Food is a passion for many of us and one that we always need to keep tabs on for overall health and fitness. But we are becoming more and more conscious of where to get food from and the need to keep a balanced diet, without spending too much time in the kitchen or money on our weekly grocery bills.
Welcome Jen Pomeroy, a home cook with both passion and drive, who loves to create home-cooked meals and share her recipes to encourage others to cook well too. Jen trained as a chef at Polytechnic in Christchurch for two years, then worked as a chef for 10 before she started a family. Recently she has launched her own business, The Modern Mess, a weekly recipe site where members are updated with seasonal recipes, photos and cooking suggestions. ‘I started it at the end of March 2018. Both my daughters were under five, and I shared recipes with a few close friends whilst I built my website and figured out how I could be a chef and mother at the same time.
‘Once I had launched the website, I used Facebook groups as a sharing platform and then switched to a members portal on my website with a weekly email.
‘My focus is to include lots of seasonal vegetable-based meals with high-quality meat used in smaller amounts in my recipes. Usually each week there is one meat recipe, one meat-free recipe and one that can be both. The site is suited to vegetarians and most of the recipes can be adapted to be gluten-free.’
Jen looks at what is in season – she has a great local produce grower/supplier, Aimee Burton at The Vege Plot, who updates her with availability. She then jots down ideas and a combination adding whatever she feels is needed, and starts cooking.
Writing the recipes as she goes, Jen makes sure the dishes are both flavoursome and balanced. She tests the recipes a couple of times, enjoys the meals with her own family during the week and posts the recipes with photos on her site for her members’ use. ‘I’ve also started to offer one-on-one customised two-hour cooking lessons, tailored to suit all skill levels; I’m trying to have a wide range of cooks, not just learners. I like to include a month’s subscription to my website in the lesson package and make any helpful cooking suggestions.
‘The last student cooked three meals with a range of techniques and she took all the food home to her family to enjoy!’
Food and garden are equal passions for Jen and she loves seeing all her herbs and fruit trees from the kitchen whilst keeping a watchful eye on her children playing. She recalls some memorable moments with her grandparents when she was growing up. ‘Both my grandparents had amazing gardens and I have vivid memories of digging up new potatoes, eating cucumbers in the garden and baking with one set of grandparents, then pulling carrots, preparing horseradish and having Sunday family dinner – usually a roast, with the other.
‘Now, we are all into gardening and our aim is to have as many edibles as we can fit in our 450 sqm property. I just love it, as all I need to do is wander around the garden to get inspiration.
‘I follow a lot of chefs, cooks and foodies on Instagram for inspiration and I also love to ask friends and family what they are having for dinner. Recently we’ve planted romanesco, sprouting broccoli, cavolo nero, silverbeet and pak choy, but we have run out of space now so have planted Brussels sprouts at my mother-in-law’s. We currently have two flowering pomegranate trees that we planted a few months ago, so we are all pretty excited about that!’
For more information, visit themodernmess.com
WORDS Georgi Waddy IMAGES Charlie Jackson RECIPES Jen Pomeroy
Carrot, Miso and Ginger Soup with Toppings
A great soup for the colder months. This is bound to brighten your day! I love toppings on soup so see below for some suggestions. This freezes well.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions, cut into wedges
- 800 g carrots, peeled, cut lengthways and sliced thinly
- 300 g potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 litre vegetable stock or water
- 2–3 tbsp white miso plus 1 tsp
- (I like Urban Hippie’s Miso, which is made in Nelson)
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 30 g ginger, grated
- 1 small finger of fresh turmeric or
- ½ tsp ground (optional)
- 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
Place the onions and carrot in a shallow oven dish or tray and toss with oil and some salt. Roast at 200°C for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the diced potatoes, vegetable stock, miso*, sesame oil, ginger and turmeric in a large pot and simmer gently while the carrots cook. After 30 minutes add in the roasted carrots and onions and simmer slightly more rapidly for a further 15 minutes with the lid ajar. You want the carrots very soft otherwise the soup can be fibrous.
Blend until smooth, adding an extra cup of stock or water if needed. Add in the rice wine vinegar – you may need a little more depending on the sweetness of the carrots, and season with salt. You can also add a little more miso here too as brands do vary.
*Miso is a fermented food. When you heat it over 45°C it destroys any beneficial probiotics. You may want to dissolve it in warm water (or soup) and then whisk it in at the end before serving.
I used sautéed kale, kimchi and sesame seeds in the photo. Other options are sliced radish for texture, sautéed spinach with sesame seeds and a dash of soy and sesame oil is really nice. Sauerkraut for tang, shichimi togarashi (Japanese chilli pepper sprinkle) for spice. An egg is also one of my favourite things to add to soup, fried or poached.
Miso Butter Roast Chicken Traybake with Potatoes and Gingery Greens
- 6–8 skin-on, bone-in free-range chicken thighs or 4 Marylands. Drumsticks work too
- 800 g potatoes/kumara* – sliced about 1 cm or so thick, you could also do a 2–2.5 cm dice, but not too big or they might not cook in time
- 2 onions, cut into wedges
- 2 tbsp butter – about 40 g
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp rice wine vinegar or any white vinegar
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- 4 tbsp white miso – 80 g
- 1 cup hot chicken stock
Heat a heavy based pan on a medium heat and brown the chicken in two batches. Remove to a plate.
Meanwhile slice the potatoes/kumara and onions and place them in a roasting dish.
Using the residual heat from the chicken pan, melt the butter, honey, rice wine vinegar, sesame seeds and miso paste and mix together. Toss the browned chicken in the miso butter and place on top of the potatoes and onions. Spoon over any extra miso butter.
At this point the whole dish can be covered and placed in the fridge for a few hours or overnight, just add an extra 10 minutes onto the cooking time if it’s from the fridge.
Place the chicken in a 180°C oven for about 20 minutes, then add in 1 cup hot chicken stock. Cook for a further 20–25 minutes or until the potatoes and chicken are cooked. The marinade ends up coating the potatoes and it turns into a delicious sauce.
If you find the chicken is cooked and the potatoes aren’t, simply remove the chicken and keep it warm and pop the potatoes back into the oven for a bit longer.
To cook the greens – I used bok choy. Heat a little oil in a pan and add about a tsp of fresh ginger, add greens and a splash of water and stir until wilted. Use any greens you like.
*The vegetables can be a mixture of the kumara, turnips and/or carrots.
I served this with some pickled ginger and I also made a spicy mayo which was simply 2 tbsp mayo with 1 tsp sriracha hot sauce. It made it next level delicious.
A NOTE FOR MEAT-FREE:
Try it with tofu, or you could try large flat mushrooms and just spoon the miso butter on top. Eggplant when in season would be great.
You could also mix up the vegetables, toss the miso butter over them, roast them then add some vegetable stock at the end to make it saucy. Maybe toss through some edamame beans. Lots of options here.
Roast Pumpkin, Beetroot and Carrots with Currant Vinaigrette and Toasted Almonds
- Half a small pumpkin, about 800 g, deseeded and cut into wedges (or use more carrots or beets)
- 2 beetroot, cut into wedges
- 4 carrots, peeled and cut lengthways
- ½ cup almonds toasted and chopped (try pumpkin or sunflower seeds instead)
- 50–100 g feta, crumbled (optional)
Toss prepared vegetables in olive oil and salt, some fresh thyme is lovely too. Roast at 180°C for 45 minutes or until caramelised around the edges and cooked. Pour vinaigrette over warm roasted root vegetables, sprinkle with toasted almonds and crumbled feta if using.
- ¼ cup currants
- ¼ cup wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- small clove garlic, finely grated
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½–1 tsp brown sugar
- ½ tsp pomegranate molasses (optional)
- ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
Soak the currants and vinegar together for at least half an hour; you can also do this the night before. Heat the olive oil gently in a small pot, add the garlic and when it starts sizzling add in the soaked currants and vinegar. Bring to a simmer and remove from heat. Cool slightly, add in the remaining ingredients.
I like this with chickpeas, salad greens and a dollop of yoghurt, or it is also great with roast chicken or slow cooked lamb and greens.
Baked Ricotta and Greens Gnocchi with Quick Oven Tomato Sauce
Usually I roll out ricotta gnocchi, cut it and boil it for a few minutes before pan frying. This is fail proof and so quick and easy. It can also be prepped in advance. Olives are also a nice addition to the tomato sauce below. I serve this with salad and some crusty bread, or some roast pumpkin is nice.
- 2 cans cherry tomatoes (fresh sun- ripened tomatoes are delicious in Summer/Autumn)
- 3 cloves garlic, finely grated
- 6–8 tbsp olive oil
- zest of a lemon – juice to finish
- 2 small red onions, cut into wedges
- a handful of fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried oregano
Put all ingredients (except lemon juice) in a shallow baking/roasting dish and place in a 200°C oven for 30 minutes until bubbling. While that is cooking make the ricotta gnocchi.
- 300 g greens, leaves only. I used a mixture of silverbeet and spinach
- 400 g ricotta
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 50 g finely grated parmesan plus a bit extra for the top
- 1/2 cup of flour (75g) or try buckwheat or chickpea flour for gluten-free
- a handful of fresh herbs to finish, I usually use parsley and basil is nice when in season
- salt and pepper to taste
Wilt the greens in a pan with a little water. Cool and the squeeze as much liquid as you can from the greens. Finely chop.
In a bowl place the chopped greens, ricotta, eggs, parmesan and some salt and pepper. Mix together well. Fold in the flour until just combined. Don’t over mix.
Spoon the ricotta mix on to the tomato sauce in about 12 large quenelles (or dollops). Grate over some extra parmesan. Bake in a 200°C oven for a further 20 minutes until bubbly and slightly golden.
If you are prepping this in advance, cool the sauce before spooning on the gnocchi. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
Cook at 200°C for about 20–30 minutes or until hot and golden. Squeeze over the lemon juice and top with extra herbs.
Dark Chocolate and Stem Ginger Torte with Cardamom Yoghurt Cream and Toasted Hazelnuts
This recipe was inspired by a leftover jar of stem ginger in my fridge that I was wanting to use. I like to put chopped stem ginger in my Christmas cake each year and it’s a great combo with the dark chocolate.
- 200 g butter (you can also use coconut oil)
- 200 g 70% dark chocolate
- 4 tbsp ginger syrup (from the stem ginger jar)
- 4 eggs
- 50 g golden caster sugar
- ½ cup ground almonds or ground hazelnuts (50 g)
- 4 pieces of stem ginger
Place the butter, chocolate and ginger syrup in a small pot on a low heat and melt. Cool.
Place the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl and whisk for 3–5 minutes or until light, fluffy and ribbony.
Fold in the cooled chocolate butter mix along with the ground nuts and chopped stem ginger making sure you scoop the spatula right down to the bottom.
Pour into a buttered pie dish or lined 25 cm cake tin.
Bake at 170°C fan for 30–35 minutes or until set. Cool slightly before slicing and eating with the cardamom yoghurt cream and some toasted hazelnuts. Orange segments or tamarillos when in season would make a delicious side to this.
CARDAMOM YOGHURT CREAM
- 4 cardamom pods or ½–¾ tsp ground cardamom
- 1 cup thick Greek yoghurt
- ½ cup cream
Crush cardamom pods and grind the brown seeds finely. Mix into the yoghurt.
Whip the cream until soft peaks form and then fold through the yoghurt. The yoghurt stabilises the cream so this can be done in advance if needed.