Monday, December 30, 2013

Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti (from Little and Friday)

Biscotti is something that I used to only allow on special occasions. Not for any dietary reasons, but because they are so darn expensive! It was only a few weeks ago that it occurred to me that I could actually make a batch of my own for a fraction of the price. Jason had bought me a book full of delicious items that are made from one of my favourite cafés in Devonport, Little and Friday.

The recipes in this book are taken from café favourites and modified to suit home bakers so everything is much simpler. 

The recipe called for surprisingly few ingredients and I was pleasantly surprised with the little effort to required. I really loved the citrus flavour imparted by the addition of orange zest which really set it apart from the boring old coffee/chocolate flavoured type you usually see in the shops.

The best part? Now I can have all the biscotti I could ever eat!

Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti (from Little and Friday)

4 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla essence or paste
2 cups cranberries
2 cups pistachios
zest of 1 orange
4 eggs

1. Preheat oven 180°C. Line two baking trays with baking paper.
2. Sift flour and baking powder into a large bowl.
3. Stir in remaining ingredients, except eggs.
4. Beat eggs separately and add to dry ingredients. Using a wooden spoon, mix until combined.
5. shape mixture into two logs measuring approximately 20cm and place on a lined tray. Bake for 30 minutes.
6. Remove from oven and slice each log with a serrated knife into approximately 20 1cm-wide slices. The slices should be slightly moist in the centre.
7. Reduce oven to 140°C. Lay cut slices on lined baking trays and return to oven for 20 minutes, until they are dry and hard. Store in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks.

Tip: These are also nice with one half dipped in melted chocolate.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Eurotrip, chapter 3: Osnabrück, Germany

... Continued from Eurotrip, chapter 2: Berlin, Germany

Shortly after our big pretzel in Berlin airport, we touched down in Osnabrück. I don't think it's a place people normally put on their travel list but we made a little detour to see my friend Luisa's home town. We arrived late in the evening, after a full day in transit, so it was nice to see a familiar face when we arrived.

On the way to town on a beautiful morning
Osnabrück was a very welcome stop for us as our poor feet were sore from days of walking and we were quite glad that we didn't have to stress out about public transport for a few days. We woke up the next day well rested and to gentle snow falling outside!

Streets of Osnabrück
Although it was snowing, it didn't feel very cold. We found that we didn't need to wear our thermals and could get away with just a down jacket. Luisa took us into town for a hearty breakfast buffet at Cafe Blatt and then for a walk through the town. 

The University of Onsabrück
Walking through the town reminded me of walking through a Disney movie. The cobblestone streets were incredibly tidy, lined with pastel houses and old timey lamp posts. The bare trees and snow just added to the charm.

Leysieffer Chocolate Boutique
On our way, we stopped into Leyseiffer which, Luisa said, is a must visit. They are a very well known German brand known for their incredibly indulgent and luxurious chocolates. There was a cafe in the rear end of the store with cabinets filled with delicious looking cakes and patisseries while the walls were lined with chocolatey treats. I took my time here to get a couple of slabs of chocolate as presents for the family. For the record, the Elderflower chocolate is delicious!

Small model of the town covered in snow
Schokokusses and putting up the Christmas tree
We wandered into a Christmas market before it started to get dark. It was far quieter than the ones we saw in Berlin which meant we could spend a little more time browsing without worrying about getting pushed around. The highlight trying my first Schokokuss, which is a sofr marshamallow covered in a very thin layer of chocolate.

After the markets, we stopped off at the local garden centre in Hunteburg for a Christmas tree to decorate with all things turquoise -Luisa's favourite colour.

Snow covered landscape
We were only able to stay a day here but it was great to be able to see an old friend again. We weren't there long but we left knowing a little more about what Christmas is like in Luisa's little corner of the world. 

Next stop: Paris, France

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Federal Delicatessen

As a big fan of Al Brown, I had been looking forward to visiting Federal Delicatessen ever since it had opened. Taking inspiration from the Jewish delis of New York, Al Brown has recreated his own in little ol' Auckland.

I am told that booking is not necessary for groups of less than ten and I was afraid of a long wait. Fortunately it is quite spacious inside, despite the small shop front. The Fed is situated right next door to another Al Brown restaurant called Depot and the two restaurants share a hallway.

The interior resembles a stripped back diner and all the wait staff are dressed to suit. There are seats up near the bar and cooking area, as well as more private booths along one side for groups of four. Old jazz was playing over the speakers and it felt like we had stepped back in time.

Cherry Cola - $5, Vanilla Egg Cream $6
We started off with the drinks menu which was very exciting, to say the least. The Vanilla Egg Cream was described to me as a mix between creaming soda and milk which turned out to be delicious - creamy and bubbly without being too sweet. My dining companion had the Cherry Cola which I'm told was very nice too.

The menu at The Fed is quite varied and extensive but, as we all know, too much choice can sometimes be a bad thing. Luckily, our waiter was super helpful and was able to help us pick a few dishes to share after much indecisiveness from the group.

Matzo Ball Soup - $16
Matzo Ball Soup up close
We started off with Matzo ball soup which was kindly divided into 3 portions for us. This item is from the "specialties" menu and I can certainly see why! The chickeny broth was full of flavour and came with very tender pieces of chicken and delicate fennel. The highlight for me was the matzo balls which were wonderfully soft and very well seasoned.

Smoked Kahawai Cakes - $14
Our next entree was smoked fish cakes with a thin crunchy crumb filled with lots of smoked fish and creamy potato. The wasabi and lime mayo was a great partner to the sweet smoked fish.

Veal Schnitzel - $28
Due to past experience with horrible dry schnitzel, I was a bit apprehensive when our waiter suggested it. But the veal turned out to be very juicy, flavoursome and the light crumb was not too oily. The deep fried sage was a welcome addition and really helped to lift the dish. I think The Fed has made me like schnitzel!

Spit Roast Chicken - $23
Grilled Zucchini - $8
The spit roast chicken was very tender and juicy and came with a very tasty gravy -so tasty, in fact, that I even poured it over my schnitzel.The cheesy grilled zucchini was a great accompaniment to the meal and has now become one of my favourite sides. 

NY Cheesecake - $11.50, Banana & Toffee Pie - $11.50
Although we were close to bursting after our mains, we just couldn't leave without sampling something from the dessert menu. The New York Cheesecake was very smooth and tasty without being overly sweet, but my favourite would have to be the Banana & Toffee Pie. The thin base added just the right amount of crunch to the soft filling while the caramel popcorn was a very cute twist.

The Fed is a must visit if you're in the mood for something a little bit different. The menu is full of interesting items and I've already decided what I'm ordering when I return!

Federal Delicatessen can be found opposite the Sky Tower at 86 Federal St, Auckland, New Zealand

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Friday, December 6, 2013

A Quick Meal at Barilla Dumpling

The first time I had heard of Barilla Dumpling was when it was voted top 10 in Metro's cheap eats. The second was when it was listed as one of dirtiest eating establishments in Auckland. The latter is probably not a good reason to visit a restaurant, but the fact that a bad hygiene score didn't deter their customers peaked my interest. This, and the fact that my colleague highly recommended this place.

Pork and Chive Dumplings - $12 for 20 (+$1 for fried)
We arrived at the bright green restaurant on a Sunday and it was already packed with people having lunch. We were lucky enough to get the last table. The service was very quick and, while we were waiting for our food, I noticed that the "D" grade had been changed to an "A".

Pork and Eggplant Dumplings - $12 for 20 (+$1 for fried)
With what seemed like a million different dumpling flavours (sorry, I didn't actually count), we had a very hard time choosing what type we wanted. In the end, we went with one familiar, pork and chive, and one new, pork with eggplant. 

Boiled dumplings were priced at $12 each with the option of having them steamed or pan friend for an extra dollar. The pork and chive dumplings were very flavoursome and we loved the crispy bottoms. The pork and eggplant, in my opinion, were a little bland but it was nothing that soy sauce, vinegar and chili couldn't fix!

Sauteed Chinese Broccoli (Gai Lan) with Chopped Garlic - $14
As an accompaniment, we also ordered a very generously portioned plate of sauteed Gai Lan in garlic. I thought this dish was done better than many other restaurants I had been to as the veggies were tender and the sauce wasn't too overpowering.
I forgot to take a photo of the lime green walls, so here's a menu..
Barilla Dumpling is definitely somewhere I would love to revisit just to try some of the more different flavours such as pork and fennel or cashew nuts. I think the fact that it was still popular despite receiving negative press shows just how great the food is. Besides, we've eaten food on the side of the road in rural China before - I think we can handle it!

Barilla Dumpling can be found at 571 Dominion Rd, Balmoral, Auckland.

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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Lemon Syrup Loaf (from Bluebells Cakery)

The end of the year is fast approaching and we, at work, are entering what we like to call "the mad dash to get everything out the door before Christmas" and the "OMG there are so many clashing Christmas functions going on!"

It's actually quite exciting as I'm on a big project that I enjoy and Christmas functions are a great way to catch up with friends from university but I find myself wanting to spend a bit more time at home. 

I finally got the chance, this weekend, to leaf through Karla Goodwin's book Bluebells Cakery which was a birthday gift from Jason's sister. Inspired by London's array of boutique cupcake and cake shops (Hummingbird Bakery in particular), Karla started a stall in Parnell's French market, La Cigale. It wasn't long until the stall turned into her own kitchen in Hillsborough and then into a full blown shop!

Her book is full of recipes that are made at Bluebells Cakery, inspired by her time in London. It also has a handy list of tips and tricks to help any budding baker.

Lemon Syrup Cake seemed the most obvious choice this weekend because I had all the ingredients in the kitchen which meant I didn't have to leave the house. The syrup made the loaf super moist and it goes well with a nice cup of tea. It's so good that Jason's already had about half of it (I made it a couple of hours ago).

My loaf took a bit longer for the skewer to come out clean (about 1 hr 10 minutes) but it still managed to cook evenly.

This has been entered into Sweet New Zealand #29, a monthly Kiwi blogging event, started by the Alessandra and hosted this month by Alice from Alice in Bakingland.

Lemon Syrup Cake (from Bluebells Cakery)


3 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
230g unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups caster sugar
1/3 cup lemon zest
4 eggs 

Lemon Syrup:
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar

1. Grease and line a 22cm x 12cm loaf tin with baking paper and set aside. Preheat the oven to 180°C. 
2. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl and set aside.
3. Combine the milk, lemon juice and vanilla in a jug and set aside.
4. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the lemon zest and mix through.
5. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Don't be alarmed if the mixture curdles, it will come together when the dry ingredients are added.
6. Add half of the dry ingredients and mix until just combined, then add half of the milk mixture and stir through. Then repeat this process to add the remainder of the dry and wet mixtures.
7. Pour the batter into the loaf tin and level out the top until even and flat. Bake in the middle of the oven for 30-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
8. To prepare the syrup, combine the lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan and cook over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
9. When the loaf is cooked, remove from the oven and make several holes by piercing the top with a wooden skewer or toothpick (these should be a couple of centimeters apart). Pour the lemon syrup over and let the loaf cool in the tin for 20 minutes before turning out onto a wire cooling rack.

The syrup helps to keep this loaf moist for up to a week in an airtight container at room temperature.