Christmas Trifle with Chianti & Berry Sago

A trifle can be as time-consuming or quick as time permits.  If, as I used to be, you have all day to create, cook and enjoy time in the kitchen then make each element of this dessert yourself. I haven’t provided recipes for sponge cake, custard or meringues as mostly likely you’ll have a go-to recipe tucked away.  And if, as I am now, you work full time and try to squeeze as much in to the time before work and the time after work, then the quick option is just as good. Continue reading

Strawberry Syrup

Strawberry Syrup
While preparing my regular recipe for our local paper The Gisborne Herald, I went into the local shops I frequent to make sure all the ingredients were still available.  A while ago I had purchased a large bottle of Giffard Strawberry Syrup and had plans to add the Peach Syrup to my pantry.  However, as it often goes, products come and products go.  And the Giffard range of syrups has disappeared from our local stockist which upset my muesli plans.
Strawberry Syrup
So what to do….. I had a search all around our fair city for another Strawberry syrup that would suffice.  Other than the Barkers Fruit Syrups (in particular the Squeezed Rhubarb with Raspberry & Rosehip, which isn’t Strawberry but is a red berry fruit so was a good option in my mind), or Baker Halls & Co Fruit Syrups (I have used the Apple & Pomegranate in my homemade muesli), the next best option was the Raspberry & Boysenberry Compote from The Dollop Kitchen.  It must be fairly popular compote as the shelf was empty.
Strawberry Syrup
Other ideas were to buy strawberry jam and heat it until liquid (I often use jam in my muesli as it is a great way to use up jam flavours that the kids haven’t appreciated); use a icecream topping such as Delmaine Strawberry Topping or try to track down some Milkshake Syrup (such as Supreme or Six Barrel Soda Co. – the later requiring a trip to Napier or Havelock North).  I could order online but I needed it, like, yesterday and I also wanted something available locally.  On another note, the Raspberry & Lemon or Cherry & Pomegranate from Six Barrel Soda Co. both sound really good, maybe I’ll order some anyway).
Strawberry Syrup
The only other option was to make some strawberry syrup.  I make fruit syrups regularly as they are easy and use three ingredients: fruit, sugar, water.  So here is my strawberry syrup recipe (the muesli recipe is coming in the next few posts).  I have used frozen strawberries as NZ-grown frozen strawberries were preferable to tasteless imported fresh strawberries.  This coming summer I will make sure I freeze plenty of strawberries so I can whip up this syrup.  I thought about adding a vanilla pod, or some black pepper.  Both are well suited to strawberries but I decided in this instance to stay with simple strawberry.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

Strawberry Syrup


  • 250 ml water
  • 225 g (1 cup) white sugar
  • 250 g frozen strawberries


  • Place all the ingredients into a medium-sized saucepan.
  • Bring the ingredients to a boil then turn down and simmer until the fruit is soft and pulpy (about 25-30 minutes).
  • Strain the mixture through a sieve or jelly bag.
  • Pour the syrup into a bottle and store in the fridge once cooled.
  • Makes about 325 ml.
  • Use to make muesli or add to cold milk for a strawberry milkshake. It is also delicious poured over ice-cream.
  • Mash the leftover strawberry pulp and add to 2 cups of unsweetened natural yoghurt or add them to a smoothie.
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The syrup can be used in many ways – not just in muesli.  Put a tablespoon in a glass and top up with cold milk for a strawberry milk drink, or add some vanilla icecream and use the blender to make a strawberry milk shake.  We use it to flavour our natural unsweetened yoghurt and serve with muesli for breakfast.  It is also nice with vanilla ice-cream.

Apple & Winter Fruit Self-Saucing Gingerbread Pudding

Apple & Winter Fruit Self-Saucing Gingerbread Pudding
Self-saucing puddings are one of the easiest puddings to make. They are pretty much a cake batter covered with a liquid mixture that sinks down below the cakey-top to form a sticky rich gooey sauce as it cooks.

The trouble with the sticky rich gooey sauce is that it is made up of sugar, sugar and more sugar so it is very sweet.  To help cut through this rich sweetness I have added fresh fruit to the pudding and reduced the sugar in both the batter and the sauce.  Adding fruit adds a refreshing texture & flavour counterpoint to the sauce & cake and really, what pudding isn’t improved by adding some fruit?  White chocolate cheesecake sounds great, but chuck in some raspberries or lemon and it transforms from great to really really great.

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Winter woes + delicious apple shortcake

Apple Blossom

Winter is not my favourite season when the weather is wet and cold but when the sky is blue, the air is crisp and the sun gently warms as it delivers a dose of Vitamin D, I can’t complain.  In fact, I get a little antsy sitting inside…… I need to be out in the garden with my fingers in the dirt.  The combination of pulling weeds to tidy the garden while enjoying the company of my chickens and cats is great therapy. I have baked and cooked a lot of apple recipes lately but we have gobbled them down before I thought to take any photo’s.  I am sure my family will not complain when I make them again so I can prepare some blog posts. The Mopp turned 18 and requested an apple pie for his birthday dinner.  I intended to make Chelsea Winter’s Apple Pie with Feijoa & Maple however it was a low day for me – winter woes and all that guff so I was looking for an alternative which seemed easier.  Miss M offered to help with dinner which kick-started my mojo a little.  A few minutes (yeah, right) of Pinterest and I was away.  The pictures of this Caramel Apple Crumble pie from Averie Cooks made me forget the easier route….. Continue reading

Apple & Rhubarb Cobbler

Apple & Rhubarb Cobbler

This cobbler is a recipe I created for our local newspaper, The Gisborne Herald.  Cobbler is one of those dishes that means something different to almost everyone that makes it. A traditional cobbler is a dish of stewed fruit, topped with a sweetened scone mixture and baked – much like the cobbler I have made. However, there are many other dishes such as buckle, betty, clafoutis & even our humble crumble which masquerade as cobbler. Whatever form the dessert takes, it is simple and easy to prepare. Any combination of fruit can be used – peach is often used, but the apple can be paired with many other fruits – berries, feijoas, or currants to give a delicious dessert. I often double the fruit portion to make enough cobbler for breakfast leftovers. The cobbler can made as one large dish or evenly divided into individual portions. Apple pie spice is a simple spice mixture I make and keep on hand – substitute with cinnamon if you wish. Continue reading

Swapping produce: Pomegranates for Quinces

Pomegranates vs Quinces

When asked out for dinner and told not to bring anything but yourselves, the need to take at least a block of chocolate or some juice is very strong.  And when we say the same to our guests, we really do mean for them to just bring themselves and an appetite.  So after a dinner invite for Saturday night, I tried very hard to walk out the door with nothing other than a pair of jandals (returning them to my nephew) and a healthy appetite.   I couldn’t do it.
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Strawberries & Pav in disguise

A Kiwi Christmas feast will most likely include a Pavlova of sorts, slathered in whipped cream and topped with berries – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries.  Or maybe kiwifruit, but berries seems more festive.  I guess kiwi & berries would assist the red & green Christmas colour scheme but I like berries with my Pav.
Strawberry & Meringue Frozen Yoghurt 3

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Upside-down pudding cake

Caramelized Apple Upside-down Pudding Cake

The month of May in New Zealand is the dregs of Autumn (Fall), the ground is carpeted with decaying leaves as the trees embrace nudism.  The earth is starting to knuckle down for the Winter season. The last of the summer produce looks pathetic – the tomatoes are clinging to dying vines and the chillies are begging to be harvested before the killer frost arrives. On the bright side we have loads of mandarins and lemons and the grapefruit is gearing up to supplement the meagre fruit supplies over winter.  And the silverbeet is enthusiastically taking over the straggly garden so we will eat some greens this winter. Continue reading

Apple crumble in disguise

Apple Crumble Trifle


Miss M requested apple crumble and custard for her birthday party dessert – however as we are in the throes of summer, apple crumble seemed a tad inappropriate to end a hot summer’s night’s feast of party food and pot luck.  So I put on my thinking cap and decided apples and custard could a trifle make. And I set about playing in the kitchen. It was a bit dicey playing with a new recipe when we had guests coming for tea, but if the dessert didn’t quite work out I had loads of ice-cream and jelly on stand-by.  And I could have whipped up a traditional apple crumble pretty quick if I needed to.  Continue reading

Apple & Lemon Torta

Italia |Simple recipes from the Italian Cook School – Jo Seagar

I  don’t believe I am alone when I admit that I don’t often make a recipe as it is written.  I use the recipe as a guide, and substitute flavours here and there.  Sometimes with success and other times not so but during the process I learn a little more about what works and what doesn’t.  And so if I had been making this recipe – it may not have been such a wonderful ending to our dinner.  We had invited guests to eat with us, and I was in charge Continue reading