Saturday, 10 May 2014

Quince and Vanilla Bean Jam - مربای به - Moraba-ye Beh

This is the last quince post for this year!  Last year, I struggled with finding the right quince for making jam.  If you have ever cooked quince before or made jelly with it, you'll know very well that all quinces are not the same. Sweet ones cook very quickly and turn into mush, and sour ones are firmer and take much longer to cook. Quince has high levels of pectin which diminishes as it ripens so, the trick is to find the ones with perfect levels of pectin for jam and jelly making.  This year, a few kilos were brought up from Canterbury from a cousin's tree. These quinces were not photogenic and looked a little neglected and I had enough of cooking with quince this year but they were perfect for jam making so an opportunity not to be missed. 

Today is Mother's Day and a perfect day for baking scones which are perfect for maman!  one of her favourites.  Everytime we cut open a quince, we keep the seeds.  Quince seeds are tossed on a tray and left on our kitchen bench for a few days to dry, then stored in a jar. Quince seed tea is perfect for sore throats and coughs in winter.  We always have a little jar full of these seeds in preparation for winter ills.  

This batch turned out quite chuncky but feel free to cut quince into cubes or it can even be mashed before sugar is added if you prefer a more spreadable jam. There is no need to add pectin to this jam as quince is naturally high in pectin.  The deepness of the colour depends on how long it has been simmered and on the quince itself :) 

1.5 kg Quince
2-3 cups water
400g White Sugar
Half a Lemon
Half a Vanilla Bean Pod (optional)

  1. Peel and slice quinces.  Save the seeds, dry them on  tray and store in a jar. 
  2. In a pot, add water to the quince and simmer on low heat for 5-10 minutes (until quince starts to soften).  Vanilla is optional and can be added at this stage.
  3. Add sugar and lemon juice.
  4. Simmer on low heat until quince turns red and sugar syrup has thickened.  This can take upto an hour. 

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Baklava Cake (Gluten Free)

Baklava comes in many forms and shapes.  Persians do not make the traditional filo pastry filled baklava, but instead they make a thin almond cake soaked heavily in syrup and cut into small pieces.  In Turkey, I came across so many varieties of baklava that if I tried to write down a list of flavours, the list will probably be a few pages long!  It really is a baklava haven!

Baking a good looking and delicious cake can sometimes turn a dull day into an exciting adventure.  It is magical and fascinating how eggs aerate, how sugar can melt by whisking it, how a cake rises and turns into a golden goodness and not to forget the anticipation of eating it.  Baking is a delicious adventure and knowing the science of it all doesn't stop me from having fun with it and making discoveries.  

I made this cake for those who prefer a light cake syrup with mild flavours and it was the first time I made it gluten free which worked out pretty well.  I used honey in the syrup but sugar will be fine.  This is our first entry for Sweet New Zealand, a monthly blogging event, and this month it is hosted by Sue from Couscous & Conscience.  

This coming Sunday is mother's day and it will be a perfect afternoon tea :) 


6 eggs
1 cup caster sugar
3/4 Cup cooking oil
2.5 cups almond meal
1 cup rice flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cardamom powder
2 teaspoon rose water

1/2 cup honey (or 1 cup sugar)
1 cup water
2 cardamom pods
2 tablespoons rose water
Juice of half a lemon

Half cup roasted almonds (whole, sliced or slivered)
Half cup white sugar
Half cup crushed pistachios


  1. Beat sugar and eggs on high until it turns white (about 5 minutes).
  2. Add oil and mix until combined.
  3. Fold in the almond meal, baking powder and rice flour carefully.
  4. Bake in a 23cm lined tin at 160C for 50 minutes.  
  5. Cool in the tin.
  6. Pour warm syrup over the cake before serving.
  7. To make the syrup, in a sauce pan mix all ingredients.
  8. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
  9. To make the almond praline, melt sugar in a small sauce pan until golden and add the almonds.
  10. Pour the hot praline on a baking sheet and allow to cool.
  11. Once completely cool and hard, crush it in a plastic bag with a rolling pin or in the food processor.

I'll leave you with a scanned photo of me sitting in a mosque in Turkey in 2004 dreaming of making baklavas all day long and eating it too ;)



Stuffed Capsicums and Eggplants - دلمه - Dolmeh

It has been too long since our last blog post!  Here is a short update of what I have been upto ... I attended a photography and food styling workshop with Helene Dujardin end of March with a few bloggers and food writers, continued my two days per week of consuming 500 calories and still firmly believe it's all for better health, Easter came and brought 3 hot cross buns, endless chocolates which I'm still struggling to get through and visited Auckland museum and the art gallery, spent 23 hours in Christchurch attending a family funeral, made plans with Miss 5 to bake a strawberry shortcake later this month and on Anzac Day a visit by an old friend! ... a lot more happened in between ... I visited our local member of Parliament to discuss issues facing Bahai's in Iran.  Maman was away on a completely un-planned tiki tour of New Zealand and we crossed paths in Christchurch. She arrived home today happy and ready to look after her chooks. I am looking forward to a long weekend visit by Master 7 and Miss 5 later this month. 

I made these stuffed veggies a few weeks ago for no reason other than I was given a can of Turkish stuffed vine leaves and it reminded me of stuffed capsicums, but I also wanted to learn how to make them.   I realised this is quite easy and does not require a great deal of experience.  If you want to give it a go you'll need to visit your Indian grocer and buy chana dal (or Lapeh in Persian shops).  Chana dal looks very similar to yellow split peas but has a different texture, flavour and holds its shape once cooked.  


3/4 Cup Rice
1/4 cup Indian Chana Dal or Persian Lapeh
300g Ground Meat (lamb or beef)
1 Onion, chopped
3 T Dill, dried 
2 T Summer Savoury / Tarragon leaves, dried
1 T Mint, dried 
1 Tablespoon Tomato paste
Salt, pepper, cooking oil and turmeric

6-8 Capsicums

  1. Wash and soak chana dal and rice for a few hours. 
  2. Saute onions with a little oil and turmeric.
  3. Add mince and stir to ensure the mince does not stick to the pan and that it browns evenly.  Add herbs.
  4. Par-boil the rice and chana dal and add it to the meat.  Stir in salt and pepper to season.
  5. Cut the top of each capsicum and discard the seeds.
  6. Fill each capsicum with the meat&rice mix to about 1cm off the top (room for rice and chana dal to cook).  Place the tops back on the capsicums.
  7. Place the capsicums in a pot.  Fill the pot with 1/2 cup water and 1 tablespoon of tomato paste.
  8. Cook on low heat for about 45min-1 hour until the sauce has thickened and the rice is completely cooked.