Monday, 25 January 2016

Long, Lazy Wellington Weekend, and Copycat Crepes for Dinner

Don't you just love long weekends? That extra Wellington Anniversary Day Monday tacked on to the weekend makes for an all new state of mind! The standing joke about being 'retired' takes on an all new meaning when you run a bed and breakfast. Our 'holiday Monday' had a Very Early Start this morning as our guests needed to be away by 7.30 for the early morning sailing of the Interislander ferry to the South Island. They requested a 6.45am breakfast, which for me means being out of bed at 5.45. I don't cope well with being unprepared and we prep as much as we can the night before, but I need to be composed and un-rushed (is there such a word?) to present breakfast at its best.
Our delightful Swedish guests arrived last night, right in the middle of me cooking dinner. Fortunately it was an easy dinner, a recipe that I had replicated from one of our local restaurants.There is an Italian restaurant just a couple of minutes away from us that we visit frequently called La Bella Italia. It is owned and operated by Antonio Cacase, an Italian with family links to Italy. As well as serving superb authentic Italian food they also sell all manner of delicious produce, delicious cheeses, pastas, meats, oils, you name it. If you need it to make an Italian dish you can get it there.
A year or so ago I tried their Cannelloni de Crespelle. Beautiful light crepes filled with ricotta and spinach on a bed of thick tomato passata. I vowed to try to recreate the recipe at home and achieved a passable imitation. I researched many recipes and came up with one that can be adapted to suit whatever ingredients you may have on hand as a filling for the crepes. Last night I had neither ricotta nor spinach, but did have a little leftover white fish and a small quantity of roast pumpkin. Along with one of the copious supply of courgettes our garden produces and a little of the feta cheese from our last weeks cheesemaking session they combined to make a delicious Sunday night dinner.
I will give you my version of the original recipe with an alternative filling at the end. If you are adapting this for yourself, open the fridge and decide what you need to use up... be original and enjoy creating your own filling.

185g strong flour
450ml milk
3 eggs
salt to taste

Whisk all the ingredients together and let the mixture rest for half an hour before making the crepes. Melt a little butter in a non-stick saucepan. When the butter is sizzling add a scant 1/4 cup of crepe mixture, swirling the pan to cover the base. Shake the pan occasionally until the mixture moves freely, then either toss them (if you dare) or turn carefully with a spatula and cook till the base is set. Continue until all the mixture is used up. Keep them warm on a warmed plate in a 50C degree oven.

1 can chopped tomatoes (or use fresh tomatoes)
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic chopped finely
1 tspn sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the onion and garlic in a little olive oil and butter till they are beginning to soften, add the tomatoes, sugar and seasoning and simmer over a low heat for about half an hour.

250g ricotta cheese
pinch of nutmeg
1 egg
1/4 cup Parmesan
1/2 to 1 cup wilted spinach
salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together well.

extra virgin olive oil
parmesan cheese
fresh coriander

Put a third of a cup of filling on to the centre of each crepe and roll up.
Put half a cup of the passata on to a serving plate. Top with two or three crepes and sprinkle with parmesan. Put under a hot grill, 200 degrees Celsius until they are piping hot and nicely browned. Drizzle a little olive oil around the passata and serve with a sprinkling of coriander.

half a red onion
1 tspn chopped garlic
1 courgette, grated
1/2 a red or yellow capsicum,
1 chopped tomato
leftover pumpkin
1 tspn fresh oregano
1 egg
black pepper
75g of cooked white fish, (or use chicken, cooked mince, salmon etc)
150g feta cheese, crumbled

Fry the onion and garlic in a little oil for a few minutes until starting to soften. Add the capsicum, tomatoes, courgette, oregano and pepper and allow to cook down until the vegetables are soft.Add the fish or selected filling. Remove from the heat and add the egg. Mix in the feta. Mix together well but don't mash it!

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Fog and feta cheese...

What happened to the view?.. Fog over the harbour.
For the second day in a row fog has brought Wellington to a standstill. Our usually glorious view out to the harbour and beyond is a sea of grey mist....not the view our guests are expecting when staying at a B & B called 'Harbourlights'! Yesterday we watched the fog sit like an umbrella over the entrance to the harbour. It was unseasonal (January in New Zealand is the height of summer), and eerie. Last night the airport closed due to the fog,  Tonight the airport is marginal again and flights are delayed, disrupting the travel plans of many and affecting tourists and locals alike. New Zealand is in holiday mode in January. Many businesses are just starting up again after the Christmas break, schools don't reopen until the start of February and universities a month later. But every cloud has a silver lining and the unusual weather is not all bad - farmers have been crying out for some welcome rain, and so has our garden.
Cooking in the rain
 Our strawberries are thriving and the courgettes are growing so fast that if we leave them a day before picking them they are turning into young marrows.
Home made feta, plain (top) and with fresh herbs.
Green salad with feta cheese
Tonight Peter was on dinner duty barbecuing some of those courgettes with carrots, new potatoes and  tasty little lamb chops. Real men don't let a bit of rain stop them cooking on the barbecue and our lamb chops were perfectly cooked and delicious. I made a salad using an assortment of lettuces and herbs from the garden and tossed it with some fresh feta cheese that we made over the weekend. It is the first time we have made feta and it is delicious. It used 4 litres of full cream milk which is not cheap to buy so I doubt we will have saved much money by making it ourselves, but we enjoyed the experience and will certainly be doing it again. We ended up with 800g of cheese, half of which we mixed with fresh herbs from the garden.
The salad is not really a recipe, more a combination of whatever is at hand. If you want to replicate the picture the following is a list of the ingredients I used, but feel free to add anything you like:


2  handfuls of mixed lettuce greens
a selection of herbs, parsley, coriander, mint, oregano
a few fresh peas, removed from the pod
cucumber sliced and quartered
1 courgette stripped into ribbons with a potato peeler
1/2 an avocado diced
1/4 red capsicum, chopped
100g feta cheese (we used the herbed one)
freshly ground black pepper
(no salt is needed as the feta is quite salty)

3 tbspns extra virgin olive oil
1 tbpn white balsamic vinegar
1/2 tspn dijon mustard
1/2 clove garlic, crushed and chopped
seasoning to taste

Blend dressing ingredients together and toss over the mixed salad.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Tangelo Marmalade... a delicious way to spend the afternoon!

We love it when our guests settle in to the B & B for a few days, but at this time of year, the high tourist season, many of our visitors book to stay for only one night. We are strategically placed to make getting to the Interislander ferry very simple. The ferries sail several times a day across Cook Strait to the South Island.They travel through the Marlborough Sounds, the Tory Channel and through Queen Charlotte Sound to Picton.  We can see the ferries coming and going from our place so often have a good idea what time they will arrive if they are travelling from the South Island.While they are here we encourage our guests to see as much as they can of our lovely city. There is so much to do and see in Wellington, and getting around the city is simple and enjoyable on foot. Peter has made up a couple of itineraries that we offer guests so they get to see the very best of the area while they are here. Out guests last night were from the U.K. Tonight's guests are a honeymoon couple from Sweden. They didn't give us an ETA so I was confined to home for the afternoon, and spent it happily turning out a batch of Tangelo Marmalade.
Our local market had beautiful juicy ripe tangelos and though I have never made marmalade with them before could see no reason why it wouldn't work. It has turned out citrussy (is there such a word?) and sweet and will complement our lovely homemade bread for breakfast in the morning.


1 kg tangelos
1.25 kg sugar
250 ml water

Peel and remove the pips from the tangelos. Chop the skins, (pith and all) finely. Put the peel and flesh into a preserving pan and bring to the boil. add the water and sugar and stir till it boils. Boil for about 15 minutes until a teaspoonful put onto a cold saucer wrinkles. If you have a thermometer it should read 220 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour into sterilised jars and seal.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Gooseberry Pie like Granny used to Bake

Our gooseberries have finally (after many years of being talked to nicely) put on a decent show for us this summer. Last year we picked 8, yes 8 whole gooseberries, this summer our two bushes gave us a whole bowl full with more still to pick.I remember the gooseberries in our garden when I was a child and the eye-watering tartness as we picked them straight from the bush, shredding our hands in the process. My grandmother used to make a gooseberry pie but her recipe died with her many years ago. I searched my multitude of recipe books and eventually decided I could replicate it better if I wing it. The pie was delicious. I served it with custard but it would have been yummy with a dollop of cream or icecream. I used a pastry recipe that is a cross between short and flaky pastry and is easily made in the food processor. If you leave out the sugar it is a wonderful pastry for a rustic savoury pie, but more about that another day. Here is  my gooseberry tart recipe.


1 1/2 cups flour
2 tbspns sugar
1/2 tspn baking powder
100g cold cubed butter
1/2 cup cold milk
1 tspn white wine vinegar

Process the flour, butter, sugar and baking powder in the food processor until the butter is about 5mm across. Mix the milk and vinegar together and pulse with the butter mixture till it is crumbly and will form a ball when gently squeezed. Don't over process it. It is better to gently combine it with your hands than to overdo it. Chill the pastry wrapped in cling wrap for half an hour while making the gooseberry filling.
Roll out the pastry to a circle about 30cm round and pile the cooled filling in the centre. Bring the sides of the pastry part way across the filling and seal the edges where the pastry touches itself with a sprinkle of water. Brush with milk to glaze. Put the tart onto a baking tray and cook in a 190C degree oven for about 30-35 minutes until the  pastry is nicely browned and the base is cooked through.


3 cups topped and tailed gooseberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tbspns cornflour
1/2 tspn salt

Crush a quarter of the berries in the bottom of a saucepan and mix with the cornflour, sugar and salt.. Put on a gentle heat and cook over a moderate heat for  two minutes. Add the rest of the gooseberries, cook for a couple of minutes then remove from the heat. Allow to cool. There will be a lot of liquid so strain off the surplus and use it in a jelly or gooseberry fool.

I hope you enjoy this as much as we did.