Culinary delights for the festive season

SARAH FOY
Last updated 08:40 04/12/2012

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It's little and for a time opened only on Fridays but Karyn Grant is smitten. So smitten she'll be poring over the cookbook produced by this Auckland cafe - and creating a range of sauces for family and friends.

"You can taste the love," says Grant of the Little and Friday cafe in Auckland's Newmarket. "Really, it's baking that you don't actually see very often any more. It's so beautifully presented that you want to take it all home." Grant describes the food as rustic; says everything is cooked from scratch and exquisitely turned out. It's in Newmarket's Melrose St, within the confines of a fabric shop with shared tables.

"It's very cool and the people who work there are very lovely, it's a bit fringy and very authentic for what it is."

Among her favourites are sticky doughnuts filled with custard and jam.

Grant has frequented the Newmarket cafe but there's also a Little & Friday cafe on the North Shore.

In March this year cafe founder Kim Evans released her first cookbook.

The recipes, which include tarts, biscuits, savouries and cakes, take time to make but don't require specialist skills, says Grant.

"If you follow the recipe and you do everything step by step anyone can do it." Evans is a self-taught baker whose mother was a home economics teacher and whose children help in the cafes.

While this year she'll make caramel, chocolate and raspberry sauces, in previous years Grant has made limoncello as Christmas gifts.

Grant co-owns Joe's Garage in New Plymouth, which opened in June.

In January the Taranaki Daily News interviewed her as she was preparing to manage the Nova Energy Taste, the World food marquee at Womad. She worked alongside flamboyant Jax Hamilton, the Christchurch-based cook who released her first book earlier this year. Hamilton, runner-up in the second season of NZ Masterchef, has an engaging personality that fits perfectly with Womad.

"She's just what you see on TV. She's a lovely, kind, generous person . . . really unpretentious. She loves what she does and working with her was a highlight of Womad for me." Grant is looking forward to being Hamilton's right-hand person at Womad 2013 - in between everything else. "It's been a crazy, busy juggle," says Grant of her year.

Joyce Lawrence spoke to the Taranaki Daily News in June after a recipe book featuring two of her concoctions was published. Titled A Good Harvest, it was compiled by Rural Women NZ and among the dozens of recipes from around the country was Lawrence's Red Onion & Balsamic Chutney, Gherkin Relish, Mint Jelly and Pesto.

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Cooking filters through generations of her family. Many of her recipes hail from her mother and mother-in-law, while her three adult girls produce chutneys, sauces and home baking.

But Lawrence opts for a sweet not savoury treat when it comes to giving away festive goodies. She enjoys making a truffle recipe borrowed from New Zealand actress Geraldine Brophy.

The recipe calls for toffee pops although Lawrence sometimes uses mint chocolate bikkies or Tim Tams.

The truffles are easy to make, and the cream cheese gives them a mousse-like texture, says Lawrence who rolls hers in melted chocolate, although the recipe suggests coconut.

In between making truffles she will be making the family's Christmas pudding. It's a basic recipe bequeathed by her mother-in-law. Boiling it for hours is the trick - four hours on the day you make it, then four hours a day or so later. On Christmas Day it gets another two hours of stewing. "The secret is the boiling. That gives it a nice dark colour."

Dead simple is how Lynda Hallinan describes her berry jam. She makes at least a dozen jars before Christmas, and countless more after. The Taranaki Daily News interviewed her in July, as the programme for the Powerco Taranaki Garden Spectacular was being unveiled. Hallinan, a guest speaker at the Spectacular, is editor-at-large of New Zealand Gardener and this year released a book titled Back to the Land.

When we speak she's recovering from a bout of whooping cough but her enthusiasm for the joys of jam-making bubbles down the phone. "Everyone thinks they don't have enough time, but the beauty of this is you can do it while you are cooking spuds or watching Shortland Street."

Use the fruit from Berry Delight or Thornless Jewel, both canes from the Incredible Edibles range. They produce before Christmas and not much fruit is required to make a jar, says Hallinan. "You need like a cupful but I will get five kilos from each plant. They are really prolific."

The secret is Chelsea's jam-setting sugar. That's because the berries are low in pectin and often don't set properly but the specialty sugar alleviates that.

"I usually make it for my granny who's 95. On the sly I add raspberry vodka. She always comments on how delicious it is." Pour the liqueur in as you pour the jam into the jar otherwise the heat burns off the alcohol, says Hallinan.

Another tip she has for jam making concerns the fruit, particularly strawberries. "Some people fall into the trap of buying overripe fruit that's going cheap, but that's the worst type to use for jam." It contains less pectin. Boil it up for a sauce instead.

Linda Morrison, of Tairoa Lodge in Hawera, is an award-winning hostess and is full of ideas about how to combine foodie treats at Christmas. The Taranaki Daily News chatted to her in August after the boutique hotel she owns with husband Steve clocked up yet another gong: They were named the supreme winner at the 2012 Bizlink Hawera Business Awards.

Morrison says she plans to give some special people an old English china cup, saucer and plate set.

"I plan to fill the cup with either Russian fudge, star-shaped chocolate fudge brownie or spiced mixed nuts," she says. To wrap the set she places it on a square card and then pulls cellophane around it, tying it together in the shape of a Christmas cracker with old-fashioned lace ribbon for the vintage look.

Morrison picked up beautiful old china sets from the hospice charity shop for $10 a set.

On Christmas Day she will make a Christmas Jalousie.

"I got this recipe years ago when I was living in Scotland and it has been a family favourite since."

KARYN GRANT'S FAVOURITE LIMONCELLO RECIPE

6 lemons

3 cups vodka

3 cups sugar

Water mixed with juice of 6 lemons to make up 2 cups

Wash lemons. Peel the skin (omitting the pith) and put in a jar with 2 cups of vodka and store in a cool dark place for 3 days.

In a separate container make a syrup by boiling the lemon juice, water and sugar. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Cool. Combine the vodka/lemon skin mixture with the cooled lemon syrup and sit for 2 days in cool dark place. Strain to remove the lemon skin, add extra vodka and bottle.

Stand for a week before using. Serve chilled as a liqueur, with bubbly wine or over icecream with strawberries

GERALDINE BROPHY'S TRUFFLES (FROM JOYCE LAWRENCE)

Two packets of Toffee Pops

One punnet of cream cheese [250gm]

Half cup of coconut to roll them in.

Whiz biscuits in processor until just broken up, add cream cheese in pieces, whizz all until combined.

Scrape into bowl and stick in freezer for 10 minutes or until firm enough to handle, roll into balls and coat in coconut, leave to set for few hours and keep refrigerated.

Use any flavour Toffee Pops or rich chocolate biscuits.

LYNDA HALLINAN'S BERRY JAM

One full cup of firm berries

Water

3/4 to 1 cup of Chelsea's jam making sugar

Put the cup of berries in a pot in a small amount of water - barely enough to cover them. Bring to the boil. Add the sugar and boil for five minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent jam sticking to bottom of pot.

Remove from heat and let the mixture rest to ensure the fruit is evenly distributed. Pour into clean jars and cover with clean lids or cellophane covers. Decorate with fabric "hats".

CHRISTMAS JALOUSIE FROM LINDA MORRISON

1 pack puff pastry - thawed

500g marzipan

2kg mincemeat

To finish

1 Tbsp milk

1 Tbsp apricot jam

1 Tbsp icing sugar

Swiss roll tin and long serving dish.

Roll pastry to rectangle 25cm x 20cm approx. Cut in half lengthways to give 2 strips 20cm x 10cm. Place 1 strip on greased and wet tin. Prick all over with fork. Brush with cold water. Fold remaining strip in half lengthways. Put pastry fold to edge of table; make diagonal cuts 5cm long from folded edge to within 1cm of other edge, along whole length of pastry. Roll out marzipan to slightly smaller than base pastry.

Place on top of the piece on the baking tray. Spread mincemeat over marzipan. Place other strip of pastry - opened - on top. Seal edges with back of knife. Seal ends. Chill then brush with milk. Bake at 220 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes till risen. Remove from oven. Brush with hot jam and sprinkle with sifted icing sugar. Return to oven to caramelise the top.

Cut into fingers and served hot. Delicious with brandy custard and lashings of cream.

- Taranaki Daily News

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