New Ice Cream Flavour: Plum and Licorice

You can tell I'm no food stylist ;) but what matters to me is taste and this new flavour is superb :)

The Fig Ice-cream was toppled from the position of family favourite very quickly by fig and licorice, even the scoffers who laughed to scorn my claim that this was a great ice-cream when I sampled a professional attempt at the Gisborne food festival a few years ago were converted. But now after weeks of testing there’s a new favourite, Plum and Licorice.1 It’s made just like the fig ice-cream except a load of prunes and finely chopped licorice are used instead of figs. As you will note the name is a marketing ploy, since some of the testing panel were hesitant about prune ice-cream, even the thought of prune and licorice failed to impress :(

However, under its marketing name “Plum and Licorice”2 this brand new, and according to a Google search world-first ice-cream is now an established favourite.3

Recipe: Plum and Licorice Ice-cream

  • 1.5l Cream
  • 300-500g Prunes
  • 300g Licorice
  • 3 eggs
  • Vanilla extract
  • Sugar to taste

Cut the licorice into small chunks, the smaller the better. Put the licorice, prunes and egg yolks into a food processor and zap them.4  In one bowl whip the egg whites till stiff, in another whip the cream to firm peaks. Fold the fruit mix into the cream and add the egg white.

Freeze. It may help if you stir with a fork when the mix has begun to freeze  but frankly the fruit and licorice content should stop large crystals forming.5

  1. The favourite ice-cream is judged on the basis of a litres/person-day score. Plum and Licorice now beats all previous contenders. []
  2. Despite initial consumer resistance, spouses are often a chef’s toughest critics. Which is quite fair because they also suffer the chef’s toughest meats ;) []
  3. Actually to be 100% transparent, Google books does suggest that one ice-cream company may have tried prune and licorice, but this depends on an abstruse point of exegesis, and the absence or disuse of an “oxford comma” in the report. If they did actually reject prune and licorice, and not both prune and licorice separately, then they missed a fine and delicious ice-cream. But I’m claiming the report was written suggesting the rejection of each of the single flavours and not of the combined delight! []
  4. The longer you can bare the noise the smaller the licorice lumps in the final ice-cream, though the initial cutting actually has even more effect on this, so for small nuggets cut small! []
  5. Having all the ingredients really cold before you start really helps the freezing process. []

Bacon and egg for grown-ups

There are times when Bacon and Eggs is just the thing, as a comfort food for your inner-child it’s a combo that can hardly be beaten. But, for those times when you want something a little more grown-up, and let’s face it just a tad healthier. I have invented the perfect recipe.

Just combine a lettuce and chicory salad with bacon and blue cheese dressing with egg dressed potatoes :) The result is sharp, clean and sophisticated, but with undertones of bacon and egg comfort.

Put the potatoes on to boil, this works best with a floury potato, not a waxy one (look for those marked for roasting etc.)

The salad couldn’t be simpler, just mix lettuce and chicory leaves (you want a head that has decent leaves not one of the baby tight ones that are bestgrilled) with a little garnish of chopped spring onion.

The dressing is simple and brilliant:

  • Grill bacon (less than you’d use for real Bacon and Eggs maybe 1.5 -2 rashers per person).
  • Put a  tablespoon per person of each of olive oil and milk into a small bowl, crumble a good big nob of  blue cheese per person (I used a creamy blue, they seem to blend into the dressing better). Beat with a fork till the cheese is almost incorporated into the oil/milk emulsion, making a thick but just pourable dressing. If it is too thick add extra milk.

Chop the bacon small. Mix the salad, bacon and dressing.

Take the boiled potatoes, and put them still hot into a heated bowl, sprinkle with mustard seeds (for garnish and a slight added bite) and salt, then break an egg over the potatoes and stir to coat. The heat of the potatoes (straight from the boiling water) should cook the egg1 the stirring will soften the potatoes, and coat with yellow (I used free a range egg with a deep yellow yolk, if yours are pale you may want to cheat and add 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric to the egg before stirring into the potatoes). Do NOT make mashed potatoes, just lightly stir to coat and fluff them.

Voila, bursts of lovely flavour, and pretty healthy bacon and eggs for grown-ups!

  1. More or less, you may want to avoid this recipe if you or a guest is pregnant or in fragile health as some egg may remain uncooked, just spread as a dressing. []

Canapés au bout danois

Photo and original idea from MacSween

Here’s a simple, fairly quick, impressive finger food that foodies will love, and will convert (most) Black Pudding skeptics.1


  • Slices of precut grainy bread (about one per person)
  • Black Pudding
  • Tomatoes (small ones you’ll need 3-4 slices for each slice of bread)
  • Blue cheese
  • Walnut pieces (not too small, but not whole halves)


Take a few slices of grainy bread2 wipe with garlic3 spray with cooking oil4 sprinkle with salt and toast5

While the toast is popping from the toaster slice your black pudding into enough thin rounds. Fry them, having ensured the fry pan is hot, so a water droplet dances, before spraying the pan with oil.

Meanwhile cut small tomatoes into slices.6

Cut small lumps of blue cheese, Kaimai Creamy Blue is ideal, a softer blue works better than the Stilton sort.

Cut the toasts into rounds by pressing the cutter7 firmly. Assemble by placing one slice of Black Pudding, one of tomato on each round, and top off with a piece of walnut pressed into the blue cheese.

Voila Canapés au bout danois!

And more people converted into Black Pudding fans ;) BTW the left over bits of toast can be warmed in the morning in the pan as you fry more Black Pudding, and with any left over bits of tomato, and some blue cheese makes a fine breakfast, Breakfast au Bouts Danois8

  1. “bout danois” which would mean something like a Danish end or a Danish leftover but to most non-Francophones just sounds posh and mysterious is a pun on Boudin Noir = Black Pudding. []
  2. You will get about 3-4 canapés per slice if you use an eggcup as your cutter. Four slices made  enough for a starter for four hungry people, and leftovers for breakfast for one :) []
  3. I dipped a teaspoon in crushed garlic let the lumps drip off and wiped that over one face of a slice. []
  4. For you do surely have a plastic spray dispenser like they sell for misting flowers etc. for $5 filled with Soya Oil, or some such, don’t you? If you don’t you should, aside from spraying stuff to get a very light misting of oil it lets you fry with less fat! []
  5. Yes, they will go in the electric toaster, no worries. []
  6. If your tomatoes are too big do NOT despair, just cut the slices in half later. []
  7. Or egg cup ;) []
  8. No, do NOT add walnuts this time, that would be greedy, what are you a pig? []

Fig Ice-cream

It won’t win any ice-cream beauty contests, the texture is rough cast, parents will look askance at any spills, but Fig Ice-cream is just delicious. Of our table of four yesterday Fig was the clear winner of the taste competition, one wife had chosen Passion Fruit but on hearing her husband’s raving about the fig stole his.

Fig Ice-cream is simple to make and tastes both addictive and sophisticated.

Fig Ice-cream Recipe:

Ingredients (for about 1 litre):

  • 6-10 dried figs (I’m sure fresh would be better, but on the rare occasions I get fresh figs I will scoff them all in other ways, and for ice-cream dried figs are pretty good) I suggest about 6-10 but do experiment.
  • 4 eggs (you won’t be cooking them, so free range are definitely best as well as kindest to the chooks ;)
  • 300ml cream
  • sugar to taste


I do everything except final mix and freezing in my food processor bowl so the order matters, but if you like to use several gadgets just be sure the one you use for the egg whites is clean and dry.

Chop the figs fairly small, remove the stalks. Separate the eggs, whip the whites till really stiff (I then put them in the ice-cream container), whip the cream when the peaks are stable put the cream also in the ice-cream container. Now zap together the figs and egg yolks, add sugar till it is nicely sweet. Add to the ice-cream container and using a spatula fold the three mixtures together.

Freeze (if you are a perfectionist control freak who does not want a figgier layer at the bottom, or is afraid that despite the eggs ice crystals will form you will take it out of the freezer after an hour and fork it to mix again – however, I caution you not to, there won’t be crystals, the figgier layer is so tasty, and thirdly this extra beating just removes air and makes it more hard and solid – yuck!)


Food to nourish the soul as well as feast the belly

Veges (photo by Noël Zia Lee)

In a comment Larry pointed to the site with Paul McCartney’s impassioned video advocating a Vegan lifestyle to avoid cruelty to animals. While I respect the desires of Larry and Paul to avoid hurting fellow creatures, and to some extent share it, I am speciesist. I can see no reason to accord the same protection and care to other species that we do to our own. “Don’t eat a fish, fish have (some small measure of) personality” does not work for me, sorry! And showing selected clips of the worst atrocities of the US meat industry did not convince me either.

So I then flipped to the recipes, that’s surely where I can use some help. And got a shock, under the heading Breakfast the top recipes offered a collection of dodgy meat substitutes making wannabe carnivore dishes like ‘Eggs’ Benedict; ‘Bacon,’ Potato, and Green Onion Frittata; ‘Chicken’ With Artichokes and Olives; ‘Eggnog’ Pancakes. The first is described as:

Baked tofu, eggless hollandaise sauce, veggie bacon, and fresh tomatoes top a toasted English muffin for a delicious vegan version of a French classic.

The only thing that’s real here are the tomatoes and the muffin. The rest is faux meat. The thought that the best “Vegetarian” can offer is a collection of wannabe carnivore dishes is a real turn off. I want real, tasty, nourishing food, food to nourish the soul as well as feast the belly! And “tofu, eggless hollandaise sauce, veggie bacon” ain’t it :(

Maybe if you are a vegan, or the friend of a vegan, who has a recipe that fits the requirements below you would like to enter it in my vegan recipe competition and help me out?

Sage advice

Sage is a great flavour for winter, last week I cooked a chicken for visitors down in Tauranga, and despite using a nice barn raised chook all the comments were on the stuffing. If you suffered from packeted dried “Sage and Onion Stuffing” as a child, forget it. Packet stuffing is like dried parsley, or instant coffee, not worth the time they save!

Stuffing is easy:

  • some bread cut into small chunks (or wapped briefly in a processor, but don’t make it breadcrumbs, they’re too fine)
  • zest of a lemon or two (add the juice later if it seems dry)
  • an egg
  • a handful of fresh sage leaves chopped into peices
  • a handful of bacon also chopped
  • salt and pepper

Mix together, if the egg is not quite enough to bind it all together then add lemon juice or another egg. Stuff the bird and roast.

That meant I had sage left over, and those little pots never really grow for me, and the NZ Herald had a delicious looking recipe for Pumpkin, Sage and Blue Cheese Fritters. We also had an unused butternut, and I love blue cheese :) So since I have sent “‘Exile away from his land’: Is landlessness the ultimate punishment in Amos?” off for what I hope is the final time, “The book of Amos and the Day of YHWH” to a colleague for criticism, and am getting on well with “Degrees of Presence” I celebrated by trying the recipe.

It too is simple:

  • grated butternut (I used a cup or so)
  • small red onion (also grated – yes, I grate them together in the food processor, do you think I like skinned knuckles?)
  • blue cheese crumbled – not much (unless like me you are a fiend for blue cheese ;)
  • a few Tbsp Rice Flour
  • a little baking powder (I used 1/2 tsp)
  • handful of chopped sage leaves
  • egg white (the yolk will make mayo or something later)

Mix them all up and fry :)

Easy as, and delicious.

No pictures because the kitchen gremlin seems to have put soya flour (or something) into the jar marked Rice Flour, and the recipe really needs the rice flour to make it crisp! So mine was a delicious fried mash instead of fritters, so no photo this time :(

Roast fennel and potato with safron

Lunch :) aka roast fennel and potato with safron

It’s autumn :) I got some lovely big juicy and cheap organic fennel bulbs the other day at Green Rebel (now Fresh) on Dominion Rd. They are big and juicy, but perhaps have been left to get a bit overgrown, so may be tough. This recipe is ideal, the stock provides steam to soften them a little, while getting the potatoes beautifully crisp.

  • Potatoes (I used about 8 small ones for a two person portion) cut and boiled for 6-10 mins
  • Onions (I used six small red ones) peeled and cut in half or quarters
  • Fennel Bulb (I used one huge organic one, I guess two or three supermarket midgets) cut
  • Stock half a cup (for this 2 portion size) with saffron soaking in it while the veges are getting cut, 1 Tbsp balsamic and a tsp or two of sugar
  • garlic 1/2 a head chopped
  • teaspoon each fennel seeds crushed and paprika
  • bay leaves, several, and thyme several sprigs (if you MUST you can probably used dried but surely you have a few thyme plants in a pot somewhere, no one but you will see they look straggly at this season because they’ll char away, just leaving that lovely aroma, the burnt bay leaves should be removed by hand before serving ;)
  • Olive oil 2-3 Tbsp

Spread the autumnal bounty (dry ingredients) around a baking tray, pour on the stock and oil, place in oven at 190C (about 375F for Americans and anyone stuck in a time warp). Turn over with a slice every ten minutes or so till beautifully golden and burnt. Eat straight from the oven, with seasoning. Forget you intended to keep half for this evening and wish you’d done double quantity :)

PS: if you follow the chef’s advice (my son Nathan) and keep your vege peelings to make stock this recipe is even Vegan as well as delicious :) I confess to having used some bones from a dead chicken to make my stock – I must get better organised ;)

Burmese noodle salad

Burmese noodle salad

Fresh, rich and delicious Burmese noodle salad Photo from Borderline

We’ve been eating less meat, since the kids are leaving home (they are all confirmed and voracious carnivores ;-) among the recipes I’ve found useful is this warm Noodle Salad from Burma. We watched it being prepared at Borderline in Mae Sot when we did a cookery course there. I wish I had taken a photo of the meal since their version looked a lot more appetising than the one I prepared over the weekend – in a hurry as we were reorganising the kitchen all afternoon :(


  • wheat noodles (ideally from your local Asian store, not rice noodles, but almost Tagliatelle – which you could probably use if stuck, though it is not the same) enough for the number you are feeding I’ll give quantities for 4 as a main.
  • vegetables (ideally gourd, but corgettes work quite well and carrot is OK…)
  • cabbage 1-2 handsfull
  • spring onions a few
  • beansprouts 1.5 cups
  • hard tofu one block (depending on size)
  • corriander 4-5 plants
  • red onions 2 small
  • yellow bean powder 0.5-1 teacup (a mix of 50/50 soya powder and ground up peanuts works fine)
  • rice flour 5 tsp
  • chilli powder 1-2tsp
  • turmeric 1tsp
  • garlic 4-5 cloves (or if you can find it packeted crispy fried garlic)
  • oil for deep frying (in a wok is traditional) use 1/2 teacup of this later for the spices
Below my clumsy hurried thick cut version,
above Borderline’s delicate Burmese version!

Mix rice flour with water to make a creamy paste (if you use courgettes you should add extra rice flour to make the cream thick as courgettes are watery and risk going soggy not crisp in the salad).

Slice the cabbage, spring onions thinly, slice the onions and garlic even thinner (keep the garlic separate), and chop the coriander (roughly as you want some whole or nearly whole leaves as well as some cut finer.

Cut the vegetable into small (finger size) pieces. Cut the tofu similarly. Coat in the rice flour cream and fry till crisp and golden.

Mix the chilli, garlic and turmeric and pour over 1/2 cup of hot oil (the mixture will fizz up and the spices will cook to perfection) to make a dressing.

Dry fry the bean powder till it darkens, do not burn it!

Cook the noodles and drain, washing in cold water so they stick less.

Assemble by mixing the noodles, dressing, bean powder and salad, use the gourd (carrot or courgette) and tofu to decorate. Eat ideally while still warm.

Deliciously savoury baked couscous

Another recipe from the past I do not want to lose.

Baked couscous

Baked couscous with tomatoes

When we got back from the weekend (seminars and preaching) in New Plymouth, I found an interesting recipe in the NZ Herald‘s Saturday colour supplement. It does not appear to be online, so I can’t link to it, so I’ll give you my variant (as tested last night and tonight – it was so good, all those intense flavours!) here.

This recipe is easy, quick, tasty and unusual. As Donna Hay says it captures “those strong flavours synonymous with roasts… in half the time”.

Heat the oven I suggest about 170oC fanbake, or a bit more conventional – Donna recommended 200oC but I think that starts the tomatoes too fast – cut about three or four tomatoes per person in half, put them on a baking tray with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and a small handful of herbs (Donna says thyme, but it is not the thyme season round here – so how come a recipe for thyme was in last week’s Herald? Go figure! I used marjoram and it tasted good last night, today I found thyme in the vegie shop, so maybe our thyme dying is just bad herbiculture). When the oven is hot put them in for 12-15 minutes – they should be starting to loose shape and concentrate the flavour as the water evaporates.

Turn the oven up to 225oC (perhaps more if conventional). Prepare the couscous equal parts hot chicken stock and couscous, enough for the number of people for a meal one cup does two, for one course one cup might serve 3-4 people. and pour over the tomatoes. Back in the oven for 10 mins. Donna says cover, I preferred to soak the couscous first and then half cover so the higher heat could begin to make nice dark baked bits.

Meanwhile whizz some more oil, lemon juice to taste, salt and pepper and mix in pinenuts (if you have no pinenuts cashews work well, but put them in to whizz and get partly chopped – I’ve tried both, pinenuts are best but cashews are good too). Mix this dressing with a handfull or two of baby spinach leaves per person and plenty of grated parmesan. (Yes, this time you need the fresh stuff the tubes of dry grains will NOT do!) Pour this over the hot tomato couscous mix in the oven tray to wilt the spinach before serving. It goes down a treat on its own, or with chicken. To save bother if you are using chicken I suggest cutting small and putting into the oven about half way through cooking the tomatoes the first time.

Ingredients (per person as a main):

  • Tomatoes: Roma or other acid free – 3-4
  • Pinenuts – 1/3-1/2 cup for 2-4 people
  • Baby spinach leaves – 1-2 handfulls
  • Couscous – 1/2 a cup
  • Chicken stock – 1/2 cup
  • Lemon juice – tablespoon
  • Parmesan cheese grated – 1/3 cup or so
  • Olive oil, salt and pepper

For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, suffering summer, you need not wait till winter to try this – though it is worth waiting for, I promise – Donna says it can be eaten cold as a salad. Tonight I deliberately made enough, so tomorrow I’ll let you know if she is right. Or I will if the sun shines brightly again like today ;-)

I didn’t wait for the sun to shine, I stoked up the fire, and imagined it. There is no one else at home they are at conferences or skiing or soaking in the hot pools at Rotorua, so my consolation prize was starting the day my way: salmon and the Baked Couscous and Tomato as a salad. It was delicious, so you deprived summery types need not wait, add a delicious unusual new salad to your repertoire!

Gravlax (home-cured salmon)

Another reposted recipe

Gravlax on a plate

Photo from Kent Wang.

One recipe that has been a favourite in our family for ages is Gravlax. I know the name (unless you are in the know) sounds disgusting – which is why I put “home cured salmon” in the title ;-) But gravlax is delicious, a Scandinavian treat. And easy as.

Just take a piece of fresh salmon (or – if you are worried about parasites in uncooked fish – of commercially frozen salmon, the details of why are explained in the Cooking for Engineers article on Gravlax) make sure you remove ALL the little bones.

Gravlax (Photo by Claudecf)

Gravlax (Photo by Claudecf)

Mix sugar, salt and dill (to taste, but about equal quantities sugar and salt, loads of dill if it is fresh or smaller quantity if dried – dried works surprisingly well).

Place the fish on a sheet of cooking paper, coat with plenty of the mix. Wrap, and refrigerate for 12 hours (24 is too long and 6 leaves you with almost sashimi).

Slice diagonally with a very sharp knife. Eat as you would cold smoked salmon – but much more as it is so cheap!