Tag Archives: pasta

The Auckland Food Show 2017 experience


Every year from the beginning of July, I countdown to THE foodie event of the year in Auckland: the Food Show. It’s a time to see my favourite brands, check out new products and ogle at the increasingly high standards of design and artwork on products. This year was no different, if not better. I went on the first day of the four-day event, which is the preview day with less crowds. I use this as my ‘discovery’ day, where I spend much more time talking to stall holders who are often the farmers and producers behind the actual products. Some of the stories are touching with rich histories; everyone I met were super passionate with the product they have.

Here are some of the highlights of my day.

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Barilla Australia hands-on cooking class began with chef Andrea Tranchero, Executive Chef at Barilla Australia telling us the history behind Barilla. I now have a fond visualization of Casa Barilla thanks to his Italian accent and warm introduction.

Chef first demonstrated the perfect way of cooking pasta before we dived in with the cooking ourselves.

He shared three top tips with us:

  1. Never add oil to the water.
  2. Don’t rinse pasta after cooking.
  3. Take pasta out 3 mins before cooking finish and place in sauce to finish cooking for perfect al dente bite.

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The Barilla team tasted it and I now have a measure of what the true ‘al dente’ stage is for Italians – kiwis generally cook it for far too long. However, if you want it softer, by all means!

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Jersey Girl Organics – they recently won in the Outstanding Producer Dairy Primary category in the Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards. Their milk is full of Omega 3 and A2 Protein, is fully certified organic that comes direct from their farm in Matamata. When tasting, the milk is full-bodied and creamy. Pure deliciousness. Liz, a director of the fourth-generation family business, was brimming with excitement when she told me her family’s story, producing first class milk. Check out the video on their website of their cool milk vending machine!

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Aunt Jean – all the way from beautiful Nelson, Hannah and Tom Raine brought their farms’ milk to the Auckland folk. I love the bottles! Their milk is creamy and fresh tasting. No permeates and not homogenised. I’m in love with these beautiful milk. Perfect in hot chocolate and baking. Can’t wait for Miss 8 to try.

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Eddy’s french dressing is phenomenal – fell in love with it straight away after trying – it will go with my shredded poached chicken, crunchy cucumber and noodles dish. Yum! $20 for 2 bottles. 

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Wild Fennel Co’s range of gourmet seasonings for meat and fish, are different to the traditional seasonings. In a good, “what’s this spice I can taste in here? It works!!” Totally eyebrow-raising at first, when I tasted the dish as I cook, but in the end my family loved the steak/venison/lamb/chicken/duck/fish/pork so I’m winning.  Dan, the creator behind the seasonings, was formerly a fine dining chef and naturally is inspired by traditional flavour pairings from different cuisines around the world. Jo, his wife, is the illustrator and designer for the brand and gave the products a beautiful classic look. Together, they’ve created a product that is easy to use and dishes taste amazing. Tip: don’t let the type of seasoning stop you from mixing it up. I tried the venison seasoning on the beef and it was next level.

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No Shortcuts – Gourmet Chutney – I discovered their Sambal Ulek and have thrown away my malaysia-made jars of sambal. These NZ made ones are so good and addictive. There are no preservatives nor additives, and tastes great with dumplings, noodles, roasts and chicken. At the show this year they launched a new product, the sweet pickles ($7). They will be perfect in a vietnamese pho I think! I tried the Feijoa and Ginger Jam and am itching to make a cake out of it. The chutneys are 3 for $25 or 1 for $10.

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The Vegery – Discovered a very interesting healthy snack – dried carrots with cumin! These will be perfect with hummus and dips (such as the No Shortcuts Chutney) , and there are 65g of carrots per wrap. Tasty too!

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Fresh As – They are renouned for their freeze dried fruit powers, used by bakers and executive chefs worldwide. Launched at the Food Show is their Panna Cotta powder – they’ve done the work for you! Just add milk and follow the recipe. Each packet makes 2-4 servings. There are two flavours – Doris Plum and Raspberry. Personally I think both tasted delicious and will sell out before Sunday. $10 for 4 packs.

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Fix and Fog – At $10 for 2 jars, I said to them “you better have enough stock. This lot might only last you till Saturday”. Don’t worry, they have more stock being sent up so everyone can stop panicking.

Their peanut butters are handmade from start to finish in a factory in Wellington. There are five flavours in the range, with the latest being the honey peanut butter, a collaboration with J.Friend&Co. All of their existing range of peanut butters have been either awarded medals or were finalists in various industry awards.

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Home St – I tried their sprouted good seed pizza bases and was blown away by how yum it was. Pizza has never tasted better than this. Sprouted refers to the seeds and grains that have been soaked and sprouted, therefore activated. Enzymes and minerals in the seed are unlocked for the body. Doesn’t that sound good?

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The Pie Piper desserts bring pure happiness. The mother-daughter team makes pies from scratch, with a weekly changing menu. You can find them at their K Road shop.

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Meadow mushrooms – the team made delicious mushroom and chicken dumpings at the show and they are yummy! Pick up a recipe and the 3 for $5 deal when you are there.

Dad’s pies – our favourite pies! Their range includes beef, lamb, chicken, bacon, veges and comes in individual servings and family sizes. Miss 8’s favourite is the Prime Beef Steak and Cracked Pepper. It is an easy dinner option – prepare some veges while the pie’s heating in the oven and dinner is in 30 minutes. The pies are full to the top of delicious filling, plenty of tender meat and flavoursome sauce. Not too salty either. It really does feel like you are eating a homemade pie where lots of tender love and care went in. Miss 8 is super excited with the prize pack we won from them!

With over 270 stalls at the show, I cannot possibly list them all here. However the following are my last minute dash stalls that I will have to remember to pick up goodies from on Sunday, when I return with Miss 8:

  • Simon Gault – for the stock and seasonings. I am stocking up on the fish and Beef stock, Morrocan and Indian spice seasonings. 5 for $25. Simon’s new tomato sauce ($7) that is sweetened with only veges launched at the foodshow. However as of Friday afternoon they have sold out! Don’t fret, you will still be able to sample, and they will be stocked in shops and Sous Chef from next week. They are also running a special with Turks chicken, $20 for 2 whole chickens with a seasoning or $20 for 4 bags of 450g skinless boneless chicken. They come with a chill bag too.
  • Lewis Road Creamery – if you have had trouble finding their chocolate liqueur, you can buy at the show for $40.
  • Chia drink – $12 for 4 bottles. I’m going for blackcurrant and passionfruit.
  • Green Meadows Beef – their show special $60 beef box is a bargain – sausages, sirloin, patties, mince all direct from their farm.
  • Perfect Pork – 3 for $25 – their range of grain-fed New Zealand pork includes sirloin and pork belly.
  • House of Dumplings – we love the Nepalese Spiced Lamb and Korean Sesame Beef dumplings. 
  • Dish magazine – I love their stories and food styling! Their subscription deal is pretty amazing with a gigantic goody bag.

Top tips:

  • Register your ticket if you haven’t already done so, and have it within easy reach like in your pocket. Scan them at the stalls you visit and gain an entry in the respective comps.
  • Get there early if you can. 11am to 2pm is the busiest at the show.
  • Keep hydrated and wear light layers as it’s warm in the showgrounds
  • Keep track of time if you have a particular cooking theatre session you want to see. It can be a bit chaotic when you realise you are in hall 3 when the cooking session in Hall 1 is about to start in 5 minutes.
  • Mazda chauffeured shuttles will pick up and drop off at destinated stops around the showgrounds, making it easier to buy more.

Here are some more photos from the show:

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    Countdown – crunchy lebanese cucumber

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    Farmland boys

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    Beer belly jellies

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    Prosciutto di Parma

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    Part of my foodshow haul

    Healthy Easy Kids’ Mac and Cheese (Baked pasta with vegetables and cheese)


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    Who doesn’t like mac & cheese? Even when J still had a bit of intolerance to dairy, she managed to scoff down mac & cheese. An easy meal that with a few changes, becomes the quick go-to meal that you know your child will eat any time.

    Instead of the cheesy buttery sauce, I’ve swapped that for some pesto and tomato-based pizza paste, which gives the dish a fresh, light and herby taste. The addition of milk is optional, it just makes a bit more sauce for the dish. I’ve added ham and sausages for protein (not too much as overdoing the processed meat is not a good idea either) and vegetables for fibre.

    Keep some in your freezer for those emergency dinners.

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    Ingredients

    2 cups macaroni or other medium shaped pasta (like shells or spirals)
    3 tablespoons butter
    4 tbsp pesto
    4 tbsp pizza paste
    1/4 cup milk
    1/2 cup ham slices and sausages, diced
    1/2 cup vegetables – mushrooms, courgettes
    1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

    Instructions
    Preheat the oven to 200C degrees.
    Boil the pasta until al dente. Drain and reserve some of the pasta water.
    Add the pesto, pizza paste, milk, ham and vegetables, mix.
    Add half of the cheese, mix.
    Spoon the pasta into little ramekins or a large casserole dish.
    Sprinkle on the rest of the cheese.
    Bake for about 7-8 minutes, until it is brown on top.

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    Easy and light carbonara 


    Easy carbonara with streaky bacon, eggs and cheese

    We all love an easy and quick pasta dish. This recipe uses staples of the pantry and fridge, which means it can be whipped up anytime. Perfect for the flat and family, as it is easy on the wallet. It cooks in 15 minutes or less (mise en place done and water boiling). It has neither cream nor milk. Only eggs and cheese to make it creamy and cheesy. It tastes so much better than store bought sauces that you silently marvel at its simplicity and wonder why you didn’t know this years earlier. Well in my case, I wondered out loud.

    Better late than never, eat up!

    Ingredients

    Serves: 4

    • 400g spaghetti
    • 250g prosciutto or streaky bacon, diced
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 whole eggs and 2 yolks (save the whites for making macarons, meringues and marshmallows)
    • salt and pepper, to taste
    • 1 cup grated cheese, mozzarella, Edam, anything you like really!

    Directions

    1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add a tablespoon of salt when the water starts to boil.
    2. In a large bowl, lightly whisk eggs, a tiny tiny pinch of salt and the grated cheese. Set aside.
    3. Add the pasta to the water. When the pasta is nearly al dente, fry the diced prosciutto or bacon in a thick based pan until coloured. Add minced garlic and fry for another minute.
    4. Reserving some of the pasta water, drain the pasta and put it in the pan together with the meat and stir to combine. Add a few table spoons of the pasta water.
    5. Take the pan off the heat and pour in the cheese and egg mixture bit by bit. Work quickly and keep mixing (I use a pair of tongs and the spatula) until the sauce is silky and clings to the pasta.
    6. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper.

    Beef, mushrooms and truffle penne pasta


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    A while ago I made a Beef and Cheddar pie.
    Then I made 3 more.
    They were all slightly different – one with a truffle cream sauce and one with tomatoes and vegetables. The constant is the tender beef – it proved to be very versatile. I added creamy mashed potatoes to mini puff pastry-lined beef pies to make potato top pies, and then as ragu served with penne with a touch of tomato paste, as shown here.

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    Ingredients:

    • 1kg beef, cross-cut blade, cut into 5cm strips
    • 2 onions, sliced
    • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
    • 1 tsp whole peppercorns
    • 2 bay leaf
    • 4 Tbsp Truffle paste if you wanted to make the truffle version, or 4 Tbsp tomato paste if you prefer
    • 4 anchovy fillets
    • 250ml white or red wine
    • 500ml beef stock (Simon Gault’s)
    • 3 tbsp cornflour + 1/4 cup water

    Instructions:

    1. Season beef with salt and pepper.
    2. Heat oil in the pan to brown the beef in several batches.
    3. Brown onion until it softens. Add anchovy fillets, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves.
    4. Add wine to deglaze the pan.
    5. Return all the beef to the pan and bring to the boil. Cover and bake in the preheated oven for 2 hours (or you can use a pressure cooker like I did and it’s all done in 45 minutes!)
    6. When cooked, remove beef and flake meat off with a fork.
    7. Thicken the stock with cornflour liquid.
    8. Mix the truffle paste (or tomato paste) in with the thickened stock.
    9. Cook the pasta till it’s al dente. Reserve one cup of pasta water. 
    10. Mix with ragu and add a bit of the pasta water to loosen the sauce. 

    Note: I prefer to cook with cross-cut blade when making stews, casseroles and curries as the texture of the meat cut helps create this irresistible gelatinous goo that binds everything together. Yum!!

    Spaghetti with meatballs in red wine tomato sauce


    A friend was looking for an easy pasta dish to extend her family meal repertoire. Her daughter loves pasta and meatballs and so I thought to write up my recipe and share it with her.

    If you don’t have time to prepare the meatballs, you can easily use the mince to make a spaghetti bolognese instead. Just omit the egg and panko crumbs while marinating, and fry off the meat after the shallots and onions.

    Serves 2 hungry adults and 1 pasta-loving child

    Ingredients

    300g spaghetti

    For meatballs:
    500g minced beef and pork ( 50/50 is fine )
    1 egg
    2 tbsp tomato paste (condensed tomato)
    1 tbsp light soy sauce
    1 tbsp ground black pepper
    1 tbsp thyme (dried is fine)
    2 tbsp basil leaves, torn (dried is fine)
    1 tbsp sugar
    3 tbsp panko crumbs (or bread crumbs)

    For sauce:
    2 tbsp olive oil
    1 medium onion, finely diced
    2 shallots, finely diced
    1 tbsp chilli flakes (optional)
    small glass of red wine
    1 tin, chopped tomatoes
    1 tin, tomato purée
    handful of basil leaves
    100g pecorino cheese
    salt to taste
    Brown sugar to taste

    Instructions

    In a large bowl, mix the minced meat, egg, tomato paste, light soy sauce, sugar, diced shallots and herbs together. Using a small spoon, shape the meat into small balls and place in an oven proof dish. You will have about 30-40 small balls. This can be prepared night before.

    Preheat the oven to 180C.
    In a frying pan, gently sauté onions and shallots in the olive oil until soft. Add chili flakes and red wine, let it simmer for about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and purée and let it bring up to the boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes to reduce. Stir occasionally to avoid it catching on the bottom of the pan. Taste it while the sauce is cooking – trust your taste buds and add a bit of brown sugar if it tastes too sour for your liking.

    While the sauce is cooking, put the dish of meatballs into the oven and bake for 15 minutes or till juices run clear. By all means try a piece.

    At the same time, put water into a large pot and bring it to the boil. Add the pasta in and add 1 tsp of salt. Cook it till al dente, about 10-12 minutes. Test it close to the 10 minute mark as I find my kind of al dente might be different to yours and I certainly don’t always follow the suggested times in the packet 100%. Drain pasta and add to the sauce. Add the meatballs to the pan, mix well and serve with freshly grated pecorino cheese (optional) and freshly picked basil leaves.

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