Friday, 6 May 2016

Oxtail ragu

It's all old-school at Cook Castle NZ today. We're going back to my childhood. My mum regularly made oxtail when we were kids, circa 1968-1981. Her method was to boil the living soul out of it in a pressure cooker and serve it with some mashed spuds and green beans. I remember dad raving on about marrow and heartiness, but when you're 11, food is just that thing you have to abide until such time as you can be "excused".

I've never been brave enough to get a pressure cooker. That's because once, during the time-span nominated above, my mother didn't wait the requisite time period for the pressure cooker to de-pressurise. The result being that whatever she was making exploded across the walls and ceiling of the kitchen, and somehow my brothers and I had to clean it up. Like it was our fault.

It's put me off them for life.

I left home at 18, and this is the first time I've cooked oxtail. So you do the math as to how long it's been between drinks. But the Coles-equivalent over here, New World, had some big fat bits that screamed 1975 and Molly Meldrum and Countdown so I bought them and got straight onto Jamie Oliver, figuring that out of all the chefs I love, he would be the safest bet.

So here's what Jamie and I did with the oxtail. You should do it too.

Serves heaps


This is what oxtail looks like when raw
2 kg oxtails, in chunks
Salt and pepper
Olive oil or rice bran oil
350 ml white wine (thereabouts)
2 carrots, chopped quite small
2 onions, chopped quite small
2 celery stalks, chopped quite small
2 bay leaves (to be honest I used 4)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon each, dried sage, dried thyme, dried basil
Pinch of dried chilli flakes
2 tins crushed tomatoes
To serve: Gnocchi, grated parmesan, chopped parsley


Heat oven to about 200.

Heat up your fry pan, season with oxtails with the salt and pepper, and get them really browned off.
This is what my browned oxtail looked like

Pop them into an oven-proof dish. I used the one I make lasagne in because it is massive.

Next, into that lovely messy frypan, pour the wine. Boil it up for a while, then transfer it to a separate dish.

Pour a little oil to the pan and add the vegies, bay leaves, herbs and garic. Stir, stir, stir until it all softens and plays happily.

Pour this mixture over the oxtail, then pour over the wine liquid, then add enough water to pretty much cover the oxtail.

These are my vegies cooking

Cover tightly with alfoil, or if you're using another dish that has a lid, pop on the lid. Into the oven for at least two hours, but if you can stretch it out, make it three.

Take it out of the oven, let it cool so you can handle it, then strip all the meat from the bones. This is a disgusting job but, like making rissoles, it's so much better if you use your hands.

Once you've done that, tip that lovely goodness back into something that can go on the stove, or if you've used a dish that is both oven and stove friendly, skip this step. The liquid should be quite thick but if it's not, tip some of it out and discard, but keep the vegies.

Get it all hot again, then add two tins of tomatoes. Bring it to the boil and simmer for at least 30 minutes. Add the meat and simmer for another 15 or so minutes. You want it to get all thick and rich, like Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.

Serve on top of gnocchi with sprinkle liberally with grated parmesean, chopped parsley and plenty of salt and pepper. Eat it while you watch "That 70s Show" or "The Six Million Dollar Man".

This is Jamie's pic of his oxtail ragu, from his website

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Salmon, eggplant and goat's cheese stacks

So over here in the Land of the Long White Cloud is not only the world's best Sauvignon Blanc, but also the best hot-smoked salmon. I'm talking big fat oily slices of salmon that have been smoked gently and fragrantly so it falls apart when you smile at it. 

Best part is you can buy top quality smoked salmon in the supermarket which I do when I'm pressed for time. But I prefer to pop out to Petone (for the uneducated like me, it's not pronounced Pet-One, like a pet shop or a Kardashian offspring, but the rather more refined "Pee-Tony" like a pretend Italian). 

John's Fish Market, right on the esplanade, is not much chop inside, but it really does have some gorgeous fresh seafood. I like to buy sashimi salmon from him. When he sees me come in, he pops out to the back fridge, and brings me half a salmon and tells me it was caught just a few hours ago. Totally yum. 

I must admit I miss seeing the acres of green and cooked prawns that I was so accustomed to in Brisbane. But the array of salmon, fish like gurnard and tarahiki, and of course oysters, make up for it. 

We have a fantastic view of Wellington Harbour from our lounge/dining room so it makes sense to have people over, cook something fabulous, open a bottle of something, and enjoy. 

Here's what we did recently. This is from Marie Claire's "Lunch". 

Serves 4


1 big fat purple eggplant
Olive oil, for brushing
Packet of fresh lasagne sheets
1-2 fillets of hot smoked salmon (or trout, I guess)
200g goat's cheese (or one packet)
150g sun-dried tomatoes

For the sauce:
50g butter
2 tablespoons chopped parsley (I used curly)
1 cup chicken stock
3 tablespoons lime juice
ground pepper


Cut the eggplant into thick slices, say 1cm. Lightly brush with olive oil and grill both sides until golden brown.

Cut the lasagne sheets into 12 8cm squares. Cook in batches in a pot of boiling water until al dente. Drain well.

Put one sheet of lasagna on the center of each plate.

Top with a slice of smoked salmon, a slice of eggplant, and a slice (or crumble) of goat cheese.

Top with another sheet of lasagna and layer as before.

Finish with a bit of smoked salmon, a crumble of goat cheese, and a sprinkling of sun-dried tomato.

(It's usually a good idea to drain the sun-dried tomatoes on some paper towels first, it gets rid of a lot of the oil.)

To make the sauce: heat the butter, parsley, stock, lime juice, and some cracked black pepper in a saucepan. Drizzle over the stacks.

You can easily make this for two people by using the same quantity of ingredients and only put out two plates.

Now get yourself some friends and a harbour view. Although it is worth noting that this recipe works just as well when you're on your own and watching tv. Sometimes that's a good enough view too.

Enjoy xo

This is our view. I know.

This is our view at night. I know. 

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Peas, beans & feta

This is so incredibly easy that it's almost boring. It is also so incredibly fresh and tasty that it's the opposite of boring. It's the ideal thing when you're looking for something kind of healthy and kind of fantastic to put with your steak and potato. I reckon you should ditch the potato, and just do the steak (just medium rare) with this groover on the side.


1 leek, sliced (white part only)
1 tablespoon olive oil
250g asparagus, halved both down and across
1 cup shelled edamame
1 cup frozen baby peas
75ml vegetable stock
100g feta cheese, crumbled (I use Danish, it's so creamy)
Handful of mint leaves, chopped
½ lemon, zested

Bill Granger, Australian chef and my future husband

Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the leeks and asparagus, season with sea salt and cook for 5 minutes to soften.

Add the beans and peas, pour in the stock and simmer for 2-3 minutes until the vegetables are just tender and the stock has reduced.

Serve topped with the feta, mint and lemon zest and a grind of black pepper.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Sweet potato, zucchini & feta mini muffins

Found this delight on Facebook. I was scrolling through my newsfeed and my gorgeous friend L, who sadly isn't well, reposted this recipe from the Nutrition for Weight Loss Surgery page. The good news is that I don't think you have to wait until you're having weight loss surgery to eat them. I quietly believe that if you eat healthy snacks like this, you probably will never need to have weight loss surgery.

I'm more savoury than sweet when it comes to treats (cheese platter anyone?) so this sort of snack is right up my unblocked heart valve. 

I haven't cooked this yet, only just saw it, but the ingredients looks super simple and I think we're all smart enough to adjust as needed. 

Happy weekend x 

Makes 30 mini muffins

1 medium sweet potato, grated
1 medium zucchini, grated
1 medium red onion, grated
½ cup cheese, grated
100g feta, crumbled
⅓ cup spelt or wholemeal flour
4 eggs

Combine all ingredients and spoon into mini muffin trays (tip, use silicon trays to stop muffins sticking).

Bake at 180°C for 15 minutes.

Freezes well.

Here's something I try not give out, nutrition information
Per 2 muffins: 70cals, 4.5g protein, 4g carbs, 4g fat

At that price, you can have four!

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Penne with fresh tuna, tomato, olive and basil

Oh blimey could this colourful little number be any easier to make? Doubt it. And for once, I made it up instead of doing my usual bit of wading through one of my million recipe books or worse, piecing together two or three recipes to pass off as an original. Although if I'm completely honest, I have probably come across it in my wanders and shoved it into some distant recess of my memory. So whoever made this one up, please accept my thanks. 

Fresh tuna is more widely available here than I found in Brisbane. Local supermarket New World routinely stocks it along with fresh Bluff salmon and a lot of fish whose names I am unable to pronounce. I usually just point and say, "Is that the same as barramundi?" and try to avoid the terse look of the shop assistant. 

I bought the tuna on a whim without really thinking through what I'd do with it. It looked all fresh and plump and red and, as a tuna lover from way back when, I snapped it up. And here's what happened when it got into my kitchen...

Serves 4


Penne pasta (I used Barilla wholemeal)
Two fresh tuna fillets
Four tomatoes
1-2 red onions
12 black olives (get the pitted ones, it's more elegant)
12 stuffed green olives (straight from the jar)
1 tablespoon baby capers
4-6 mushrooms
fresh basil leaves (you'll need heaps, and leave them whole)
olive oil, salt and ground black pepper


Cook pasta in lots of boiling salted water. When it's done, drain and then return the pasta to the hot saucepan and stir through some olive oil. Leave it covered.

While the pasta is cooking, throw the tomatoes and some oil into a large pot and cook until the tomatoes are soft and the skin is easy to peel. It may get a bit black in spots but don't worry about that. Peel off the skin and chuck it out, then chop up the tomatoes.

Slice the red onions and cook them up in the same pot as the tomatoes. Check to see if you need a bit more oil.

Once the onion in done, throw the tomatoes back in, along with the pasta, olives, capers and mushrooms and let them all get friendly and warm.

Now for the tuna. It only needs to be cooked for as long as you can hold your breath, even if you're a smoker. Heat up a fry pan till it's pretty warm and then pop in the tuna. I didn't use any oil but that's your call. Set the timer on your phone or your microwave, you only want to cook those bad boys for 30-40 seconds on one side, then 20-30 seconds on the other. Remove from pan and rest them on paper towels for 10 minutes then slice and mix in with the pasta mixture. Stir for a few seconds then dish it out, and cover liberally with fresh basil leaves, black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Add salt to your liking.

Keep any leftovers for lunch the next day, you can eat it cold.

Hope you love it as much as we did xo

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Pork belly and chorizo stew

Seriously, what with all that Christmas cooking and New Year party preparations and mum coming over and having to make like you're Nigella or similar, and then friends coming to stay and you want to cook with the skill of Heston Blumenthal and entertain with the grace of Audrey Hepburn while drinking to the heights of Arthur Dunger, what you really need is a meal that you can literally throw together in one pot, isn't technical or complicated, and tastes the bomb. 

Meet this stew. 

OK, so a few of you whom I know and love - my darling Marc instantly comes to mind - will shudder at the concept of chopping off the pork belly rind but in order to make it super simple, there's no time to create crackling. And it didn't need it, honestly. The tenderness of all that pork belly belly-ness more than makes up. 

Here's the best bit. We are all aiming to not have so much grog in January. Well, I am. This number calls for a cup of red wine, which means you can finish off the rest of the bottle guilt-free because you don't want it to go to waste, and you can comfort yourself in the knowledge that it wasn't the whole bottle. 

And what's not to love about a bit of fried chorizo! Thanks to a centuries-old Women's Weekly cookbook for this recipe. 

Serves 4


2 chorizo
600g piece of pork belly
1 massive onion, finely chopped
2-3 gloves of garlic, crushed and all that
2 teaspoons smoked paprika (sweet, like you)
1 large red capsicum, diced
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 cup red wine (recipe said half this but recipes can be wrong)
150 ml water
1 can cannelloni beans, rinsed and drained
chopped parsley to serve, but if you've used it all on your cheese platters, don't worry


Slice the rind off your pork belly, have a weep then throw it out. You don't need it. Trust me here. Then cut the pork into 3cm pieces.

Slice the chorizo quite finely but don't stress about it, just do your best.

Now, to cook. So you want a fairly big pot. I've got an Analon one that is pretty huge which means I can swoosh the fry up items around without worry that they'll spill over the side. Or use your electric wok.

Pop it on the stove and heat it up. When it's hot, throw in the pork and chorizo in batches until browned. Set aside.

To the same pot, add the onion, garlic and capsicum, and just kind of swoosh them about a bit until they sweat it out. Then you pop the meat back in, along with the tomatoes, wine and water, bring to the boil then let it simmer with the lid on for 40 minutes. Add the beans, and simmer without the lid for another 20 or until it thickens a little.

If you've got the energy, chop up the parsley and sprinkle it over when you serve. However, if you're anything like me, just pour some of the left over red wine and eat it in front of Netflix.