Friday, 21 June 2013

Missing Midwinter in Dunedin

Tonight marks Midwinter Solstice, the shortest day of the year in the southern hemisphere.  In a more temperate Auckland midwinter passes by without too much fuss; but down south, midwinter is celebrated in style. Down south, there is something invigorating about a true winter's day... and the weather is always the first topic of conversation.

June also marks 6 months since we left Dunedin for Auckland, so it's timely that I reflect on the things I miss about Dunedin.  Here is a tour of my Dunedin favourites:
Jack Frost on stilts - a great and warm viewing place is up
in Bacchus Wine Bar & Restaurant - excellent food
and a wonderful selection of Central Otago wines
(Dunedin's first wine bar) Photo: Alan Dove Photography - Facebook  
The Midwinter Carnival held on the Saturday nearest to the shortest day has a  procession with hundreds of lanterns, many made by children, stilt walkers and performers in the city's centre...if the weather permits!

 Lighted Lanterns are a feature of the Midwinter Carnival in the Octagon,
St Paul's Cathedral in the background.  Photo: courtesy of Dunedin Tourism

It will be no surprise that my tour of Dunedin city is focused on food.  My choices have been influenced by my interest in the Victorian and Edwardian architecture of the city. 

Left Wedgewood tiles adorn the interior of the Railway Station;
centre; First Church  and right; Robbie Burns with St Pauls Cathedral in the Octagon.
Photos courtesy of Tourism Dunedin

Scotia Bar and Bistro

In a city that looks, sounds (busking bagpipers) and feels like Scotland (a wee bit chilly) it's most fitting that there is a restaurant called Scotia Bar and Bistro.
Victorian Terrace Houses built for the country landlords as
town houses.  Photo courtesy of Tourism Dunedin
I like the ambience and cosy feel as well as the good food. Enter this Victorian terrace house and you come to a bar with a wall of whisky and a warming fire.  You can choose to have a pre-dinner drink beside the warm fire.   The food by chef Andy Aitken has a touch of Scotland in the menu choice.  You can choose Haggis as an entree, which is surprisingly tasty and I had the best cooked Bluff oysters there.  Smaller, cheaper meals are on offer, which are ideal before going just up the road to the The Fortune - Otago and Southlands Professional Theatre.

Taste Nature - Organic shop and kitchen

Taste Nature or as known in Dunedin as The Organic Shop is situated in lower High Street opposite the Southern Cross Hotel.   Taste Nature ticks three boxes for me -
First it's got a large range of organically grown fruit and vegies, organic meats and a large selection of flours, grains, oils, dried goods, garden seeds, herbal products and spices.  I must say it's one of the best organic supply shops around.

I suggest going down to the back of the shop where large glass jars contain different dried fruits and find the crystallised ginger short sticks from the US, fill a small bag and enjoy the sugar coated punch of ginger.  I haven't found that ginger anywhere else.    Ginger is great eaten with dark chocolate and almonds...yum.
Photos from Taste Nature

Second, the kitchen that used to only do takeaway lunches now has seating so you can choose to have your lunch on site.   I love the casual atmosphere here, where you help yourself to a warming soup from a slow cooker for around $6 and another $1 for a thick slice of fresh baked bread, and pay later at the shop counter.
 The soup is made from ingredients from the shop and Mark the owner's garden at Waitati.  It's great soup, the best value in town with probably the best food values as well - and believe me soups are very desirable midwinter in Dunedin.

Thirdly, the building has a wonderful history dating back to the 1800's when Dunedin was a boom town. You can still see along the top of the building Bing Harris.  They were importers of the materials that supplied the many clothing manufacturers in the city. The new property developers have used old features really well, preserving the integrity of the old city for modern use.

Around the corner on Princes Street another lovely old building houses Nectar Espresso Cafe where you can get an excellent coffee.  It's fitted out in a modern style, with the good bones of the old building very much in evidence (and their pinwheel scones are yum but you have to be there before 11 because they usually sell out fast).

Hair Raiser Tours & City Walks

You always remember a city by the characters you meet.   Both Athol Parks of City Walks and Andrew Smith of Hair Raiser Ghost Tours certainly fit that bill.   Athol has a quiet manner and conveys insights into Dunedin's Victorian and Edwardian architecture with passion and knowledge.  Athol is usually dressed for the Dunedin climate in a weather proof jacket while the flamboyant Andrew wears a top hat and cape for his ghost stories and yarns about the mysterious characters of early Dunedin. 

Athol left and Andrew right; here they are celebrating the life of
a famous Dunedin walker Joe Scott with a walking race around
the Octagon during the Rugby World Cup 2011.
Andrew's Hair Raising tours operate every day and the ghost tour every night over winter at 6pm -a good way to work up an appetite before dinner.  Athol's tours run only by request over the winter but keep him in mind if you are in Dunedin from October on.

Everyday Gourmet

Everything I have ever eaten at Everyday Gourmet has been delicious.  The Supreme coffee is excellent and the service friendly.  Having been in business for 18 years it is a Dunedin institution.  Longevity in a cafe speaks of consistency and quality.   For under $10 you can get a tasty and seasonal salad and coffee. 

It is also a fabulous 'deli'. I have met many small producers at Farmer's markets and when asked if they have an outlet in Dunedin often the reply would be, "Yes, Everyday Gourmet sells our product".
Tempting edibles under those glass domes, and a wall that
runs the entire length of the shop is loaded with gourmet products
from  New Zealand and overseas.
 Everyday Gourmet can be found at the north end of George Street near Knox Church...its worth the walk.

Quadrant Gallery in The Quarter, Moray Place

Quadrant Gallery features contemporary jewellery, some made by owner David McLeod as well as stunning glass sculptures and ceramics.  I love the whimsical work of potter Peter Henderson.     I particularly like his coffee cups with animals.  The glaze is top quality and can take a beating in the dishwasher for years.  I worked in Quadrant for a short time and thought I had landed in paradise amongst so many lovely pieces of jewellery.  

A couple of examples of Peter Henderson's bowls
 The building where Quadrant is situated,  Bracken Court,  is owned by Ted Daniels. Ted an accomplished jeweller himself and loves buildings with character. When a recent fire destroyed this building, instead of pulling it down and replacing it with a modern one, he kept the stone facade and made a sympathetically designed modern building behind.  Next door to Quadrant is Cilantro Cafe where you can enjoy a coffee and admire lovely objects through the internal glass walls.

Quadrant is just one of many galleries and interesting shops in this 'quarter' of the old city.

Otago Farmers Market at the Railway Station

The farmers market has been operating for 12 years and is a regular Saturday morning routine for Dunedin foodies.  It's not only fresh produce on sale, its an opportunity to talk to producers directly, try new things and catch up with friends.

To find the Farmers Market you only have to spot the Railway
Station at the end of Stuart Street - the market is at the north end
of the station (left of picture) Photo: Tourism Dunedin
The highlight of my visit is catching up with Alison Lambert in the mobile kitchen.   Alison demonstrates easy ways of cooking with produce on sale at the market.  She is inspirational in the way she can produce something delicious out of a caravan with just a gas hob and small oven, sometimes in a southerly gale.  This means every recipe she makes is simple and anyone can make her recipes.  
You can watch Alison cook and have tastings every Saturday morning at the
market and if you are quick enough, grab a printed recipe sheet.  Its not only the recipes - its all the handy
tips that are so helpful.   Photo courtesy of Otago Farmers Market

From Otago Farmers Market Recipes I have chosen one especially for my brother Jamie whom I introduced  Cavolo Nero recently.  It is also known as Italian Kale or Black Cabbage. Jamie loves silverbeet and grows lots of it, but after tasting Cavolo Nero, the silverbeet may end up in the back row of his garden.
Like growing cabbage you need to give Cavolo Nero
plenty to eat and it will reward you with greens all winter

Caldo Verde – Portuguese Soup - a recipe from Alison Lambert

Alison's Caldo Verde uses a combination of greens including cabbage. To get a richer green colour and flavour, add some Cavolo Nero or silverbeet.  Remember, the darker the green, the better for you.

Serves 4
2 fat onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
60ml olive oil
1 chorizo sausage or chilli salami (basecamp)
6 large potatoes
1.5 litres good vegetable or chicken stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 bay leaves
large bunch of greens or cabbage

Gently fry the onions and garlic in the olive oil until softened and translucent.
Chop the chorizo or chilli salami into small chunks and add to the pan with the onion.
Fry the onions and sausage for a few more minutes and then add the diced potatoes. They will absorb all the flavour from the sausage.
Add the stock, seasoning and bay leaves, and cook until the potatoes are soft.
Meanwhile, very finely chop the cabbage
When the potatoes are ready, mash them into the broth to make a thick base, add the greens/ cabbage to the simmering broth.
Add as much cabbage as the broth will support - if you want heavy soup add loads of greens, if lighter, add less.
Simmer for a few minutes. The soup will go the colour of jade.
Serve drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

You can buy some great sausages at the market to go into this perfect soup for a midwinter's weekend.  

So Dunedin, here's wishing you a clear fine evening for the Midwinter Carnival - wish I was there.

... oh and I haven't forgotten the Otago Peninsula.  I think that needs a posting all to itself. Next posting I will be mixing it with penguins and seals and having tea at a castle.  

Sunday, 16 June 2013

"Make cheese", said the Quince

In Spain manchego cheese, a hard salty sheep milk cheese is eaten with dulce de membrillo - a sweet red conserve, which we know as quince paste - sounds perfect doesn't it?   In Spain dulce de membrillo is sold in large blocks and slices cut off as you would cheese.  So with my Northland quince I will give a nod to Spain and make Quince Cheese to share with friends.

I have made quince jelly before but never quince cheese (or paste) - cheese in the world of preserves simply means a solid sliceable preserve.   With my large golden quinces on hand I searched through my recipe books and came across quince cheese in "River Cottage Handbook No.2 - Preserves by Pam Corbin".   This seems exactly like the Spanish recipes I found with the exception that they sometimes add a cinnamon stick ...I decided to keep it plain this first time.

Wash the quince and roughly chop the fruit but don't peel or core them.   Place in a large pan and barely cover with water.

 Bring to a simmer and cook until soft and pulpy, adding a little more water if necessary.   Leave to stand for several hours.
I took the pulp out of my metal pot and poured the into a large glass bowl for the
waiting period of several hours.  I left it overnight and made the quince cheese the next night.

Rub the contents through a sieve or mouli and then weigh the pulp and return to a heavy bottomed clean pan, adding an equal weight of sugar.  I don't have scales at the moment, so I measured cup for cup like you do for jelly.  Gently bring to the boil stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. Now it becomes a waiting game.

The quince goes through a transformation from a golden fruit to a rich red over long slow cooking.

You have to stir frequently so that it doesnt stick and burn.   This can take an hour and a bit, so be prepared and have something else to do in the kitchen while watching over the quince.
Starts off yellow

Then begins to turn orange
After an hour it finally starts turning red, thick and glossy.

You have to be diligent in the stirring as it begins to thicken.  It get's very thick and glossy and be careful as it may bubble and splatter like a mud pool or a pot of porridge.   Keep cooking until you can scrape a spoon through it and see the base of the pan for a couple of seconds before the mixture oozes together again.

I decided to make mine like a cheese round to share with friends.  Keep cool, preferably in the fridge, but allow it sit at room temperature before using, so you can enjoy the maximum fruity flavour.

I used a cake tin lined with baking paper and let it set for a day before cutting.  If you have small bowls or ramakins that you can use as a mould, then brush them with a little glycerine to allow the cheeses to be easily released.

The attractively shaped quince cheese from the River Cottage Preserves recipe book and
a small ramakin that could be used as a mould.
Ideally this cheese should be kept for a month before eating to give further depth of flavour...but who can resist?
A perfect set of Quince Cheese wedges ready to be wrapped first
in baking paperand then in foil 

The melon shaped golden quince I got from Northland is probably Pineapple Quince, a tart variety used mainly for preserves.   The Apple Quince I get down south looks more like a nobbly pear with sticky fluff over parts of the skin.  This quince is known to be sweeter.

  • Add a quince to any apple dessert, cake or compote for added texture, colour and flavour - just make sure you give the quince a head start and cook slowly for 20 minutes before adding the apple...or if time is a problem grate the quince
  • You can add sliced quince with meat in a tagine or slow cooker as it too enjoys a long slow cooking time
  • Instead of apple sauce with pork you could try quince sauce 
  • Any cores with pips and peel can be boiled up and strained, put into a plastic bottle and stored in the freezer as added pectin for fruit jellies or jams that have lower pectin than quince
  • In Chile a dessert favourite is Murta con Membrillo which combines the Ugni Molinae (Chilean guava or as we call it here the New Zealand Cranberry) with quince and sugar
  • Quince is lovely baked long and slow under foil so that it turns soft and red.  I do this in a little sugar syrup or just a little water and sprinkled with raw sugar (to your taste); and if you want add either a cinnamon stick or star anise
  • Poaching Quince with Vanilla.  I have included a blog by excellent food writer David Le Bovitz's Rosy Poached Quince recipe and his view on quince. Cooked quince sitting in syrup will turn red over time in the fridge
  • I am keen to try Otago Farmers Market Baked Quince a recipe from chef Alison Lambert who creates delicious seasonal recipes from a caravan every Saturday at Otago Farmers Market.
Whether it's enjoying quince preserved as dulce de membrillo with cheese in summer heat or using it seasonally poached or baked in the chill of winter, it's a fruit that has been revered through the ages.

The ancient Greeks believed it to be a fruit of love, marriage and fertility and was often given as a wedding gift to the bride to sweeten her breath. In medieval England, imported Membrillo from Spain was prescribed by apothecaries to assist with digestion.

With this in mind, what a lovely gift to give to a bride to be or to serve after a meal either as dessert or with cheese.

Otago Farmers Market

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Southern Cooking Apples Meet Northland Quince

A real cooking apple is tart and will "fluff" into a puree when cooked.   Have you ever wondered what makes apples do that?

A tart or sour taste means there is a high level of malic acid in the apple and this acid breaks down the apple flesh when cooked.  Regrettably heritage cooking apples are difficult to find except perhaps at  Farmers Markets or from a friend's home orchard.

Recently we escaped city life for Northland. It's the first time I have visited Whangarei Heads in the East and the Hokianga Harbour in the West.  At Whangarei I met truly inspirational people involved with Backyard Kiwi.   They are working hard to ensure the kiwi will be safe in their part of New Zealand.  Kiwi are not only just surviving there, they are increasing in numbers.

From our friend Heather's B&B at Omapere looking out to the entrance of the Hokianga Harbour.
You walk down her garden to the beach and perhaps you can just see Peter taking a swim centre frame.
Hokianga Haven
We  ventured over to the equally beautiful Hokianga Harbour where I couldn't resist a bag of quince for $1.50 at a roadside stall.   Arriving home with my Northland produce I discovered a box had been delivered from Dunedin. My sister Kerry sent me four types of apples labelled in brown paper bags all grown in her home orchard.

From left to right; Gooseberry apple, Monty's Surprise, Sturmer and Golden Delicious

These apples are precious and not to be wasted.  I have decided to find a good recipe for each sort of apple and the quince will also get a look in.

Serving it up raw...

After dinner Peter often slices up an apple and shares it around the table.  Our grandson Beau loves eating apples this communal way and somehow apples sliced for you taste better than biting into a whole apple. 

The Golden Delicious is an apple that was very popular when we were young because of it's sweetness but has gone out of favour for the juicy red eating varieties on offer.  Being a romantic Kerry decided to plant a tree because of those childhood memories.  She knew we would enjoy the sweetness of this greeny-yellow eating apple as part of our regular apple eating routine after dinner. 

Baked Apples with Cider and Rosemary
 The baked apple will never win a beauty contest but they
are truly delicous especially served with custard.
I used to wait every year for Mum's Peasgood Nonsuch massive apples that I would stuff and bake. This time I am using Kerry's Monty's Surprise apples for a different method of baking apples from "A Cook's Year in a Welsh Farmhouse" by Elisabeth Luard.  I like this recipe because it unusually uses Rosemary and the apples are cooked in cider. 

4 large apples
2-3 tbsp walnut pieces
(As I didn't have quite enough walnut I added some currants)
1 tsp finely chopped rosemary leaves
About 300 ml dry cider; plus extra to finish
3-4 tbsp honey plus extra to finish
Large nugget of butter plus extra to finish

Preheat the oven to 180C.  Core the apples without going right through at the stalk end (if you can - if not it doesnt really matter).  Arrange the apples in an ovenproof dish, in which they will just fit.  

Stuff the cores with walnuts, rosemary (and currants or any other dried fruit you desire).  Pour in the cider, trickle the honey over the stuffing and dot the apples with butter.  Cover with foil and bake for 20-30 minutes until the apples are perfectly soft.  You can also cook them long and slow.

If you are using a metal pan you can transfer the apples to a serving dish and cook the sauce on the stove top.  If, like me. you cook the apples in a ceramic dish, then add some fresh cider to the dish to clean out the remaining juice and scrape up all the little brown bits and add to a pot.  Add more honey to taste with a little more butter and cook until it bubbles and becomes the consistency of a sauce. 

Serve by spooning over sauce and offer with either whipped cream or yoghurt or custard.

I chose an English Cider because I find a lot of the New Zealand ones
are just not dry enough.  In England they use particular apples bred for cider production.

Research has indicated apples contain substances capable of reducing the risk of some cancers, cardiovascular disease, asthma and diabetes.

The NZ Tree Crops Assn has tested up to 250 apple varieties and discovered the heritage variety Monty's Surprise had several times greater quantities of those beneficial compounds than that of commercially available  apples. 

The Central Tree Crops Research Trust, in conjunction with the Central Districts Branch of the Tree Crops Association have been acting as New Zealand's "Johnny Appleseed" distributing apple trees first in the Wanganui district in 2006 and steadily spreading out to other areas of New Zealand and Australia.  Good on them for sharing, so that Monty's Surprise with its health properties can be available to us all. 

The Gooseberry apple is green like a gooseberry and yellows
with age 
The Gooseberry apple may be new to me but it was first recorded back in 1831 in Kent, England, where it became a popular apple in the London markets.  Its claim to fame (as the name suggests) is that it's one of the most acid apples around, so it will produce a good tart puree. 

I will use this tart apple in combination with beetroot as a warming and healthy winter soup that I discovered on The Guardian website by Allegra McEvedy.

Beetroot and Apple Soup

Serves 4
 500g/4 medium raw beetroot, grated (preferably with a food processor as it's a messy job) ... 2 tbsp butter...1 tsp caraway or cumin seeds...2 medium onions, roughly chopped...2 Gooseberry apples, peeled and quartered (you can use Granny Smith or Braeburn)...1 litre stock, light chicken or vegetable...2 star anise...Greek yoghurt, a few chives chopped, salt and black pepper

Put a wide, heavy-based pan with a lid on a medium heat and melt the butter, then add the seeds. Sweat the onions with the spices, keeping the lid on and being careful not to let them colour.

Tip in the grated beetroot and stir well. Slice the core out of all the apple quarters, chuck the apple in too and put the lid back on.
Fry for about 10-15 minutes until the beetroot strands begin to soften.
Pour in the stock, turn the heat up, drop the star anise in with some seasoning and put the lid back on. Once it has come to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Pick out the star anise and throw it away, then blitz the soup in a blender or Stick Mixer until pureed. Finish the soup with a splodge of Greek yoghurt and some chopped chives. (I didn't have chives so I  chopped some fennel tops into the yoghurt),
The soup is a magical colour and the tart apple adds a bite almost like adding lemon does.

 Quince and Sturmer Apple Sorbet

It's time to bring the Quince to the party.  I discovered a sorbet recipe in "River Cottage Everyday" cookbook from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's television series...yes another sorbet!  Well, it gives me  an instant dessert in the freezer if we have people around at short notice.   Besides, the colour in Hugh's book looked so enticing. The Bramley apple appears to be a favourite English cooking apple but I thought I would use Sturmer Pippen apples to add bite to the fragrant quince.
Large golden quinces will perfume a room by just being there; Sturmer apples centre and
right the two combined and cooked up in a sugar syrup for Sturmer and Quince Sorbet.

Ingredients: (makes enough to nearly fill a 2 litre ice cream container)

350g caster sugar
600g quince, peeled, cored and chopped
400g apples (preferably cooking apples), peeled, cored and chopped
Lemon juice to taste

You could reduce the sugar if you add some alcohol as both assist in keeping the sorbet soft and not icy.

In a large pan that will take all your fruit, put in the sugar with 500 ml of water and heat gently, stirring to dissolve.   Add the quince, bring to a simmer and cook at a gentle bubble for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the apples and cook for a further 10 minutes or until all the fruit is very soft.  Blend to a puree using a stick blender in the pan or in a jug, then add lemon juice to taste - about 2 tablespoons should do. Pass through a fine sieve and allow to cool.

Pushing the puree through a sieve with a wooden spoon is the most labour intensive part of the recipe
 but it will take out a lot of the graininess in the quince. You can see the two different textures in this photo.  
If you have a mouli then I recommend using it to cut down the time.
Pour the puree into an icecream container and freeze overnight or for a day.   Now you put the frozen puree into a bowl or jug and the ideal instrument in the kitchen for this job is the stick blender attachment you use to puree soups.

In the background is the icy puree and in front is the icy puree being
whipped up into what looks like a creamy consistency.

I like to do this process a couple of times and if you are keeping it for a while then check that it doesnt need another cream up a day before using.

The sorbet has a real tang and  is smooth.  The tang goes really well with the sweet shortbread.
Ginger biscuits or a couple of brandy snaps are also excellent partners for the sorbet. 

I served the sorbet with some shortbread kiwi to celebrate the great work our friends are doing in Northland to bring the kiwi back for all of us.  By the way this cookie cutter and the map of NZ cookie cutter is made by an enterprising Dunedin company.   I also added a slice of the quince cheese I made from the Northland quince but that I will keep for another day.