i’m back!

hi! it’s been a bit, hasn’t it?

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…ok, more than a bit!

would it placate you to tell you that the last 4 months have been action packed and contained my 21st birthday, a graduation, two 21st party weekends in wellington and friends visiting Christchurch?

no? how about homemade gingernut icecream, mango tart, yeasted naan, sweet and savoury scrolls, a midwinter christmas dinner and a indian feast?

now I’m just teasing you, aren’t I.

seriously though, I’m well. and filled with happiness and joy to be blogging again, which is just as well, because..

blooming anna is going international!

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Nanjing, China to be exact.

and i can’t wait to share my adventures in the middle kingdom with you. I’m practising my tones, packing my bags and trying to squeeze every last bit of family and friend bonding, new zealand scenic appreciation and delicious flat whites into the last few weeks.

the last 8 months have been fantastic – so special to have this time at home which i may not have had if the terms hadn’t worked out the way they did.

of course cooking has been a great joy this year – always such a treat to use the home kitchen rather than the grotty flat ones i’ve had to contend with in recent years. it’s just as well as i won’t have access to one in China (I KNOW, how will i cope?!)

so, i’ll be back very soon with my no doubt scintillating thoughts on packing (aka the worst chore/activity there is), travel, and my impressions of CHINA!

i’ll leave you with the recipe for mango tart, which was absolutely superb and one of the tastiest desserts i have ever made! I made it for my mum’s birthday, and it went down a treat. this recipe inspired me, and then little and friday plus this lady online helped me narrow down the exact execution.

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Mango, lemongrass and coconut tart

lemon and coconut sweet pastry
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup toasted thread coconut
1 cup icing sugar
pinch of salt
250g butter, well chilled and cubed
1 egg
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon zest

Blitz flour, sugar and salt briefly in food processor. add butter and process to breadcrumbs. add all other ingredients and pulse until it forms a ball.
turn out, gather to a dough and wrap in plastic wrap. let it rest for at least an hour.
you will use 2/3 of the pastry. either remove 1/3 immediately or roll out with this in mind. roll out to 3mm thickness and line a removable bottom fluted tart pan.
rest for an hour in the fridge.
blind bake for 15 mins with beans/paper in. remove filling and bake for another 10 mins.
allow to cool completely.

lemongrass custard
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3 stalks lemongrass, sliced
600ml cream
1/4 cup cornflour

heat cream and lemongrass in a saucepan to a simmer. turn heat off and let steep for 20 mins. strain and return cream to saucepan.
beat egg yolks, sugar and cornflour until very pale and fluffy. add a small amount of hot cream, whisk to temper, then add the rest of the cream in increments.
pour back into the saucepan. place over a low heat and stir constantly. it is VERY EASY to curdle. when it comes to boil, remove from the heat and allow to cool completely in the fridge.

topping
3 perfectly ripe mangoes

peel mangoes with a potato peeler. Slice the cheeks and the other sides off. slice into half moon shapes 2 mm thick – you are aiming for delicate and flexible but not floppy.

dollop lemongrass custard evenly into tart shell and spread with a knife. arrange mango in rose formation.

serve! and wait for the compliments to pour in (it is just so good).

it’s good to be back in this space, friends!

lots of love, Anna, BA, DipLang, 21 years of age (how official this all sounds!)

portuguese custard tarts

hi! so i have spent the last 6 days (with the exception of one day’s work) reeeelaxing and it feels so good! how on earth was i studying like a maniac for so long? it’s just as well that my next lot of exams are 4 months away and i have a selective memory otherwise i’m pretty sure i would never return to uni haha.

what have i been up to besides lounging around and drinking too much coffee?

i went to Man Up and adored it, just laughed the entire time! it was that excellent breed of comedy that is just plain smart! lake bell was just this fantastic quirky bridget jones-esque but less cringy lead, simon pegg was such a funny affable bloke who had a sensitive side and sean… was just… well sean (you have to see it to believe it!) five stars, big thumbs up, i want to go again immediately (and have a sneaking suspicion that i’d pick up on a lot of jokes that i missed the first time around!)

i went to the theatre: Romeo and Juliet with a dear friend and while i also adored it, i sure did not laugh the entire time (that would cast some nasty aspersions on the actors!) the court theatre is just marvellous and they staged it so very well. they had beautiful strings musicians playing contemporary songs like chandelier, mr brightside and bad romance in between scenes which worked so well!

i’ve read three books, all utter chicklit which has been fine by me! i’ve cooked my poulet espagnol to rave reviews, and learned my mum’s method for mashed potatoes (a true skill – when made badly they really are awful, but made well = scrumptious!)

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posh porridge is always a must do when i’m in town and they never disappoint! as sarah astutely pointed out, she always goes for the healthy, banana option while i pick a roasted fruit, saucy one: i say, when you know what you like why go for anything else! this time around she had banana, pic’s peanut butter, dates and superfood granola, while mine was cinnamon baked apple, oaty crumble and salted caramel, yum!

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gently segueing into another thing that i very much like and always want: custard. (sorry madeleine, i can feel your eyes rolling from here!) broken record? well, you’ve heard me rant about profiteroles, about a way to dress up hot cross buns, and been tantalisingly promised a rhubarb recipe and a spanish one here. everyone gets it! i like custard!

however, you see, what redeems me is that i have a precedent: my aunty, my mum’s youngest sister, is just like me in this respect (it must be our shared middle name AND initials). she loooves custard just as much as do so it’s totally in my DNA! and because my threshold for custard making is extremely low, like, the lowest (what? you mentioned this one time that you don’t totally hate crême brûlée? coming right up!) and that she is very busy with a stressful high school production happening, we agreed that these perfect little morsels would be the ideal treat to make her.

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this recipe for portuguese custard tarts is a true gem and comes from alexa johnston’s a second helping. this book is a collection of old recipes from new zealand ladies around the country, of traditional baking made to ‘fill the tins’. the cream cheese pastry is a particular highlight, as the cream cheese gives it a lovely tangy flavour that offsets some of the luscious richness of the custard filling. i’ve made these tarts many times, often for my darling aunty, and they always turn out so beautifully.

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portuguese custard tarts
makes 15 tarts

pastry
85g cream cheese, cubed
115g butter, cubed and softened
1 cup flour

custard
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornflour
1 cup cream
1/2 cup water
2 tsp vanilla essence

to make the pastry, blitz cream cheese and butter in the food processor until fully combined and creamy. add the flour and pulse until it forms a ball. divide into two balls and sandwich between baking paper, flatten into disks. chill in the fridge while you make the custard.

to make the custard, whisk egg yolks, sugar and cornflour together in a medium saucepan until thick and creamy. whisk in cream and water. gently heat, whisking the whole time. it will take a while to thicken and when it starts to bubble, remove from the heat. allow to cool.

preheat the oven to 200ºC. roll out the pastry to about 3mm thick, keeping it between the baking paper so it doesn’t stick to the rolling pin. use a large round cookie cutter or wide water glass to cut circles approximately 10 cm diameter, and gently ease them into regular size muffin tins. should make between 12 and 15 circles. place in the freezer for ten mins, tidy up or have a coffee while you wait!

get the trays back out and spoon the custard evenly into them. they will seem underfilled but don’t worry because they bubble up lots. place in the oven for 20-25 mins, or until caramelised spots appear on the custard and pastry seems cooked. let cool for ten mins or so and then lever them out with a knife and place on a cooling tray to finish cooling. enjoy!

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personality and paella

Can we have a brief chat about personality types? are you into that kind of thing? do you think they’re accurate?

I’m super into them! anything from myers briggs to buzzfeed ‘which disney princess are you?‘ to enneagram and back! for reference, i am an ENFP on myers briggs and a 7 on the enneagram (with strong 2 tendencies as well, so make of that what you will!)

I love reading the profiles and feeling so understood! of course some things are more relatable than others.

one thing that i have always read on the ENFP profiles and never been all that convinced by was that ENFPs have to be really passionate about something in order to do it well. umm hello, i detested level 1 physics but i still did it?? but i’ve come to recognise this trait in myself, especially in terms of big assignments and essays. i willfully, stubbornly find a topic that speaks to me in some way – even if it’s (DEFINITELY) not the easiest or most practical option.

prime example: when i was year 12 we had to do this big history internal on a historical mystery. now, basically everyone at that time and in previous years had done Marilyn Monroe or the Black Dahlia or Lee Harvey Oswald, but what did i do? Olof Palme! i doubt you’ll have heard of him- he was prime minister of sweden and was assassinated in 1986. no one had ever picked him as a topic before, so not exactly a safe bet. but i did it, and it was full on but so interesting and i got to become great mates with google translate thanks to all the swedish sources ;) ps how cool of a language is swedish! going on my language-to-learn list (the list is two miles long, i just want to know them all).

so having read this far, it’ll be of absolutely zero surprise to you that when we were given a 4000 mot assignment for french i immediately discarded all the reasonable ideas for a topic and settled on writing magazine profiles on the 5 spanish maids from the film Les Femmes du Sixième Étage (the women on the 6th floor), complete with 5 recipes which i would create, cook, photograph and write up in french. no probs at all. which is how i found myself in the supermarket on saturday afternoon trying to track down sweet smoked paprika, paella rice, prawns and tarakihi and many more ingredients for my paella that night!

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….disclaimer – by no means am i doing the most difficult project of the class – some people are doing way more impressive ones than me! super literary, stylised amazing creations that fill me with awe… just saying it was typical anna to give myself the added cost/time burden of these recipes to jazz things up a bit haha.

so let me introduce to you my spanish feast:

Seafood Paella
Chicken braised with lemon, garlic and white wine
Creme Caramel

they were all scrumptious! i was a bit dubious about how nice they would be (i’ve never even eaten paella before, for goodness sake, let alone made it!) but they were all beautiful! i made the chicken for my flat mates last night and they gobbled it up – we all had terrible garlic breath afterwards though, so potentially not first date material ;)

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the sauce was so delicious and complex and well balanced – the onion just melted down and the garlic got all soft and caramelised and the chicken was so crispy on top and juicy within – i’m salivating just thinking about it!

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the paella was yum too – expecially with lots of lemon squeezed over it, such a treat having seafood – my favourite.

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the creme caramel was so beautiful! its no secret i love custard and it was just heavenly, with the slightest jiggle in the centre and creamy custard and caramel syrupy outer. and it looked and tasted just like the one i had in paris, so i’m calling it a win.

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^^^ogling the french boys ;)^^^

so i’ve got the recipes in french i can give you (no big deal ;) but if you want the english you’ll have to wait a wee while. Here are some great personality links to amuse you while you wait: personalities at a party / version of hell / and my personal fave, a very cute infographic of job types … travel writer? oh, if you insist ;)

hot cross bun pudding

i love eating seasonally – there is something very comforting that no matter what else changes in life, we still eat hot cross buns at easter/autumn, fresh corn in late summer, strawberries in december, mandarins at the beginning of winter, apples and pears in autumn, asparagus in spring…. i could go on and on.
My mum is passionate about eating in season and eating local/New Zealand grown produce, (which go entirely hand in hand) which she has passed on to me. Lemons from the USA? Garlic from China? No thanks! (ps please don’t take offence guys, i’m sure they’re great!)
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The only exception would have to be coffee and the odd bit of tropical fruit  – but once global warming heats Dunedin to a balmy coffee plantation temperature, just you wait – i’ll be the first to jump on that bandwagon ;)
So hot cross buns is a kind of incongruous addition to that list – i hear you ask – but anna, flour and dried fruit and yeast are hardly seasonal ingredients: we eat bread all year round! what are you on about girl? but what i mean is that they appear in shops for easter, and disappear afterwards.
wholeheartedly embracing this seasonal, locavore eating, i have enjoyed quite a few hot cross buns over the last few weeks ;) – toasted with real butter, they are hard to beat! of course, if you’re looking to jazz some stale ones up a bit, i have another recipe to present to you – a hot cross bun pudding! I made a thick rich custardy sauce, poured it over them then baked in a water bath for 45 ish mins – and it was delicious! I have evidence to prove it – soon after i took it out of the oven and dished myself up a generous portion (dessert for dinner is ALWAYS a good idea) i retreated to the library to get my life sorted. An hour or so later, i received a text from one of the boys that simply said “that hot cross bun pudding was awesome”.
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and it really is – the liquid forms little pockets of creme brûlée in the gaps and the hot cross buns get crispy on top and soft and custardy underneath. I refrained from butter because I read the nutritional info on the cream bottle and it scarred me for life  I decided to not further pain the old arteries – but if you want to substitute the cream with milk partly or fully, i would defs consider buttering them. I would also consider upping the sugar if you know that you like your desserts on the sweeter side, as this pudding is a very restrained sweetness, which i like. alternately, just serve with lots of vanilla ice cream! we didn’t have any because ice cream has a life expectancy of approximately 2 1/2 hours around the flat ;)
oh my goodness – the new zealand cricket team, the black caps, are in the final of the Cricket World Cup against our arch nemesis/ bffls Australia (we have a complicated sporting relationship haha). The whole country will be on the edge of their seats tonight and i’m just hoping and hoping we manage to beat them. The Black Caps have never made the final before, let alone won it, New Zealand will just be the happiest place to be over the next wee while if we make it!! though to be honest, I think we’ll be good either way – everyone is just so proud of them for making it this far and that’s really really cool. Back the Black Caps! #backtheblackcaps!
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hot cross bun pudding
ingredients:
8 hot cross buns, split in half
500 ml cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 cinnamon quill
1 tsp vanilla
5 eggs
Preheat oven to 160 C and boil a full kettle of water. Arrange the buns in a deep baking dish. Heat the cream, sugar and cinnamon quill gently in the microwave or stovetop until sugar is dissolved and the cinnamon quill has infused the mixture nicely. Allow to cool and then remove the quill. Add vanilla and eggs to the cream mixture, whisking vigorously to combine. Pour custard over the buns and allow to soak in for five or so mins. Put a roasting dish that will comfortably hold your baking dish in the oven, put baking dish into it and then pour in the boiling water around the baking dish- it should come to halfway or two thirds high (you may need a couple of kettles worth). Bake for 45 mins or until nearly set in the middle (it pays to check at 30 min mark). I covered my baking dish with the glass lid, but i think you could get away with it uncovered – it may dry out slightly though. Remove from the oven, let cool for 5 mins, and then serve with vanilla ice cream. enjoy!
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custard queen

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guys, i’ve got to get something off my chest.

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my name is anna and i’m a custard addict.

..there. it’s out in the open now.

i will quite literally eat any form of custard: creme brûlée, trifle, portuguese custard tarts, grotty corner bakery custard tart, millefeuille, custard-powder sludge, lunettes, custard slice (i have a killer recipe i must share, do remind me would you?) and so on…

so what’s a girl to do when custard selection is quite limited? (i’m looking at you, “vanilla” dairy food that tastes like icing sugar). you make it yourself! and besides one unfortunate scrambled egg situation, it works out very nicely.

i have tackled quite a few of the above but never profiteroles. choux pastry kind of intimidated me (thanks a lot, masterchef), and while i didn’t quite manage a croquembouche, that’ll be the next challenge ;)

…i totally have a bone to pick with those shows, as despite becoming oddly addicted to the latest season of masterchef australia, i dislike how they choose to portray cooking as difficult and stressful and easy to mess up. now, i’m not seeking to diminish the difficulty of what professional chefs do: i love cooking, but being a chef would be my worst nightmare. however i feel like in this day and age of home cooking becoming more uncommon and people turning to takeaways and ready meals, flicking over to a casual episode of masterchef (or any cooking show, really) would surely turn people off cooking. they show cooks running around and lots of yelling and raw chicken and croquembouche towers collapsing (all. the. time., am i right? to the point where i just picture them giving them a sneaky nudge)

cooking isn’t supposed to be stressful. yes, it can be, especially when you’re short on time and resources, but mostly cooking should be fun. fun in the process, fun in tasting what you eat, fun in seeing the looks of satisfaction on the faces of the people you’re cooking for. that’s why I do it, at least.

tangent over, i promise ;)

so, after all that chat about stressy cooking, were profiteroles that hard? no – quite the contrary! choux pastry was a dream to work with (mainly because i didn’t have to roll it out, hallelujah!) and the custard was equally calming. the main tip i have would be to be careful not to cook the custard over a too high heat – which i life hack by using our smallest gas element. as i tend to get impatient when waiting for things to thicken/boil, so even if i turn the element up to its max heat, it still won’t get too hot and curdle the custard.

i used the gorgeous annabel langbein’s (i’ve met her…she is!) recipe for choux pastry, which appears in her book The Free Range Cook and little and friday’s recipe for Crème Pâtissière. i changed very little because this is legit french patisserie that i’m loathe to mess with! i’ve used the custard recipe before and subbed in half cream with great success, so this was my only alteration.

now, if you don’t mind, i’m off to watch masterchef (hypocrite? hey, i never said i was rational ;)

find choux recipe here *
instead of making a ring, dollop dessert spoons of choux pastry onto your lined tray, and bake for about 20-25 mins at 200C… or until hollow sounding and golden. a trick i read if you’re really unsure they’re cooked is to get one out, let cool for a few mins then cut open – if its not cooked inside, let the rest cook for longer. i found the recipe made 14 but if yours are smaller you could eke 20 out of it.

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^^i even sifted the flour – now that’s dedication!^^

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Crème Pâtissière
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
2 tsp vanilla essence
½ cup caster sugar
3 egg yolks
¼ cup cornflour

Bring milk, vanilla and ¼ cup caster sugar to the boil in a medium saucepan.
In a medium sized bowl, whisk remaining 1/4 cup caster sugar, egg yolks and cornflour together until pale yellow and fully combined. Gently add half the milk mixture in to temper the egg yolks, whisking as you go – i like to add ladles of milk rather than try to pour from the saucepan.
Heat the remaining milk to boiling again, then turn down the heat and pour in the egg mixture, being sure to whisk constantly. Almost instantaneously the custard will thicken up, and once it is back to the boil (belching the odd bubble, quite funny to watch!) it is ready. Take off the heat and pour into a bowl. Press clingfilm into the custard to avoid a skin and refrigerate until using. then run off to your lair with the saucepan, muttering my precious

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To assemble: 
cut profiteroles almost in half, leaving a little attached. Fill a piping bag with the largest nozzle or just use a  ziplock bag with a generous corner cut off. Don’t be stingy, there will be enough creme patisserie for a generous filling in each. Assemble on a platter and dust over icing sugar if desired (we’d run out). If you are a wannabe food blogger, add gratuitous hydrangea sprigs to decorate. Enjoy! DSCF1346

*I know it’s pain having to click over for the pastry recipe, sorry! but writing the method out word for word is copyright infringement, and honestly, annabel does a much better job than i could of walking you through the process. thanks for understanding xx

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^^a grainy selfie of me and sarah in our matching aprons for good measure.^^

cherry clafoutis

does anyone need any reminders about how truly scrumptious stone fruit is? oh my goodness it is my absolute favourite! along with mango, and berries, and melon…. ok maybe i have a few favourites ;)

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i can’t deny that usually i scoff at posts that give a recipe for summer fruit like cherries and berries – they are perfect just as they are! it doesn’t help that usually i read these in the depths of winter, while the northern hemisphere is enjoying summer, and the thought of ever needing a way to use up summer fruit seems decidedly bizarre.

with that said- we had the remnants of a big carton of cherries lurking in the fridge, which were soft and dented and not terribly appetising. i was reluctant to waste them so vaguely wondered whether a clafoutis type dessert might be a good use for them- we only had a few handfuls so not enough for a pie and couldn’t be bothered making a cake. so i googled a recipe and oh my goodness – we had all the ingredients! which isn’t really that shocking since they are pretty basic ingredients, but regardless, this is a rare enough occurrence that i just had to make it. invariably i’m stuck trying to meld three different recipes into one that satisfies the contents of my pantry – which does not always succeed!

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it turned out much better than i remembered – the initially overripe cherries softening and intensifying into jammy little bursts amongst a silky creamy custard. i loved how quick and easy it was to whip up and pop in the oven – a perfect simple dessert to bring to a summer barbecue, and not too heavy or indulgent.

lately i’ve been getting things sussed for this academic year, and it’s just starting to kick in that i’ll be the proud recipient of a BA by the end of the year. my time at uni has just flown by and although i’m planning on continuing my studies, the end of my BA will be the end of an era. an era of meeting the most wonderful friends of my life, living in a hall with 300 other 18 year olds, of leaving home and learning how to look after myself and do laundry/pay bills/buy groceries… a very special time of my life and a bridge between childhood and adulthood. i guess i’m still labouring under the impression that as soon as i get a full-time legit job that i’ll feel old and grown up, but according to my mama you never feel old and grown up on the inside…..so i’ll let you know how that one pans out ;)

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my northern hemisphere pals – please bookmark for the summer months! i think it is absolutely perfect with cherries, as is traditional, and apricots would be divine as well.

cherry clafoutis, adapted from here

– my only adaption were to skip the kirsch and reduce amount the milk and sugar a little, plus i skipped the lemon zest and almond extract to keep the focus on the cherries. it was PERFECT! Ps – keep an eye on it in the last 5ish mins – you don’t want to overcook the custard.

1 1/2 cups fresh cherries
50g caster sugar
20g butter, melted, plus extra to grease
1 tbsp demerara sugar
50g plain flour
2 eggs, beaten
200ml whole milk

Preheat the oven to 180C/350 F. Grease a baking dish just wide enough to hold the cherries in one layer, and sprinkle in the demerara sugar to coat the bottom.

Remove the stalks of the cherries then wash in a sieve.

Whisk together flour and caster sugar, followed by the eggs, then milk and melted butter, until you have a smooth batter.

Pour into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle over cherries evenly. Bake for 25-30 mins until just set but still a bit wobbly. Best served after it has cooled for 10 mins or so, when the custard is extra silky. Enjoy! and watch out for the stones ;).