it looks like you’ll stay, as the days go by


On the 13th my blog will be two years old. Considering the blinding speed in which the internet turns around, in which networks are signed up to enthusiastically and then never updated, and also the fecklessness of youth (well, I’m only 23 and therefore highly likely to be lacking in feck) it’s a pretty tidy achievement all round. Two seems like such a tiny number to measure the amount of time that this blog has been existing. But I guess it’s likely to be a lot more significant to myself than, say, anyone else on the planet. I also guess that this gives me a free pass to bake something ridiculous and unnecessary in the name of celebrating my blog’s anniversary.

Funnily enough I used a recipe the other night that I last used exactly a year agoRendang Asparagus and Shallot Curry, from Simon Rimmer’s pretty awesome book The Accidental Vegetarian. Incidentally the photos I took last year were much better than the photos you’re going to see today, which shows that no matter where I live, there is always potential for uselessness. Asparagus is one of the few things I’m happy to wait around for. Well, it would be choice if it was available for the eatin’ all year round, but it’s not, and it’s usually worth the wait. If I’m eating asparagus it means that the weather is getting better and Summer’s on the way.

This recipe is so good, even if the original is a little deranged in terms of volume of sugar, coconut and chilli. Simon Rimmer writes an excellent recipe, but we don’t see eye to eye on what ‘mild’ is. Simon Rimmer thinks nothing of flinging eight chillies into a recipe for general consumption. His tastebuds must be made of asbestos-reinforced concrete roofing tiles. This is truly delicious though, and the combination of soft, caramelised buttery onions and juicy green asparagus is pretty fabulous. I’d go a little easy on the amount of brown sugar you use, between that and the coconut milk it can be almost like eating pudding if you’re not careful.

Rendang Shallot and Asparagus Curry

50g butter
75g brown sugar (I used less)
20 banana shallots
400g asparagus
400ml tin coconut milk
3 T toasted dessicated coconut
Coriander to serve

Melt the butter in a pan, add the sugar and when it starts to dissolve throw in the shallots, peeled but left whole. Turn down the heat and cook slowly for at least 20 minutes, (he recommends 45 but they were more than fine with less). Blanch the asparagus and refresh in cold water. I sliced them into two-inch lengths.

Curry Paste:

1 onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
3 red chillies, or however much you desire
1 tsp ground coriander
1 T tamarind paste (or substitute lemon juice)
1 t tumeric
1 t curry powder
1 stalk of lemon grass
pinch of salt

Whizz the lot together in a food processor, or chop and mix everything well like I did using my mezzaluna. This results in a chunkier but no less flavoursome paste. Heat a little oil in a pan and gently fry the paste, carefully, and stir in the coconut milk, letting it bubble away and thicken slightly. Add the now magically caramelly shallots and the blanched asparagus, letting it simmer for about ten minutes. Finish by stirring through the toasted coconut and chopped coriander. If you like, add a handful of frozen peas or soybeans to beef it up (as it were). Serve over rice. This should feed four easily.

On Thursday I realised I hadn’t cooked any chicken in a long, long time. In fact that I hadn’t really eaten meat in ages. A trip to Moore Wilson’s quickly changed this, and I had a go at Nigella Lawson’s Slow Roasted Garlic and Lemon Chicken from Forever Summer.

I’d bought a couple of Maryland pieces (ie thigh and drum attached together) because it was cheaper than buying just thighs. I figured I could cleave them in half, capable-modern-lady style with one of the many enormous knives we have in our kitchen. But, could not cut them for the life of me, even using this ridiculously sharp knife and putting all my body weight on it. They remained uncloven. Strains of Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner singing I Will Never Leave You from Side Show ran through my head.

Resigned to the fact that we were going to be eating enormous pieces of chicken for dinner, I arranged the ingredients artfully in this fancy schmancy roasting tin I bought from Briscoes that made me feel very Nigella – it’s one of those deep, rectangular dishes with metal handles that she’s always flinging about. It was also about 20cm too wide for our oven. Aaaaargh. By this stage I was tempted to biff the lot out the window. But, I patiently transferred the contents into a smaller dish and left it to roast for the requisite two hours – one of the nicest things about this recipe. You have a large window of time to chill out.

Ever more and always, we’ll be one though we’re two (Seriously, watch the clip. It may well blow your mind.)

This is a really simple recipe but what’s there works wonders. Soft cloves of garlic and chunks of lemon, a slosh of wine and some olive oil all relax into a deliciously juicy sauce, and the slow, slow cooking of the chicken renders it ridiculously tender.

Slow-Roasted Garlic and Lemon Chicken

From Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer.
This is Nigella’s recipe with her proportions – scale it down or up as you like.

1 chicken cut into 10 pieces
1 head garlic, separated into unpeeled cloves
2 unwaxed lemons, cut into chunky eighths
Small handful fresh thyme
3 tablespoons olive oil
150mls white wine

Preheat oven to 160 C.

Put everything into a roasting tin. A roasting tin that you know will fit into your oven. Make sure the chicken is skin side up. Cover with tinfoil fairly tightly, place in the oven and leave for 2 hours. Once this is up, remove the foil, raise the heat to 200C, and cook uncovered for another 30 or so minutes till everything is nicely browned and crisp. Serve straight from the roasting tin. Serves 4-6.

Not having eaten meat for a while, particularly roasted chicken, I had completely forgotten how strong it is, how that oiliness can be really heavy in your stomach. I’d also forgotten how amazing it smells as it roasts and how good the pan juices taste drizzled liberally over rice. So there you go. I can see how people could go vegetarian, but then I could also happily eat a steak on a daily basis.

Speaking of things ornithologian, on Saturday I had the privelege of seeing the Imperial Russian Ballet performing Swan Lake at the Opera House. I went with Tim and my godsister, Hannah, and we had fantastic seats. There were a LOT of children in the audience, which I don’t have a problem with – I’m all for encouraging nippers to go to the theatre – in fact it was the adults in the audience who were more fury-inducing. Some idiot behind me decided to rustle a wrapper or chip packet of some sort right in the middle of the swans’ dancing. For about 45 seconds. I have no idea what was so important in their life right at that moment that they had to rustle this plastic so incessantly. Meanwhile, another person behind me was keeping time to the music by tapping the floor heavily with their foot and slapping their knees. Why? What can tiy possibly add to the experience? The only other negative I have to get out of the way is that the Opera House isn’t the nicest location. It looks like a shadow of its former grandeur. The fact that the sound came from speakers, not an orchestra, dulled the majesty somewhat.

The dancers, however, were absolutely stunning. Swan Lake, Nutcracker and Romeo and Juliet are three ballets which don’t so much tug at my heartstrings, as blow them up and make a balloon animal out of them. The music is just so achingly beautiful and it was beautifully captured by the dancers. The girl playing Odette/Odile had a mournful featheriness with a steely reserve that showed exactly why she was chosen as the leader. The prince was leggy and leapy and could express pain and happiness and that’s all you really need. The costumes were gorgeous and the whole thing was just intensely riveting. I know I go on about Broadway a lot but while I was brought up on a fairly equal diet of musicals and ballets, dance was my first love and it’s always a pleasure to see it live.


On Shuffle whilst I type:

Saturday Getaway from Rookie Card by PNC featuring Awa from Nesian Mystik. This guy is probably the best thing to come out of Palmerston North since Tim.

Nobody’s Side from the recording of Chess In Concert by Idina Menzel. I bought this today at Real Groovy and the very sight of it was so unexpected and so exciting that I proceeded to tell the lady behind the counter how awesome it was and how ridiculously excited I was about it. Probably should have played it a little more cool. But seriously though, Chess is a nightmare to follow but the music is ridiculously good and Idina tears this song to shreds.


The roundabout, kind of oblique (eh, it’s 10.30pm on a Sunday night) title for this post is brought to you by: Stephen Sondheim and his song Not A Day Goes By from Merrily We Roll Along. Bernadette Peters sings it and can’t be argued with, but predictably I’d like to offer Idina’s one-off take on it, worth it for the hatey youtube comments alone.


Next time: Well, I probably will end up baking something frivolous in the name of celebrating my blog’s two-year existence.

viva las veges


It’s the miracle of life! I have borne fruit! (well, a vegetable, to be precise)

To grow you is to love you.

It seems I can’t pick up a magazine or lifestyle section of a newspaper without some recessionista sighing smugly about how they are positively overrun with their homegrown zucchini and if they have to eat another fritter they will just die. Tim and I, with all the best intentions, embraced our inner hippies and exchanged a large amount of coin for various packets of seeds, a bag of potting mix, a pair of gloves that make your hands chafe and a trowel that bends at the slightest pressure. Three months of tenderly weeding our little garden, gently throwing coffee grounds and potassium-rich banana peels at it in the anticipation of a bounty of zucchini, beetroot and runner beans…

And our impotent, nutrient-deficient soil threw forth one, solitary sodding zucchini.

I couldn’t be prouder. Okay, so gardening isn’t as easy as every chatty columnist claims it is, (I mean, exactly where are our beans and beetroot?) but the endorphin increase I got from this single vegetable must equal a positively delirious hallucinogenic head rush if you actually manage to harvest an actual garden of edible goodies. So we’re planning to buy some more seeds and start again – the grow must go on…

The zucchini was sliced lovingly and went into a ratatouille to accompany the above roasted chicken on Sunday night. I had a feeling that I hadn’t eaten meat in forever and needed to remedy this immediately by consuming the sort of protein you just can’t get from lentils. When we do eat meat I want it to be good. Luckily the chicken I purchased from Moore Wilson’s was tender and fleshy and tasted like the happiest ex-bird ever to socialise and dust-bathe in its natural environment.

While I was being unorthodox, and continuing with the homegrown theme, I thought I might as well make some flatbread to mop up the chicken and ratatouille juices. I don’t know about you, but if the gap between the present moment and when I last made bread grows too wide, I become a little antsy. Making bread is just something I really enjoy – watching the unlikely mixture of flour and liquid come together as I knead it, the slow swelling of the yeasted dough, and the incredible smell it imparts as it bakes. To say nothing of the ridiculously wonderful taste of it hot from the oven (with butter, thank you…)

I’ve made this recipe a couple of times before, it’s a very easy dough to work with and while home-made flatbreads aren’t perhaps as visually rewarding as a proudly towering traditional loaf of bread, they are just as delicious and make a meal feel like a feast.

Garlic and Parsely Hearthbreads adapted from How To Be A Domestic Goddess, by Nigella Lawson.

500g bread flour
1 sachet (7g) instant yeast
1 tablespoon nice salt (if you’re using iodised table salt, halve this amount)
300-400mls warm water
5 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 190 C. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then stir in the water and oil. Stir to combine then knead till it becomes a soft, springy dough, which I find happens quite quickly with this particular recipe. Form into a ball, wash out and dry the bowl, tip in a little olive oil and turn the ball of dough in it before covering it with clingfilm and leaving it to rise for an hour or so. Meanwhile, trim the tops off two large heads garlic, dribble with a little olive oil and wrap loosely in tinfoil, then pop n the oven to cook for about 45 minutes. If you sit the bowl of dough on top of the warm oven it will aid the rising process.

Once the dough is sufficiently risen, punch it down and leave it while you remove the garlic from the oven and turn it up to 200 C. Divide the dough in two and press each out into a large, roughly oblong shape (you will need two lined baking trays for this) Prod them with your fingers to make dimple marks and cover them with a teatowel and allow to prove for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, Nigella recomends blitzing the cloves of garlic (squeezed out of their skins) and a good bunch of flat leaf parsely in the food processor but you might find it easier just to chop it all together. Mix in a little olive oil either way, and spread this fragrant mixture across the dough.

Bake for 20 minutes or so until the breads are golden brown and cooked.

These are unbelievably delicious.

Is it slightly obscene that the two of us ate roughly one and three quarters of these enormous flatbreads on Sunday night?

I’ve also been doing a bit of baking. I like to keep the old tin full at all times in case of any unexpected dips in blood sugar from The Diabetic One, but I just like to bake selfishly for its own sake too, to be honest.

I found this recipe in the February/March edition of the magazine Essentially Food. It can be hit and miss in terms of content, but it’s improving and they are really worth sifting through because there’s almost always a couple of brilliant recipes in there. This is one of them – Belgian Slice. I don’t know if y’all around the world get Belgian biscuits which are essentially two small spicy cookies bound with jam and bearing a disc of pink icing. What they have to do with the nation of Belgium is beyond me – perhaps they’d be more appropriate if they smelled of fine beer and were sandwiched together with aioli, but who am I to question culinary history? This following recipe is infinitely easier, combining the flavours of Belgian biscuits in non-threatening slice form.

Belgian Slice

120g butter
120g sugar
1 egg
1 Tablespoon golden syrup

2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 170 C. Cream the butter and sugar, then add the egg and beat well. Mix in the golden syrup and then the dry ingredients. Press the mixture into a baking paper lined swiss roll tin and spread carefully and evenly with the jam. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Essentially Food recommends covering it with pink-tinted icing before sprinkling over raspberry flavoured jelly crystals but as I didn’t have any in the house, I compensated by adding raspberry flavouring to the pink buttercream instead.

There’s something about the refined, spiced biscuit underneath and the garish, artificially flavoured buttercream and the contrasting textures of each that is both comforting and strangely delicious. Like a culinary crossroads between “childish” and “grown-up” flavours.

I’m really tired this week, all this going out to gigs and such is kind of catching up on me. My feet are bruised from being constantly stood on in audiences and my neck ached all last week from craning my neck (being undertall, I was doing this quite a lot…) The Kills last Wednesday were great fun, I was right up in the front and could practically grope their achingly hip, Kate Moss-dating ankles. However being up the front meant we were dealt a terrific mauling due to the extremely vigorous jostlings of the audience. We emerged feeling like potatoes that had been pressed through an expensive ricer (well those weren’t Tim’s exact words). At Kings Of Leon on Friday it wasn’t much better, even though we were considerably further back. They were in cracking good form and handsome as ever, even though they didn’t talk as much as they did at their concert last year. The next big thing on my horizon is the production of The Winter’s Tale, directed by (gasp!) Sam Mendes, up in Auckland and Sylvie Guillem back here in Wellington later next month. I think I can confidently say that watching Shakespeare and ballet should be fairly moshpit-free.

In other news, (self-pimping alert here) I’ve been asked by to write for their blog. Check out my first post by clicking —————> here. I’m still finding my feet with the direction I want my posts to take but it’s fun to stretch myself and certainly an honour to be noticed and invited!

Next time: Bearing in mind that what I say will happen next time often bears little relation to what actually happens next time…I have this pie recipe I really want to try from an old edition of the gorgeous Cuisine magazine. Watch this space.

last of the summer whine


I can’t buy cherries. They don’t exist. They are neither on the shelf at the corner shop or on the stands at the vege market. Their season has passed. And it’s probably just as well, because had my addiction to them been allowed to continue, my future children would never enjoy things like shoes, or a university savings fund. All financially debilitating fruit-eating habits aside, it was my lack of cherries that really made it clear that summer is fast melting into autumn, like an icecream inadvertantly dropped on a hot, concrete footpath. The mornings are darker, the evenings cooler, the cardigans emerging from the bottom drawer. Waah!

Having thrown all that bleak imagery at you, I should point out that this weekend has been absolutely gloriously sunny. Yesterday Tim and I, along with my godsister Hannah who has started university down here, took advantage of said weather and bussed out to Lyall Bay to the Maranui Surf Cafe. They hardly needs my endorsement – it was absolutely packed and there was a constant stream of people through the door. We had to wait for a table, which made me feel a little nervous – after all, it was my idea to shlep all the way out there in the first place – but it really wasn’t that long before we were seated. Somehow, even with my chronic uselessness riding against us, we ended up with the best table in the house – in the centre of a huge picture window, gazing out over the sea.

There’s a reason why it’s always packed – the food was fantastic. I had the big vegetarian breakfast and Tim had the regular big breakfast (I gave him some of my avocado and he gave me some of his kransky), and I kid you not, it was the best of its type that I’ve had in Wellington. Every cafe under the sun has some form of “Big Breakfast” and they can be anything from boring to meanly portioned and soggy. But this was incredible – generous amounts of avocado and pesto, large, glossy mushrooms, softly poached eggs, wonderful grainy bread and tomatoes that were so delicious I could have eaten a kilo of them on their own. I mean, I’m actually considering ringing and asking where they got them from. I wish I’d thought to bring my camera. Personable service and not-entirely-terrifying prices means I’ll definitely be back but with my 9-5 job the weekend is my only option, so maybe try to go on a weekday if you can when it’s likely to be more chilled out.

One more thing – the big breakfasts are really, really filling. I mean, I’m quite the horse when it comes to appetite size but was forced to concede bitterly that I didn’t have any space for one of the many enticing cakes on the counter. In fact, several hours later Tim and I still didn’t really feel like much for dinner. Unusual. So while Tim did his readings for Honours, I flung together something fairly light that wouldn’t be burdensome on our constitutions.

While brown rice was on the boil, and a foil-wrapped beetroot was roasting away in the oven, I assembled feta cheese, capers, sliced preserved lemon (made by my godmother), walnuts, and grated carrot. The beetroot was chopped into chunks and along with everything else, spatula-d into the drained rice and piled into two bowls. Delicious, and the sort of thing you can basically eat a vat of without feelings of self-loathing and regret arising after. While the making and eating of dinner was going on, we listened to a greatest hits CD of Joe Cocker. I’d just like to point out that on the whole I hate greatest hits compilations, and I wasn’t entirely committed to listening to J-Cock all evening, but as it turns out I’d somehow forgotten how much I love the old so-and-so. Every song was pure gold. The man’s a genius! Who else on earth can cover the Beatles so lavishly and not only get away with it, but sound brilliant? I also like how the album ended with killer song She Came In Through The Bathroom Window, and not, like many other artists’ greatest hits albums, with an ill-advised late nineties hip-hop disco remix collaboration track.

I found this recipe on Scrumptious blog for Eggplant and Tomato Curry. It’s easy to make and tastes fantastic – I can see it becoming a regular fixture so long as the ingredients stay cheapish at the market.

Above: I added cauliflower because I had some kicking round and thought it might bring a bit more substance. I guess if you wanted you could add some coconut milk or use different vegetables, even adding meat of some kind – it’s quite a nice starting point recipe for tinkering round with. Speaking of tinkering round, I received a bottle of passionfruit vinaigrette for Christmas from my brother and apart from drinking the stuff straight from the bottle because it’s so delicious, I’ve been trying it in all sorts of things, including as a marinade for chicken breasts. If you don’t actually have the Wild Appetite vinagrette like I do, I’d use a mix of pineapple juice, olive oil, a pinch of tumeric and a splash of cider vinegar. I cooked the chicken on our George Foreman Grill, which caramelised the sugar in the marinade, imparting a smoky deliciousness.

I sliced the chicken into chunks and served it with roasted beetroot, spinach, and brown rice. I’m not sure what I was really going for but it seemed to work, and I can highly recommend the vinaigrette-as-marinade route…I’m sure Paul Newman’s dressing would be incredible!


Overheard in our kitchen:

Tim: So really, capers are just like really small olives?
Laura: Yeah, more or less. So why is it that you like capers but not olives?!?
Tim: Maybe if you cut the olives up into tiny little pieces?

Next time: I get old-school with Girl Guide biscuits, and bake a cake with only four ingredients, none of which are butter or eggs. Yeah, I’m suspicious too, and I haven’t actually tasted it yet so if it has all the flavour of a well-boiled sponge I’ll probably just conveniently forget that I said I’d blog about it…if it turns out well then you’ll just have to wait for the next post to see what these four mysterious ingredients are!

don’t you courgette about me


If I have been quiet lately it’s only because every time I try to talk it sort of comes out as “lksjdflkjsdkfjjjjjblaaaaarg,” on account of the fact that I saw Neil Young and Leonard Cohen in concert within five days of each other. These two musicians have been such an important part of the soundtrack of my life, so to see them live? People, it was intense. I was pit spitting distance from Neil Young, due to some assertive and judicious manhandling of myself to the front of the audience. I barely sang along, I didn’t shriek, I just stood there, transfixed during his set. My obscenely expensive Leonard Cohen ticket yielded – mercifully – a very decent seat, and I actually cried when he sang “Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye” and “So Long Marianne.” But every time I tried to properly describe the concerts to someone, I simply couldn’t form coherent sentences. I couldn’t describe it. For someone as, you know, excessive with words as I am, this is something. Even now I’m just talking around it, so my basic summary is: they were both sublime. I can’t believe that I managed to see Rufus Wainwright, Leonard Cohen and Neil Young within the space of a year, in New Zealand of all places.

So courgettes are incredibly cheap at the markets right now, and they’re not only cheap, they’re big, substantially cucumber-esque in size. So over the last week or so they have been featuring heavily in what Tim and I have been eating.

Firstly, in the form of a George Forman-ed dinner (we received a grill from Tim’s parents for Christmas and have already used it a ridiculous amount), where I discovered the joy of tiger-striped grilled vegetables. Seriously, all you do is slice up the courgettes, slam them in the grill for a bit, and they’re done. No dishes, no fat, but those glorious stripes…To go with we had grilled chicken, that I’d dusted with ras-el-hanout spice mix, some wild rice, roasted capsicum, and a kind of salad – more of a sprinkle than a salad though – of kalamata olives, feta cheese, and chopped preserved lemon, from a stash that had been kindly made for me by my godmother. I’d never tried preserved lemon before but I’m quite addicted – they belong to that same sharp, salty taste family as capers and olives but with an intense, salty lemon hit that’s pretty exhilarating when paired with the quieter tastes of chicken and courgette.

Courgette risotto was the next night’s dinner, nothing revolutionary in the mix here – just garlic, arborio rice (I can’t afford anything more authentically Italian-sounding than that), vermouth, diced courgettes, vegetable stock. It has been a while since I’ve made a risotto and I forgot how long they take but I don’t mind the constant stirring, and the finished result was rich and toothsome. With more grilled courgettes on the side, because they look so profesh.

Obviously you can’t move at cafes these days without bumping into corn fritters, but I think there’s a good case for the courgette version being the superior of the two be-frittered vegetables. I found this recipe in Nigella Lawson’s seasonally appropriate (for me in New Zealand, anyway) Forever Summer and decided to make them after discovering that I actually had all the ingredients. Once you’ve got all the boring grating out of the way these are pretty straightforward, and so delicious, knocking the beyond-ubiquitous corn fritter into a cocked hat.

Courgette Fritters

Approx 750g courgettes
3-4 spring onions, finely chopped
250g feta cheese
handful each of fresh parsley and mint, chopped
1 T dried mint
1t paprika
140g plain flour
3 eggs

Grate the courgettes. This is annoying, I grant you. Also somewhat annoying is that you then have to put the grated shreds of courgette onto a clean teatowel and let them sit, so the towel can absorb excess (and there is indeed excess) courgette liquid. It’s not like it’s difficult, but you will end up with a green, damp teatowel, and no matter how hard you shake it over a bowl, some flecks of courgette will remain stuck to the towel fibres. Anyway, put the spring onions, crumbled feta (and you should probably know that I left out the onions and used about half that amount of feta because that’s what I had) and herbs into a bowl. Stir in the rest of the ingredients till combined. Heat a little oil in a frying pan (although I didn’t use any because I have a good nonstick pan) and drop heaped spoonfuls of the raggedy green batter into it, flattening with the back of a spoon as you go. Cook for about 2 minutes a side, I find those silicone spatulas really useful for turning them over. As these are lovely room temperature, don’t fret unduly about getting them to the table now.

Nigella recommends lime wedges to squeeze over. To which I say, go right ahead, if you don’t mind paying $19 per piece of dry, unjuicy fruit or whatever it is they’re charging for whatever is masquerading as the humble lime these days.

Full time work is keeping me busy, and it was in a flurry of excitement that I received my first ever business cars last week. I don’t know if it means I’m institutionalised or what, but it was so exciting seeing my name on the index card.

I’m hugely tired and I have – naturally -work tomorrow so here endeth my song. Next time: well, I bought a huge watermelon at the markets on the weekend and eagerly turned it into slushy, rose-pink sorbet, so that may well feature.

Wickedly Good


Inspiration doesn’t just come from cookbooks. When re-reading Wicked by Gregory Maguire a couple of weeks ago, I was struck, not just by what a cracking read it was, and how I was completely unable to function after finishing it, but also by the descriptions of food. There’s not a huge amount of eating that goes on in Wicked but what’s there is distinctive and evocative and made me want to cook. The food is somehow otherworldly and yet very earthy and imagineable. If they were all cooking up snozzbangers or eating frumblejump soup, amusing as it sounds it wouldn’t make for such satisfying reading. Anyway, like the utter geek that I am, I devised Sunday’s dinner entirely based upon what I’d read. I sort of hinted as much to Tim (who in fact has been reading Wicked rather fervently himself although refuses to admit enthusiasm) and he sighed in an I-saw-this-coming kind of way. But you know, better that he heard it from me first.

The saffron cream: “They spooned the airy mounds into one another’s mouths, sculpted with it, mixed it in their champagne, threw it in small gobbets at one another until the manager came over and told them to get the hell out. They complied, grumbling. They didn’t know it was the last time they would all be together, or they might have lingered.”

So naturally, I had to try and make some for myself.

I had envisioned a kind of syllabub-style dish, and indeed nothing is stopping you from replicating this without the mascarpone I used – a mixture of yoghurt and whipped cream would have been my choice otherwise. I began by macerating a pinch of red-gold saffron threads in a capful of dry sherry, a spoonful of honey for sweetness, and a couple of crushed, fragrant cardamom pods. Interestingly, despite saffron being more expensive per gram than crack cocaine, I spent more or less nothing on this dish. Saffron – gift from Tim. Sherry – a gift from Mum, who instinctively knew I needed some. Honey – in the cupboard. Cardamom pods – another gifty from Mum. As for the mascarpone – well, I had some sitting in the fridge leftover from my tiramisu. And yes, I do get given food as presents and you better believe I love it.

It went from this:

To this…

Look at that gorgeous, golden yellow colour, and not an E-number in sight. My seratonin levels have skyrocketed at the very sight of this stuff. Saffron: I’m just mad about it.

Once strained and folded into the mascarpone, (with the juice of an orange for added zing) it toned down to the palest primrose colour. To go with – because they mentioned biscuits being served with the cream in Wicked – I did a batch of Nigella’s fabulous madeleines from How To Eat. I made these for the first time back in October (and do read the post if only to appreciate how my photography has improved) and haven’t attempted them since, luckily the silicone tray I bought for them was cheap enough to warrant such reckless neglect. To lift these madeleines out of the ordinary, to make them…wickeder if you will…I added a dash of ras-el-hanout, a morrocan spice blend usually used in savoury foods. It is so fragrant and warm and cinnamony that to me it makes perfect sense to get a little fusion-y and use it in something sweet.

Above: The batter has to wait for an hour in the fridge. And you have to wait for it for an hour. Nigella doesn’t say what this adds to the end result. But I daren’t disobey.

They were a cracking success, so much so that it’s threatened to go to my head and I want to sprinkle ras-el-hanout in everything. I’m picturing it in ice cream, in cupcakes with cinnamon icing, in rice pudding, in biscuits…needless to say, I’m going to give you the recipe because such is the nature of people who read food blogs, I just know that some of you out there have a madeleine tray kicking round. Gathering dust. Giving you the guilt-eye whenever you open your cupboard. Be guilty no longer – make a batch of these.

Ras-El-Hanout Madeleines

Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How To Eat

(insofar as adding half a teaspoon of spice is adapting.)

90g butter, melted
1 T clear honey
2 eggs
75g caster sugar
90g plain flour, sifted
1/2 t ras-el-hanout (optional, you can of course make these without it.)

Mix the butter with the honey. Beat the eggs and sugar together in a bowl – using a whisk if you dare – for ages and ages till thick, pale, and expanded. Sieve the flour in, then add the honeyed butter, and fold it all gently together. Leave in the fridge for an hour, then take it out of the fridge and sit at room temperature for half an hour. Sometime in this half hour’s sitting you want to set the oven to 210 C. If you don’t have a silicone mould like me, then lightly butter the indentations. Place a spoonful of now-puffy mixture in each shell-shaped cavity, don’t worry about filling it as the heat makes the batter spread. Bake for 5-10 minutes. I find 7 minutes to be perfect. Let them cool slightly before eating…however you like. Sprinkled with icing sugar, dunked into hot tea, a la mode with ice cream or…

…to be used for a loving spoonful of saffron cream.

Of course it wasn’t all pudding. My desire for a roast chicken (well, chicken is geting more expensive by the day, I can’t even remember the last time we’ve had it for dinner) happened to coincide with mine eyes alighting greedily upon this passage from Wicked:

“The guests tucked into snails and garlic, roast crest of fallowhen with cilantro and clementine chutney, and…a sumptuous helping of lime tart with saffron cream.”

Now, both Wikipedia and Google render the fallowhen non-existent, and I have an inherant fear of gastropods, and I’ve already covered the saffron cream AND limes are jaw-clenchingly expensive…but after reading this I thought that a plump, free-range chicken, smeared generously with butter that has been flavoured with chopped coriander and orange zest…roasted with garlic cloves and half an orange up it’s…cavity…and served with coriander and pistachio sprinkled rice…would be a fabulous precursor to the pudding.

Above: I said generously. My pestle and mortar (or mestle and thingy as ex-flatmate Kieran used to call it) wasn’t entirely necessary for this process but made me feel like I was really creating something, and capably at that. I’m certain that Gregory Maguire must have a love of cooking because the food translates well from page to plate: the earthy freshness of the coriander matching excellently with the perky orange zest, the honeyed-yet-grassy saffron lifting the creamy, tangy mascarpone…

Can you believe it’s September already? Sorry it has taken me so long to post, firstly I nearly fainted away at the amount of comments I recieved for my tiramisu – an absolute record of Micheal Phelps proportions for this blog – secondly I’ve just been plain busy. Time is dissolving like baking soda into milk. Like icing sugar into melted butter. Like arrowroot into raspberry coulis. Where was I? It promises to be a splendid week: my best friend is in town for a conference so hopefully we will be catching up for coffee, on Thursday night Tim and I are going to be seeing Bill Bailey’s comedy gig, and on Friday we are going to go see The Dark Knight again with some movie vouchers. Uni has started again and we had genuinely spring-like weather today in Wellington. Of course, tomorrow it will probably be back to raining again but you take what you can get…

What Am I? Chopped Liver?


Obvious, but how could I let that title pass me by? I also considered “De-liver-ance” and “An Offal-y Big Adventure.” Sometimes I spend forever diddling over a title and now I have an embarrassment of riches. But truly, liver: it ain’t that bad. It’s not all that cheap either, unfortunately – a 300g pot of chicken livers costs $3.50. Considering the nature of offal – the fact that it’s so undesirable – shouldn’t it be cheaper? But after prowling through my Nigella books and also spurred on by Claudia Roden’s The Food Of Italy, I decided to dip my toe into the heady world of eating vital organs.

Above: Claudia Roden’s Chicken Livers with Marsala. As well as being generally disliked by children world-over, liver is also not going to win any Miss Photogenic sashes any time soon. Even soft-focus didn’t really help.


Overheard in our kitchen:

Me: Tim, don’t hate me but…
Tim: (urgently) What did you do?
Me: We’re having liver for dinner.
Tim: Ah. (nonplussed silence ensues.)


This was actually genuinely very, very good. Oh, I won’t lie, livers can have a funky texture – almost chalky in places, and disarmingly squishy in others – but they taste fine. Tim really liked it too. But then how could you turn down anything dripping with butter, bacon, and ambrosial Marsala wine? Probably a running shoe could be embiggened by being cooked in those ingredients.

Fegatini di Pollo al Marsala (sounds so much sexier in Italian, doesn’t it?)

200g chicken livers
1 small onion, chopped
15g butter
2 slices pancetta or bacon, chopped
6 T dry Marsala

Clean the livers and leave them whole. I should point out here that I diced them, because I felt I could handle them better in smaller chunks. Fry the onion in the butter, until soft but not browned. Add the bacon and fry for 2 minutes, stirring, then add the chicken livers. Saute quickly, turning over the pieces until browned but still pink inside. Add salt and pepper to taste and the Marsala. Cook for 1-2 minutes longer, then serve over noodles with lots of chopped parsely.

That wasn’t the end of my foray into liver though. Inspired by a couple of meatball recipes in Nigella’s How To Eat, I thought that combining beef mince and chopped liver to make meatballs would not only make the mince go further, it would provide intriguing flavour and add lots more vitamins. Livers are very, very healthy you know. Probably wouldn’t be so healthy if chickens were able to drink alcohol like humans.

Now I want to put liver into every meatball recipe. These were fabulous – soft and light and almost smoky in flavour. And because of the liver, we got eight meatballs each. Woohoo! I also added an egg, a grated carrot, some bran, a pinch of ground cloves, and a tablespoon of semolina. Frankly, the mixture looked completely nasty, but once they started to bake the kitchen smelled incredible. I whipped up a quick sauce by reducing some red wine (the dregs of a bottle from Tim’s and my night out a few weeks ago) and added a tin of chopped tomatoes, some dried oregano, and a spoonful of butter, before piling the whole lot over some rice. Tim flipping loved these. Hoorah for offal!

Above: The obligatory whisk-with-something-attached photo.

Not liver, but I’d completely forgotten to mention this so here it is. After Tim’s tooth operation last week (the utterly stupid dentists only completed about a quarter of his necessary work and then sent him off, unable to get an appointment for another week) he was in some crazy pain, so a dinner in puree form was my challenge. I came up with a Potato, Carrot, and White Bean Mash, which filled his need for carbs (and my need for legumes) as well as providing vegetables and protein. It was beyond simple, I just boiled the heck out of 500g unpeeled floury potatoes (hey, it was a cold night and we eat big) and 2 chopped carrots. I drained a tin of cannelini beans, before tipping the veges over them in the colander. This I tipped back into the pot, and using the masher, pulverised the lot. Because of the nature of the ingredients, this is never going to be super-fluffy, but nonetheless it’s worth getting out the whisk. I whisked in some milk, butter, salt and nutmeg, and piled this puffy, orange-and-white mash into two bowls. It turned out to be incredibly comforting stuff – warm, soft, buttery…If you are ever feeling fragile, I totally recommend it. It is probably worth mentioning that this would serve 3-4 normal people as a side dish.
It is so nice to be on holiday but a bit depressing that it’s basically half over already. However, I can hardly describe the joy I felt in reading a book for its own sake. Just grabbing a book that I wanted to read. I turned to page one of Wicked: The Life and Times of The Wicked Witch on Sunday afternoon, and by Monday morning I’d finished it. It was so good – so fully realised – so sinister -and so heartbreaking by the end. Thanks to everyone who attempted to vote for me at the Bloggers’ Choice Awards – I have no idea when it closes but I’m more than happy to reciprocate if there are any bloggers out there also having a go. And uh, yeah, their page is a little, shall we say, obtusely designed.

Next time: In complete contrast to chicken livers, I dabble in raw vegan cookery. I’m not joking! Although cookery is obviously the wrong term. Perhaps ‘assembly’?

Jonesing For Quinces

I am taking off to Hawkes Bay for a few days but have an inordinately long post to compensate for my absence (should my absence bother you…)

We have been feasting rather decadently of late. On Tuesday, spurred on by Tim’s loud hints that we hadn’t eaten any meat lately, I defrosted some sausages and used them to fill Piroshki, which are small yeasted buns baked around a filling. They look and sound a lot harder than they are to make, something I always rather like in a recipe. I adapted this from the AWW Meals From The Freezer book, which my brother Julian got me for Christmas a few years ago. I halved it – there is only Tim and I to feed, after all – but it would be quite easy to double back to their original proportions.


450g plain flour
1/2 sachet dry yeast
2 T sugar
1 egg yolk
250ml milk, warmed
125g butter, melted

Combine all the dry ingredients, mix in the wet ingredients thoroughly, scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover and stand in a warm place for an hour or so. Oh, and don’t do what I did, which was eat rather a lot of the surprisingly moreish dough…

Filling: (this is the bit I came up with)
1 onion, finely diced
3 fat cloves garlic, minced
3 proper pork sausages (ie, not those greying pre-cooked things that shall not darken my door!)
1 t paprika
1 t ground cumin
1 t dried oregano
1 T slivered almonds (or whole almonds, roughly chopped
1 T red wine

Heat a knob of butter in a pan, and sautee the onion and garlic till softened but not browned. Add the spices, and then – this job is either amusing or vile depending on what kind of person you are – squeeze the sausagemeat out of its casing into the pan. Let it cook through, stirring regularly, then add the red wine (I used Marsala though) and the almonds. Put it aside to cool for a bit, while you deal with the now-risen dough.

Heat oven to 210 C. Divide dough into balls – I got about nine, I think – and flatten each into about 12-15cm rounds. Put a small spoonful of sausagey filling into one of the rounds, and gently pinch the edges together to enclose. You don’t have to be too gentle with these, just be careful not to let the filling break the dough. Place your piroshki onto a baking tray, brush with a beaten egg, and let sit for 15 minutes (I just pop the tray on top of the heating oven, the warmth of which helps them to prove.) Bake for 15 minutes. Eat.
Although I haven’t managed to use the quinces yet, I have made good use (ironically) of the quince glaze I made from last year’s season. A recipe of Nigella’s, this jammy stuff had been hidden in the back of the fridge for too long. I might try freezing my current bunch, as the things I want to make with them are the sort of things I would make in the lead-up to Christmas…

Anyway, I tried marinating some chicken wings in this quince glaze, (two tablespoons) with cumin, garlic, and lemon juice. The alluring sweetness of the glaze became slightly scorched in places which was, of course, completely delicious. They needed a bit of salt to counteract the sugar, but otherwise…rather perfect.

Above: For the less Antipodean amongst my readers, for whom quince season is still months away, I should think that marmalade or honey would make a decent substitute. I served the sticky wings with potatoes that I’d cut into wedges and mixed with olive oil and za’atar – I make this heaps these days, because it is so simple but delicious. Za’atar is a heady mix of sumac, sesame seeds, and thyme, and lends its distinct flavour well to the crispy potatoes. The bowls that these are pictured in were given to me by the very generous Linda, who is always full of surprises!

Above: After marinating the chicken wings in it, I thought the quince glaze might also work well in a loaf cake. What can I say? It was buttery, fragrant and – phew! – delicious. I am taking the cake up to Tim’s parent’s place tonight but had to have a slice myself (just to make sure it had worked out okay…)

Quince Loaf Cake

150g butter, softened
3 T quince glaze
85g sugar
2 eggs
250g flour
2 t baking powder
1/3 cup buttermilk (or milk with a squeeze of lemon juice in it)

Preheat oven to 180 C. Cream butter, quince glaze and sugar together till creamy and fragrant. Add the rest of the ingredients, tip into a well greased and lined loaf tin (I used a silicone one so didn’t have to worry) and bake for 45 minutes. You might consider covering it with tinfoil after 30 minutes, so as it doesn’t over-brown, but ovens do vary. Once it’s out of the oven, brush with a few teaspoonsful of warmed quince glaze.
As with the chicken wings, any number of jams would make a decent replacement. Although I thought it would be rather mean not to give you the recipe from which sprang forth all this inspiration…from Nigella’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

Quince Glaze
1 quince
750 mls water
750g caster sugar

Roughly chop the quince, (they are blooming rock hard so use a good knife) and put the pieces – peel, pips and all – into a medium sized pan with the water and sugar. Bring to the boil, then let it simmer away for a good hour or so, till gloriously pink and reduced by half. Strain into a prepared 350ml jar, store in the fridge.

It is wonderful with anything apple-centric – a spoonful to glaze an apple pie or mixed in a crumble – and it goes marvelously with ham.

Finally – I made Creme Fraiche. Look how casual I am about it! You can be, too! It is so expensive that I have never actually purchased it but there is many a foodwriter who will try and convince you that you are positively heathenish if there isn’t a pouch of the stuff in your refrigerator. Luckily the bare ingredients – cream and buttermilk – aren’t too taxing on the pocket, and even if they are a bit splurgy, you do get a lot of creme fraiche out of this.

Above: Creme Fraiche!
Inspired by this blog I decided to have a crack at it quietly just in case it didn’t work out. Well, it did, and now I want everyone to do it. It’s so easy! Simply find some cream – I used 600mls – and a few tablespoons of buttermilk – heat gently in a pan but do not boil – sit in a jar or tub in a warmish place overnight – stir – and pa-dah! Creme Fraiche, to be stirred into mashed potatoes, to add luxury to a pasta sauce, to serve with baked plums…it goes on. Now, our flat is very, very cold these days so after a couple of days I decided to sit it in my yoghurt maker, which did the trick. But I assume most of you aren’t living in digs as derelict as mine, so this shouldn’t be a problem. All the same, see what works for you – this is a surprisingly forgiving recipe.
Now, because the internet froze up at the eleventh hour, I have to absolutely zoom to pack my clothes (Tim of course, was packed long ago) and run to the train station…I will keep an eye out for Rent posters as we chug through Levin…

Camera Obscura

A warning: Tim and I have a new camera. It is very shiny and cool and high tech, but I just can’t take any decent photos. Please stick with me though. Hopefully these are just teething problems, and not a chilling vision of things to come for this blog.

I was planning to go to a Bikram Yoga class with Ange after work today, but we decided it took up altogether too much brain-space and so we went for an equally zen peppermint tea and soy chai respectively. On the way home, at the library, I got myself the River Cafe Two Easy Book, and the first Barefoot Contessa book. No offense to my American constituency, (or constichensy if you will; rewatched O Brother Where Art Thou last night and had forgotten how wondrous it is), but a lot of American chefs don’t really appeal to me, particularly – gasp! – Martha Stewart, who I just don’t get. (Fear not though, I can’t see the charm in Delia either.) Ina Garten, however, or the Barefoot Contessa as she grandly entitles herself, I really like. There is something so wonderfully, bosomly comforting about her, and all her recipes seem warm and delicious and inspiring. I can’t wait to peruse this book.
Above: You are still going to get the same old Laura-calibre photos until I figure out how to make the camera heed me. Seriously, I thought it would be instant Donna Hay up in here, but I guess there’s more to it than that. The food, by the way, in the above photo is of a casserole I made from Nigella’s How To Eat – the first casserole of the year. I absolutely love stews and the like though, so I was secretly excited when the weather was cold enough on Monday to warrant such a dinner. Notice the elegant bowl, Christmas present from the parents. Another stew I have made this week comes from the Hudson and Halls cookbook that Mum sent me. It was supposed to be Chicken Marengo, but I had no button mushrooms, so I suppose it is only Chicken Marengo-esque. Nevertheless, this is a seriously moreish dish, I couldn’t believe how great it tasted. It must be the inclusion of the magical elixer that is Marsala – but more on that later…
Could someone – perhaps American or well-travelled – explain what the deal is with Santa Fe? Does it possess some kind of mystical properties that I am not aware of? I only ask because it is mentioned quite a bit in Rent- there is a whole song devoted to how they want to run away to this place, plus numerous other references – and then on the Fame soundtrack, Montgomery also sings about his longing to escape to Santa Fe. I wikipedia’d it (as I am wont to do with this sort of thing) and although it certainly seems very pleasant, the site didn’t really offer much info. Anyone? Interestingly, these two songs are some of my favourites on the respective soundtracks (who am I kidding, I can’t choose)…perhaps Santa Fe has got to me, too.
Above: Amazingly, this photo is even worse than the above. This picture shows an apricot crumble I made the other day, using some fruit that Stefan had bought back from the Hawkes Bay. You don’t want to know how much crumble mix I ate…the finished product got generally glowing reviews from the flatmates, but I can’t pretend that the oat bran I put in the topping made it healthy.
Above: Un-hummoused Chickpeas…(which is to say, chickpeas with cumin, olive oil, sesame seeds, and lemon juice) and –

Above: Morrocan Vegetable Stew. Guess what we served it on? Couscous! I have to say, if there is one thing Nigella has taught me, it is how to make a good vegetable stew. I am forever in her debt. Onion, garlic, carrot, parsnips, canned tomatoes, red lentils…a pinch of cinnamon and tumeric…beyond easy. This was dinner for Tim, Paul and myself on Wednesday (I took pity on Paul who couldn’t be bothered cooking dinner.)
Above: The photo may not be so fab, but let me tell you friend, this tasted LUSH. I had been nursing a small idea for this very creation for some time now, and it came to glorious, calorific fruition yesterday. In case you thought I was doing nothing but lentils these days.
White Chocolate Macadamia Ice Cream with Marsala-Butterscotch Sauce. Does this sound good to you? I got Ange, Paul, Tim and Emma to test-drive it for me, and they loved it, Emma said it was even better than the Cinnamon Date ice cream. This is definitely a grownup dessert – the Marsala gives the sauce a seriously delicious flavour.
White Chocolate Macadamia Ice Cream with Marsala-Butterscotch Sauce
Ice Cream:
-4 egg yolks
-50g plain sugar
-50g light brown sugar
-500mls cream
-125mls full fat milk.
-200g White Chocolate with Macadamias (can I just mention here that I got this chocolate by mistake and decided to pretend that I meant it to be that way, and it ended up being really good. So, I’m sure plain white chocolate will suffice just fine.)
Being the cream and milk to the boil in a pot. While this is happening, gently whisk together the egg yolks and sugar till combined. As soon as the cream and milk starts to bubble, take it straight off the heat, pour it over the yolks and sugar and whisk thoroughly. Then, transfer this mixture back into the pot (which you have rinsed and dried) and stir constantly over a very low heat. You are making custard, so you don’t want to overcook it at all, but for heaven’s sake don’t stress. If I can do it, so can you. Keep stirring till it is well, the consistency of custard, then remove completely from heat. Melt the white chocolate, stir it into the custard thoroughly, let it cool and then freeze. Try not to drink it as it’s chilling.
Marsala-Butterscotch Sauce
-50g butter
-50g muscovado sugar
-200mls cream
-1 T Marsala (I used my All’uovo, which is sweeter, but I’m sure dry would still be wonderful)
-1 T custard powder mixed with a little water.
Melt the butter and sugar together in a pot. When the sugar has dissolved into the butter, add the cream, and let it simmer for a bit. Pour in the Marsala, and finally the moistened custard powder, allowing it to thicken gently. It will thicken more on standing. If it sits for long. I’m just saying…
Above: Ah, the soothing balm of lentils. After all that sugar I needed something intensely healthy to calm me down and this soup had two different types of lentils in it. Oooh…I know I’ve said it before, but I have a theory that eating lentils just immediately cancels out anything. I long for a scientist to prove me right.
It’s flipping chilly in Wellington at the moment – and not chilly in the BSC sense, but really very cold. “Sunny Santa Fe would be nice…”

My Funny Valentine

Ah, Valentine’s Day. The day where I say to Tim: “It’s just a commercialised, Americanised cold-hearted event thought up by Hallmark in order to sell more cards” while inside I’m thinking “pleeease do something for me!!” I honestly don’t want much. I meant what I said about it being commercial and tacky. Well Tim, bless him, completely exceeded expectations and not only got me a card but also got me (even though I told him not to) a beautiful bunch of flowers – delivered at work! So, for one of the few times in my life, I got to be that smug gal who walks home clutching a bouquet.

For my part, I made a rather nice dinner last night. Nothing too taxing – a free range bird, some potatoes roasted stickily in garlic, some frozen peas. But also the nicest thing to eat, to be honest – there is nothing so simple but also celebratory as a roast chicken.
Above: The only thing I love more than roast chicken is planning what I’m going to do with the leftover meat. Because chicken breasts are very expensive, having the cooked meat to toy with is rather thrilling.

Above: At the behest of Nigella’s Feast, I chopped potatoes into cubes and roasted them with olive oil and garlic cloves. After a while I threw in some cauliflower, because you all know how I feel about this particular member of the brassic family. I must admit, every time I took the tray out of the oven to have a stir, I ate more and more of the sweet, sweet, crispy bits…we were rather lucky that there was anything left for dinner.

For dessert, however, I put in a bit more grunt. I had a concept, which didn’t entirely materialise as I thought it might…but hey. It’s the thought that counts on Valentine’s Day, right?

Above: Admit it. If you took this photo yourself, you’d be quite proud. I don’t think I’m too forward in thinking it would not look out of place on a much more chi chi food blog. Especially when you take into account the fact that I don’t take particularly good photos in the first place. I like this so much that I’d better actually tell you what it is – Pomegranate Ice Cream. Monumentally easier to make than the name would suggest, you merely stir icing sugar in the juice of a couple of ruby-red pomegranates, add some cream, stir some more, and freeze. It tastes heavenly. Almost unfathomably good. And it comes out a very pretty, Valentine-y pink colour.

Look what happens when you stir it!

Above: Ooooooooh.
To augment this, I made some flourless chocolate brownies, (the recipe for this, along with the ice cream, can be found in Nigella Express) and the Barbados Cream from How To Eat. Barbados Cream is equal quantities of cream and Greek yoghurt stirred together briskly, with dark brown sugar sprinkled over, left in the fridge overnight. It tastes amazing – creamy and tangy and intensely caramelly.

Above: Pa-da! Yes, that is a heart made out of berries. To be frank this didn’t turn out how I’d hoped, visually, I think I was yearning for some kind of Donna Hay style-presentation. Considering I don’t like Donna Hay all that much I guess I shouldn’t try and channel her, especially considering how generally cack-handed I am – it could only end badly. Luckily everything tasted good. According to the flatmates (the night wasn’t toooo romantic) the brownies are amazing, which is always nice to hear about something you have baked. Everything tasted great together, even if it didn’t look so pretty.

I have been making other stuff lately:

Above: I mentioned in my last post about how enamoured I am with my new yoghurt maker. I am LOVING having yoghurt around (like chicken breasts, and, well, everything, yoghurt is pretty expensive) and used some of it in this Greek Yoghurt Cake that I found in Jill Dupleix’ New Food. It is a very easy to make, and bakes into a large, golden, fragrant cake. I was pleased with how the whole ‘dust-icing-sugar-over-cut-out-shapes’ went, but to be honest I was even more pleased with how good it tasted. I made this on Wednesday in order to herald Kieran’s brief returning to Hadfield before he went back to work in Napier.
Above: I made this for dinner the other night. Burmese Salad from the Healthy Salads book, grilled potatoes with tumeric, steamed beet greens (or pinks as they ought rightly to be named), and meatballs flavoured with, inspired by a recipe in New Food, sake. It was pretty great, not to mention totally, smugly healthy.

Above: Our entire flat (which now includes my cousin Paul, hoorah!) got really quite drunk after pudding last night, which means that it was No Fun getting up for work this morning. However it is in complete sobriety that I wish you Happy Valentine’s Day, dear readers (but I love you every day of the year!)

Anarchy! Revolution, Justice, Screaming for Solution…(and Buttercream)

I realise, looking back, that the last post was bordering on being unbearably wordy, so kudos to you if you made it to the end without vowing never to return. As anyone who had received one of my emails from England knows, once I start typing about stuff I’m a bit excited about, I find it hard to stop.
In order to appease you, this post is largely made up of pictures. Soothing pictures. (Especially if there are any Generation-Y kids reading, I’ve seen how, bless you, growing up amongst all this technology has stunted your attention spans!) The reason for this is that the Auckland posts took ages to do but in the meantime, dinner kept happening and needs blogging about.

Before I launch into it though, I have news that is potentially exciting to me only! The Levin Performing Arts Society is putting on a production of Rent! Okay, it’s not the damn Nederlander theatre in New York, but Levin is only an hour from Wellington and if it looks like it won’t be entirely rubbish I kinda want to go. It’s odd though, I’ve passed through Levin on the bus before and it doesn’t look like the sort of place that would take on such a production. Shouldn’t be all judgy though, as I know nothing about the company…I just hope the actors are decent. Because – Rent!! Opportunity!

Above: Nuts! When I was up home (for less than 24 hours, can you believe) I made Mum some more of Nigella’s muesli from Feast, which she has taken a real shine to (mercifully, as I gave her some for Christmas. I don’t think she’s just being polite.) It is very plain, simple, and good breakfast fare: Rolled oats and raw nuts, toasted in the oven for a bit, stirred with sultanas and a spoonful of brown sugar. That’s all. You could add whatever dried fruit or seeds you want. It may sound dull, but let me tell you, there is something quietly Zen about making one’s own muesli.

Above: Don’t you feel all warm and wholesome just looking at it?

Above: This may well look like baby food…which is what I suppose risotto is, in a way, baby food for grownups. What I mean, is that it is so mushy and comforting and formless that it is rather like…well I’m not entirely sure what I mean, I just don’t want to insult any Italians that might be roving by. That is, if they aren’t already offended by this dish’s Anglo title of “Cheddar Cheese Risotto.” Now I didn’t actually have any proper cheddar to hand, so I used a pleasantly golden mixture of Emmental, Parmesan, and er…Edam. This came from Nigella Express and we ate it for dinner when we got back from Auckland. Despite some trepidation about whether normal cheese and risotto belonged together, it was seriously fab-o.

Above: While in Auckland, I got a cookbook from Borders by a guy called Vatcharin Bhumichitr, called Healthy Salads From Southeast Asia. It was, apparently, one of Nigella’s top ten books of 1997 – is there indeed a higher recommendation? This book looks stunning, I want to make everything from it. But I started off with this bean salad. Very simple flavours of soy, lime, garlic – not the first things I’d think to pair with beans but simply delicious.

Above: This is a chicken salad from the same book, and let me tell you, this photo doesn’t do it justice (do any of my photos, come to think on it…) This salad was soooo good, I was almost disappointed that I had to share it with Tim.

Above: For some reason, whenever I hear someone say “Ratatouille,” I always want to say “Rata-three-ee” just to be facetious. Anyhow, I had the opportunity to do so when I cooked it for dinner the other night. Tomatoes, capsicums and zuchinni are cheap and plentiful, and after Auckland we really oughta eat some vegetables. So it all worked out rather nicely. I didn’t use a recipe, just kind chopped and stirred and simmered stuff together with tomato passata.

Above: Okay, so there have been salads and the like but I know what people reeeally get excited about is the sweet stuff. It was Waitangi Day on Wednesday, and I don’t know why that equated to butterfly cakes in my mind but that’s what I really wanted to do with my time. I used the recipe from Nigella’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess, it couldn’t be easier. I also used these nifty silicone cupcake-holder thingies that I got for Christmas from my godparents, not only are they useful they also suited my colour scheme!

Above: Now, I’m not one of those girls who is all “Pink pink pink pink! Everything must be pink!” But you know as well as I do that it is the only colour right for the buttercream.

You don’t know how hard it has been not to eat the entire lot in one sitting.

As well as that, I made up a cake recipe. That’s right- I’m actually super excited about it, as I have massive admiration for people who just make recipes out of their heads. Now that I’ve started, I want to make more – it is rather intoxicatingly fun. Or weird, depending on how you look at it.

Above: As you can see, I had a pink icing thang going on that day. This cake doesn’t as yet have a name, although I was inspired to ice it pink with walnuts by a description of a cake I read about in Anne of Avonlea (what is it with me and Canadian cakes? “What’s your business in Canada” indeed!) Anyway, the working title is “Coffee Cinnamon Sour Cream Walnut Cake’ although I concede that it is a schmeer cumbersome. I can’t pretend that this is the only cake in the world with these flavourings, but I haven’t seen one recently, and I didn’t use any recipe books.

More importantly, the cake tastes gooood. I got Ange and Tim to give me harsh feedback, but they had nothing but praise. And good thing too, or it would be a bit of a waste of ingredients. Anyway, I might make it a few more times before I settle on the ur-recipe, but trust me: it’s an exhilarating experience, making up a cake recipe. Do you know how finite and precise baking has to be? Do you realise how imprecise and unmathmatical I am?

Okay, so in the manner of Green Day in the Simpsons Movie – “We’ve been playing for three hours now, but we’d just like to take a minute of your time to talk about the environment!” They were booed, and eventually killed. Please hear me out though- it’s a little serious and political, but to be fair, I am so rarely either of these things. For what it’s worth (as it were):

The country village I grew up in – Otaua (always fun to spell out over the phone) – is being threatened by a company called Waste Petroleum Combustion. They want to put massive oil silos – for more than a million litres of oil – and start a treatment plant. Across the road from my parents’ house. Next to a whole swag of farmland. A stone’s throw from a school. I can’t speak on this with too much authority, but as it would happen, we got on the national news show – you can read the story here – but I wanted to say something, to use my blog as a kind of platform. I realise that this will probably only reach a few foodies in Australia and England, and my mother, but then look what happened with the Rufus Wainwright video below. I have mentioned this here before on my blog (if nothing else, I got a really pleasing Rent analogy out of it) but it seems to be getting serious so I thought I might as well mention it again in order to make people aware. I’m not sure what we are going to do about it but my Dad is now the President of the Otaua Village Preservation Society (“We are the village green preservation society…”) which is a promising start. If nothing else, we could try feeding the people of Waste Petroleum Combustion some pink butterfly cakes – if that can’t win someone over, I’m not sure what could.

Damn the man!