Crowded House

If there was a better way of typing out a sigh, onomatapoeically, rather than saying the word “sigh,” I would use it right now. We learned of actor Heath Ledger’s death today, I’m sure if you are reading it here it won’t be the first time you have heard about it, indeed, this isn’t the sort of blog one would go to for that sort of news. But I can’t let the event pass without giving some kind of recognition to it. For all that people seem to be more shocked at “celebrity” death depending on how good looking the person was and the circumstances surrounding it (I speak as someone who has been trawling gossip blogs in order to find out news and gauge peoples’ responses), and even though say, Fox News will give far more coverage to this than the death of Sir Edmund Hillary…he is no less dead. He was only 28, an exceptionally good actor, of the Johnny Depp school of excellence in my opinion, and he had a two year old daughter. A terribly sad thing to hear. Sigh.

Meanwhile, at stately Wayne Manor, I am still cooking for various people, including Tim’s friend, who is still staying with us, and my cousin Paul, who is moving into our flat. But – I like feeding lots of people, so I am not being hard done by in the least.
Above: I like pasta for feeding a crowd. It’s not as austere as rice, but just as quick – and is there anything lovelier, when you are slavering with hunger, than a vat of pasta? It is also about the only thing that is cheap in the supermarkets these days. I’m still not over the price of dairy, (if only there was some way I could protest – but I love butter too much) but we did some groceries today and EVERYTHING was expensive. Even with a $60 voucher, (thanks to Mum and Dad) and minimal purchasing of meat, it came to $130. I kid you not. I was going to buy some raw mixed nuts with which to make Mum another batch of Nigella’s fabulous muesli, and a small bag at the bulk section came to $9.50. I nearly wept. Sorry Mum – the muesli might have to wait a while. What is wrong with New Zealand’s economy?
Above: Pasta Carbonara, recipe courtesy of Nigella’s Feast, has got to be one of my all-time favourite meals. Bacony, creamy, vermouth-y, carbtastic…frankly there’s not much more to say, except that I added some frozen peas at the last minute (not so last minute that they were still frozen while we ate, of course) because the lack of vegetables made me a tiny bit panicky.
Above: Another nice thing about feeding a crowd (ie, when there is more than two of us: we are big eaters) is that you can feel justified in making pudding. Which, in this case, was a sensationally easy Tarte Aux Fine Pommes, from Nigella Express. Okay, so I can’t pretend that the edges of the pastry didn’t get a teeensy bit singed but it still tasted great, and there was something pleasing about the elegant layout of the apple slices.

Above: I didn’t really need to make the Moonblush Tomatoes from Nigella Express in this silicone dish, but I loved the red-on-red vibrancy it produced. Tomatoes were cheap at the market, and this recipe sounded so easy that I thought I’d give it a bash. Basically, you sprinkle tomatoes (supposed to be cherry ones, but big ones were much cheaper) with a tiny bit of salt and sugar, and some dried thyme, put them in a 220 C oven, and then turn it off and leave them overnight. By which stage they should look like this:
Above: This may not look too impressive, but they smell incredible – like the most intensely condensed tomato soup. I’m not sure that I’m selling them well, but really – if tomatoes came with comparitive superlatives, these would be the tomatoeyest things on earth. Good grief. First I’m making up words to describe my feelings for Nigella, then I’m not satisfied with the word ‘sigh’, and now I’m taking sweeping liberties with a noun that was never meant to be used as an adjective. Who do I think I am, butchering the English language like this?

Above: As well as being so fragrant that they drive me to mess with grammatical institutions, the tomatoes go rather excellently in a pasta sauce. I made one up on the spot for dinner the other night; Onions, chopped up pork sausages, a couple of the moonblush tomatoes, a splash of sherry, some capers, a little cream…it tasted deeply flavoursome and delicious. The salad that you can see there was made from radiccio (which I found cheap at Moore Wilsons) roast beetroot and diced avocado. The sweetness of the beetroot and the creamy texture of the avocado seemed to nicely balance the somewhat bitter, yet beautifully purple, radiccio.
I realise I am breaking the cardinal sin of writing for people: Be concise. I am not concise at the best of times…but if you have made it to this point and are thinking, “But how much more can they possibly have eaten?!” fear not – there isn’t much more to go.

Above: Making one’s own chicken nuggets does, on paper, sound absolutely deranged. And I admit, they don’t look that great in the photo (it’s the overexposure?) but these are just so good and not taxing in the slightest. I do, however, recommend you get a buddy to help you with the turning of these in the hot oil or they will burn – the one thing I am likely to do in the kitchen, as you can see from the apple tart above. The recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s Feast and is all kinds of basic – chicken breasts, cut into goujons, marinated in buttermilk, dipped in cracker crumbs and shallow fried till magically delicious. You’ll never go to McDonalds again…

Above: I’ve heard mixed reviews for Nigella’s Chef’s Salad, but take it from me and my discerning taste buds – this is SO good. I could have snarfed the whole bowl were it not for the fact that it had to go round other people too. It is a mixture of iceberg lettuce, corn kernals, emmental cheese, ham, and avocado, and although it may not sound spectacular it is nigh on addictive.

Above: Despite all my hand-wringing and exclaiming about EVERYTHING above this point, I really think that I have saved the best for last. This is the Caramel Croissant Pudding from Nigella Express, and though I can’t say the recipe looked too exciting at first glance…it is wondrous. I should point out that I have a rather bad habit of going out and buying an expensive main ingredient because I have all the peripheral ingredients, and this is one such instance. I basically made this because Tim was given some bourbon and there are two or so tablespoons in this recipe. Luckily croissants are relatively cheap at the corner shop, and the rest – milk, sugar, etc – are usually close to hand. This was ridiculously fantastic, every bit as good as Nigella says and then some. That’s right. Then some.
From croissants, one’s mind springs to crumpet, and thus, back to Heath Ledger. Hopefully this is the last of such events in this year that has barely started.

2 thoughts on “Crowded House

  1. Kay says:

    RIP Heath Ledger – what a sad waste. Time will tell whether he takes on James Deanesque legend status…… By the way, I DID say I would cover the costs of the ingredients for the muesli – or do you need me to pay first….. By the way No2. Expect a parcel soon (clue: contents rhyme with porcini stock and pink pickled peppercorns) Now, about that muesli you were going to make for me….


  2. Linda F says:

    OMG Laura, you have been busy and you have made all the things I have wanted to from NE, the toms, the salad and the croissant number. Cant wait to try them, bought toms as they were cheap to do them so you have spurred me on! I love the look of that chef’s salad, sometimes its the simple things that are just so yummy!


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