Chocolate Blueberry Pavlova

Last weekend I celebrated a milestone birthday and had a wonderful party, joined by many of the friends we’ve made in this lovely place we now call home. Being me, of course there had to be a cake, but being summer, a fresh dessert was also called for. The original recipe is from Nigella Lawson’s “Forever Summer” recipe book and calls for Raspberries. The brown-ness of the chocolate pavlova, covered with the fluffy whiteness of the whipped cream, topped with the bright red of the raspberries and then the sprinkles of grated chocolate add summer to any table spread, but alas, I couldn’t find raspberries!!

Blueberries had to suffice and although the rainbow of colour wasn’t the same, my tastebuds still enjoyed the treat, and, as a friend commented on the night, the blueberries are of course one of the “Super Foods” so it was a far “healthier” option :)!

Well, it contained chocolate and looked great and everyone seemed to enjoy it, so give it a go and try whatever berries you can get your hands on, although I do advise that they are fresh and not of the canned or frozen variety, although they may be just as delicious if you’re dying to try this dessert in the middle of a cold white winter. The pavlova has to be crispy crunchy on the outside with the inside a squidgy mass of chocolate flavoured heaven and don’t be alarmed if it seems to collapse or crack. This particular recipe is meant to do just that.

Chocolate Blueberry Pavlova

for the chocolate meringue base:
6 egg whites
300 g caster sugar
3 Tbsp cocoa powder, sieved
1 tsp balsamic or red wine vinegar
50 g dark chocolate, finely chopped

for the topping:
500 ml double cream (normal NZ cream for any Kiwis trying it out – our cream is such good quality we don’t need to worry about % fat or double, etc.)
500 g blueberries, raspberries or any berry of your choice
2 – 3 Tbsp coarsely grated dark chocolate

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
  2. Beat the egg whites until satiny peaks form, and then beat in the sugar a spoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny.
  3. Sprinkle over the cocoa and vinegar, followed by the chopped chocolate. Then gently fold everything until the cocoa is thoroughly mixed in.
  4. Mound the mixture onto a baking sheet in a fat circle approximately 23 cm in diameter, smoothing the sides and top.
  5. Place in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 150°C and cook for about on to one and a quarter hours.
  6. When you prod the centre you should feel the squidginess beneath your fingers. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly, and let the chocolate meringue disc cool completely.
  7. When you’re ready to serve, invert onto a big, flat-bottomed plate. Whisk the cream ’til thick but still soft and pile it on top of the meringue, then scatter over the berries.
  8. Coarsely grate the remaining chocolate and sprinkle over the top.


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Chilli Bacon and Prawn Spaghetti with Balsamic Vine-ripened Tomatoes

I made this dish a while ago and as with many recipes, I decided to change it a bit here and there, combining two I’d found that were very similar. The end result was just as I had imagined, a light meatiness with a touch of zing from the chilli and lemon, with the fresh basil rounding it off nicely. The oven roasted vine-ripened tomatoes adds a delicious depth that a tin of tomatoes just can’t offer. Fresh or frozen prawns will work, but I always think fresh is better, just remember to shell and clean them properly as there are a few bits of the prawn that you might not find very tasty and can make you rather ill.

Having said all that about using fresh ingredients, I opted for a dash of sweet chilli sauce instead of the red chilli as my little family aren’t at the stage of enjoying real chillies just yet.

Served with a fresh green salad with lemon and olive oil dressing, this works well as a tasty weekend lunch or a light evening meal.

Chilli Bacon and Prawn Spaghetti

Enough dry spaghetti for 3 – 4 servings (you know how much you’ll need and just adjust the rest of the ingredients accordingly)
300g vine-ripened tomatoes
6 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 fat cloves garlic, chopped
200 g streaky bacon, diced
300 g raw prawn tails or prawn meat, cleaned and shelled
½ red chilli, seeded and finely chopped, or 1 Tbsp prepared sweet chilli sauce
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
½ cup torn basil leaves, plus extra for garnish (or parsley if you prefer)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup freshly grated parmesan

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place the tomatoes in an ovenproof dish, drizzle over half the oil and the balsamic vinegar. Scatter over the chopped garlic and roast the tomatoes in the preheated oven until they are bursting.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving half a cup of the cooking liquid.
  3. Heat the remaining oil in a heavy based frying pan and cook the bacon until golden, add the lemon zest, chilli (or sauce) and sizzle for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the prawns and stir-fry over a medium heat for 2 – 3 minutes until they change colour.
  5. Add the roasted tomatoes, garlic and delicious balsamic-olive oil juices, pasta, lemon juice, salt, pepper and reserved pasta liquid to the pan with the prawns.
  6. Toss for a minute or two to coat the pasta. Sprinkle with the basil (or parsley if you prefer) and give it a quick stir.
  7. Sprinkle over the grated parmesan and remaining herbs. Serve immediately with a fresh garden salad.

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Tomato Mascarpone Tart

As our family holiday draws to a close and we reflect on all the wonderful times we’ve spent together and the new memories we’ve made, what better way to relax  than to pack a picnic and enjoy more time together in one of Auckland’s beautiful regional parks.

Whether Winter, Summer, Spring or Autumn, we often picnic. It’s a wonderful way to casually explore new corners of our world or revisit old favourites. Sometimes it’s just a couple of sandwiches, a few juice bottles and a treat or two in a backpack, while at other times, depending on the amount of time I have to prepare and it isn’t one of our famous last minute decisions, we get the wicker picnic basket out and the meal is a little more “gourmet”.

There are no rules to creating a fabulous picnic, but being organised and packing food that is easy to eat with your fingers and tastes good cold is a great place to start. My picnic basket is always packed and includes the basics: cutlery, plates, cups and a picnic blanket, preferably one with a waterproof base (I know this from experience unless you don’t mind a bit of damp grass occasionally).

Wet wipes, a plastic bag for rubbish, serviettes, a couple of serving spoons, a good knife and a small chopping board also come in handy. It’s also a great idea to wrap the knife in a clean dish towel so you don’t get caught handling the sharp edge if items have moved during transportation.

This tomato tart looks and sounds a little fancy, and it certainly tastes delicious, but I’m always amazed at how easy it is to put together. All done in 45 minutes, but that’s using ready-made puff pastry. You’re welcome to make your own, but that’s a whole separate discussion. I don’t mind the thought of cold pastry, depending on the filling, but this recipe lends itself to being enjoyed either hot, straight out of the oven, or cold…and at a picnic :).

It also works well as a light meal served with a fresh side salad.

Tomato Mascarpone Tart

400g block frozen puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg lightly beaten
½ cup mascarpone
Approximately 5 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1cm slices but use as many as you need to cover the tart
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ cup grated parmesan
½ cup torn basil leaves
a little basil, parmesan and cashew nut pesto also adds a bit of zing (optional)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh basil, rocket or microgreens to garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 210C. Roll the pastry out to a rectangle approximately 33 cm x 23 cm. Place the pastry on a greased baking sheet and score a border around the inside edge approximately 1.5 cm from the edge (but don’t cut right through!). Prick the base all over with a fork. (This releases any air trapped under the pastry and prevents air making bubbles.)
  2. Lightly beat the egg and brush the pastry border with the beaten egg, then whisk the remaining egg into the mascarpone with a fork until it is completely combined.
  3. Spread the mascarpone mixture over the pastry base, taking care to stay inside the border.
  4. Arrange the tomato slices over the top of the mascarpone. Drizzle or brush the slices with the balsamic vinegar then sprinkle over the parmesan and basil leaves. Season to taste with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper – I like lots on the tomatoes!
  5. Bake the tart in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until it has risen and is dark golden. Cut into squares and serve warm or cold, garnished with the extra basil leaves, rocket or microgreens.


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Apple and Cinnamon Water

This has got to be my favourite summer drink. A friend shared an article about this combination a few weeks ago on Facebook and as with everything I read on Facebook, I take it with a pinch of salt (not literally in this case :)) as you never quite know how truthful the “facts” are. So as far as the “raising the metabolism” and health facts go, I can’t comment, but what I can say is that it is very refreshing and more-ish. I can easily glug down two litres of this in a day so anyone who has trouble drinking your recommended daily intake of water, I highly recommend you give this a try.

It not only looks great in a beautiful jug in the fridge, but everyone who’s come over for a visit and tried some has enjoyed a glass too. I find that the more tart-sweet the apple, the more the taste comes through in the water. At the moment I have Mahana Red sweet apples in mine and I refill the jug as I pour out a glass so it is constantly full and cool and I find it lasts well for about 3 – 4 days before the apple has lost it’s flavour and needs to be replaced.

Apple Cinnamon Water

1 – 2 litres water (I just use tap water as we’re lucky enough to be able to do that in NZ)
1 – 2 apples, depending on size
2 sticks dried cinnamon
ice blocks

  1. Slice the apple and remove all core and seeds. Place into the jug along with the cinnamon sticks.
  2. Add the water and ice blocks and voila!


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Steak Rolls

I know I keep going on about Summer, but we’re enjoying a wonderful one at the moment and special family time together at home. My husband loves to braai (BBQ) and cannot only cook enough food for us for one meal, he believes that while the fire is good, cook a heap of meat so you can enjoy fresh home made cold meat sandwiches etc. over the coming days instead of deli type cold meats filled with preservatives and heaven knows what else.

On New Year’s Eve he cooked a grand selection for us so on New Year’s Day we were able to relax and enjoy these delicious cold steak rolls without much fuss at all. For all you meat lovers out there, you have got to try this, but for any vegetarians…my apologies, I owe you a meat free recipe soon.

Simple, Easy and Fresh…just the way I like my meals.

Steak rolls

4 – 6 bap style rolls (soft rolls work well)
1 – 2 cold pre-braaied sirloin steaks
fresh rocket leaves (adds a bit of spiciness)
sliced tomatoes
sliced red onion
English mustard

  1. Remove any sinew or fat from the steaks and slice them thinly.
  2. Add butter or only the mustard to the fresh roll if you prefer and layer all the ingredients.
  3. Pour a nice cold refreshing glass of something and enjoy this outside in the sun or on a picnic. (Tip: if you do opt to take these on a picnic, I suggest packing the sandwich contents separately and only layering them just before you eat them as the tomato tends to make the bread/rolls soggy – yuk yuk yuk!)


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