Lemon and White Chocolate Muffins

Last Sunday we were invited to friends to watch the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals between South Africa and Wales, followed by New Zealand vs France. Because of the time difference between the UK and New Zealand, we were up at 3.30 am and in front of the TV at their house by 4 am, just in time for kick-off. We haven’t done something like this in years and it was fun, especially for our son who could almost not get to sleep on the Saturday night thinking about waking up at that time of the morning.

Lemon & White Chocolate Chip MuffinsIn between games, Caren and Paul, our hosts, planned to serve up an enormous breakfast of bacon, eggs, fruit salad, yoghurt, cereal, toast, chocolate croissants, corn fritters, orange juice, coffee, and of course champagne and orange juice combined. Each couple in attendance had been asked to bring something, and as there were about 20 people, the kitchen counter groaned under the weight of all the food. By the time we were deciding what to take, most dishes had already been chosen, so I came up with these lemon and white chocolate muffins.

Refreshingly tasty with a zing of lemon and the occasional sweet blob of chocolate, Paul and I discovered they were just the right thing to have with a cup of tea at 4.30 in the morning. Fresh and with a light texture, I’ll definitely be making these again. I couldn’t find a suitable recipe and had to wing it, with my new favourite yoghurt Fresh ‘n Fruity’s Dreamy Lemon being my inspiration.

2 cups self-raising flour
½ cup castor sugar
½ tsp baking soda
100 g white chocolate drops
1½ cups lemon yoghurt (about 250 g)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp mild vegetable oil (no strong flavours please)
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
icing sugar for dusting

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C and combine the dry ingredients. Stir through the lemon zest and chocolate drops.
  2. In a second bowl, combine the yoghurt, eggs, oil and lemon juice.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined – don’t over mix.
  4. Spoon mixture into muffin cups or prepared (greased) muffin trays and bake for 15 – 20 minutes until gorgeously golden.
  5. When done, remove from the oven and allow to rest in the tins for a few minutes before transferring to cooling racks.
  6. When cool, dust with a sprinkling of icing sugar.


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Grilled Ham Steaks with Pineapple

Gammon, Ham or Kassler? Confused? Me too. Before researching this, I knew two things about the three items listed above:

  1. they’re all pork, and
  2. they’re all delicious – if you like pork.

Grilled Ham Steaks with PineappleGrowing up, our enormous extended family would always try to get together for Christmas and each individual family would be responsible for bringing different dishes, ie. turkey and salad; ham and veggies; roast lamb and figgy pudding. My Gran always made the Christmas cake and three tables were placed end to end so there was enough place for us all to sit. The largest congregation totalled almost 60 one Christmas. Mayhem, but lots of noisy fun. And far, far too much food.

I was too young at the time to be very interested in the preparing of the food and it was honestly like taking your life into your hands if you ventured too near the kitchen with Aunts, Great Aunts and my Gran in it all at the same time. Now I’m sorry I didn’t find a corner and learn from them as I remember hearing words like Gammon – but I had no idea what it was. Mounds of delicious food just appeared on the table.

One of my boyfriend’s mother’s was a very good cook – one of her meals was Kassler chops which she grilled with slices of pineapple on the top. This has become one of my family’s favourites too, although we don’t eat a lot of pork. So on the odd occasion that I serve this, it is devoured almost immediately. And it has all of 2 ingredients: pork and pineapple…brilliant! I’ve always loved the salty sweetness of these ingredients combines, even my favourite pizza has ham and pineapple on it.

The reason I talk about old Christmas meals and kassler chops, is not to string you along, but to explain (while reminiscing) the difference between Ham, Gammon and Kassler.

I’ve read a number of very confusing articles, but then found this description on www.thebutcherweb.co.za. It seemed pointless trying to paraphrase it as it explains it really well:

“Like gammon, ham comes from the hind leg (or rump) of the hog, can be smoked or unsmoked, and is available in bone in or out form. Gammon, however, is uncooked, and ham can also be made from dry-cured silverside and rump of pork, such as is the case with black forest ham.

Gammon is in fact the hind leg cut from a side of bacon after mild curing, but people are getting into the habit of calling any bacon joint suitable for boiling and baking a piece of gammon.

Kassler or Kasseler is a cured (salted), slightly smoked cut of pork from the neck, loin and ribs, although shoulders and bellies can also be used. Kassler come in ribs, steaks and rolls.

In Germany, the process of smoking meat and letting it ripen in a salt brine is known as “Kasseler”. Any cut that has gone through the “Kasseler” process is given the name. For example, Kasselernacken is pork shoulder and Kasselerbauch is pork side. Kasseler Rippchen is very similar to ham, except that it is a bit smokier, slightly drier, and less salty.”

So there you have it. Except that I haven’t been able to find Kassler chops since I moved to New Zealand, so I’ve had to substitute with ham steaks. In my quest to be a responsible consumer, I try to buy free-range meat where possible, but I have yet to find a supplier of free-range pork products other than sliced ham and bacon. So back to us not eating pork very often. I can’t help but feel sorry for the animals reared in shocking conditions so don’t like supporting that industry.

Sorry, I’ll hop off my soap box and get on with the recipe. As I said, it has all of 2 ingredients: ham and pineapple, so my instructions are pretty simple:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 190°C fan-forced grille (or 200°C if not fan-forced).
  2. Place however many ham steaks (or kassler chops if you’re lucky enough to find some) on an oven tray.
  3. Either cut fresh pineapple slices or use slices from a tin of Pineapple in juice, not syrup – just too sweet! If using fresh pineapple, core the slices or the centre will be too hard and cut the slices fairly thin.
  4. Place the slices on top of the steaks/chops and grill for 10 – 15 minutes. As the meat is already par-cooked, you’re just finishing it off.
  5. Pour over some of the pineapple juice and serve immediately.


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Sun-dried Tomato and Potato Rosti with smoked Salmon

Recently one of my best friends moved away. Her new home is only about 3 hours away, so not far, and we’ll still see each other, but it won’t be as easy as it’s been for the past 6 years.

Sun-dried Tomato and Potato Rosti

She is one of those special people who comes into your life out of the blue and is a ray of sunshine. Not always especially happy or the life and soul of every party, but she’s Real. There is no pretence. She says it like it is but she also listens, understands, knows when to give advice, knows when to laugh, even knows when it’s right to share a few tears. She has been one of my rocks over the past few years when both my sister and brother suddenly passed away and for each of my lost pregnancies. Our boys are a year apart and I had visions of them growing up together and being friends forever, and she has assured me that that will still happen. They’ll just be a little further apart than planned and now with technology, they are able to FaceTime and hopefully we’ll be planning a little trip to visit soon.

Julie is Welsh and makes the best Welsh cakes I’ve ever tasted. Well actually, to be honest, the only Welsh cakes I’ve ever tasted, but they are delicious. I never did get her to teach me how to make them though…hmmm. Her husband is hilarious. He is a huge bear of a man but is not a fan of creepy crawlies and detests the very idea of germs. We’ve shared much banter and laughter over the rugby, New Year’s parties where we only ate after midnight (oh dear, that was one to remember!), held her surprise birthday party at our home when her middle son flew in from Wales to surprise her. It was awesome to be a part of that heart warming reunion.

I’m the first to admit I don’t have many friends. True friends. I know many people and have loads of acquaintances, but my true friends, people I have shared unimaginable losses with or that I know I can turn to in any situation, can be counted on my two hands. Very special people indeed and I am grateful to have them in my life. True girlfriends become like sisters – we don’t need to see them all the time to know that the deep connection is still alive. So to Julie, Ger and Ethan – we miss you and wish you all the very best on your new adventure. Keep living life to the fullest and grabbing every new experience as it comes your way. Next Sunday’s game will be an exciting one – SA vs Wales; the Boks vs the Dragons.

Now this recipe has absolutely nothing to do with Julie, but I came up with it the other night as an easy meal and today I got to thinking about Julie after watching the Australian team beat Wales, so this is obviously what was in my heart today and I hope you don’t mind me sharing it with you.

These little potato cakes, also called rosti or fritters, are delicious and you can adapt the list of ingredients as you see fit. Great as a midday lunch or light evening meal. Prepared and on the table in a half an hour.

Cold rosti are also great with a dip in a lunch box. Leave out the smoked salmon if concerned about it lasting well, but provided your smoke salmon is fresh when made, it lasts very well in a sealed lunch box.

4 large potatoes, peeled and grated
2 Tbsp oil (rice bran or coconut work well)
2 – 3 Tbsp sun-dried tomato pesto
2 – 3 heaped Tbsp flour
2 eggs
salt and freshly ground pepper
rocket leaves
smoked salmon slices
cottage cheese
sun-dried tomato chutney
red wine vinegar dressing (I’ll share this one with you soon)

  1. Wash and peel potatoes. Grate potatoes or use a thin blade on your food processor. Set grated potatoes aside for a few minutes as they will release a lot of water. Using your hands, squeeze the potato pulp and discard the liquid. You can also wrap the pulp in a clean dishtowel and squeeze, but the potato will stain the towel.
  2. Once all liquid has been removed, add the sun-dried tomato pesto and stir through.
  3. Sprinkle in the flour and stir to combine.
  4. Beat the eggs and add to the mixture, mixing well. Season with salt and pepper if you think it is necessary. Most times the pesto will have sufficient seasoning so this isn’t always needed, but see what works for you.
  5. Heat the oil in a saucepan and when nicely hot, carefully spoon mounds of the mixture into the oil. Take care that it doesn’t drop off the spoon and splash you. Flatten the rosti gently and allow to fry for a few minutes, about 3 – 4 before turning and repeating on the other side. You want the rosti to be golden and cooked through.

Don’t overload the pan as too many rosti squeezed in will cause the oil to cool down and they will boil instead of fry.

  1. Once cooked, remove from the pan and set aside on paper towel for a few minutes to soak up any excess oil.
  2. Meanwhile, wash the rocket leaves. When all patties are done, layer them with the rocket leaves, salmon slices, cottage cheese and sun-dried tomato chutney.
  3. Drizzle over a little of the red wine vinegar dressing.


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Tuna Salad Wraps

A tin of tuna fish is an amazing thing. On it’s own it is bland and dry and not very appetising at all, but it’s what you can do to it that turns it into something eye-wateringly delicious. Ok, so perhaps that’s a little bit of an oversell, but there are so many ways to eat it that one can’t possibly ever get bored. Tuna is what is termed a “fatty fish” – sounds awful, but it is actually an extremely healthy fish meat and gives our bodies some of the Omega-3 that either can’t be found or is only found in extremely limited quantities in other foods.

Tuna Salad Wraps

The Mayo Clinic describes the importance of eating Omega-3 oil as follows:

“Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fatty acid that may reduce inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation in the body can damage your blood vessels and lead to heart disease.

Omega-3 fatty acids may decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, decrease stroke and heart failure risk, reduce irregular heartbeats, and in children may improve learning ability. Eating at least one to two servings a week of fish, particularly fish that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, appears to reduce the risk of heart disease, particularly sudden cardiac death.”

My family love red meat, so an easy way to get a healthy dose of fish into our diets is to have the servings as part of our lunches. I normally serve up at least one evening meal of fish a week, but having tuna and/or smoked salmon at least once a week on sandwiches or in wraps makes me feel like I’m doing that little bit extra to keep my family healthy.

This is a relatively plain mixture, only adding mayonnaise to the flaked tuna along with a little seasoning, but the crunch of the salad leaves and a little juice from the small chunks of tomato here and there makes for a very pleasant light lunch indeed.

If you’re worried about the wraps unwrapping themselves, cut the wraps in half and tie a little string around each half once rolled up and secure it with a bow. It looks sweet and is a lot easier to eat, especially for little hands. They then just discard the string, leaving it in the lunch box.

I try to be a responsible consumer and purchase the fish caught by pole and line instead of the massive fishing nets used by some; and minimises the impact on the environment and other marine life. It costs a slight bit more, and perhaps I’m being fooled, but at least I feel like every little bit that each of us can do helps our environment.

ingredients: (makes 2 – 3 wraps depending on how much filling you add)
1 x 185 g tin tuna
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 small tomato, diced
1 – 2 handfuls salad leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper
3 wraps

  1. Drain the tuna and empty it into a bowl. Add the mayonnaise and stir to combine.
  2. Dice the tomato and add to the tuna mayonnaise, along with a little seasoning. Taste it to check.
  3. Divide the mixture between the three wraps and spread it out evenly, covering the entire area.
  4. Layer with the salad leaves and roll the wraps up carefully and evenly.
  5. Cut in half so they are easier to handle and tie with a piece of string or stick a toothpick through it to keep it closed.

It will still be lovely and fresh at lunch time. If we’re having this on a weekend as a light lunch, I like to add a few salty crisps on the side.


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Rich Bean Soup

I know we’re well on our way to Summer down here in the southern hemisphere, but this is a delicious bowl of goodness that I’ve meaning to share for a while. So to all my friends and family in the north, you might want to bookmark this one to try when the weather turns colder.

Rich Bean Soup

They honestly don’t get much easier than this and it is a hearty wholesome dish that can be pulled together in a matter of minutes. The longest to cook is actually the frying of the onion, leek, garlic and bacon. From there it’s really just a matter of opening a few tins, combining the items and heating it through, although it is nice to let the flavours infuse for a while if time allows.

Beans, pulses and legumes are a great way of adding extra bulk and protein to any dish and what better way to warm up and feel deliciously satisfied on a cold winter’s evening with a bowl full of this very comforting comfort food.

For a vegetarian option, leave out the bacon.

ingredients: (serves 4)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion finely chopped
1 leek* – you decide how much to use
1 x 250 g packet of bacon, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 x 410 g tin chickpeas, drained
1 x 410 g tin butterbeans, drained
1 x 410 g tin mixed beans (or plain red kidney beans will do), drained
1 x 410 g tin chopped/pureed tomatoes
1 x 410 g tin filled with hot water

  1. Saute the onions, leeks, bacon and garlic in the olive oil in a heavy based saucepan on a relatively low heat. Add the tomato paste and cook for a minute or two.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Serve hot with a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley.

*The green part has a more delicate flavour than the white


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Weet-Bix Fruity Treats

Spring school holidays means more precious time with my little man and of course, more time in the kitchen! To celebrate, we went ice skating on Monday. What a hoot! I haven’t been on skates in about 20 years but it was like riding a bicycle – I think your body just remembers what it needs to do. I did have one big fall though, and felt more silly than anything else, but we definitely seem to fall harder the older we get. Our bones don’t bounce the way they used to.

Weetbix Fruity Treats

Afterwards, we had fun making these very sticky treats. The recipe says to roll the mixture into balls, but my mixture was having none of that. So I eventually used two spoons and improvised. The recipe also calls for rolling the balls in the coconut afterwards, but although I like dessicated coconut, I’m not crazy about it, so I opted for less and just threw it in with the rest of the ingredients.

They have lovely dried fruit in them. I always enjoy this type of recipe as it is really versatile and you get to use whatever dried fruit you have on hand – raisins, cranberries, sultanas, apricots, pears, apples, dates or even chopped nuts if you’re keen.

I used chopped apricots and raisins. And don’t worry about only using half a tin of condensed milk – either double the recipe or use the rest to make my favourite Chocolate Chip Cookies!!

4 Weet-Bix* breakfast biscuits, crushed
½ cup sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup finely chopped apricots
¼ cup sultanas or raisins
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
½ cup dessicated coconut (I used ¼)

  1. In a large bowl, combine the Weet-Bix, dried fruit of your choice and cocoa. Blend in the sweetened condensed milk, mixing well.
  2. Roll tablespoonfuls of the mixture into balls. Roll in the coconut and place onto a plate or as I did, into mini cupcake cases.
  3. Store chilled in an airtight container for a few days.
  4. Great for lunch boxes, afternoon tea, a holiday picnic snack or even for treats at a school/church fete or gala.


*Weet-Bix is a high-fiber and low-sugar breakfast cereal biscuit manufactured in Australia and New Zealand by the Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing Company, and in South Africa by Bokomo. I’m sure you will know of local similar bars that can be used if you can’t get Weet-Bix. See www.weet-bix.co.nz

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