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Posts from the ‘Entrees’ Category

Quick Ricotta Gnocchi Recipe & a Workshop

It was a wet and cold Saturday morning, the type of day you just want to stay in doors all cosy and warm eating comfort food, the perfect weather for a cooking workshop which is exactly what happened last weekend. I have always loved gnocchi but often it can be a be ‘gloopy and starchy’ from the potato, that’s why when I found this recipe I fell in love with immediately. The dough is made from only 4 main ingredients; ricotta, parmesan, egg and flour, with not a potato in site and because there is no pre cooking of potatoes it is incredible quick to make, about 15 minutes if you are buying the ricotta. Since ricotta is so expensive here in NZ to buy I make my own and have added the recipe for this also, yet another incredibly quick recipe with only two ingredients and two stages to making it.

We served our gnocchi that afternoon with two very easy to make sauces, sage butter with parmesan and a blue cheese sauce, both of which went down very well with a local NZ Shingle Peek Sav Blanc and made for a very cheerful afternoon despite the weather.


  • 300 g Ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 30 g Parmesan (or Pecorino), freshly grated
  • 75 – 100g g all-purpose flour, extra for dusting the dough/board


  • Discard any excess liquid that the Ricotta’s packaging may contain, or if you make your own you might also have to blend it a little till smooth.
  • Combine the ricotta cheese, egg, salt and freshly grated Parmesan into a large bowl.
  • Add the flour and stir in briefly until just combined, the dough should still be sticky.
  • Generously flour a board and split the dough into three. dust one piece with flour and roll the dough out into a sausage shape about finger thickness.
  • Cut into 1 inch pillow shapes as in photo with a sharp knife, flouring the knife if needed.
  • Place the gnocchi pillows onto a floured tray and repeat process with the rest of the dough.
  • Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a generous pinch of salt and reduce heat to a simmer.
  • Add the gnocchi and stir once, so they don’t stick to the bottom – they will start floating once cooked which takes about 2 minutes.
  • Once cooked add to the sauce and serve immediately.

Sage Butter & Parmesan Sauce

  • 100g butter
  • large handful of fresh sage leaves
  • Shaved parmesan for serving
  • Cracked black pepper for seasoning


  • Place butter and sage leaves into a large frying pan on a low heat.
  • Cook till butter starts to turn golden brown.
  • Add cooked gnocchi to the butter and ensure each piece is covered in butter.
  • Serve with additional grated Parmesan cheese.

Blue Cheese Sauce

  • 50g blue cheese
  • 150ml cream
  • Cracked black pepper to season


  • In a large frying pan add the butter and blue cheese.
  • Cook on a low heat until the cheese has dissolved and the sauce has thickened.
  • Add the cooked gnocchi to the frying pan and coat with cheese sauce.
  • Serve and season with black pepper.

Ricotta recipe

  • 2-3 litres of pasturised full fat milk (it must not be homogenised milk as this in my experience doesn’t work)
  • 4-6 tblsp white vinegar
  1. Put the milk in a solid bottom pan to prevent burning of the milk.
  2. Heat milk to almost boiling point over a medium heat, stir now and then to prevent burning, then turn heat off.
  3. Add the vinegar 1 tablespoon at a time and gently stir the milk in between each spoonful. Once the milk starts to curdle into a lot of lumps stop adding vinegar, this should happen at about 4-5 tablespoons.
  4. Allow to rest for 10 minutes and then scoop curds out into into a clean tea (or muslin cloth) towel inside a colander.
  5. Place colander and contents into a large bowl or pan so the whey can drain freely and leave for several hours or over night.
  6. And what is left in your cloth is the ricotta.
  7. I find homemade ricotta needs a bit of a whiz with the blender to make it smooth for this recipe.

Twice Baked Mushroom Souffle

Souffles are a lot easier to make than most people realise and the majority of the preparation can be done before hand. With this dish you can prepare most of it in advance, like the mushroom sauce and base for the souffle, leaving just the whisking and the folding of the whites and baking to last minute. It’s a fabulous hearty winter dish that isn’t too heavy. You could serve it either as a light main course or make smaller ramekins for an entree. The souffle does sink when you take it out of the ramekin but it is still very light in texture after the second baking.

Ingredients – serves 4-6 depending on ramekin size

  • 30g butter (souffle)
  • 30g flour
  • 350ml milk
  • 3 eggs separated
  • 60g gruyere cheese, grated
  • 300g mushrooms, sliced
  • 10og butter (sauce)
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 60ml dry white wine
  • 250ml pouring cream
  • handful chopped thyme
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard


  1. Pre heat oven to 200C.
  2. Grease and flour 4 large ramekins.
  3. For the mushroom sauce, heat butter in a frying pan and add shallots, fry on a low heat until tender.
  4. Add mushrooms and fry till cooked (5 mins).
  5. Add wine to pan and reduce liquid by half.
  6. Add cream, mustard & thyme and reduce the sauce slightly.
  7. Season with salt & pepper to taste and set aside.
  8. For the souffle, melt the butter in a pan then add the flour.
  9. Cook flour for 3 minutes, stirring continuously.
  10. Bring the milk to a boil in a separate pan then whisk into the flour & butter mixture, stirring continuously and cook for a further 3 minutes.
  11. Allow to cool then whisk in the egg yolks only.
  12. Season to taste and cover with plastic wrap till ready to use (prevents a skin forming).
  13. Whisk egg whites until soft peaks form then whisk 1/3 into the cooled milk mixture.
  14. Fold the remaining whites into the mixture with a metal spoon and pour into ramekins.
  15. Bake until golden and well risen (approx 7-10 minutes).
  16. Divide mushroom sauce between 4 oven proof plates and turn souffles out on top of the mushroom sauce.
  17. Scatter with grated cheese and return to the oven and bake until cheese has melted and turned golden (5-8 minutes).

Selection of Hors d’oeuvres – Cooking Workshop

Roast beef & Caramelised Onion Vol-au-Vents, Lime Chicken Cucumber Wrap and Goats Cheese Fritter with Minted Pea Mash! That was this weeks cooking workshop with the group of ladies from Muriwai. It was a lot to do to achieve three hors d’oeuvres in 2.5 hours but the girls worked hard and the results were spectacular with each taking home a selection to share with their families. They are all relatively simple to create all of which can be prepared in advance so there is not last minute rush as guests arrive leaving you time to socialise.

Roast Beef & Caramelised Onion Vol au Vents


  • 2 Sheets of puff pastry
  • 2 small onions or 1 large, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Sirloin, rump or fillet steak
  • Horse radish cream

Method – Vol au vent

  • Heat oven to 180C
  • Using a 1.5 inch cookie cutter, cut out as many circles as possible from the sheets.
  • From half of the circles cut out the centre to make rings with a ¾ inch cookie cutter.
  • Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork and lightly brush them with egg wash
  • Place the rings on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere.
  • Brush the top rings lightly with egg wash and place on baking tray.
  • Place a piece of greaseproof paper on top of the cases, this will help even rising.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Method – filling

  • Gently fry onion slices in a few tablespoons of oil.
  • Once soft add balsamic vinegar and season to taste. Allow to cool.
  • Season the steak with salt & pepper.
  • Sear steak to medium rare and put aside to cool before slicing. Slice thinly.
  • To assemble, add a spoonful of caramelized onion into the pastry case, add two slices of beef and top with horse radish cream.

Lime Chicken Cucumber Wraps

Mine have beef in the photo, I forgot to photograph the first batch but but meats work really well with this style.


  • 1 Chicken breast
  • 1/2 telegraph cucumber
  • Handful fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 Spring onion, finely sliced
  • Juice & zest of 1 lime
  • ¼ tsp brown sugar
  • Pinch of chilli powder or fresh chilli
  • Salt & pepper
  • Cocktail sticks


  • Season the chicken breast with salt & pepper and pan fry on both sides till cooked, allow to cool in fridge.
  • Mix together the coriander, spring onion, lime juice & zest, brown sugar & chilli and cover the chicken breast with the marinade.
  • Slice the cucumber length ways with a mandolin or potato peeler.
  • Slice the chicken into thin strips.
  • Take one slice of cucumber and place several thin strips of chicken at one end, making sure there is plenty marinade still covering the chicken. Roll the cucumber up and secure with a cocktail stick.

Goats Cheese Fritters with Minted Pea Mash

  • 200g firm goat’s cheese (like a French chèvre log)
  • 4 tbsp polenta
  • 1 teacup of frozen petits pois
  • Handful mint leaves
  • 1 tsp best-quality olive oil
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • Salt & pepper


  • Shape cheese into a log (if not already) and wrap in glad wrap and place in the fridge to firm.
  • Once chilled, slice the cheese with a hot knife (dip knife in boiling water) into 1.5cm thick rounds.
  • Press the cheese into the polenta to coat completely. Place on a plate and leave in the fridge till ready to fry.
  • Blanch the peas in lightly salted boiling for a minute, then drain and refresh.
  • Shred the remaining mint and pound briefly with the peas using a mortar and pestle to form a lumpy paste. Or blend with blender.
  • Stir in the olive oil and season with salt & pepper.
  • Fry cheese fritters in the oil until golden on both sides. Keep warm in the oven while you cook the remainder.
  • To serve top with pea paste.

Courgette, Parmesan & Goats Cheese Soup

The nights are definitely getting a little cooler here in Auckland and salads are becoming less appealing for an evening meal, but that means it’s time to start bringing back the soups which is definitely something to celebrate. This year I announced that we should try some different soups rather than my favourite, French Onion and P’s favourite broccoli which is very delicious but then he will tend to make the same one every week until I politely say I can’t eat any more of it.
This courgette soup, or rather zucchini soup if I’m being Kiwi, is fairly quick to make if you have a mandolin for match sticking the vegetable but you can always just thinly slice them in rounds instead of cutting match stick sizes.
I decided to add the goats cheese at the last minute since we had some left over in the fridge. We found this amazing boutique cheese company on the way down to Taupo, to do the Crossing, called ‘Over The Moon’ in a dot of a town called Putaruru. Goat & sheep cheeses have been slow to take off in NZ so I am always excited to find new ones and this cheese maker makes an excellent camembert and brie from sheep and goat milk. They are incredibly soft and gooey like a good brie or camembert should be which you do not get with the regular shop varieties here. For all NZers who appreciate a European style brie or goats cheese I highly recommend you visit their website as they will deliver.
By the way, we survived the Tongariro Crossing even in 50k winds and minimal visibility! There was not much of a view from the top but we felt quite righteous after completing it in appalling conditions and in six hours when we thought it might take seven. I thing the cold windy weather hastened our stride somewhat!
  • 1 tbsp butter (or oil)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled, chopped
  • Small bunch oregano, left whole
  • salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1kg courgette cut into matchstick size pieces
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 50g freshly grated parmesan
  • Slices of goats cheese to serve


  1. Heat the butter in a heavy-based pan.
  2. Cook the garlic and courgette slowly for 10 minutes, or until the courgettes are lightly browned and softened.
  3. Add some pepper and stock and simmer for 8 minutes, uncovered. Remove from the heat.
  4. Put 1/2 of the soup into a food processor and process until smooth.
  5. Return to the pan and stir in the parmesan.
  6. Season to taste with pepper and salt if required, depending on how salty the cheese is.
  7. Serve with slices of goats cheese on top and crusty bread.

Potted Shrimps with Sour Dough

P likes to collect the new Jamie Oliver magazines, most of which I pick up while I am in Sydney as they aren’t so easy to find here in Auckland. One of the recipes we have had our eye on for a while has been the potted shrimps which reminds me so much be of seaside resorts back home. I never liked them when I was young but you know what nostalgia is like? Everything improves the further away the memory is and I had built tehm in my mind to be this great dish of home. I served them as part of an antipasta at a dinner party, they were very popular but I think everyone else liked them more than I did!

Here is Jamie’s recipe with a few additional herbs that I added.


  • 150g butter
  • a good pinch of cayenne pepper
  • a good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 250g peeled brown shrimps
  • zest of one lemon
  • tbsp chopped parsley
  • tbsp chopped dill


  1. Place 50g butter, cayenne pepper and grated nutmeg into a medium-sized pan and melt over a gentle heat.
  2. Add the peeled shrimps and stir over the heat for a couple of minutes until they have cooked through, but don’t let the mixture boil.
  3. Add the lemon zest, parsley & dill to the shrimps.
  4. Divide the shrimps and butter between 4 small ramekins. Level the tops and then leave them to set in the fridge.
  5. Melt the rest of the butter and spoon over the shrimps and leave to set once more.
  6. Serve with sour dough or crusty brown bread.

Vegan Onion Bhajis

I made onion bhajis last week as part of our vegan BBQ. Traditionally Bhajis are deep fried and are a lot thicker than shown in the picture but given the mixture is the same as a fritter I thought I could probably make them on the BBQ in that style. I did a trial run early on in the day since I had never made fritters without egg to bind them but yet again I was surprised by this vegan cuisine, they worked incredibly well without egg. I added a lot more spices to mine than I have seen in other recipes or tasted at restaurants in the past and I personally think they taste better that way.

Even my meat eating P loved them and it is just as well I had made plenty or there would not have been enough to feed my vegan friend. This is such an easy dish to make and the batter can be prepared ahead of cooking or you cold even cook them early on in the day and heat them up again later in the oven. I have topped my bhajis with my tomato & cumin relish from a previous post.


  • 100g gram flour
  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp fresh coriander, chopped
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cardamon seeds
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • pinch salt
  • 100ml water
  • oil for frying


  1. Place all the cumin, cardamon, mustard & coriander seeds into a frying pan and ‘dry’ cook them for 2 minutes.
  2. Remove the spices from the pan and grind them into a powder.
  3. Mix all the ingredients except the water together, then add the water gradually until you have a thick batter (you may not need to use it all).
  4. In a non stick frying pan pour 2 tablespoons of oil.
  5. Place a spoonful of the bhaji mixture in a pan and flatten slightly, repeat to create more bhajis.
  6. Fry on a medium heat in batches for 2 minutes each side or until golden brown. Keep the first batch of bhajis warm in the oven until the final batch is cooked.
  7. Serve with relish or chutney.

Pacific Coconut Fish Canapes

The party season has certainly started out at our beach town Muriwai, this Saturday alone there where three big parties happening which probably covered most of the residency in one night. We decided to have a joint Christmas Cheer party this year and all invite a group of friends each for our ‘Bling on Muriwai Christmas’, the idea behind the bling was to give us all the opportunity to dress up for the night, being at the beach we are more often than not in casual clothes. Everyone contributed a plate or two of canapes, one of mine being a Pacific fish or ceviche canape.

Raw fish marinated in lemon or lime and coconut is a popular dish made in the Pacific Islands, it is similar to Ceviche but has the addition of coconut milk. It is an uncooked dish, the acid from the lemon is what ‘cooks’ the meat. I couldn’t find what it was actually called, it just seems to be know as ‘raw fish’ so if anyone does know what this pacific dish is called drop me a line.

It makes a lovely refreshing canape for the summer or as and entree with salad.

Ingredients – makes about 30

  • Fresh firm white fish
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • Juice of 3 large lemons
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, sliced small
  • Handful of chopped parsley
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic


  1. Slice the raw fish into small pieces
  2. Place fish, lemon juice and garlic cloves into a bowl and leave to marinate for several hours or overnight in the fridge.
  3. Slice the cucumber into 1/2 inch rounds and scoop out half of the centre of each round to make a small cup.
  4. Drain the lemon juice off the the fish.
  5. Add coconut milk, spring onions, sliced tomatoes and parsley to the fish. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
  6. Leave for an hour for the flavours to mature before filling the cucumber cups, remove the garlic from the mixture.
  7. Enjoy!

Sesame Potato Cake Canapes with Smoked Salmon


Ok, so I have been watching Masterchef Australia again and last week the contestants had to cater for a wedding and one of the dishes was potato cake canapes and I thought…mm that would be nice as a Christmas pre dinner nibble so no sooner the thought and I’m at the shops buying the indredients. They don’t offer recipes on Masterchef so you have to go with your own but how hard could potoato cakes be? I decided it would be nice to use some sesame seeds as well for flavour and I added baby leeks instead of spring onions. They made the perfect canape but also the next day I had enough left to have with breakfast topped with poached eggs and smoked salmon. So they are very versatile and easy to make into various dishes; canapes, breakfast or to accompany a stew for all those in the colder climates at present!

Ingredients – makes 12 regular or 24 canape size

  • 1kg potatoes (mashing variety), peeled
  • 4 baby leeks or spring onions, finely sliced
  • 2 tblsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 3 tblsp sesame seeds, black & white
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • Salt & pepper


  1. Boil the potatoes until they are cooked but still firm, allow to cool completely.
  2. Dice potatoes and place into a bowl.
  3. Add leeks, sesame seeds, egg and thyme to the potatoes and bind together squashing a quarter of the potatoes.
  4. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
  5. Press the potoato mix into moulds or if you don’t have any form with your hands. For the canapes I pressed the potato into a mini cookie cutter! I wold suggest making them ony 3 cm thick so you have plenty of crispy outsides with less soft potato on the inside.
  6. Heat a non stick frying pan and coat the base with a little oil.
  7. Cook on a low heat until golden brown on either sides and warm through to the centre. Do not crowd the pan with too many as it will be difficult to turn them, therefore I would suggest keeping the first batch warm in the oven until all are cooked and ready to serve.
  8. I topped mine with horseradish cream, smoked salmon and chives
  9. Enjoy!

Seafood, Fennel & Lime Parcels

fish-parcelsThese little parcels were to accompany the previous post of Fennel Bread and were party of our monthly Supper Club with friends. Since the theme for the evening was white, fish was the obvious option and I had in my mind to make terrine or parcels after watching the Australian Master Chef last week were one of the contestants used courgettes as the parcel casing. I have become addicted to Master Chef and we have to stream it off the internet since we do not possess a TV, it takes me back to when I used to work in commercial kitchens and the whole adrenalin buzz of being under pressure at service.

The parcels are stuffed with a combination of white fish, prawns & ricotta. It’s quite easy to make and can be made a day in advance and stored in the fridge until service. The puree at the front of the photo is butter bean & roast garlic with a drizzle of truffle oil (well truffle infused oil!). I’m going give you a Jamie style recipe as this is how I cook when not baking…a bit of this & a dollop of that!

Ingredients – makes 8 terrines

  • 500g White fish ( I used Monk fish)
  • 500g Prawns
  • 150g Ricotta cheese
  • 3 baby Fennel bulbs (very finely shaved then diced)
  • Zest & juice of two limes
  • Salt & pepper to season
  • 2 large thick leeks
  • 2 tins of cooked butter beans
  • 6 cloves of roasted garlic, cook it whenever you have your oven on and store in the fridge to use later (do not use raw)


  1. Trim the end and green leaves off the leeks.
  2. Place in a pan deep enough to cover them, then fill with water. Add salt to the water. Bring water to the boil and poach the leek on simmer for about 30 minutes (until soft). Remove from the pan and allow to cool.
  3. Place the white fish in a pan and cover with milk, poach the fish until just cooked and tender, approx 10 minutes, remove from milk and chill in fridge.
  4. Shell prawns and put 8 aside for decoration then chop the remaining prawns into small pieces.
  5. Quickly fry the whole prawns in butter (2 minutes), remove and chill in fridge.
  6. Add the chopped prawns to the frying pan with some more butter and cook for about 2 minutes, taste test to see if they are cooked. Add the zest and juice of one lime to the pan and remove all contents to a bowl and chill in fridge.
  7. Flake the white fish up and place in a bowl with the prawns, ricotta, chopped fennel bulb and the rest of lime juice, season to taste.
  8. Take the cold leek and slit it down the middle so it opens out into long flat pieces of leek.
  9. Line ramekins (or small bowls) with leek slices, crossing them over at the centre and ensuring the bottom and sides are lined with leek. The leek should be long enough to come up the sides and wrap over and enclose the filling.
  10. Fill each ramekin with the fish mix and wrap the leek over the top. Chill in the fridge for at least one hour (or you can leave them over night).
  11. To serve, turn the ramekin over onto a plate and tap so that the parcel falls out, this should be very easy as the mixture is quite moist.
  12. Blend the butter beans and roast garlic cloves together to form a puree, season and serve with the parcels.
  13. Garnish the top of the parcels with the whole prawns by adding a small spoon of the puree on top to sit the prawn in.
  14. Serve with bread.
  15. Enjoy and impress your friends!
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