Thursday, 29 October 2015


The taste of summer is gradually revealing itself as time marches towards the end of the year. So many of my favourite foods will be available soon, just in time for Christmas and the holidays. One I'm really looking forward to is the arrival of passionfruit.

Passionfruit evokes such happy food and family memories for me. Growing up, my family had a passionfruit vine running all along the side fence of our back yard. Both my brother and I loved passionfruit from an early age, especially fresh off the vine - but there was a rule: we were only allowed to pick passionfruit up off the ground, not the tree. Each morning, we'd sneak out the back door in our pyjamas and collect up fallen passionfruit ... then shake the vine to see if any more just happened to fall off. Although we knew they weren't actually ripe enough to eat until the skin was rumpled, it didn't stop us from trying to hurry the process along.

Nowadays, I still love the tang of passionfruit. (Perhaps this explains my fondness for Marlborough sauvignon blanc?) Fresh is best and pulp is ok as long as it's been made naturally (ie, not artificially flavoured). I also loved to bake with passionfruit and the BEST flavouring comes in the form of Fresh As freeze dried powder. Along with its raspberry counterpart, I now keep a constant supply of passionfruit powder in the fridge. It's great in cakes, buttercream frosting and to flavour meringues. Also, being a family favourite flavour, I made white chocolate passionfruit mud cakes for both my brother's and my birthdays this year.

Apart from availability, I find the biggest stumbling block on the road to passionfruit indulgence is the price. Have you seen what it costs to buy passionfruit these days?? I always thought $20/kg was an outrageous price to pay for fresh passionfruit until I saw the price on the Countdown app today: $45/kg! I'll definitely wait until they are in season in a few months' time before thinking about buying some.

Passionfruit is easily one of #myfavouritethings. When I grow up, I want to plant passionfruit vines of my own and eat their fruit all day long.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Lemon desserts class

Crave Cooking School is a purpose built cooking school and production kitchen in Lyall Bay. We've attended several excellent classes at Crave (knife skills, fish filleting and bread making) but I don't seem have blogged about them. Clearly, they've coincided with some of my busiest writing times at work, meaning I'd used up my daily word quota by the time it came to blogging about them!

On Saturday, we went to a lemon dessert baking class hosted by Luke Crawford from Neo Cafe and Eatery. I love baking with lemons and we used beautiful Meyer lemons from Twisted Citrus in sunny Gisborne.

Meyer lemons
There were three dessert items on the menu for this hands-on class. We began by making sweet pastry and lemon custard filling for a lemon tart. Sour cream lemon tart is a family favourite of ours and these individual tarts followed a similar process. Now, I don't have much patience for blind baking using beans, ceramic balls or rice and have always pricked the pastry several times with a fork instead. It turns out I was on the right track, but brushing the pastry with an egg wash will seal any holes made by the fork. Bam!
Lemon tart
Next up was lemon syllabub. (To be honest, I had to google syllabub beforehand. I've decided it's similar to ambrosia in texture, calories and flavour profile.) Wow! If ever there was a decadent dessert that is deceptively simple, lemon syllabub is it. If you google the ingredients, you'll see that it's pretty much cream, sweet wine, sugar and lemon rinds. We had individual servings of syllabub for first afternoon tea.

Finally, it was onto something a little trickier: lemon soufflé. The process was very different to the chocolate soufflé I make. This is not a recipe that can be refrigerated prior and is best prepared immediately before cooking. There is something incredibly fun about watching a recipe rise and rise in the oven then delicately settle into its final form. After a few soufflé attempts, I've decided that this dessert is not as scary as I'd feared and the results are worth the careful attention the recipes require.
Second afternoon tea: lemon soufflé
Thanks to the team (Luke, Marco and Lucy) for an enjoyable afternoon of baking, learning and eating. We'll be back again soon.

Monday, 19 October 2015


From time to time, I make a well loved dessert called pudding.

Pudding never starts out intending to be pudding; it always results from a baking failure crossed with a rescue mission of some description. Pudding is never much to look at but it always tastes good. Its ingredients are usually obscure and come together in surprise flavour combinations. Basically, pudding is my code word for "a spectacular baking fail that was rescued by {insert decadent ingredient/s here} and served up as a planned dessert".

Last week, I eagerly set about baking my aunt's famous sponge cake using the swan eggs I'd been given. The recipe looked simple enough. I had everything I needed and got busy baking. The sponge took much longer than expected to cook, then rose and rose (and rose) very high before collapsing spectacularly. As a final insult, the remnants stuck to the bottom of the tin.

After googling "what to bake with broken sponge pieces -trifle" (because I'd decided that it's still too early in the season for trifle), I moved on to search for a simple chocolate mousse recipe. I broke the collapsed sponge into pieces, arranged them in a dish, poured over layers of decadent mousse and refrigerated it all for a few hours. Voilà - pudding!

Fast forward to the family dinner the failed sponge was destined for.
"What's for dessert?" my seven-year-old nephew asks.
"Pudding," I say.
"What sort of pudding?" he checks.
"Special pudding," I clarify.
"Yum! This pudding is delicious!" my nephew declares. "Can we have special pudding another time?"
"Yes, but it will probably be a different type of pudding next time," I promise knowingly.
Another time, my failproof pavlova did just what it had never done before. Googling "what to make with broken meringue pieces" resulted in Eton mess, to the delight of British family members.

I can think of many more examples where pudding has been a surprise yet welcome addition to the menu. It confirms what I've always believed: there is nothing that whipped cream, ice cream or custard can't rescue.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Mission Estate wine tasting

Mission Estate Winery was established in Hawkes Bay by pioneering French missionaries in 1851. Their story about how the winery was established is an interesting one and not something I can do justice here on this blog. The estate itself was elaborately built then moved to its current location in extraordinary circumstances. Find out more on the Mission Estate website.

Our host for the evening was the hugely entertaining Trevor from Mission Estate. Trevor is a born storyteller, full of amusing anecdotes and history about the wines, winery and vineyard. He also offered some great advice: try every type of wine, even if it's a varietal you don't think you like. You never know when you may come across one that you do like - and we certainly did tonight with a surprise addition to our yes wine list

NV Mission Fête. This non vintage wine is the only sparkling wine produced by Mission Bay. It's made of 97% pinot gris and 3% barrel aged chardonnay using the Charmat method. A very sweet, tangy finish made this wine a maybe for me.

Mission Estate Riesling 2014. I'm the first to admit that I don't really understand rieslings. Fruity, aromatic, sometimes oily ... however, this riesling was our favourite wine of the evening. Smooth, not harsh and slightly zesty, we added it to our yes list and ordered two bottles for our new wine rack.

Mission Estate Pinot Gris Light 2015. Another surprise for the evening, this low alcohol pinot gris had far more flavour than expected with a tangy, yet smooth, finish. I'd drink a glass of this, although would probably fall short of buying a bottle, making it a maybe.

Mission Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014. Now onto my favourites: Marlborough sauvignon blanc. (Yes, clichéd - I know.) Grown at Cable Station in Marlborough but made in Hawkes Bay, this sav smelt like tinned asparagus (seriously!) although didn't taste like it. No, instead there was an overwhelming infusion of evil capsicum. No thanks!

Mission Estate Rosé 2015. This rosé is a blend of merlot, malbec, cabernet franc and syrah grapes. It didn't do anything for me.

Three more nos in quick succession (but no surprises as I'm not much of a red wine drinker):
Vineyard Selection Merlot 2013. A beautiful, deep plum colour.
Mission Reserve Syrah 2014. Also a beautiful colour, this time deep purple. So. Very. Heavy.
Mission Estate Late Harvest 2014. I'll keep trying stickies and other dessert wines until I find one I like, but this late harvest Gewurtatraminer was not for me. (87 grams of residual sugar!)

We're looking forward to a wine weekend in Hawkes Bay later this year and will definitely book Trevor in for a tour of the vineyard and estate.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Swan eggs

I am lucky to have had a good supply of duck eggs for a couple of years now. Apparently every duck egg I bake with is one less duck my colleague and her husband have to worry about, so I'm happy to take those worries off her and bake up a storm in spring time.

These are swan eggs rounded up from black swans. Like duck eggs, each swan egg consumed is one less chance of these birds overpopulating their habitat at this time of year. They are equivalent to about four chicken eggs, although some are bigger than others. I have only ever tasted them in baking so can't comment on their flavour.

Swan eggs with a chicken egg for comparison
Dad has entrusted me with two of the precious swan eggs he was given. He didn't say it outright but I know he expects me to practise baking his sister's famous swan egg sponge cake with them. Just one swan egg topped up with a couple of chicken eggs makes a big fluffy sponge and no-one does it better than my aunty. Her sponge cake is legendary in our whānau.

Swan eggs take quite a bit of cracking open. I have memories of Mum trying to break into one by dropping it on the back doorstep. Dad seems to think the edge of a knife and a granite bench will get me into these beauties.

Now that I have the goods, I need to work up the courage to tackle the sponge cake. I'm glad I have two eggs to experiment with, just in case the first sponge doesn't work out. As usual, photos will follow if I'm successful in my mission. Wish me luck!