Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mussel time

They say that calm seas do not a skilled mariner make, and so with the hurly burly of family life and notable absence of an IT department my fledgling blogg has suffered.

But I am guessing that I am not the Lone Ranger in having an erratic ebb and flow of domestic demands. “We’ve been so busy” seems to be the all encompassing excuse that blurts out so easily these days. And I get it, I really do. There are bills to be paid and mouths to feed and only so many hours in a day that one can indulge in pretty picture and jaunty new recipes.

Times like this call for instant gratification, and I happen to think that nothing pleases the senses more than a big bowl of steaming fresh mussels. I am a tactile creature, and whilst shell fish may not be every ones first choice to regain culinary momentum, I just love their holiday like rhythm of preparation.

First comes the simple and repetitive diddling about with scrubbing and debearding, and actually that’s about as difficult as things get. Then its just a quick (less than 5 min) hot sauna in a boozy juice before being served in a large bowl that invites busy fingers to uncover the plump juicy jewels of meat.

It is not a meal that can be hurried and one that demands a certain level of joyous and enthusiastic participation. As the discarded shells pile up, the juices dribble down your fingers and conversation bubbles freely it becomes abundantly clear that it is impossible not to love a meal that takes longer to eat than it does to cook.


Mussels in white wine

One of the perks of living in New Zealand is the cheap and fabulously good supply of beautiful vibrant green lipped mussels.


1.5 kg cleaned mussels

30 g butter

1 large shallot fined chopped

1 clove of garlic

1 sprig of thyme

1 cup of dry white wine

 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley


Scrub and de beard mussels. Discard any that have broken shells or do not close when tapped. Cover and refrigerate until required.
To cook the mussels: In large pan melt butter, add chopped shallot, garlic and thyme. Cook over a moderate heat until softened. Pour in the wine and bring to the boil.
Over a high heat add the mussels to the wine bath. Cover with a tight fitting lid and give the pan a good shake to ensure an even distribution. Cook for 3-4 minutes by which time the shells should have opened (if not give them another minute or two).
Serve with crusty bread to mop up the juices and a big old rustic bowl for the shells. Keeping with the NZ theme; a cheeky little sav blanc goes rather magnificently too!!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

King of the Kingstons


Fighting with your siblings is a rite of passage. It instils such fine attributes as a sense of passion and the ability to make sure you are not duped. And let’s face it a dash of guile and cunning is an essential life skill, one might as well learn it young.

So let it go on public record that The Kingston biscuit, nestled in amongst its mediocre fellow Arnott’s assorted, was a prize worth fighting for. Perhaps it was the presence of chocolate, or the fact that there were only 4 of them but 8 crappy old Monte Carlos per packet, but the Kingston gave the greedy kids of Australia a lesson in tactics.

There was the quality over quantity trade option; one Kingston for 3 custard creams would always conquer my brother and his Labrador pup approach to food. Then there was the Red Riding hood esq going solo to visit Grandma routine, which always resulted in a non competitive dip in the bickie barrel. However my greatest manoeuvre was the biscuit by stealth option, which set me up for a lifetime of thinking that if no one sees you eat it then the calories don’t count.

Not so long ago I got the chance to nibble on a Kingston(which I didn’t have to endure a dead leg for) and frankly it was a great dissapointment. How could it be that the token of victory from my youth was way too sweet and miserably small?

I have taken it upon myself to reinstate some glory to this fallen hero. Hence the following recipe is not completely accurate, but it does capture the best nostalgic highlights of coconut and chocolate to great effect.

It is gluten free but that is merely a happy coincidence of this simple recipe. The absence of any flour or binding agent creates a beautiful light airy biscuit which gives an almost toffee like crunch. I just wodged mine together with some chocolate icing I had hanging around in the freezer, the Achilles heel of this plan is that not everyone has bits of surplus icing on hand. Happily I can report they are remarkably good with a glop of nutella as a substitute, or you could go the whole hog and whip up a chocolate ganache if you were really being fancy.

But whichever route you take with the filling, be sure to make sufficient to go round – as some people think that there is little dignity in fighting for biscuits.

Coconut Kingstons
These yummy biscuit sandwiches are a cinch to make, the trick is to try and keep the size of each biscuit small and dainty.

55g butter, softened
115g white sugar
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla
150g desiccated coconut

Nutella or chocolate icing

Pre-heat oven to160 degrees and line 2 trays with baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar using an electric mixer. Mix in the egg and the vanilla. Using a spoon, stir through the coconut.

Place small teaspoonfuls of dough onto trays lined with baking paper, leaving space for spreading, and flatten slightly with a wet fork. Bake in oven for 25 minutes or until golden, and cool the biscuits on the paper on a wire rack.

Sandwich together using a teaspoon of Nutella (or if you are a purist melt 150 g of chocolate with a Tbs of butter over a low heat to make a shiny mixture)