.

02 February 2012

sweet new zealand

If you don't follow my tweets or FB page and have just stumbled onto my blog or here for an update - this is just a quick note to let you know that I'm hosting February's Sweet New Zealand.

Sweet New Zealand is a monthly food bloggers event, started by fellow blogger Alessandra Zecchini.

It's about sharing recipes, getting to know each other, discovering new blogs, growing the Kiwi food blogger community (both in NZ and worldwide) and everything sweet - cakes, cookies, lollies, jams, ice cream......

To find out more about this event, how to participate (not a competition) and the round up of the past 6 months of Sweet New Zealand, go to my Sweet New Zealand page at the top, or click here.

Thanks for stopping by!