Tamarind chicken thighs

This is a bit of a non-recipe so please fire me a comment if you feel you need any further details with amounts of types of ingredients. I’m on a bit of a tamarind buzz right now – it’s a summer thing. I crave more tart and sharp flavours in warmer weather, and tamarind ticks that box big time, plus it has that fruity element that gives depth to so many dishes. If I’m in a hurry and making something like pad Thai or a soup where the texture of tamarind isn’t required, I often use tamarind paste/sauce, but in this dish you really want to start from scratch with a sticky block of the stuff, as you get more of the dark, unctuous quality coming through. If you’re new to tamarind, look for it in an Asian grocers’. You’ll find the smooth paste in a pottle, plus blocks of the tamarind flesh either with or without seeds. No point really paying for seeds which you’re going to biff, so buy the seedless blocks. To prep it for use, simply soften the required amount of tamarind (cut off the block) in hot water for a few minutes, then strain out any tough bits of skin, but really push it through the sieve as you want a nice thick paste.

You could make this chicken dish by using the saucy ingredients as a marinade the night before cooking, but I was cooking on a whim, the ‘marinating’ bit happened during the cooking – but actually I like how this worked because I was able to then fry off the lemongrass, garlic and chilli first which gave a great flavor to the dish.

Tamarind chicken thighs

I started with six free-range chicken thighs. Brown your chicken thighs in a hot pan with a touch of oil and arrange in a roasting dish. In the same pan you browned the chicken, sautee 4-5 cloves garlic, 1 bird’s eye chilli chopped finely, 1 stalk lemongrass bruised and chopped extremely finely, and a 1-inch piece of ginger peeled and chopped finely. Once sizzling, add the paste squeezed from about 2 Tbsp tamarind and about 1 Tbsp grated palm sugar. Give that a stir then add about a cup of good-quality chicken stock. I’ve been loving the Simon Gault range of real stocks lately. Stir for a bit then pour this sauce over the chicken in the roasting dish and pop in the oven to bake for around 45 minutes, until the thighs are cooked through, with the juices running clear. Take out and baste using the sauce in the dish a few times during cooking. Once the chicken is cooked, turn the heat up for the last 6-7 minutes to about 220 to get a nice crisp and sticky topping on the thighs. Scatter over some spring onion, or herbs like coriander or mint, and serve with steamed jasmine rice.

I made a quick cucumber pickle to serve with the chicken. Lebanese cucumbers work best for this. Slice them in half lengthways then scoop out the seeds and slice along the length, making pretty little thin moon shapes. Toss in a bowl with a little rice vinegar, some Korean red pepper flakes (highly addictive stuff, but if you don’t have it, just use fresh red chilli or red chilli flakes), and a splash of fish sauce. Let the flavours settle and meld together for 10 minutes before serving. This quick pickle can be adapted however you like – add toasted sesame seeds and sesame oil to make it more Japanese/Korean-like; add a bit of hoisin or some palm sugar for a sweet note. You could even try adding a bit of belacan fried off first, or a smoky sambal- yumbo!

Quick cucumber pickles

For some more delicious ways to use tamarind, check out my tamarind fish, this awesome chicken dish, a finger lickin’ Javanese fried chicken, and this one for summer vege lovers.

Gluten-free Chocolate Cake

Gluten-free Chocolate Cake

This gluten-free chocolate cake is not just for those with intolerances – anyone who loves a rich, chocolatey bit of lushness will be into this – it’s so moist, with a delicious depth of flavor from the coconut and almond, and best of all it’s a total cinch to make, with barely any dishes to wash afterwards! Free from gluten and refined sugar, this cake has a dense and moist crumb, made more so by the addition of the syrup at the end. This cake isn’t overly sweet and it doesn’t feel heavy at all, though it’s rich enough that one piece really is satisfying enough.

I’ve been experimenting with using coconut flour in baking, with mixed results. It’s a fickle beast, absorbing all the liquid you can throw at it and then some. Generally, if you are going to substitute coconut flour for wheat flour, you’re going to need a lot more eggs to get the batter to rise, and to satiate the thirsty nature of the flour. Check out this blog post for a detailed insight into baking with coconut flour. I’ve made this cake successfully using just coconut flour, but this version I made today using half coconut flour and half almond meal turned out wonderfully.

Gluten-free chocolate cake

Instead of cane sugar I’ve used coconut sugar and a little agave syrup – but if you don’t have those to hand you can just use about 1 1/2 cups raw sugar. If you can afford it, a good-quality cocoa powder gives the best flavor. I love Green & Blacks organic version, or Equagold Dutch cocoa powder.

I find a ring tin works well for this cake; it allows the centre to cook evenly with the outside.

125g unsalted butter
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup pure agave syrup
1 cup coconut flour
1 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup cocoa powder
4 tsp baking powder*
1 cup milk
3 eggs

Syrup
1 cup strong black coffee
1/4 cup coconut sugar
25g salted butter

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease and line a 23cm ring tin. In a saucepan large enough to hold a cake batter, melt the butter, then take off the heat and stir in the coconut sugar and agave syrup. Sift in the coconut flour, ground almonds, cocoa powder and baking powder and mix to combine.

Lightly beat the milk and eggs in a bowl then pour into the rest of the ingredients and stir well until evenly combined. Pour batter into greased ring tin. Bake for 40 minutes or until the top of the cake springs back when pressed. Allow to cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes, while you make the syrup.

Heat the coffee and sugar in a saucepan and boil until the sugar dissolves. Take off heat and add the butter, stirring until it melts into the hot coffee. Turn the cake out onto a serving plate and pour the syrup carefully over the cake, letting it seep down into the crevices and drip down the sides.

Lovely served with whipped cream or Greek yoghurt.

*If you’re strictly no gluten, check your baking powder is gluten-free.

gluten-free chocolate cake

Get chopping

Hot days are absolutely the time for the kind of textural, colourful, lime-drenched salads and salsas that Mexico and South East Asia share a love of. Whether it’s a classic tomato salsa, an Isaan som tam, a Balinese shallot salad or a simple cucumber and sesame seed number, one of my biggest love affairs is with these crunchy beauties. They go wonderfully with anything off the barbecue – cutting through fat and heavy protein – and they can also easily be bulked out into a one-dish meal with the addition of things like prawns, raw fish or leftover barbecued chicken.

Here’s one I’ve made two nights in a row, for two reasons: I had a heap of tomatoes and peppers needing to be used, and my four year-old demolished this in its entirety (a dish meant for four of us) on the first night, declaring it had changed her view of onion…

salsa

This is kind of Mexican in spirit, but it’s really over to you what you put into both the salad and the dressing. The main thrust here is the chopping of everything into small pieces for a textural hit, the marinating of it all in the lime for a time before serving, and the combination of colours. This combo here is particularly festive.

Finely chop ripe tomatoes, red peppers, green or pale yellow/green beans, white onion and a little basil (coriander is good too) and hot green chilli. Dress with plenty of lime juice, a splash of avocado oil and some flaky sea salt.

Tamarind braised summer medley

It’s 9pm and I’ve just walked back into my house after a beautiful evening walk round the hood. Gardens this time of year are off the hook. It’s been hot, but not for long enough yet for things to have dried out. The star jasmine has just about done its dash, the blooms are starting to turn and the scent is at its peak of ripeness. Hydrangeas are everywhere, in their wonderfully tonal shades. And if you’re lucky, you might catch a whiff of the fabulously evocative Queen of the Night somewhere out there. Early summer feels glorious – in the kitchen as well as out in the garden.

I’ve always proclaimed myself a late summer kinda girl; eggplants, beefsteak tomatoes, lushly ripe peaches and sweetcorn are some of my favourite foods. But this year, the early summer bounty has me super inspired. Tomatoes are already full-flavoured, eggplant (obviously hothouse-grown, but still) are glossy with no trace of unripe bitterness, and colourful peppers, too are already getting cheap in the shops.

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At the weekend I visited La Cigale market for the first time in a while, and picked up some pretty almost lime-hued beans from Kumeu grower Drago, and a couple of perfect eggplants from a sprayfree stall. Tonight I needed to use them up so made this simple one-dish recipe that I will definitely be making regularly. The tartness of tamarind goes so well with perfectly cooked, silky eggplant – the coconut sugar balancing the sour and the hint of chilli adding excitement.

I call this braising, but it’s not in the true sense, as braising involves browning ingredients first. This isn’t necessary here – simply adding liquid and roasting creates a flavourful and perfectly tender nutritious dish of vegetables.

Serve this ratatouille-style, lukewarm with a crusty baguette, or hot on a bed of herbed quinoa or rice. If you’re vegetarian, you can omit the fish sauce and add a little mushroom sauce or good vegetable or mushroom stock.

In a roasting dish, combine a couple of handfuls trimmed beans, an eggplant and a red, orange or yellow pepper sliced into strips, a large, sliced onion, one beetroot cut into small cubes and 4 cloves garlic roughly chopped.

In a small bowl combine 2 Tbsp strained tamarind pulp (I buy this already prepared, for ease), 1 heaped Tbsp coconut sugar or raw, dark cane sugar, 1 Tbsp fish sauce, 1 hot chilli, finely sliced and 2/3 cup water.

Pour this liquid over the vegetables in the roasting dish and bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees Celsius for around 40 minutes, until beetroot is cooked through. A couple of times during cooking, remove from oven and stir to keep all the vegetables moist. Much of the liquid will evaporate during cooking, leaving you with a deliciously concentrated dressing and perfectly braised, moist vegetables.

Salad special

More salads! If you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll have noticed I post a lot of salad ideas. I have favourite salads I go back to again and again but I also love coming up with new twists to make seasonal produce sing. And as I talked about a few posts ago, the best bit about hosting a barbecue is getting stuck in to lots of delicious salads. Here are two ideas I made tonight to enjoy alongside grilled Moroccan-spiced chicken.

Play around with ideas. The eggplant salad could be made into a substantial meal of its own by adding some grilled halloumi or tofu, as could the potato salad, with some hot-smoked salmon or some moist, juicy smoked kahawai.

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Roasted eggplant with tahini
You can make this with either the dark purple, Italian-style eggplants or the lavender-hued narrow Asian ones. Two large eggplants will make enough to serve 4.

Slice eggplant into inch-wide sticks, douse in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and roast at 190 degrees Celsius for about 45 minutes, until meltingly tender. Stir it once or twice during roasting, and add a bit more olive oil when doing so. Mix a dressing with roughly 1/4 cup tahini, juice 1/2 lemon, 3 tsp honey, 1 tsp sumac, salt and pepper. Turn the roasted eggplant out onto a serving dish and stir through the dressing, along with around 3 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds and a generous amount of chopped flat-leaf parsley.

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New potato & crispy kale salad
I have lots of kale in my garden right now and I love chopping it up, drizzling with olive oil and roasting until crisp (25 mins or so – toss it once or twice during cooking), then either eating it as a snack or adding it to all sorts of dishes. Use whatever you like in this salad – the idea is just to balance the tender, bland potatoes with things that have crunch, bitterness, sharpness.

Cut new or small waxy potatoes into golf-ball size pieces (halves or thirds) and gently boil in salted water until tender. Make a dressing with grainy mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and stir this through the potatoes, along with finely sliced red onion, sliced green olives and feta. If you like a creamy note, stir through some good quality mayo, too. Scatter over crispy roasted kale and serve.

Supreme Seafarers

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On Friday I popped in to the just-opened Supreme Coffee brew bar on the Tyler St ground floor of the The Seafarers building. It was hard to even spot it was there as there was a big digger thing out the front, and The Fearon Hay fit out wasn’t yet complete (but will be come this week), yet eager customers were popping in and out grabbing coffee and counter food, all of which is being made in Josh Emmett-led Ostro kitchen upstairs. And it’s exciting to think how this space is going to look and feel when both Supreme and Ostro are up and running, not to mention the other 4 levels awaiting development.

I met up with Supreme’s managing director Al Keating and chatted about the new batch-brew Fetco machine they’re importing from the US – which was at the time held up in Customs, but is by now probably working away making customised brews. It’s something I need to learn more about, because I’m a bit green to the whole single origin, newfangled apparatus thing. Yep, I need some convincing to covert from my flat white ways. I did have an excellent long black while I was at Seafarers, an espresso roast from Ethiopian beans, which had wonderfully toasty, citrusy flavours. And I was impressed to note they offer coconut sugar on each table – the caramely taste of which complements coffee so well.

So many purveyors of really good coffee in the downtown area now, but I’ll definitely be making this my go-to when I’m around Britomart.

Supreme Seafarers, 52 Tyler St, Takutai Square, 7 days from 7am.

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Shreds of decency

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Barbecue season has begun and the best thing about that, I think, is all the salads that go with it. I really must go down the charcoal path (well, not the small, ultra simple charcoal we already have, that is) one of these days, but until then, a lot of the effort I put in to varied and interesting marinades and rubs and cuts of meat and so on, is kind of wasted when you’re cooking with gas. Subtlety is obliterated. So like I say, what excites me about doing a barbecue is thinking of a couple of great salads to go alongside. As always, I always start with the produce I have/what’s in season, and come up with the salad from there. It’s very unusual for me to work with a salad recipe and then go out and source those specific ingredients.

Here’s one I made the other day, with what was in the garden, fridge and pantry. It’s wonderfully crunchy with a dressing like those used in Japanese eateries.

Shred leafy vegetables like white or red cabbage, carrot, kale and add finely sliced red onion (you might like celery, capsicum, fennel also). Scatter over some edible petals, like calendula or nasturtium for colour, and a generous amount of toasted sesame seeds. Dress it: using a Microplane fine grater, grate a small, sweet apple into pulp, then do the same with a peeled clove of garlic. Combine with equal parts sesame oil, grapeseed oil, rice vinegar, then add a splash of apple vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then toss through the salad.

Wholly delicious

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The Lewis Road Creamery range of organic Jersey milk and cream hit the shelves a few weeks ago and has caused quite a stir, with bloggers aplenty impressed at the difference in taste between this premium organic product that is both permeate and palm kernel oil-free, and comes solely from Lewis Road’s Jersey herds. My advice is go for the full-fat, non-homogenised silver top. That’s where the taste difference is most obvious – my god is this stuff delicious. Rich, with a buttery but clean flavor, it’s replete with wads of thick cream. Personally I’m keen to join a raw milk collective some time soon, after being luck enough to take half a friend’s supply for a few months – but this silver Lewis Road stuff will do nicely for now.

They’re doing a single cream and a double cream (how very English!). Both will whip, but the latter is so thick I like to just pour it straight from the bottle for most applications. It’s wonderful drizzled over a piece of Orange & Almond cake (recipe to come soon).

“Leave the gun…

…Take the cannoli”. Are these the only cannoli you can buy on a regular basis in Auckland? Quite possibly. At times you spot these beloved Italian confections on restaurant menus (I’ve seen them at Blunderbuss on occasion), but for something you can buy on every block in many a New York, and even Melbourne neighbourhood, they’re surprisingly thin on the ground here in NZ. Probably because they’re a bit of a bitch to make. “Labour intensive, and requiring expensive ingredients”, says Gino Volante of Gino’s Italian Street Food, the man responsible for these two beauties I snaffled up at the Glenfield Night Markets last weekend. Volante makes his own ricotta-style cheese to keep down costs, but his cannoli will never be something he’s making a big profit on. Lucky us, then, because you can taste the quality in these beauties. For $5 you get a painstakingly made pastry tube crammed with pistachio and a candied citrus-filled, sweetened ricotta, one is certainly enough, but two is even better…

Look for Gino’s Italain Street Food at the Glenfield Night Market (Sundays), the New Lynn Night Market (Thursdays) and the Britomart Farmers’ Market (Saturday mornings). As well as cannoli, Volante and his girlfriend Giulia make other traditional Italian confections and, on the savoury side,  delicious panzerotti  (deep fried foccaccia-style bread filled with mozarella and salami and other yums). 

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