Category Archives: Appetisers

* Elderflower and Vanilla Apéritif *


Elderflower in full bloom

Here in the southern isle of the Antipodes elderflower season is nigh. Peppered around the city, elderflower is in full bloom clambering through gardens and forests, waiting to be picked and turned into liquid gold, just in time for Christmas. For me, the smell of elderflower epitomises summer – the fragrance a heady burst whilst a batch is in the fermenting swing.

For many years now we’ve been making elderflower fizz and I must admit, we’ve got it down pat. We’ve tasted our first batch of the season (the other one is on the way) and my goodness, it’s good. Seriously good. We’re big fans of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstal, so it was an easy decision to go with his elderflower fizz recipe (though slightly adapted).

Over the years we’ve searched high and low for the perfect elderflower patch. After serious scrutiny, we pick from North Dunedin alongside the banks of the Leith river. The elderflower’s habitat has to be as pure as possible, preferably living in a lush, sunny patch away from busy traffic and litter. It’s best to pick elderflower whilst the sun is out as it’s the key to a more flavoursome brew (an old wives’ tale which I’m sticking to).

A word of warning – making elderflower fizz is a dangerous business and should be treated with extreme caution. We’ve had a few explosions and although we’ve not lost any eyes, there have been a few very close calls. The golden rule is to keep the elderflower bottles contained in a chilly bin, or better still, kept in the drinks fridge.

At this time of year, we serve this elderflower and vanilla apéritif to guests or take it to one if the many Christmas soirees of the season. If you’re not a fan of vanilla, serve with normal vodka and top up with a dash of soda.

Elderflower and vanilla apéritif

A 750 mill bottle of freshly brewed elderflower fizz *

150 – 200 mills of vanilla vodka

Lemon zest and fresh mint to garmish

Soda water is optional if you prefer a mellower drop

Gently mix the elderflower fizz and desired portion of vodka together. Pour into champagne glasses, add a few cubes of ice and garnish with lemon zest and a sprig of fresh mint. Serve before a light summer lunch or dinner with lovely friends.


* Elderflower fizz à la Hugh

Four litres of hot water, plus an extra two litres of cold water

700 grams of sugar

The juice and zest of four lemons

2 tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar

15 elderflower heads in full bloom

A pinch of dried yeast (if needed)

Boil the jug and put the boiling water plus some cold water (to make up 4 litres of water) into a clean bucket or large container and stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Add the additional two litres of cold water.

Add the lemon juice and zest, apple cider vinegar and elderflower heads and stir gently.

Completely cover with a clean muslin cloth and leave to ferment in a cool, airy place for a couple of days (the bathroom is a good option). Check the brew and if it’s not becoming a little foamy (i.e. fermenting) add the pinch of yeast.

Leave the covered mixture to bubble and brew for a further four days. Strain the liquid through a sieve lined with muslin and pour into sterilised strong glass bottles or Grolsch-style stoppers, or sterilized screw-top plastic bottles (you need strong bottles as a lot of pressure can build up).

Seal and leave to ferment in the bottles for at least a week before serving, chilled. The fizz should keep in the bottles for several months (although it never lasts this long in our house). Store in a cool, dry place. Release the pressure every day or so to prevent an explosion.

* Fig and Macadamia Roll *


Fig and Macadamia Roll

Croatia. A dreamy, lush paradise basking in the warmth of the Adriatic. From a war torn country to a touristic pilgrimage, Croatia has emerged from the dark days to become a haven for foodies, the intrepid and those who simply want to laze on the beach drinking mojitos and wearing short shorts. This post marks the beginning of a series of recipes from a delightful holiday spent in Dalmatia a few months back.

As my Beau and I strolled through the narrow alleyways of the Old Town in Split, we were struck by the  intense heat of the Old Town, which entraps the hot air within its high brick walls. Sweat-drenched tourists battle on in a sedated state, longing for the next cool fix, like an icy-cold lemonade or a gelato. As is often the case in Croatia, the later in the day it is, the more critical it becomes to seek solace in air-conditioned shops and restaurants to cool off before heading to the next attraction. After watching the spectacle in the Old Town’s Square – a comical period drama of the Roman emperor Diocletian addressing the town folk outside his grand palace – we thankfully stumbled upon a tiny shop selling traditional Croatian gourmet products; sugar-coated almonds, honey lavender shortbread cookies and carob liqueur lined the shelves awaiting our Quality Control.

A generous pour of the customary carob liqueur by the hospitable host certainly did the trick and samples were devoured with great fervor. We had the pleasure of tasting a delectable little morsel of goodness, a fig and walnut roll, which many will attest has always been a heavenly combination. Made with young Dalmatian walnuts and orchard figs, dried in the Autumnal sun, this sweet treat graces many cheese boards in this neck of the woods and is typically matched with a fine local cheese, fresh from the Island of Pag or the farmer down the road.

To put an Antipodean twist on this classic, I created this figgy roll with macadamias and the result is is seriously good – intensely nectarous, wonderfully textured by the fig seeds and crunchy macadamias and lightly spiced by the cloves. The health benefits of figs are outlined in a previous post with a fresh fig recipe Goat Cheese, Figs and Walnuts with Drizzled Honey. The other super food star is the macadamia nut, which is native to Australia, New Caledonia and Indonesia, but is now grown in many warmer places, including our beloved New Zealand. Macadamias are a rich source of mono-unsaturated fatty acids, like oleic and palmitoleic acids, which research suggests increases good (HDL) cholesterol and reduces bad (LDL) cholesterol levels in the blood. They are also a good source of minerals including selenium, magnesium, zinc, manganese, calcium and iron. A true wundernut, indeed.

If the figs have been laying about at the back of the pantry for a while, it works wonders to soak them overnight in some orange or grapefruit juice to freshen them up, hence why it is optional. If they are brimming with freshness, leave this part out. If you are vegan, try this recipe with a vegan cheese or creamy nut paste. This is also delicious as a sweetie treatie with a cup of tea or coffee.

Fig and Macadamia Roll

2 cups of dried figs, chopped

3/4 of a cup of orange or grapefruit juice (optional)

1 cup of macadamias

A tablespoon of honey (optional)

1/4 of a teaspoon of ground cloves

Soak the chopped dried figs in orange juice overnight if required. Drain off excess juice and pulse in a food processor until a sticky paste is formed.

Add the macadamias, honey (if you please) and cloves and pulse lightly, ensuring that some of the macadamias are still in large pieces.

Form into a roll using your hands, wrap in baking paper or glad wrap and keep in the fridge and cut into slices as required.

Alternatively, if you prefer a drier roll, allow to rest uncovered in the fridge or pantry for a few days. I can never wait that long, so I immediately enjoy with a strong cheese or a creamy vegan nut paste.

* Flaxseed and Chia Crackers with Beetroot and Horseradish Creme *


Entertaining season is upon us. The garden is delightfully fragrant and heaving with life as summertime has graced us with its glorious presence. Christmas and New Years are done and dusted – it’s the perfect time to catch up with your nearest and dearest, free from the pressure that can come with Christmas celebrations.

In our house, we love to entertain. A typical soiree may include mojitos on the deck in the sun, followed by a casual dinner, often piping hot from the barbeque, then an all-night, killer karaoke session (well, past midnight anyhoo.) Yes, we do have the luxury of not having neighbours, in case you were wondering.

When entertaining, it is absolutely imperative that you can whip something up quick smart and more importantly, with the greatest of ease after a couple of mojitos in the bright, bright sun. Or else, impress your guests with those famously endearing cooking show words “here’s something I prepared earlier”. Which is by far the simplest method, in my opinion. And let the boys sort out the barbeque menu, which we all know they love to do.

I’m an absolute cracker fiend, with an addiction to Vita-Weat 9 Grain crackers. I’ve been wanting to make my own crackers and as a keen observer of all things foodie, I’ve come across a few recipes for flax seed or linseed crackers. My New Roots is a very inspiring blog, which provides incredibly healthy, innovative recipes. These crackers are inspired by Sarah Britton’s Savory Flax Crackers recipe. These crackers are pure goodness – no refined flour, just a serious dose of flax, chia, sesame and sunflower seeds. Flax seeds provide omega-3 essential fatty acids, which is great for both your heart and skin. Lignans are also present- a group of chemical compounds which are estrogen-type chemicals that also act like antioxidants in the body to counteract free radical damage. Additionally, by making your own crackers, the preservatives and additives which are usually present in the store-bought varieties are avoided.

A New Year’s resolution of mine is to have beetroot every day. I usually have beetroot, carrot and ginger juice most days, but I’m going to step it up a few notches. Beetroot is one of the best foods to cleanse your body and after an epic Christmas and New Years, I think many will be in need of a mighty good dose of this super food. The wonderful detoxifying effect that beetroot has on the liver is really quite amazing. Beetroot is also high in iron and will kick start the digestive system, which probably needs to be awoken after Christmas indulgence. By serving this winning combination at your partay, you’ll be doing yourself and your guests a favour by detoxing whilst you’re retoxing, hopefully counteracting the effects of one mojito too many.

Flax seed and Chia Crackers

A cup of flax seeds

A cup of water

1/4 of a cup of sesame seeds

2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons of chia seeds

A tablespoon of sesame oil

A tablespoon of olive oil

A teaspoon of Himalayan rock salt

1/2 a teaspoon of pepper

Pulse the flax seeds in a blender until fine. In a bowl, soak the flax seeds in water and allow to sit for about 20 minutes.

Toast the sesame and sunflower seeds in a pan until aromatic and golden. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Mix in the remaining ingredients and spread evenly onto a grease proof paper-lined tray.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until golden brown and crispy. Cut into any shape you wish whilst the cracker sheet is still warm. Allow to cool.

Beetroot and Horseradish Creme

500 grams of beetroot

1/2 a cup of sunflower seeds or cashews, soaked in water for at least 4 hours, rinsed well and drained

2 tablespoons of horseradish or horseradish creme*

The juice of a lemon

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1/2 a cup of freshly-pressed beetroot juice

A tablespoon of olive oil

Himalayan rock salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 180°c or time it with the crackers coming out of the oven. Boil the beetroot with the skin on for about 20 minutes. Allow to cool for a while and peel the skin off using your fingers. Cut into wedges and bake in the oven for 30 minutes with a splash of olive oil and a sprinkle of Himalayan rock salt. Take out of the oven and allow to cool completely.

In a food processor, pulse the activated cashews or sunflower seeds until a smooth consistency is reached. Add the beetroot and pulse again until smooth. Add the horseradish, lemon juice, garlic, beetroot juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Whiz and transfer into a bowl. Garnish with fresh herbs  and serve with the flax seed and chia crackers.

* Some horseradish products that I’ve seen contain clarified butter. If you are vegan, please check the label.

* Beetroot and Pumpkin Dahl with Smashed Avocado and Coriander *


We’ve just returned home to Dunedin from an incredibly inspiring three month adventure in Europe, gratefully avoiding the bitter winter in New Zealand.  Apart from a few blustery days in Norway and England, we were basking in the warm European summer the entire time. Now that we’re home I’m acclimatising, as even though it’s officially spring, the warm weather doesn’t usually kick in until later in the summer – occasionally not until autumn. What I’ve been craving upon returning is a warming dahl to heat me from the inside out and provide a rejuvenating boost of nutrients which my body demands after living the good life in Europe.

I’m a big fan of beetroot and its incredible health benefits and antioxidant properties, which you can read about in my recipe for Beetroot, Feta and Mint Salad with Orange and Tahini Dressing. Another super food wunderkind is pumpkin, a highly nutritious vegetable that lends itself perfectly to a hearty dahl. Pumpkin is a low-calorie staple which is both filling and high in dietary fibre, which assists in lowering bad LDL cholesterol levels. Pumpkin’s bright orange colour is from its high concentration of carotenoids, which repel free radicals in the body and help prevent cardiovascular disease and other infections. Pumpkin is a good source of vitamin A and vitamin C, both of which boost the immune system, perfect for the inconsistent weather. It’s also a natural diuretic, which flushes out toxins and waste material from the body, leaving you spring-cleaned and detoxified.

This recipe was created completely by chance as I had to use up some of the tired looking veggies I’d all but abandoned at the bottom of the fridge. The beetroot gives the traditional pumpkin dahl recipe a beautiful depth of flavour and the ruby red colour is pure delight. The avocado also adds a rich creaminess which satisfies on a cosy night in. Thankfully beetroot and pumpkin are still in season, so make the most of it while it lasts. Serve the dahl with brown rice, quinoa or with soldiers (fingers of toast) drizzled with olive oil.

Beetroot and Pumpkin Dahl with Smashed Avocado and Coriander

1 1/2 cups of brown lentils, rinsed well

A large onion

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

Olive oil, plus extra for the smashed avocado

A large knob of ginger (3 cm), finely grated

2 teaspoons of cumin seeds

2 teaspoons of coriander seeds

2 teaspoons of mustard seeds

A teaspoon of tumeric, ground

A teaspoon of cinnamon

700 grams of pumpkin, chopped into small pieces

3 large beetroot, thoroughly washed and chopped into small pieces

6 cups of water (1.5 litres)

2 organic vegetarian bouillon cubes

Himalayan rock salt and ground white pepper to taste

A large avocado

A bunch of coriander (cilantro), rustically chopped

In a saucepan, cook the lentils in water until tender. In another large saucepan, heat the olive oil to a medium temperature. Add the diced onion and cook until translucent. Add the crushed garlic and cook for another minute. Lightly ground the spices in a mortar and pestle and add to the saucepan and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently. Add the pumpkin and beetroot and sauté for a minute or so. Add the water, bouillon cubes, salt and pepper and stir well. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for about 40-50 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked and the flavors have developed. Puree with a stick blender, then add the lentils and cook for a further 5 minutes.

In a mortar and pestle or bowl, smash the avocado flesh, olive oil and coriander until a smooth consistency is reached. Arrange a good portion of dahl in a bowl with the chosen accompaniment. Place a spoonful of the smashed avocado with coriander on top of the dahl and garnish with more chopped coriander. Enjoy the warmth whilst dreaming of the forthcoming summer sun.

Serves a hungry crowd

* Goat Cheese, Figs and Walnuts with Drizzled Honey *


Greetings from Woolpit in Suffolk, England! We’ve recently arrived here after a ten day adventure in Norway, where we had a memorable time with wonderful friends, old and new.  Norway is such a picturesque country, the people are gracious and the food is superb.  I’m feeling very inspired about the local delicacies that I’ve been devouring in Norway and here in England and I’m super excited about getting back into my own kitchen in Dunedin, New Zealand and concocting some deliciousness. I’ve been dreaming about being reunited with my food processor and making all of the dishes I’ve not been able to make on this trip without it. Living in many different abodes over the past three months has really made me appreciate exactly how good my kitchen is back home and what is essential, which has consequently been a good exercise in being truly grateful for all that I have, bless. We have another week here in the Northern Hemisphere and I’m savoring the fresh autumnal produce before I get to enjoy the spring delights of home. So much to look forward to – hurray!

The air has been feeling very autumnal here in Scandinavia and England. Leaves are fluttering about the paths and the evenings are fresh, as the summer dream is over for another year. As saddening as it may be that the warmth of the sun has dissipated, autumn brings with it an array of fresh fruit and vegetables which are very dear to many. Figs are one of my absolute favorites and have arrived at the markets, which makes me very, very happy. Ecstatic even.

Figs are the shining jewel in the autumnal crown. A fruit like no other, their taste and texture is very unique. As you take a bite, the chewiness of the skin, the crunchy popping of the seeds, the luscious flesh and the saccharine sweetness exude one great whack of sensory indulgence. In addition to tasting amazing, figs also get the Super Foodie tick of approval as their health benefits are many. Figs are an excellent source of dietary fibre, which assists in keeping you full for longer, which is good news if you are trying to lose weight especially as they are low in calories. The high fibre content in figs is also beneficial in keeping your bowels in tip-top shape and works wonders in relieving constipation. Figs are a good source of potassium, which helps to control blood pressure and also calcium, which assists with increasing and maintaining bone density. Figs also contain magnesium, copper, iron and manganese for an additional dose of goodness.

When purchasing figs, select those with a deep colour and which feel plump yet tender and ensure that there is no bruising.  As figs are highly perishable, keep refrigerated, wash right before you are about to serve and eat within two days of purchasing to ensure they are at their absolute best.

I love to eat figs simply on their own or with some Greek yoghurt, honey and nuts. However, the ultimate figgin’ combination is this one – a fragrant goat cheese (or chevre, as it is called in some places), the freshest, juiciest figs that you can find at your local market, walnuts and nectarous honey. Food of the gods, I say.

Goats Cheese, Figs and Walnuts with Drizzled Honey

200 grams of ripened goats cheese

4 large figs, quartered with stalks removed

16 walnut halves

Liquid honey, preferably raw

Fresh herbs to garnish

Cracked pepper

On four plates, drizzle a small portion of honey in the middle of each of the plates.  Cut the goat cheese into four slices (50 grams per person) and place on the drizzled honey. Arrange the quartered figs and walnut halves on the plate.  Drizzle more honey on top of the goat cheese, garnish with fresh herbs and season with cracked pepper.

Serve immediately. Vel bekomme!

* Watermelon, Halloumi and Rocket Salad with Tamari Toasted Pepitas *


I feel pretty damn lucky to be able to experience the best of the summer seasons in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres and really do make the most of the summer provisions. Currently at the markets, nectarines, plums, peaches, melons, berries and avocados are all in abundance, so I’m happily concocting delightfully fruity combinations like this summery salad to share with you here in the warmer climes.  For those in the deep south, summer is just around the corner, so sit tight and watermelons will soon show their bright faces again.

Watermelons are peaking right now here in beautiful Berlin – juicy, sweet and oh-so-lecker, I just can’t get enough.  Watermelon really is the bees knees.  It is a super satisfying fruit which quenches thirst, the perfect fodder for cruising down the canal in a blowup rowboat on a bright, sunny day.  It is an excellent source of vitamin C, which assists the body in fighting infection (a bonus if you happen to fall in the canal).  It is also especially good for men as it has a generous dose of lycopene, a cartenoid which not only assists in keeping the prostate gland in tip-top shape, it is also beneficial to cardiovascular health.

As you may know, I’m staying in Neukölln, a highly eclectic area of Berlin with an array of cultural diversity and naturally, all of the foodie delights that come with it.  In actual fact, it seems that anywhere in Berlin you can’t swing a shopping basket without hitting a Middle Eastern kebab shop, Greek restaurant or Turkish supermarket. If I’m eating out, one of my favorite dishes has to be anything with fried halloumi, whether in a kebab with felafel or as the pièce de résistance atop of a salad.  Fried halloumi is something of a revelation for me.  I’ve only recently discovered just how easy it is to cook this “squeeky cheese” and how it is the perfect accompaniment to so many things, as the salty richness lends itself perfectly to the sweetness of fruit and sweeter vegetables like capsicum, tomato and beetroot.  It also provides a hearty dose of calcium which is fundamental to bone development, plus protein which is good for rebuilding muscle after a strenuous day rowing. Due to the robust texture and strong flavor of Halloumi, a little really does go a long way, so it’s possible to cut down on the high fat content and earn extra health points by reducing calories from fat where possible.

So, celebrate the last of the summer sun by grabbing your paddles and heading out on the canal for an afternoon of swan spotting whilst devouring this lush salad.

Watermelon, Halloumi and Mint Salad with Tamari Toasted Pepitas

200 – 250 grams of Halloumi

Olive oil for frying and drizzling

1/4 of a cup of pumpkin seeds

A tablespoon of tamari

1 kg of the brightest watermelon you can lay your hands on

A handful of mint leaves, plus extra for garnishing

A large bunch of rocket

The juice of half a lemon

Ground Himalayan rock salt and cracked pepper to taste

Heat a frying pan to a medium temperature and toast the pepitas until lightly browned, moving them around the pan often.  Coat the pepitas in tamari, remove from the heat and transfer to another dish to cool.

Wash and dry the pan and place back on the heat.  Add a good glug of  olive oil to the pan and allow to heat.  Cut the halloumi into small slices (about 1/2 cm thick) and place in the pan.  Fry until golden brown and flip over to brown the other side.  Remove the rind of the watermelon, cut into rustic pieces and remove the seeds where possible.

Arrange the rocket, mint, watermelon and halloumi onto a large serving plate or smaller individual plates.  Mix the lemon juice with a good glug of olive oil and drizzle over the salad.  Sprinkle with tamari toasted pepitas and season with Himalayan rock salt and pepper. Serve immediately while the halloumi is still warm.  Guten Appetit, meine Lieblings!

Serves 4


* Beetroot Hummus with Thyme and Honey Roasted Carrots and Broccoli *


I just have to look at this dish and I feel energised.  Beetroot hummus, thyme and honey roasted carrots and broccoli florets make a delightfully colourful appetiser to entertain a crowd and ensure that your loved ones get an antioxidant hit.  Hummus is such a practical, nutritious food which originated in the Middle East and has spread far and wide.  In the last 8 years or so, the hummus market has exploded in New Zealand, with many new players and numerous variations of this humble dip.  However, why pay so much for a super cheap food that you can make so easily at home?  And what about those little plastic containers which have to be shipped off to China to supposedly be recycled?  Not to mention all of the additives, preservatives and whateverives which are present in the store-bought varieties.  Take control of your diet, grab a food processor and get stuck in.

You can play with this recipe as you like.  If you want to reduce the oil content, or omit it altogether, add an equal quantity of water.  Or if you have a juicer, juice a beet or two, add it to the mix and watch the colour brighten. I am a firm believer in adding good quality fats to your diet where possible and there are some über-healthy fats in this dish to make your skin glow and hair glisten.  Olive oil, sesame oil and tahini provide a wonderful combination of vitamins E and A, calcium and carotenoids, which protect your cells from the damaging effects of free radicals and enhance the functioning of your immune system.  Broccoli, carrots and beetroot also provide a hearty dose of folate, vitamins A, K and B6, as well as ample dietary fiber to aid digestion and ensure optimum health and vitality.

The beautifully designed ceramics featured in the photo are available from Whiteroom – Dunedin’s design destination.

Beetroot Hummus

3-4 beetroots, cubed

A tablespoon of sesame oil

A sprinkle of Himalayan rock salt

A sprinkle of pepper

A cup of chickpeas, cooked and cooled (or from a can, rinsed well)

3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped

3 tablespoons of tahini

1/4 of a cup of extra-virgin olive oil

A teaspoon of cumin

The juice of a lemon

The juice of 1-2 beetroots or cold water

Preheat oven to 190ºC. Place the cubed beetroot, himalayan rock salt, pepper and sesame oil in a roasting dish and bake for 40 minutes until cooked.  Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and whiz.  Extra oil, water or beetroot juice may be added to obtain the desired consistency.

Thyme and Honey Roasted Carrots and Broccoli

3-4 large carrots, sliced diagonally

A tablespoon of honey

A tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil

The juice of half a lemon

A few sprigs of thyme, stems removed

A sprinkle of Himalayan rock salt and pepper

Place carrots in a separate roasting dish.  Add the honey, olive oil, thyme, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Roast carrots for about 4o minutes until nicely cooked. Blanch a head of broccoli which has been chopped into florets.  Arrange beetroot hummus, thyme and honey roasted carrots and broccoli on a platter and serve.