Two things that cause within me a sense of intense anticipation and upon which there is much potential for happiness or dismay – a new cookbook, and a new avocado. You know what they are when you go into the shop, you know that they can be awesome, you might even pick them up appraisingly to gauge whether it’s worth your time and money. But it’s not till you get them home, open them up and try them out that you really know what they are like inside.
I’ve had a pretty fortunate run of things lately with my avocado buying – every last one of them has been firm but yielding, nuttily rich and buttery and as chartreuse as a satin blouse from 1995. I was able to take advantage of the fact that Tim was out one night last week and made myself a solitary dinner of grilled mushrooms (one of Tim’s least favourite vegetables), spinach, and a whole avocado. A private pleasure, is the avocado – I’m loathe to share once I’ve found a good one. If you ask me for a bite of mine I’ll probably sigh and roll my eyes and make you feel bad that you even suggested it. But after this particular dinner, even someone as elephantine of appetite as I had to admit that a whole avocado is way too rich for one person.
It was a pretty fabulous meal though, one that I think will definitely go in my little notebook of potential recipes that will pay off my student loan. I clamped two large, flat field mushrooms in the George Forman grill, and while they were stewing away I used my mezzaluna to make quick work of roasted peanuts, capers, and a slice of preserved lemon. This was spooned over the outstretched palm-like cavity of the mushrooms and grilled again for another couple of minutes until wonderfully fragrant. I crumbled feta on top of them and sat them on a bed of spinach leaves, and then chopped up my triumphantly green, whole avocado.
For something containing no carbohydrates and bugger all protein it was hugely filling. I don’t know if this is a well documented problem – The Foodie’s Dillema perhaps – or just a personal quirk, but does anyone else ever find themselves in that position where they are becoming uncomfortably full, but can’t stop eating because (in this case) the avocado is so delicious and I can’t waste the opportunity for this perfect avocado over something as trifling as my waning appetite? I’m not sure if I explained it well, but it’s a bit like how I always eat lots of food if it’s there for free, even if I’m not hungry…Don’t even get me started on the caveman-style, eating for the next six years that I do at buffet tables.
Anyway, please do try the mushrooms because they were amazing. There’s no point being modest and coy, they really were delicious. They’re gluten free and vegetarian to boot, although I guess you could leave off the feta and call them vegan and dairy free as well.
As I mentioned earlier, avocados and cookbooks have many similarities. I tried out a recipe from a new cookbook of mine recently, Jo Seagar’s The Cook School Recipes.
It was my first recipe from this book and I was really excited and it went DRAMATICALLY WRONG. Is there a disappointment as disappointing as gathering together ingredients and time and excitement and ending up with a gluey, sticky, doughy mass instead of a cake? I don’t want this to stop you from rushing out and buying Jo Seagar’s book – the culinary version of getting back onto a pretty horse that bucks you I suppose.
But riddle me this: does the idea of a cake, made solely from 2 cans of crushed pineapple, 4 cups self-raising flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar and 3/4 cups dessicated coconut, mixed together and baked for 45 minutes not sound somewhat unlikely? I mean, I can handle the fact that there are cakes out there that don’t have butter in them, and not everything is leavened with eggs. And I really wanted this to be amazing, because I loved the idea of such a store-cupboard, economic-climate friendly, and delicious sounding cake. Unfortunately it was awful. Even baking it for a further hour and a half couldn’t turn it into anything resembling a cake and it was far too gluey to serve as some kind of exotic trifle base. But with the hat of resourcefulness upon my head I turned to the woman who will never let me down – Nigella Lawson – and found a way to at least turn the non-cake into something useable.
In her book Nigella Christmas
, La Lawson has a recipe for these little truffly bonbon things made from crumbled fruitcake, melted chocolate, liqueur, and golden syrup, which are then rolled into balls and festooned with white chocolate and cherries to look like miniature Christmas puddings.
So I thought why the heck can’t I create pina colada truffles using the crumbled up pineapple cake instead of fruitcake? I used melted white chocolate (125g) and a splash of Cointreau along with the golden syrup (3 tablespoons) and using my increasingly sticky hands rolled this challengingly viscous mixture into small balls. Tim and I then set to with toothpicks spearing the chilled truffles and rolling them in melted white chocolate. A fun job, but truly, you need more melted chocolate than is humanly fathomable to coat these truffles. Ours started off luxuriously blanketed, but the ones towards the end were only kind of smattered in chocolate. The main thing is that they tasted curiously…wonderful. A fine example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
I am of course predisposed to like these since I’m a mad fiend for the white chocolate, but there is something appealing in the combination of chewy, fragrant interior and crisp smooth exterior. And I love not wasting food. Although a small voice in my head says that I would have saved more money had I just thrown the cheap cake in the bin rather than adding expensive chocolate, liqueur and more chocolate to it. But whatevs.
Of course if you wanted to recreate these without damaging your nerves, go out and buy a sponge cake, allow it to go stale, adding a little pineapple juice and coconut as you go. But like me, you needn’t be restricted by Nigella’s recipe. I’m sure there are truffles just begging to be made out of anything – stale blueberry muffins, a chocolate cake that didn’t rise, the last of a lemon and poppyseed loaf (which would probably be equally sensational coated with dark chocolate as it would white). Let your imagination run wild. And as for Jo Seagar’s book, like I said I’m not put off and I’ll definitely be trying something else out of it soon. It would be fantastic to hear from any other kiwis out there that have had success with this cake though. Surely the recipe must work or it wouldn’t have made it into the book at all, yes?
Like Julia Murney (and Patti LuPone before her) in Evita
, my mother will be able to say “What’s new, Buenos Aires,” as she is now officially in South America. I look forward to using this newfangled invention they call Skype to keep in touch with all her exciting news. My younger brother is heading to Australia next week to help out a dear family friend of ours at the motel she owns, and my dad, keeping it local, is working hard with the help of others on maintaining momentum in the fight against the intensely dislikeable Pukekohe Waste Petroleum Combustion Ltd who, as I’ve said time and again, are trying to render Otaua Village a lifeless vacuum by thwacking an unwanted waste oil plant there, regardless of the children, livestock and history that the place is teeming with and with full knowledge of the fact that we don’t have a lot of money or resources to fight them with. Very admiral stuff.
The reason that Otaua Village is so present in my mind is because I was just there on the weekend – which also accounts for my rejuvenated vigour in trying to promote and defend our cause. The reason I was up home is because Tim and I were fortunate enough to be able to go to see The Who with Dad and my brother Julian. Well, what’s left of the Who. People of a certain age and perhaps background (like the man who owns the chip shop down the road) will scoff and say “that’s not the real Who,” well, that’s what they’re calling themselves and I’ll take it, especially as I’m only 22 and it’s the only way I’ll ever come close to experiencing this sort of zeitgeist-embodying, era-defining music, the sort of music that many people of my generation listen to on their iPods with a yearning nostalgia for an age they never even born in. I could describe the evening for you but instead I’ve gathered my thoughts together in the form of a bad poem.
Saturday, 21st of March
Our seats are excellent
If I had a dollar for every mullet haircut
Hello Sailor are the opening band and hearing Gutter Black live is a joy
Then the Counting Crows, who play…competently
Feelings of mild ambivalence towards them
turn into feelings of “Why are you here and why are you not the Who already”
The man sitting next to me eats slice after slice after slice of plastic-wrapped, processed cheese
the scariest cheese of all
Finally The Who appear
Roger Daltrey dapper and youthful of face, Pete Townshend wearing a hat
They are wonderful
Both in good voice
Nearly faint from the brilliance of Baba O’Riley
The knowledge that my godfather, a longtime Wholigan and fan to end all fans is in the audience makes me even happier
Forgot how fab the guitar riff from My Generation is
Their background videos rival Roger Waters’ for dizzying intensity
Hey! Ringo Starr’s son is on drums!
Feel benevolent towards the world, even the horrible tall people in front of me
A bittersweet feeling at the end with just Daltrey and Townshend onstage together…
Praise mercy our dubiously parked car was not towed away
Next time: I just got a bunch of second hand Cuisine magazines and I’m in one of those I-want-to-cook-and-bake-everything moods but I haven’t really got anything specific planned yet.