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Summer is all well and good, but I think winter is an unsung hero. It doesn’t get the glory it deserves, but there’s so much to love about rugging up, getting cosy, and comfort food. Weekends away in winter are especially underrated. A group of friends, a house across the road from a lake, a fireplace, a bit of fresh air and sunshine, and plenty of red wine make for winter weekend perfection.   

Creating a delicious yet reasonably simple feast is ideal for group weekends away. It’s also good to play your strengths in the kitchen. On my weekend away just gone, one of the boys was a poached egg master, and served up the best bacon and eggs I’d had in a long time on Sunday morning. They were served alongside crispy bacon, grainy toast, avocado (the avocalypse is over), and a really good relish. It was the perfect lazy Sunday morning, reading the paper with plenty of coffee and the sun streaming in.   

Recipe inside!

Napoli-style meatballs with a fennel salad

This recipe is the second in a series I'm doing for Fisher & Paykel.

Serves 4-5

For the meatballs

1 cup 3-day old sourdough, cut into cubes (or simply use 1 cup breadcrumbs)

800g ground beef mince

2 free range eggs

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ cup pecorino cheese, finely grated

Small bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped (plus more for garnish)

2 tbsp pine nuts, gently toasted in a dry frying pan until golden brown

Generous pinch flaky sea salt and cracked black pepper

2 tbsp olive oil

For the sauce

2 x 400g cans tomatoes

2 garlic cloves, minced

Flaky sea salt and cracked black pepper

Soak the bread chunks in water for a few minutes, before removing and squeezing by hand to remove excess water. Add the bread to a large bowl, along with the mince, eggs, garlic, cheese, parsley, pinenuts, and the salt and pepper. Using wet hands, mix well to combine, before rolling into small balls.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan, and fry the balls in batches until golden brown and crisp around the edges.

In a roasting tray, add the canned tomatoes, stir through the garlic, and season. Add the meatballs as they’re cooked, then cook in a 180C oven until the sauce thickens a little and is heated through - about 20-25 minutes.

 

Creamy polenta

3 cups water

1 cup coarse polenta

½ cup cream

¼ cup finely grated parmesan

1 tbsp butter

Salt and pepper

Bring the water to the boil in a saucepan, then using a whisk, slowly add the polenta, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to low and cook for about ten minutes. Remove from heat and stir through the cream, parmesan and butter. Season and stir, and taste and adjust as necessary.

 

Fennel salad

1 fennel bulb

1 small red onion

1 cup baby green salad leaves (I used baby kale and baby spinach)

Juice of one lemon

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

Drizzle good quality extra virgin olive oil

Using a mandolin, or the slice disc of a food processor, slice the fennel and the onion. Add to a bowl with the green leaves, then add the lemon juice, vinegar and olive oil. Season and toss gently with your hands, and serve with the meatballs on polenta.    

 

// Posted by Delaney at 5:14 PM // Labels: meatballs

It is no secret that I love gin. I love it! I love trying new kinds, with different mixers, and different garnishes, or just straight (if the occasion requires it). I was an unashamed early adopter of the artisan tonic revolution that I am so, so glad has taken hold of bars and supermarkets. Late last year I hit a career high when I was asked to be on the judging panel of the Beefeater Mix London bartending competition. 

// Posted by Delaney at 5:07 PM // Labels: gin, recipes, cocktails, winter

It’s been a big week, and one I'm not sad to see the back of. It was a classic week-in-the-life of this food-freelancer, so I thought I'd toy with the idea of a new weekly instalment. Two of my good friends told me on the weekend that when I started my first blog Heartbreak Pie, people reading were interested not just in food, but also in what I was up to. And that since I quit a legal career for a food and freelance one, that was probably still the case. And because I'm single and in my 30s and full of entertaining stories, I should be writing about it (I'm saving the one about the tumble out of the uber after a goodnight kiss for the book though). It makes sense to start with this Sunday in particular, because my week effectively began last Sunday night, "rotting in the depths of hungover despair on my friend’s couch" (which you can read about here) after I thought I had been maybe getting somewhere with an eligible bachelor at a house party, before having it comprehensively confirmed that I most definitely was not. Yolo?

Monday

// Posted by Delaney at 11:14 PM // Labels: auckland, life, a week in the life

Sundays can be an emotional roller coaster, where many factors are at play. Relationship status, family obligations, hangover level, financial situation, or how much you love or hate your job, for example. It’s pretty easy to just continue on with life during the week, but something about Sundays can bring it all crashing to a halt and bring all your insecurities to the forefront of your mind. Especially if you had lindauer and birthday cake for dinner on Saturday night (don’t ask).

Cooking has always been one of my favourite ways to spend a Sunday afternoon. There is something so cathartic about the process of creating a feast that always makes me feel better. Even if you start out rotting in the depths of hungover lonely despair on your mate’s couch, the lure of getting a meal out always gets me in the end.

Recipe inside!

Roasted shredded pork with quick pickled cucumbers, spicy sauce, and flatbreads

Roasted shredded pork

Ingredients

1.8-2kg pork shoulder (bone in or out)

2 tsp cumin powder

2 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp paprika

Sea salt and cracked black pepper

2 tbsp cooking oil

2 x 355ml (approx) cans or bottles of beer (use beer with citrus notes if you can, otherwise whatever you have will work here. I’ve used Double Brown before to great success)

Juice of one orange

Method

Preheat oven to 175C.

Cut the pork into large chunks (about 6-8 chunks) and place in a bowl. Any large chunks of skin/fat, score with a sharp knife (or craft knife). Add the spices and season generously. Toss the pieces to ensure the spices cover the meat.

In a large, heavy bottomed, oven proof, pan (I used my Le Creuset dutch oven, affectionately named Olive), heat a couple of teaspoons of oil. Heat to a medium heat, and add the pork in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan. Brown the meat on all sides using tongs, then remove the meat and set aside in a bowl. Keeping the pan on the heat, add the beer and the orange juice.

Bring to the boil, and then reduce the heat and return the pork to the pan. Ensure the pork in about half covered by the liquid.

Place the pot in the oven uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, turn over the meat, and place the lid on the pot. Return to the oven for another 1 - 1.5 hours. While the meat is cooking prepare all your others bits and pieces for the meal.

Just before you’re ready to serve, remove the lid, and if there’s any pieces of skin/fat, place them upwards. Turn the oven to grill, and place the pot underneath - this will get the skin a bit crispy and puffy, like crackling. This should only take about 10 minutes.

Serve with the flatbreads, cucumbers, spicy sauce, fresh coriander, lime, and natural yoghurt.

 

Flatbreads

Ingredients

2 cups plain flour

1 teaspoon oil

Boiling water

Method

In a medium bowl, add the flour and the oil. Slowly add the boiling water and using a fork, stir constantly. Stop adding the water once the dough has bound into a ball. Dust flour on your bench, and turn the ball out. Knead the dough for a good 6-8 minutes. Divide dough into small balls (about 12 should be about right) and roll out into circles using a rolling pin (or a wine bottle). Heat a frying pan (preferably cast iron) to a medium-low heat, and cook each flatbread for about a minute each side. Serve immediately.

 

Quick pickled cucumbers

Ingredients

1 cucumber, peeled

¼ cup rice wine vinegar

1 tbsp sugar

Pinch salt

½ tsp chilli flakes

Method

Cut the cucumber longways, then slice into thin slices. Place in a bowl with the salt and leave for about ten minutes. Drain the liquid, then add the vinegar and sugar. Set aside until ready to serve, and add chilli flakes as a garnish.

 

Spicy sauce

This is a very modified version of Ssamjang, a Korean chilli sauce. Drizzle it over your pork when cooked. Always remember to taste and adjust!

Ingredients

1 tbsp miso paste

1 tsp honey

3 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 finely chopped shallot

3 red chillis, deseeded and thinly sliced

1 tsp freshly grated ginger

1-2 garlic cloves, minced

3 finely chopped spring onions

Method

Place all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk well with a fork to combine. Taste and adjust as necessary.

 

// Posted by Delaney at 4:07 PM // Labels: pork, sundays

The Veuve Cliquot rose wine match at The Grove

 

Squid ink brioche with soft shell crab at Masu

Auckland is a great place to dine all year round, but come August there are plenty more reasons to uber yourself into the city and feast. Auckland Restaurant Month sees the CBD come alive with special events, visiting chefs, and special set-menus.

People are always asking me where I like to eat, and where I’ve been recently, or if I’ve tried a certain new place, or if I’ve been to their favourite dumpling joint. I love hearing about where other people like to dine out, and lucky for me I get to try all sorts of places and call it work. I’ve had some really great meals in Auckland lately, at both some old favourites and some new ones. Here’s a few eating highlights for me lately, and a few picks for August. YUM.

The Grove

// Posted by Delaney at 4:59 PM

I had the weekend in Wellington, which was delightful (instagramming up a storm, as per), and weirdly enough there is nothing like the comfort yet strangeness of a hotel room that gives me a bit of career clarity. Things swing from pretty quiet to insanely busy very quickly around here, and my bank balance reflects that (dizzying highs, crushing lows). This year especially I have found freelancing hard and despite very occasionally trawling seek for legal jobs, I pretty much always feel on the brink of something really exciting, which makes it all feel worthwhile and keeps me hanging on. Seeing this post on instagram this morning hit the message home. Being in Wellington, my former hood, reminded me that blogging was where it all began, and that it really was time to blog the backlog of photos and stories that are sitting on my computer and in my head and in the trusty notes section of my phone. 

Recipe inside!

Eggplant and tomato pasta

This recipe first appeared in the Herald on Sunday and is also available here on bite.co.nz.

2 drizzles olive oil

2 onions, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 generous tsp chilli flakes

3 sundried tomatoes, finely chopped

1 splash wine, anything you have, red or white

1½ kgs tomatoes (in Winter replace with tinned tomatoes or tomato passata or a mix of the two. I use those 500g tins of chopped tomatoes)

2 eggplant

4 servings fresh pasta (I have a recipe here in this article!)

 

Cut a small cross on the bottom of each tomato, and blanch them by carefully dropping them in boiling water, then transferring to cold water. Peel the skins off and set aside. If using tinned tomatoes or passata, omit this step. 

Prick holes in the eggplant and rub with a little olive oil. Roast whole in the oven at about 180C until shriveled – about half an hour. 

Cook off the onion, garlic, and chilli in a little olive oil, in a large heavy bottomed pot on a medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Add the sundried tomatoes and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Increase the heat and add a generous splash of wine. Add a little water and then the tomatoes, chopped.

Continue cooking on a medium-low heat.

Remove the eggplants from the oven and allow to cool slightly before carefully cutting them and scooping out the flesh. Season the flesh well with salt and pepper, then add to the tomato sauce mixture.

Cook for another 15-20 minutes.

Cook your fresh pasta for two minutes, then drain well and stir through the sauce. Garnish with lemon zest, fresh basil, and parmesan.

// Posted by Delaney at 1:13 PM // Labels: nz herald, meat free monday, pasta, eggplant, bestie cafe

Do other people have that thing when you feel like the universe is conspiring to make you eat something? Like when you think of a certain dish or ingredient, and then it's like everything leads you to eating that thing? Or someone will mention a food item and afterwards you simply cannot rest until you've eaten it? I had a meeting about pies this morning and afterwards was powerless to the overwhelming need to eat a pie for lunch (cheesy pumpkin with wholemeal pastry since you asked, delicious). At uni once my friend was telling me about how she'd had a tub of sweet chilli philly (you know, those tubs of Philadelphia cream cheese slathered in sweet chilli sauce that were popular in the early 2000s?) the night before and I basically went straight to the supermarket after that conversation and had sweet chilli philly for dinner with my flatmate. In hindsight, quite gross. And probably not the best way to dictate your eating decisions. 

Recipe inside!

ginger greens

Adapted from the March 2015 Cuisine magazine

Ingredients

A big pile of kale and rainbow chard/silverbeet or spinach

A couple of cloves of garlic (go for fresh NZ stuff)

A few slivers each of fresh, peeled, ginger

Half a thinly sliced red chilli 

A knob of butter, or a small drizzle of oil

A squeeze of lemon juice 

Method

1. Rinse the greens well, and roughly chop

2. Heat oil or butter in a medium saucepan or a frying pan with a lid

3. Add greens and stir fry for a bit

4. Add the garlic, ginger, and chilli. Add a splash of water. Cover the pot or pan and steam until softened. 

5. Serve with a squeeze of lemon. They're great with fish or steak!  

// Posted by Delaney at 10:35 PM // Labels: easy dinner, ginger

I woke up with a pain in my stomach on Saturday morning and realised it was the pain of drinking too much and also the fact that in the few days prior I had pretty much only eaten this loaf of sourdough and cheesecake and metres of pizza. There had definitely been too much wine mixed with not enough (but certainly some) dancing around the lounge like a maniac, and it was watching movies on the couch and eating vegetables and gentle walks in the park from there on in for the rest of the weekend. #Wellness. 

Anyway, the cheesecake. We're in the throes of feijoa season here in New Zealand, those polarising little green fruit, with their short autumn season and their slightly-guava-esque fragrance and flavour. People get very excited at the beginning of their brief tenure as president of fruits, but by about mid-May they sit like a rotting carpet under overladen trees and people can't pay you to take a supermarket bag full of them off their hands. The good news is they freeze well (scoop out the flesh before freezing) and they preserve well too. And not only are they amazing in baked goods, they also make one hell of a cocktail: muddle some into your next Tom Collins and you won't regret it, I promise. 

Recipe inside!

Feijoa and white chocolate cheesecake

Ingredients

Base:
100g butter, melted
1 x 250g packet wine biscuits (or gingernuts)

Filling:
50g softened butter

50g caster sugar

250g full fat cream cheese 

100g sour cream

A cup or two of feijoa flesh 

Zest of one lemon 

250g block Whittaker's white chocolate 

100g well whipped cream (edit: the original recipe said lightly whipped, but a firmer whip gives a more solid cheesecake)


Method

For the base, blend biscuits in a food processor until they resemble crumbs. Pour into a bowl and add melted butter. Mix together and press into a greased and lined 23cm spring form cake tin. Place in the fridge until your filling is ready. 

Beat butter and sugar together until well combined (NB I used my food processor for the entire recipe). Add the cream cheese, sour cream, feijoas, and lemon zest to the food processor. Blend well.

Meanwhile, cut the chocolate into chunks, and place in a heatproof bowl. Melt gently over a pot of simmering water (or in small bursts in the microwave) until it is fully melted and glossy – I always remove my chocolate from the heat when there are still some chunks and continue mixing until smooth, to stop it burning. Set aside for a couple of minutes to cool slightly. 

Add chocolate to the mixture and blend to combine. Remove mixture from the food processor into a bowl and fold in the lightly whipped cream.

Pour mixture into the prepared biscuit base in the tin, and smooth the top. Allow to set for at least 3 hours. I probably wouldn't garnish with fresh feijoa slices again as they go brown, so garnish with whatever you feel like. 

// Posted by Delaney at 12:01 AM // Labels: feijoa, cheesecake, autumn

This whole eating for a living thing is really great most of the time, and I am a big fan of loving oneself always, and loving one’s body as it is. Sometimes though, you might find you’ve just had three days of eating in say, Singapore, where you ate dumplings for dinner and curry for breakfast and that came pretty quickly after a week of eating and drinking in say, Melbourne and regional Victoria, where you did wine tasting after beer tasting, after café hopping and 10 course meals. And dotted between the two there may have been a stint of restaurant judging: three course meal after six course meal with a couple of wine matches thrown in for good measure.

Recipe inside!

Supercharged berry breakfast smoothie

1 x Banana (I always use All Good Organics)

About 1 cup almond milk (or whatever milk you fancy)

Handful of frozen berries (I used strawberries and they were great)

¼ tsp guarana powder (available from health food stores)

1 tbsp LSA mix (or use oats)

1 tsp honey (optional)

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Enjoy! 

// Posted by Delaney at 12:05 PM // Labels: smoothie, recipe, breakfast

Melbourne is a fantastic city to visit, especially if you love eating great food and drinking delicious beer and cocktails and local wine and excellent coffee. I was over there recently thanks to Tourism Victoria and Qantas, and as the food writer in the group (alongside Julia and Libby, Art and Matilda, Megan from Blogger at Large, Aimee from My Beloved Style, and Lola Photography) I had a personalised itinerary that was heavy on the eating and the drinking. Any gaps in said itinerary I expertly managed to fill with breakfasts and oysters and craft beer and fried chicken. Here’s a highlight reel.

1. Champagne for lunch at the Qantas lounge

As Qantas was a partner on the trip, the eight of us had lounge access at the airport before our Auckland-Melbourne flight. It was just before midday, and never one to break my life-rule of never saying no to free champagne, I cracked open a bottle of Mumm. I tried my hardest to get the rest of the group to have champagne for lunch too (wellness bloggers and paleo advocates included), and with the few who said yes we managed to finish a bottle. Good start.  

// Posted by Delaney at 4:11 PM // Labels: melbourne, Travel, australia, ten delicious things

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