Breadmaking is an excellent way to spend a wet weekend. Try this simple focaccia recipe - it's great for brunch, make superior sandwiches and is the perfect foil for a plate of antipasti to be eaten in front of the telly.
Miso is a paste of fermented soybeans, which doesn’t sound delicious but is. It comes in various hues from white to dark brown and the general rule of thumb is that the darker the miso, the stronger the flavour.
The claimed health benefits of consuming miso are many and varied. They include protection from radiation sickness but we hope never to be in a position to test this. Miso is certainly rich in natural enzymes from the fermentation process, and is high in protein. It is also high in salt, however. Perhaps its most alluring health benefit is that it provides a rich umami flavour, giving a full-bodied, meaty kick, which makes it easy to cut down on the actual meat in your diet.
We buy our miso paste from Urban Hippie in Nelson but you can find miso in the international foods sections of many supermarkets, at Davis Trading, Steve's Wholefoods, and at Organic Living Healthfoods in Terrace End.
Try these five simple methods to add more miso to your diet:
1. Toast – do as we do in the café and spread miso and tahini on your sourdough toast. If you don't like tahini, add avocado, peanut butter or hummus instead. Mixing a spoonful of miso into a tub of hummus is a good idea.
2. Mayonnaise – improve any store-bought mayonnaise by mixing it with miso paste in equal parts. It will make any sandwich or wrap more delicious. If, like our child, you enjoy mayonnaise with your sushi, this will enhance the experience no end.
3. Soup – a spoonful of miso enhances vegetable soups, adding the sort of salty richness that usually suggests the presence of a ham bone. There are plenty of recipes online but we recommend this quick and easy carrot soup recipe from the fabulous Smitten Kitchen: https://smittenkitchen.com/2012/01/carrot-soup-with-miso-and-sesame/
4. Ramen – throw away those dubious flavouring sachets and add a spoonful of miso paste or a sachet of instant miso soup instead (but don’t let it boil). Throw in a handful of spinach, some sliced spring onions, and a spoon of chilli oil if you want to fancy up your ramen.
5. Salad dressing – mix 4 tbsp of miso paste with 2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari, 2 tbsp rice or cider vinegar, 2 tbsp sesame oil and 1 tsp finely grated ginger root. Shake it all up and thin with a little water. This will jazz up a leaf or root vegetable salad and keeps in your fridge for days. If your soy sauce is very salty, as many are, reduce the amount by half. You can always add more.
There are a bajillion more miso recipes on the internet so give some of them a try.
We find it fascinating that the owner of luxury shoe brand Jimmy Choo is selling it to devote its considerable resources to developing its premium coffee businesses (read more in the New York Times: https://nyti.ms/2pd4KXx). Jimmy Choo hasn't been as successful as expected, perhaps because we've reached peak stuff, but there's clearly a lot of money to be made in the small-daily-luxuries consumer sector. One thing is for sure: the money will flow to investors, not growers. No matter how blessed a grower's land is with coffee-friendly characteristics such as altitude, volcanic soils or a perfect micro-climate; and no matter how carefully the crop is tended, it is coffee growers who will continue to bear the risk of crop failure, coffee pathogens, fluctuating commodity prices and shifting consumer tastes, suffering through the hungry months between crops.
The value in specialist premium coffee accrues to those with the ability to articulate the distinctiveness of beans from particular regions and particular farms; those who can tap into our vague imaginings of the shady Guatemalan or Ethiopian highlands, and the way they bring notes of dark chocolate or light floral acidity to your cup. Coffee growers' technical expertise isn't worth nearly as much in the supply chain as the ability to imbue the beans with the magic of distinctiveness and social cachet. As always, this end of the supply chain lies closer to consumers in the rich world than growers. Selling $300 coffee cup sleeves doesn't seem to have captured enough of these riches.
Tempeh is one of our favourite protein sources. We use it in sandwiches, salads and even on pizza. Tempeh is a cultured cake of whole soybeans that have been pressed and lightly fermented until they are bound together with a network of mycelium. Tempeh has a firmer bite and more flavour than its distant relative, tofu, but it takes on the flavours of marinades and spices just as well. It’s super nutritious too.
Tempeh is widely available in supermarkets here – look for the Tonzu brand, which we use in the cafe, in the chiller section. Tonzu tempeh is organic and made in Auckland by a living-wage employer. It comes wrapped in plastic rather than the traditional banana leaves, but such is the nature of our modern food distribution system.
Tempeh is Javanese in origin and there are plenty of Indonesian recipes online as well as recipes that use tempeh as a meat substitute - tempeh tacos, tempeh bacon... If you want to introduce a little tempeh into your diet, try this quick coconut curry recipe.
Tempeh and greens in coconut milk
In a blender, mix the following together with just enough water to make a smooth paste.
3cm fresh ginger, peeled
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
3 red chillies – or to taste. Remove the seeds to tone down the fire.
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 Tbsp brown sugar, palm sugar or jaggery
1 block of tempeh (250gm), cut into 2cm cubes
1.3 cups (250gm) blanched green vegetables – try French beans, broccoli, or choi sum
2 cups of coconut milk
2 lime leaves (if you have some handy)
Putting it together
Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a wok until it begins to smoke. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring, until it smells irresistible (about 5 minutes). Add the coconut milk and lime leaves and let it come to a boil. The sauce will start to thicken. Add the tempeh and vegetables. Let the liquid return to the boil then lower the heat until the vegetables have softened a little and the tempeh is hot. Season and serve with rice or roti. Garnish with fried shallots. Quick, delicious, and brilliant for lunch the following day.
Try this recipe for a classic Irish Soda Bread. It's delicious with soup or a sharp cheese and you can have it on the table in less than an hour. The recipe is an adaptation of the one we used in our Glasgow bakery and was developed for our popular baking classes. If you can't find specialist soda flour, use 120g each of strong white and wholemeal + 20g of porridge oats. It's simple as!
225g Buttermilk or soured milk (soured milk is a mix of 1 Tbs lemon juice and milk)
260g Soda Flour
75g Soft/plain flour
3.5g Baking soda
If using milk add the lemon juice to the milk the night before and whisk together. Leave at room temperature overnight.
Sieve the flours, salt and baking soda together 3 times to distribute the soda evenly. Rub the butter into the dry mix until the fat evenly coats the flour and it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the soured milk or buttermilk and gently bring together into a dough. Form into a round, place on a baking tray and mark out the farls. Bake at 215°C for 28-30 minutes. Cool on a rack - cooling is as important as baking for bread so be patient!
The back story of the ingredients we use - where they come from, who grew them or shipped them, the various ways they can be used - interests us a lot. Recently, we've noticed sharp rises in the price of the organic vanilla extract we use and we've been looking into the reasons. Unless you diligently read the Vanilla Bean and Pod Gazette you might not be aware that there is a global vanilla crisis. Shortages have led to sky-high prices and a rush to find natural alternatives.
Vanilla prices have almost quadrupled in the past two years due to a poor crop in Madagascar, which produces about 85 percent of the world's vanilla supply. Last year it produced only a third of its usual output because of a drought that began in mid 2014. Shortages have been exacerbated by hoarding by local middlemen and crop collectors.
Very little of the vanilla you imaging you;re eating comes from vanilla beans. About 90 per cent of the vanilla flavouring used by the world’s confectionery, cake, ice-cream, chocolate, coffee syrup and soft-drink makers is synthetic, derived from petroleum and costing a fraction of vanilla extracted from the beans. Large food companies including Nestlé and Hershey are pledging to phase out synthetic flavourings in favour of natural ones — a move that has further tightened the markets for vanilla beans.
With cost of vanilla so high, food processors in search of non-synthetic sources are turning to alternative natural sources of vanilla-like flavourings Vanillin, the flavour molecule found in vanilla beans, is being synthesised from sources as diverse as cloves, fermented sugar, rice bran and Norwegian spruce trees.. Who would have thunk it?
We're sticking with the good stuff, extracted from organically grown pods, but thinking carefully about what we make with it.
We’ve been advertising for a new chef recently. We’ve found that, on the whole, local chefs are rare beasts and in high demand. So if you’re thinking of a future career or developing a passion into employment, you could do worse than go to chef school.
While it’s inevitable that many hospitality McJobs will be automated to some degree, cooking and eating is a fundamentally human experience – it’s social, emotive and sensory, bringing together tradition, memory and identity. Good chefs (and diners) are curious people, interested in tastes, textures and smells; provenance and process. They are drilled in traditional methods and techniques but use them to innovate, exploring fresh and local produce.
Robots may crowd out jobs in the deepfreeze-to-deepfry section of the catering industry, but that leaves plenty of space for those with a love of the craft of cooking.
Edit 2 Feb 17: this article reports on Japan's robot restaurants: Japan’s robot chefs aim to show how far automation can go
Tumeric root is one of our favourite spices to cook with, fresh or ground. It has a dry, slightly astringent flavour and a rich yellow hue. It's what gives curry powders their colour. As well as being delicious, it also has anti-inflammatory properties. Tumeric is reputed to improve a range of digestive complaints and skin ailments. Our new favourite way to get a dose of the good stuff is in a tumeric latte. We make our own blend of tumeric, ginger and other spices and blend it with almond milk (or cow's milk or soy if you prefer) for a non-caffeinated pick-me-up. Give it a try.
We're having a big sustainability push this year and rebooting our blog. We're kicking off with this link from the Manawatu Standard:
Plastic is not fantastic for Palmerston North cafes opting for biodegradable products
Palmerston North cafes are going out of their way to reduce waste by creating wormeries and in-store recycling facilities.
A home for worms next to the herb and vegetable garden at Cafe Royale is one way owner Robert Winters is giving back to the environment.
Most of the 15 litres of waste produced daily was food scraps, which would soon be fed to the new worm farm in the outdoor area of the cafe, Winters said.
The cafe had also gone almost plastic-free by opting for biodegradable takeaway cups and lids, and straws made from plant-based materials.
Paper bags were also a must and no plastic storage containers were used in the kitchen, but milk bottles were still creating a lot of rubbish, Winters said.
Coffee GoGo owner Rowan Sweeney created a four-bin recycling facility at the cafe, which she takes to the recycling centre on Ferguson St once a week.
"We all have a responsibility to look after what we've got. If you provide the bins for customers they do what they can to use them."
The cafe also uses biodegradable cups and lids, which Sweeney takes home and places in the garden to decompose.
"We've got about five beds where we grow garlic. About three months in there and the cups are gone," Sweeney said.
The lids take longer to decompose, but when chopped into pieces they disappear quicker, she said.
"I think even though people say, 'it's only me, what difference will it make?', we should start small."
Providing customers with separate glass, cardboard and waste bins was no hassle, but the council should pull its weight too, she said.
"I'd like to see the council do a lot more."
Palmerston North City Council offers a weekly pickup service for recycling and Sweeney said this was not enough for larger businesses and could de-motivate people.
City council water and waste services manager Robert van Bentum said cafes could receive a weekly glass and recyclables service or they could recycle items at the Ferguson St or Awapuni recycling centres.
"There's currently no commercial food or compostable collection service, but we're evaluating the viability of introducing one."
The council was also trialling a commercial separated glass collection service that some cafes were involved in, van Bentum said.
Our popular Woody's Farm chorizo hash and mushroom hash are delicious but we have so many spring vegetables in the garden at the moment that we thought we'd try a green version. We adapted this recipe from Mark Hix's book Hix Oyster & Chop House.
500g scrubbed and boiled new potatoes
200g spring greens, collard greens, kale, spinach or silverbeet, blanched, drained and chopped
6 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
150g asparagus, cooked and chopped
100g broad beans or peas, cooked and podded
1tbsp chopped parsley, oregano, chervil or majoram - whatever's in the garden
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2tbsp vegetable oil
Put all the ingredients except the oil into a mixing bowl, season to taste, and give them all a thoroughly good mix with your hands, squooshing the potatoes to release the starch which binds it all together. Mould the mixture into six flat patties. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan and cook the patties for 8 -10 minutes on each side until golden. The new potatoes should hold them together but do leave them to get a good crust and be gentle turning them.
Mark Hix serves them with lamb chops but they're brilliant for breakfast with sliced avocado or a poached egg on top and a dash of Chilli Wind
The lovely thing about warm spring weather is that it brings out acres of bright, tender nettles. Nettles are good for so much more than giving you a nasty rash. They make excellent fertiliser and they really get compost heaps composting.
Nettles are also delicious, nutritious and free. Try them in a quiche instead of spinach or parsley, add them to falafel mix or make soup with them. The trick is to wear rubber gloves while you're picking them and collect only the small tender leaves. Blanch the leaves in boiling water and the stingers will magically disappear.
Nettle, Leek and Potato Soup
2 leeks, trimmed
250g young nettle leaves
700ml chicken or vegetable stock
sea salt & black pepper
1/3 cup creme fraiche
Peel and chop the potatoes into 2 cm dice. Cook them in salted water for 10 minutes or until just done. Drain.
Blanch the nettles quickly in boiling water then drain them. When they're cool enough to handle, squeeze out all the water and chop them coarsely.
Finely slice the leeks and saute them in the melted butter until they start to soften. Add the nettles and saute gently for a few minutes. Add the potatoes and heated stock, bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Let the soup cool slightly before pureeing it with a stick blender. Season with salt and black pepper and stir in the creme fraiche.
We love stir fried greens and this recipe is a winner. We only discovered the recipe a couple of weeks ago [here] but it's become a fixture on our house's dinner menu. Pak choi is easy to grow and easy to find at our beloved Albert St farmers market too. The sauce and method should work well with broccoli, choi sum, spinach, silverbeet and other leafy greens. We like to serve it with nutty brown rice.
- 25g (1oz) sesame seeds - use 2 tbsp of tahini in a pinch
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tsp soft light brown or palm sugar
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 3 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 5 small young pak choi, or 3 larger ones
- 2 tsp groundnut or vegetable oil
- 1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
- 100ml (3.5 fl oz) vegetable stock
- First make the sesame sauce: toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat, stirring until lightly browned. Removed from the heat and cool slightly. Transfer to a mortar. Add the soy sauce, sugar and crushed garlic and pound to a coarse paste with a pestle [this may work in a blender too]. Stir in the sesame oil.
- Quarter the pak choi lengthways, if small and tender. Cut the stalks on the diagonal into 2cm slices if the pak choi is larger or older. Either way, set it aside.
- Heat the groundnut oil in a wok or large frying pan. Add the chilli and sliced garlic and stir-fry for 20-30 seconds. Add the pak choi and stir-fry for 5 minutes, adding the stock a little at a time to prevent sticking.
- Transfer the pak choi to a warm serving dish, drizzle over the sesame sauce and serve immediately. This goes really well with brown rice.
One of things that we like to do in our spare time is to head along to a local school with the Plant to Plate team, give sharp knives to a class full of kids and get them to make us lunch. Then we ask them to do the washing up. It's genius.
Plant to Plate Aotearoa have been bringing gardening and cooking skills to primary schools since 2009. They have a van full of resources - pots, pans, ovens, cutlery - ingredients, and gardening equipment. Kids take turns in the garden learning to grow food, and in the kitchen learning to prepare food. It's great fun and the recipes (and the kids) are great. Plant to Plate would like to have a few extra volunteers to call on, so fire off an email to email@example.com if you think you can help. The time commitment isn't great but it's very rewarding. Here's one of the recipes we made with silverbeet and herbs the kids grew themselves:
- 1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 6 - 8 spring onions, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1.2kg spinach or silverbeet
- 2 tablespoons chopped herbs (we used mint, parsley and dill)
- 250g feta cheese, crumbled
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 12 sheets filo pastry
- 120g butter, melted
Heat oil in a frypan, and saute onion and garlic until soft. Add spinach or chopped silverbeet and the herbs. Cook, stirring, over low heat for 1-2 minutes or until greens have wilted. Drain in a colander and cool. Squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can then combine with feta, eggs, spring onion, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush a 2 1/2-litre baking dish with butter. Lay one sheet of filo on base and sides and brush with butter. Repeat with 5 more sheets. Spread cheese mixture over top. Cover with remaining filo, brushing each sheet with butter. If you have any extra filo sheets, scrunch them up on top and brush with butter.
- Bake for 30 - 35 minutes or until golden. Rest for 10 minutes. Enjoy! It's also good cold so save some for tomorrow's lunch
Sorrel is an amazingly resilient plant that produces all winter and brings a lovely lemony tartness to dishes. Like parsley, which this recipe also calls for, the more you pick it the more it grows. We've been picking a lot so we've been hunting about for sorrel recipes. One the easiest and most delicious is this one, from The Greedy Vegan website: Zingy Chickpea and Sorrel Salad.
Make two or even three times the recipe and take the leftovers to work or school for lunch - it's even more delicious the next day. If you don't like chickpeas, new potatoes would make a brilliant substitute.
- 250g (1 1/4 cups) cooked chickpeas
- 250g (9 oz) sorrel
- 2 tbsp parsley, chopped
- juice of one lemon, about 3 tbsp
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
If you use canned chickpeas, drain and rinse them well or cook them following this instruction. Add all ingredients except the sorrel and the parsley to a bowl. Mix well and let it marinate for at least 30 minutes in the fridge. You can skip this step if you are in a hurry but letting it marinade helps the flavours to develop. When ready to serve mix in the sorrel and parsley and eat immediately.
by Jonathan Dine
12:30 PM Wednesday Jun 3, 2015
Bay chef Michael Rylie is a finalist in the New Zealand vegetable competition. Photo / Supplied
With more Kiwis opting to abandon their carnivorous roots for plant-based diets, chefs looked to produce their finest meat-less meals for New Zealand's premier vegetable competition.
The national competition celebrated the very best of fresh New Zealand grown vegetables.
Now in its fourth year, over 200 chefs from around the country submitted their dishes.
Clive River Bar Restaurant chef Michael Rylie has been selected as a finalist in the lunch category with his raw vegan dish, courgette, onion and orange salad.
Michael Riley's signature vegetarian dish - courgette, onion and orange salad.
The inspiration for his dish came from a customer who had become a raw vegan in order to lose weight.
"He was telling me about all the things that raw vegans can eat but the challenges in trying to find something interesting and tasty in a restaurant.
"So I started experimenting with different flavours and developed this salad with a really zingy dressing containing orange, ginger and garlic," Mr Rylie said.
Mr Rylie's salad is on the menu at the Clive River Bar Restaurant throughout June.
Competition organiser Pip Duncan said chefs are being challenged to deliver imaginative and tasty vegetable dishes on a daily basis, and not just for dinner.
"With a growing number of people choosing to eat a plant-based diet as well as those who just want to try new ways with vegetables, chefs are being asked to create vegetarian options for breakfast, lunch and dinner," Ms Duncan said.
Head judge Mark Wylie said the high level of creativity and thought put into all the entrants' dishes was impressive.
"The nine finalists showed a variety of technical skills and interesting combinations of vegetables and diverse flavours, beautifully showcasing New Zealand's fresh produce," Mr Wylie said.
Judging the final winners will be Geoff Scott, owner of Vinnies restaurant, Catherine Milford, editor of Food magazine and Chef Andy Gibb, Chef Tutor at Nanyang Polytechnic in Singapore.
The three winners will be announced in July.
[and y'know you can find tasty vege options right here in Palmerston North, at Cafe Royale, every day]
The end of May means frosty weather and cooler jazz. Cafe Royale will be hosting 3 acts over the holiday weekend:
- First up: Angela Crawford's Abacus, 2pm Saturday May 30. Details here.
- On Saturday evening we have Peter Shaw and Arie Boesberg playing. Book a table for dinner. Details here.
- Sunday afternoon sees the Al Jenkins Quartet playing some cool bop. Book a table for a late lunch by calling the cafe on 06-354 7479 or drop by for a listen. Details here.
The last Thursday of every month is Open Mic night at the cafe. Bring along an instrument, your voice or just your ears to join the friendly and accommodating group of musicians who meet up each month at Cafe Royale for coffee, craft beer and alove of good tunezz.
The fabulous Laura Collins will be playing with the Back Porch Blues Band at the cafe on 12 June from 7.00pm. You can expect to hear a little BB, a little Koko, some Mudy Waters and more soulful vocals, sweet guitar sounds, honky tonk piano, percussive bass and upright bass. Yeah baby! This event is not to be missed.
Every Friday night is jazz night - a time to catch up with pals, listen to the magical Chris Dann on piano, and sample some new craft beers before the weekend. CHris plays every Friday from 5pm.
Followers of our facebook page will know that we've been trying to make a delicious chocolate pudding that is plant-based and devoid of gluten too. We've been mucking about with various combinations of cacao powder for the flavour, chia for the consistency, and avocado for the mouthfeel. It's pretty good except for the persistent muddy taste of chia.
If there are any experienced chia users out there, can you help? Here is the recipe so far:
2 tablespoons raw cacao powder, or dark cocoa powder
1 medium avocado, flesh only
8 tablespoons black chia seeds or ground chia seeds
4 tablespoons coconut sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 cups Palmerston's finest tap water
Blend it all up, divide it into 5 - 6 ramekins and chill overnight. Dust with grated chocolate.
Options: line the ramekins with chopped almonds; put dried cherries in the mix; forget the pudding, put the avocado on toast and eat the chocolate.