the memory remains


It has been a little while now since The Food Show, and I’ve eaten most of the loot I bought therein. There’s a little bit left – some preservative-laced ageless salami, the occasional lonely sprout, half a tub of yoghurt. And the Lindt chocolate is sitting in my wardrobe, waiting for that special chocolate recipe. Most of the good stuff is gone though. However since blogging about eating food is a somewhat slower process than just eating food, it has taken me a little while to get round to discussing how I used my purchases.

Some of the yoghurt and sunflower seeds went into a batch of banana muffins. The bagels got eaten in a matter of hours. The mirin I bought made me wish I’d come across it years ago. And the white chocolate Lindt chocolate balls, the very thought of which are making me a little dizzy with wanting right now, I think I inhaled them accidentally while blinking or something.

I devised this salad in my head on a break at work and was pleased with how it sounded – roasted kumara and radish salad with chorizo, halloumi, brocolli and organic sprouts. I was looking forward to it, imagining peppery radish with the sweet kumara, searing hot halloumi against the cool sweet crunch of sprouts, the paprika-d chorizo whispering an oily hymn to the verdant brocolli.

I presented it triumphantly, sat down smugly, held my fork aloft and then cursed loudly. I’d forgotten to add the chorizo. Even though it was sitting right there in the fridge and was one of the main components of the meal. You’d think I would have learned. Time and time again it is proven that if I have an idea and don’t write it down, I’ll forget half of it. Even if it’s something really fundamental to what I’m doing, I’m reliably unreliable.

Luckily the chorizo-less salad was delicious.

If you’ve never roasted radishes before – and I don’t blame you if you haven’t, the idea never occured to me until I read it in Jo Seagar’s The Cook School Recipes. Drizzle a little olive oil over the halved radishes, and bake at 220 C for 20-40 minutes till they are slightly darkened and caramelised in places. They retain that familiar peppery tang but softened somehow, which worked marvelously with the buttery, chewy halloumi draped over. Seriously, I love halloumi so much it’s a good thing it’s nosebleed-inducingly expensive or I’d be absentmindedly frying up entire blocks of it to eat while I think about what I’m going to make for dinner.
The halloumi in question was Canaan, and marvelously wonderful stuff it is too. Tumbled over the salad were organic Wright sprouts, also bought at the Food Show. And as you now know, the bargain chorizo remained quietly in the fridge… I wish I hadn’t used it recklessly in some tossed together dinner this week though because upon reflection, Nigella has a LOT of recipes using chorizo and as we hardly ever have it in the house, well there goes a prime opportunity to try out more of her recipes.

This following dish – Slow Cooked Lamb with Cumin, Cinnamon and Feijoas – was actually made before the food show but I have never got round to blogging about it, and while it’s very different to the above meal gosh darnit it’s my party and I’ll attempt to dovetail disparite culinary themes if I want to.


First of all I softened one finely chopped onion and an intimidating amount of garlic in my lovely non-stick pan (not one of those pans that just masquerades as nonstick, this one really doesn’t require oil) then tipped in a hefty pinch of cumin seeds, stirring for a bit before adding cubed lamb shoulder that I’d tossed in a little flour. I stirred quickly to brown the meat on all sides then added two carrots, sliced into batons. In went a can of chopped tomatoes, which I then rinsed out with enough water to just cover the meat. After a sprinkling of ground cinnamon, the pan lid went on and the whole lot simmered away for a good long time on a low heat. After a while I took the lid off to try and allow the liquid to thicken somewhat, before stirring in a slice of finely chopped preserved lemon, and the thickly chopped flesh of about six ripe feijoas. Finally I stirred in some spinach, allowing it to wilt before serving over couscous.

It was a bit of a gamble – I made this up on the fly – and I wasn’t entirely sure if feijoas wouldn’t be a bit too freaky with lamb. But, it makes sense – other stews pair lamb with dates, or dried apricots, or figs, so why not feijoas? Their sweet, tangy, elusive flavour and grainy texture contrasted deliciously, with the preserved lemon’s pronounced salty sourness offsetting the warmth of the cumin and cinnamon. The sweet-and-salty element to the stew made it quite moreish, and it was a perfect lazy Sunday dinner. If you are unfortunate enough to live in a country where feijoas aren’t available, then by all means substitute dates, dried apricots…a diced pear might work deliciously as well. But if you’re in New Zealand, they’re surely not going to get any cheaper at the market: now’s the time, the time is now. I got mine for 99c a kilo which is pretty hard to beat.

Work is a bit on the exhausting side and Wellington remains resolutely arctic which is why this post may or may not be up to my usual luminous standards. Unless you’re stinking rich, New Zealand houses tend not to have airconditioning, but in Wellington flats (and I’m sure elsewhere) just some simple honest building insulation would be appreciated. I feel like I wear more clothes to bed than I do to leave the house. That said, this place is warmer than our old flat, where the ground in our room was – I kid you not – permanently damp (a good way to discourage leaving clothes on the floor), we had a hole in our window covered with newspaper, and on more than one occasion we’d rug up in layer upon layer of clothing only to discover it was warmer outside than in. Anyway, musn’t grumble as we are both very fortunate to (a) have a roof over our head, crumbly like a Weetbix or otherwise, and (b) relatively secure employment.


On Shuffle while writing this:

Machismo, by Gomez, from the album Machismo

Frei und Schwerelos (Defying Gravity) by Willemijn Verkaik from the Wicked Original German Cast Recording

Basket Case, by Green Day from Bullet In A Bible: Live at the Milton Keynes Bowl


Next time: I’m not sure, although I feel like I’m about due to revisit Nigella again – it’s one thing to be inspired to create my own recipes but I miss her…

shank goodness

Breaking News: IT’S CURRENTLY LESS THAN 48 HOURS TILL THE FOOD SHOW (actually it already started today, but I’m going on Sunday, and I’m hopeless at maths and can’t actually figure out specifically how much less than 48 hours it is away so…momentum sustained!) I have blog business cards at the ready and my camera batteries charged and once at the event I will blog…hard.

We Wellingtonians are lucky folk. Sure, Auckland gets EVERYTHING, but we have Moore Wilson’s food warehouse, which is superior to any food place I’ve ever been. And friend, I have been food places.

That said, I popped in there casually last Sunday, looking for quinces and brisket – you know, the usual basics – and found neither. Being as Moore Wilson’s is well on the other side of town from where I live I decided I wasn’t leaving without buying something to make the trip worthwhile and, in that sort of daze that ensues after walking a long distance and contemplating how long it will take you to get back home again, I ended up purchasing some succulent, happy farm-raised lamb shanks and a bag of organic pearl barley. The brisket I wanted for a recipe I saw in the latest Cuisine magazine, the publication of my heart, but with shanks in hand an idea of my own materialised quickly…

(Speaking of quinces, I hope I haven’t missed their season. I understand it lasts from about 7.40am May 1st to 4.20pm May 10th, well in the Southern Hemisphere at least.)

Lamb Shanks with Marsala, Tomatoes, and Borlotti Beans

A few things you should know prior to the recipe reading experience:

1- I made this up on Sunday, so it hasn’t been thoroughly tested or anything.
2- The lamb shanks came in a pack of three, even though lambs have four legs. Can anyone explain this as it has been preventing me from focussing on more important things in life.
3-This type of casserole is very low-maintenance, feel free to add other things to it. This is just what I did…

In a large casserole dish, place two onions, finely sliced, four cloves of garlic, also finely sliced, and two carrots, chopped into batons. On top of this, place your lamb shanks. Pour over 125 mls dry Marsala, 400 mls water, and a tin of chopped tomatoes. Add a couple of bay leaves, place the lid on top, and bake at 160 C for an hour or two. About half an hour before you’re ready to serve, rinse a tin of borlotti beans and add this to the casserole dish, stirring a little. You may need to add a little butter and flour rubbed together to the liquid, which will thicken the sauce as it cooks in the oven. Serve as you like – over rice, couscous, potatoes, or as I did, wet polenta.

Is there a word for the moment where you’re stirring your polenta and you taste it to see if it’s done – if all the grit has cooked into delicious softness – and in doing so you burn the roof of your mouth? I bet the Italians have, like, thirty ways to describe this.

Above: No false modesty here – these lamb shanks were really good. I don’t think you could go wrong with the ingredients though, so maybe culinary conservativeness on my part was the reason it turned out so well. The meat straddled a pleasing crossroads, being partly melt-off-the-bone tender and partly maintaining enough reassuring ‘bite’ to it, to ensure it didn’t lose its identity in the dish entirely. Marsala is amazing, adding its reliably fabulous flavour to the whole shebang. And the borlotti beans held their own, providing an earthy counterpoint to the sweetness of the meaty young shanks and the creaminess of the polenta.

By the way, I LOVE polenta. I make it in an unorthodox way (if you’re Italian, cover the eyes of any young children around and avert your own) in that I add the cornmeal to the water while it’s cold, stir till smooth, and then heat that mixture to the boil. It’s just that I haven’t mastered the art of adding the cornmeal to boiling water without it siezing up in unforgiving, solid clumps that will not be whisked out. And there are few things more depressing than lumpy polenta.

The next day, inspired by a post on the lovely Sarah’s blog (when I say inspired, I think I read the post around six month ago) I used the leftover lamb shanks in a risotto.

I sauteed two chopped onions and a couple of cloves of chopped garlic, then added carnaroli rice (actually I accidentally dropped the bag into the pan, spilling out quite a lot of rice grains. This is not the method I recommend you take. Chronic clumsiness + obscenely expensive artisinal rice = howls of pain). After stirring this for a bit, I poured in a generous slosh of Noilly Prat – from the bottle pictured in my header picture, come to think of it – and then stirred in the tomatoey sauce from the lamb shank dish, and plenty of water, stirring till the rice absorbed it. I carried on in this fashion – add liquid, stir, absorb, etc, and then finally chopped up all the remaining meat off the third shank and folded it into the risotto, whose grains of rice had now swollen puffily to absorb the meaty, winy, tomatoey juices.

Is there an Italian word for that thing where you eat so much risotto in the process of making it – bearing in mind that you have to stand there stirring it for at least half an hour – that by the time it gets to eating the finished product for dinner you’re not really hungry? From what I nibbled stoveside, it was delicious, a really hearty, wholesome, heftily flavoursome dinner. So thankyou Sarah for the inspiration, now that the opportunity has finally arisen! I should point out that Sarah went on to make leftover leftover-stew-risotto risotto cakes, however I cannot even attempt to achieve those dizzy heights of food recycling.

Speaking of Wellington, if you’re ever lurking near the Terrace (ie, the office building hub of the city) I can thoroughly recommend the coffee at Rise, where my work team had a little farewell lunch for a beloved colleage. I hate goodbyes but I loved Rise. The service was impeccable – attentive but not creepy, sassy but not rude. She’s a fine line. The food was excellent, if a little on the expensive side, but you could tell it wasn’t scooped out of a vat out the back (and if it was, they did a fine job of disguising the fact). And, as I said, the coffee – in this case a long black – was perfect.

Rise Cafe
90 The Terrace (straight across the road from the top of the Woodward St Stairs)
Wellington City
04-472 2400
On Shuffle while I was writing this:
1: A Thousand Beautiful Things/Beautiful Day – by the fantastic Julia Murney at Birdland, one of the few people I’d trust to take on Annie Lennox…can be found on her album I’m Not Waiting
2: Deborah – T-Rex, from John Peel: A Tribute
3: I’m Straight – Modern Lovers, from their eponymous album, which I finally found after a long search this year. It’s surprisingly elusive…
Next time: I’m blogging the Wellington Food Show. Well, someone has to – last year when I did it I got the blankest stares from most of the people running the booths, and I’m endeavouring to change that. It’s nothing heroic, mostly self-promotion, but nevertheless something I feel strongly about. Also I have this urge to make butter from scratch and bought myself a litre of cream with which to do so.

aubergine genie


I’m writing this in a slightly dazed state of mind – I was working at the Vodafone Homegrown music festival on Saturday from 9.30am till midnight and at about 3pm this afternoon I got slapped in the face with the wet fish of exhaustion. If I start making vicious syntactical errors or mumbling about my desire to own a donkey, discreetly ignore me and scroll down to the recipes. It’s nothing that a stretch of good night’s sleeps and several mugs of hot tea can’t make right. Although having more than one early night in a row is a thing of the past (no, I haven’t given birth to octuplets) as we are in the thick of March and it seems that every other day I am going to a music gig.

It’s unfortunate that Tim really isn’t into aubergines because (a) they are very cheap at the market, and (b) I just keep on cooking them. My latest recipe using them is the Aubergine Moussaka from Nigella Lawson’s consistently astounding seminal text How To Eat. There is nothing out there quite like this book. I can abandon it for weeks and then come back to it and be inspired anew by some previously forgotten recipe. I’d never tried this particular one but since I had all the ingredients to hand and it seemed like an inexpensive meal, I thought I might give it a go. There’s one thing you should know – it’s nothing like the traditional idea of moussaka and I’m still a bit in the dark as to why it got its name. It’s more of a warm, gently spiced chickpea vegetable curry. Which in itself is a good thing, just not very moussaka-y…

Aubergine Moussaka, adapted liberally from How To Eat

2 large, glossy aubergines, diced
2 onions, finely chopped
8 fat cloves garlic, also finely chopped
150g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight then cooked in boiling water till tender
1 ½ tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 can chopped tomatoes
½ teaspoon each cinnamon and allspice
200mls water
mint and feta to serve

Fry the onion, garlic, and eggplant in a little oil till softened and lightly golden. I actually used no oil at all, if the pan is hot enough and you stir regularly, the eggplant cooks quite nicely. Add the rest of the ingredients, simmer for an hour, and serve over rice or indeed as is, sprinkled with mint and feta. By the way, I don’t have any pomegranate mollasses so in its place I used a chopped up slice of equally fragrant and sour preserved lemon (made for me by my godmother. Viv, if you are reading this: they are addictive. I have to stop myself from just picking them out of the jar and eating the lot…)

I must admit: I added some sneaky beetroot when I made this. Predictably it made the whole thing bright pink which was a little distracting but tasted fine. As a whole the flavours and textures are wonderful and it’s delightfully easy to make. It also reheats well and is the sort of vegetarian dish (actually without the feta it might even be vegan, come to think of it) that is wonderfully satisfying, rather than making me look wistfully at the patch on my plate where a steak could be resting juicily.
I promised last time that I was going to get old school with Girl Guide biscuits, and old school I did get. I’m pretty sure Girl Guides or Girl Scouts are a fairly universal concept so you know what I’m talking about, yes? Wholesome, jolly young gals trying to sell biscuits is a yearly thing here in New Zealand and despite me being dreadfully snobby towards shop-bought biscuits on the whole (apart from the miraculously good Toffee Pops and Squiggles), Tim and I bought a couple of packets because of the sheer nostalgic appeal they wielded. They just taste like your average hydrogenated palm-oil based plain cookie but there’s nothing like tradition to add a veneer of deliciousness. Plus with the biscuits come a dizzying array of sugary recipes on the Girl Guide website, including that New Zealand modern classic, Chocolate Fudge Slice. I remember making this once with Mum back when I was in Brownies (another young gal’s brigade, nothing to do with the cake unfortch) and I marvel at its squidgy deliciousness now as I did when I was nine years old.
Chocolate Fudge Slice (adapted from the website)
This looks like it shouldn’t hold together but somehow it does. The website has such modern-fangled additions as preserved ginger and chopped cherries but pah! I say.
1/2 a cup of coconut, however, would be quite permissible.
1x 250g packet Girl Guide biscuits, crushed
1 egg
125g butter
¾ cup sugar
1 Tbsp cocoa
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ tsp vanilla extract (or don’t even bother if it’s just essence as the website suggests. I don’t mean to sound disparaging of this useful and friendly website, but really. It’s 2009. Get some real vanilla.)
Melt the butter, and stir in the sugar, cocoa, walnuts, vanilla, biscuit crumbs and lightly beaten egg. Press into a greased 20x30cm tin and refrigerate overnight. The website suggests icing it with cocoa buttercream, and while I’m never one to say no to buttercream, I had run out of cocoa and so abandoned that idea and it was more than serviceable.
Above: This stuff just tastes…aagggghhh…magically delicious. And how could it not – it’s full of all the good things in the world – cocoa, biscuit crumbs, butter…it’s impossibly to stop at one piece and frankly it’s kind of difficult to get the delicious mixture into the tin in the first place without snarfing the lot, doing the dishes and pretending you never started at all. More pragmatically, you could also make this coeliac-friendly by crushing up gluten-free biscuits instead.
It’s not just a busy time for me. This Friday, my very talented mother flies to Argentina for a month (in a plane, by the way, her talent isn’t that she can fly) to live with a family and teach in a school there on some prestigious scholarship thing she successfuly applied for (that incidentally my godmother – the one who made me the preserved lemons – has also done). Unfortunately I won’t get to see Mum before she goes, but I’m sure the month will go fast enough and the wonders of modern technology mean that we’ll probably keep in touch more than we would have when we’re both in the same country.
Also – you may remember last year the ongoing battle against the Pukekohe WPC waste oil treatment plant who wanted to taint Otaua, the village of my youth, with their silos of poison (hey, it’s late at night, I can get mildly dramatic if I want) – initially we managed to overthrow them in a hearteningly David vs Goliath manner. But because this isn’t a Hollywood movie, they appealed, and because they’ve got money and we don’t they’ll probably get it. I’ve got a solution for you WPC: Just…don’t. To the Franklin District Council: Make it stop. You’re the council. You should be looking out for, you know, the people of Franklin. (Again, it’s late at night- I can be dramatic and overly simplistic.) If I’m psychologically exhausted considering the implications for the future of Otaua I can’t even imagine how drained the Otaua Village Preservation Society must be feeling. Just food for thought anyway. A part of me would love it for someone working against us to Google themselves, find their way here, and be conflicted by the overwhelming hate-vibes being directed towards them from my direction and their desire to continue reading my blog for the intriguing cake recipes.
Next time: Well, it’s St Patrick’s Day tomorrow which means I shall call upon the Irish blood cells that make up a goodly chunk of my lineage and make Nigella’s Chocolate Guinness Cake. Grown men have wept (in my imagination) for this cake. It’s special stuff. Do join me…

Do You Hear The People Sing?


I know I’ve plugged the Otaua video incessantly, in fact you are perhaps thinking “Gee, I know already Laura, you might get a waste oil refinery right by your house, I’ve watched the video three times, what more do you want from me?!” Firstly, a massive thankyou to those who have watched the video and especially to those who have commented with words of support. The thing is, the Franklin District Council actually…doesn’t care. They think that right in the middle of residential Otaua village is a fine home for this oily oil plant. I’m guessing that if it was their home and hometown poised to be ruined forever it would be a wee bit different. Basically, it’s not looking terribly positive for us, but the more support we have the more likely it is that the council will wake up to the fact that it can’t happen. If nothing else, knowing the eyes of the world are upon them will annoy the council and the WPC Ltd. If you’re wondering what else you can do apart from watch the video, well…there’s not a lot. But you can visit the brand, spanking new Otaua Village blog, read an article and look at the lyrics to the song on the video. Hopefully there will be more to read soon. I know I keep talking about it but it’s all I can offer in the way of help for the cause. Frankly I’m scared about what’s going to happen. And angry.

So, Tim bought a barbeque yesterday. A $40 barbeque. It’s pretty flimsy, and has all the power of an electric toothbrush, but he and Paul were monumentally excited in a primal, alpha-male kind of way. What is it about barbeques? (Or is that barbequi?) I look at them and think “oooh, griddled eggplant and Japanese marinades and stone-fruit kebabs!” while Tim and Paul de-evolve back to Cro-Magnon Man.

Above: Cro-Magnon Man is, however, modern enough to buy free-range organic chicken nibbles rather than woolly mammoth steaks.

Above: Fell in love with a grill…

The chicken nibbles were pre-marinated (*clutches pearls*) but still delicious, because there’s little better than that smoky, outdoorsy, slightly charred taste that comes from barbeque-ing. It wasn’t even particularly sunny yesterday (and it’s downright icy today) but sitting round “Big Red” as it has been dubbed, with a glass of wine and the smell of protein coagulating over a hot flame, well it felt as though we were in the middle of some endless summer. I can’t wait to think of things to cook on it…

Above: Beef – (a) the meat from an adult bovine (b) inf. gripe, objection, grudge. We got both.

Last time I went up home, Mum bought a healthy slab of corned beef for Tim and I which flew back to Wellington with me (much to the chortles of the guy scanning my backpack at the airport). It was sufficiently chilly over the weekend for me to defrost it and shunning the normal slow-cook way of cooking it, submerged in liquid, I instead adapted a recipe from the Best of Cooking for New Zealanders by Lynn Bedford Hall. I made several incisions in the flesh and pushed in a mixture of butter, white miso paste, garlic and parsely. I know, miso and corned beef, sounds hideously fusion-y, but think of it as a slightly more mysterious version of worcester sauce or marmite. Its mild, complex saltiness makes it good for more than just straightforward soup. The beef was then braised slowly on the stovetop with onions, Stones Green Ginger Wine (also courtesy of Mum), a little stock, some tomato puree, a squeeze of golden syrup and a dried bay leaf. This created a marvelously flavoursome, surprisingly moist corned beef, which we ate with mashed potatoes on day one…

Above: And on day 2, cold and sliced with soup.

I made a version of Nigella’s South Beach Black Bean Soup – by that I mean I was too lazy to actually find the book with the recipe in it for fear that I’d be mising half the necessary ingredients and just souped it on the fly. First of all you need to simmer your black beans, I think I did about a cupful but I don’t actually remember, I don’t think it really matters though. Bring them to the boil in a large pot then turn it down to a simmer for about half an hour or until you can bite into a bean without breaking a tooth. Drain them, and (in the same pot if you like) slowly fry an onion, a diced capsicum, a teaspoon of cumin seeds, a diced, seeded red chilli if desired, and a a teaspoon of ground coriander. Then I added a slosh of dry sherry, the black beans, and plenty of chicken stock, and let it simmer away. It’s so simple but also something a little out of the ordinary to add interest to cold leftovers.

The flavours are perfectly complemented by the earthy-yet-perky taste of coriander. And…the feathery green leaves prevent your soup looking like a bowl of swamp water. I mean, let’s not lie here.

A few months ago I installed Google Analytics on my blog, which allows me to find out how people are accessing my blog. For high-powered business websites it’s an asset, for the casual blogger it’s merely a source of occasional interest. It comes into its own, however, when it lets you see how people have found you through Google. I haven’t checked it in a while, and there are some intriguing paths being trekked to my kitchen door.

Firstly, I must be a veritable guru, nay, a shaman of burghal wheat because there is a staggering number of searches for it that resulted in people viewing my blog.

To the people who googled “Otaua WPC” and found my blog, well now you know to visit the Otaua Village site. If it was anyone from the council or indeed, WPC Ltd, I hope you were intimidated by my special brand of intimidation. Many food bloggers across the world now have contempt for your policies! Be uneasy!

To the person who googled “Bit on the side roast pork Allison Gofton Watties“, you won’t find any of that Food-In-A-Minute, cover-it-all-in-Watties-Sauce-and-potato-pompoms business here. I said good day!

To the person who googled “oat fritters” – oh dear. Even I, patron of the oat, wouldn’t go that far.

To the many, many people who googled “the brain, the brain, the centre of the chain” from the Baby Sitters Club movie and ended up here – you are not alone. Re-reading your old BSC books is kitschy nostalgia, not worrying behaviour.

To the person who googled “Idina Menzel” and ended up here, I salute your dedication. Out of curiosity, I went and googled “Idina Menzel” and, thirty pages in, still had no sign of my blog. Clearly, our paths were destined to cross. But to the person who googled “Ina Menzel” and found me – I hope I set you on the right track. It’s Idina. And it’s not pronounced “eye-dina” because you strike me as the type. Also googled was “how many units of Idina Menzel’s ‘I Stand’ have sold“. Because a food blog is the obvious place to find out. But it’s a nice thought that such queries would lead a person here.

To those who googled quotes pertaining to Rent, Wicked, Spring Awakening, The White Stripes, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Billy Bragg, Flight of The Conchords, and Neil Young and ended up reading my blog, it proves that quoting pop culture is nothing if not beneficial to your hit count.

And finally, to the person or people (please don’t let there be more than one of you) who asked “why can’t we eat polar bear liver” and inquired after the “polar bear liver iron count” – what you do in your own time is your business, but don’t go dragging me into it. (also – Sarah Palin, is that you?)

To finish on a mildly amusing note, I found this carton of buttermilk in the fridge. I bought it a while ago, but haven’t found the right use for it yet. Turns out I can take my sweet little time about deciding what to do with it.

Above: hey, if we can have adorable lolcats, why not lolkitchns also? According to this audacious little carton of buttermilk, I have till the year 2023 to use it. Now, I’m no dairy maven, but that strikes me as a little…optimistic. You better believe though, that if in ten years time I go to make a batch of muffins and this very buttermilk has disintegrated into dangerous spores, I will be complaining. ‘Disgruntled of Wellington’ demands a year’s supply of buttermilk…or at least a voucher.

Still Hungry and Frozen

I was highly excited anticipating the one-year-anniversary of my blog. I invisaged all manner of things – maybe some kicky new features, or a photo essay dedicated to the cat, or some kind of conceptual baking, or maybe a video, something new and fun to try and make our relationship last beyond the honeymoon, “hey this blog is mildly diverting” stage and into full-on commitment. But then I had to hand in a 3000 word essay, and if that were not enough we exceeded our 20gb internet limitation…by a lot. We lack the technology to make a cooking video happen and I was not feeling telegenic in the slightest. So, a few days late, I apologetically offer you this post, like a bunch of wilted flowers and slightly melted chocolates purchased at the last minute from a petrol station.

But really – it is exciting to me that this blog has existed for a whole year. I remember having the epiphany to make one, I don’t remember when, it was just an idea that made so much sense to me. I’d read blogs and thought “I’d like to do that,” and I read other blogs and thought, hubristically, “well I can definitely do better than that.” Little did I realise that my badly lit photos taken on auto were not going to cut it with fickle blog readers. I rather naively assumed that my terrible photography would be seen as charming and positively daring, but actually it was just…terrible. And as I learned new skills (helloooo macro function) I gained more readers. But I’d like to think it’s the content and recipes as well as the photography that makes people stick around, especially because my photos still have a long way to go. Indeed if you have a little time on your hands and you’re up for a laugh, why not peruse my very early archives? I truly thought that all I had to do was put my opinion out there and the adulation would pour in. I love my blog wholeheartedly and with complete bias though, it has been a haven, a diary, a self-indulgent soapbox, a recipe file, and a record of my life for the past, swift-moving year. I look forward to seeing how long it lasts.

I went to the vegetable market on Sunday and gamely trudged back up the hill with my spoils, (sweating like a donkey all the while, as is the nature of Wellington hills) but it wasn’t till I got my breath back and stopped perspiring that I realised how utterly gorgeous the vegetables were. They made me want to don a voluminous cape and floppy beret and paint them in a still life. Fellow food-bloggers, tell me I’m not the only one who thinks food is really preeettyyy.

I mean these would not look out of place in some medieval, suckling pig feast. I’ve honestly never purchased shallots before (don’t faint, but I’ve always used onions instead when a recipe asked for it, well I am a student) which is probably why I’m so embarrassingly enthusiastic, but they were cheap and rather beautiful so I grabbed a bunch.

Oh asparagus how I love you. Especially when it’s two fat, healthy bunches for $3, that can last for four separate dinners. I used the shallots and asparagus in an intriguingly delicious recipe from Simon Rimmer’s excellent, inspiring cookbook The Accidental Vegetarian. It was so monumentally good that I considered making the whole thing again the next night, or perhaps eating the whole lot on my own and pretending it never existed. I’ve altered the recipe a bit as Rimmer’s version was more coconut-happy than I go in for. It’s a little fiddly but not difficult, and makes the kitchen smell completely fabulous.

Rendang Shallot and Asparagus Curry

50g butter
75g brown sugar (yes, it does sound like a lot and yes, I used less for the two of us)
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 (which I left out because I didn’t have any)
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 to beef it up (as it were) quite easily. This should serve four-six.

The combination of flavours were so perfect – zingy, spicy, earthy, fresh, sweet. I truly could have eaten this whole thing surruptitiously by myself. And shallots – oh my! Rich, mild, gently oniony, what have I been missing out on all this time!

My blog’s one year of existence coincided rather bittersweetly with the closing of [title of show], one of the most exciting new shows on Broadway…I, of course, make this statement without having seen it at all, such is the nature of being a theatre fan from New Zealand. Rice Krispie treats are referred to in one of the songs, and I’ve had a distinct hankering for them ever since hearing it for the first time. Nigella has a version made with melted marshmallows which indeed sounds delightful, but I opted for an old Edmonds recipe for what we in New Zealand call Rice Bubble Cake, using honey and butter to bind the cereal together in sugary squares.

Rice Bubble Cake

125g butter (incidentally, one year ago a block of butter was $2.70 from the corner shop, now it’s $5)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon each of honey and golden syrup

Melt the butter and sugars together till gently bubbly. Once it has bubbled away for a little while, remove from the heat and carefully stir in 4-5 cups rice bubbles. Spread this into a waiting square tin, and allow to cool. The butter-sugar mix will be very hot, so don’t go sticking your face into it or anything.

Rice bubble cake makes me reminisce twofold; I remember making this with mum as a child, wanting to eat the buttery sugary mixture so bad and not thinking it would be enough to cover all those rice bubbles. It also reminds me of my gap year in a boarding school in England, where the kitchen would serve up cakes of some sort for afternoon tea with soothing regularity. One of the mainstays of afternoon tea was rice bubble cake, sometimes it was sublime and sometimes it was crumbly and oily and weird. We never knew what happened behind the scenes to make it so, and frankly I don’t want to know. But for those of you who’ve never tried this before, I know it looks a little odd, but just try and stop at one piece. Or three. Crunchy, texturally delightful, caramelly, buttery – it’s great stuff.

To paraphrase [tos], let my blog be the Rice Krispie Treat?

Overheard in our kitchen: (in the throes of discussing what we’d do if we won the $30 million lotto this weekend)

Me: I could fund my own cookbook and get it done next year. Then I could create my own stage show around it, where I bake stuff and tell hilarious anecdotes and feed the audience and…maybe sing and dance
Paul: You mean like an infomercial?
Me: NO! Like a proper stage show! But with baking, which I’d give to the audience! And it can promote my book but also be a fantastic piece of theatre in its own right!
Tim: So…it’ll be an infomercial.

Well, I do have plenty of hilarious food-related anecdotes (particularly involving grapefruit and Jersey Caramels as friends and family will know from the many times they have been told). But that’s the thing about imagining what you’d do if you won the lottery, especially if you have a particularly vivid imagination like me – your mind bounces from concept to concept and then you get overexcited and your heart starts to thump wildly with the very fullness of your own potential excellence and then you remember that you haven’t won $30 million at all.

As I said earlier in this post, I handed in a 3000 word essay – well it was my final essay for uni. I have an exam on the 4th but my lectures, assignments, etc, are over for good. Luckily I’ve finished on a relative high, getting A’s on two essays (on the social influence of Idina Menzel and the subordination of female Beat poets respectively) and loving all my papers. I started this blog while still in the middle of uni, now that I’ve come to the end of that time it’s a little sad, but also exciting to think what might be in store for me next. Hopefully you, the reader will stick around with me – I’d flatter myself that this is kind of a fun read – and not just come here if Tastespotting tells you to.

In the words of Rent: “How do you measure a year in the life…how about love?”

In the words of the always inspiring Nigella Lawson: “I have made the most of being a food obsessive. For good or bad, it’s my life, it’s me and I don’t see anything changing.”

And appropriately, in the words of [title of show]: “I’d rather be nine peoples’ favourite thing than a hundred peoples’ ninth favourite thing.”
So true. Quality over quantity any day. And ah, maybe next year I’ll do something more exciting to mark the occasion.

All You Create, And All You Destroy


Yesterday was going really well. I was offered an opportunity to go on a business trip to the Juice music awards in Auckland at the end of September, I negotiated some work from home, I did a presentation on the song “London’s Burning” by the Clash which went well, I got an A on an essay about The Great Gatsby, Tim had a doctor’s appointment and was told that his blood sugar levels were better than ever, (I bet it’s all the lentils and oats) and we were going to have spare ribs for dinner.

And then I made a batch of terrible muffins. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t been looking forward to making them for quite some time now…I’d bought one of those big bags of fancy salad leaves, which I think are worth the price – there’s no waste, and they’re good for perking up all manner of meals. There were some straggly, rapidly aging fronds at the bottom of the bag that I wanted to use up, which is how I came to the idea of slicing the remaining lettuce up and stirring it into a muffin mixture. I thought it would be a witty twist on the ubiquitous spinach and feta muffins of auld. I’m so glad I can’t afford feta right now or it would have been a cruel end for it.

“plans that either come to nought or half a page of scribbled lines”

They may look sorta pretty, but they tasted, to my utter dismay, monumentally feral. Tim diplomatically – and shrewdly – said “you’ve definitely made better,” rather than anything more confrontational. I suspect the lettuce was undisguiseably on the turn, which gave it an unusual, grassy, almost metallic flavour when baked. The spare ribs were fabulous, but I spent dinner clouded over by my failure. Insult to injury- I used up the rest of my 7-grain flour in them too. They were light, moist, soft…but tasted awful. I regret to say they are now “waiting for the worms” in the garden…I might have to bake an enormous cake to counteract the bad vibes the muffins left me with. Call me overdramatic, but anyone who loves to cook should know how it stings when something doesn’t work, not to mention the further, irritating reminder of the wasted ingredients.

Luckily the spare ribs were, as aforementioned, delicious, or I would have had a complete meltdown. I’d frozen them in their marinade a few weeks ago so I could have a quick dinner on hand, and for some reason I think the process of them solidifying and then defrosting in the marinade made them particularly flavoursome. If you’re wondering, the marinade was a not-too-revolutionary mix of soy sauce, sesame oil, a splash of dry sherry, a little dried ginger and cinnamon, several cloves of garlic and a dribble of golden syrup. And apart from that, it was a good day. It just got better and better with one of the most amazing episodes of Outrageous Fortune yet. Tension all over the place, tear-jerking performances from Cheryl, Loretta, Pascal, Munter and Kasey and as for Baby Jane, she’s cuter than a puppy and a duckling sitting in a roller skate.

“several species of small furry animals”
Just to reassure you that I still can cook: I more or less invented this casserole on Monday, and was smugly pleased with the successful results. It uses lamb neck chops which, I know, sound a little frightening, (the sort of thing that makes one think instantly of Bambi…that deer has a lot to answer for) When you consider it rationally though they are no less a part of the lamb than the fancier cuts. Furthermore, the neck chops are very, very cheap – because no one wants to be eating them – and even though there’s not an awful lot of meat on them, there’s also not a lot of fat. If you had a lot going on, one chop per person would do, indeed I was pretty full after one, but two is probably a decent serving.
So: I seared the chops and put them aside, before browning a chopped onion and a carrot chopped into batons, in a casserole dish. I used the sort of dish that can usefully go straight from the hob to the oven. I then put those to the side, fitted the meat in snugly, covered it with the vegetables, poured over 1 1/2 cups beef stock, and added a bayleaf, several garlic cloves, a handful of chopped dates and 2 teaspoons ras-el-hanout. I then baked it at 160 C for two hours. It just occured to me that it might make sense to brown the vegetables before the meat. I guess you could skip the browning stage altogether, and just bung everything into a casserole, particularly useful if you don’t have a metal one. Adding the extra step just helps me to feel that I’m really creating something.
It smelled heavenly while it was slowly cooking and the meat came out meltingly tender. I served it over rice, and for crunch, a salad of shredded cabbage dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, and tumeric. The ras-el-hanout and the slow cooking entirely embiggened the dodgy cuts of meat. Of course, neck chops are probably never going to be your first choice…especially if you can afford a French rack or whatever it’s called – but now you know what to do with them.
Over the weekend I had the good luck to be spontaneously whisked up home for my mum’s birthday. My dad organised it, (“I have a cunning plan…”) and mum didn’t know I was coming. Let me tell you, it is such an ego boost to be someone’s surprise present. It was amazing to be up home again to see the whanau, when I wasn’t expected to get there till Christmas, and we had a huge birthday brunch on Sunday morning. Mum, who is incapable of letting me go anywhere without food, sent me home with a slab of corned beef, some bacon, enough mince to keep us in meatballs for weeks, a pineapple, a block of butter, a bag of oats, some cheeses (brie and havarti) and some lemons. And she was lamenting that if she’d known I was coming up she’d have organised me a proper food parcel. Speaking of birthdays, a great big “cheers” for all the salutations for Tim’s birthday in my last post! One of the things I love about blogging.
“I’ve got some bad news for you sunshine…” I found out this morning that Rick Wright, founding member of Pink Floyd, has died. I have long been a fan of Pink Floyd, and was fortunate enough to see the erstwhile Floydian Roger Waters in cracking form at a concert last February. I know from various books that Wright went through some troubled, druggy times…although not as well known as that crazy diamond Syd Barrett…during “The Wall” period Wright was actually fired from the band, although it was clearly a highly tense stage for all involved. A bit like George Harrison of the Beatles, Wright was often overshadowed by the two enigmatic main songwriters, but in fact wrote one of their very best tunes. Great Gig In The Sky is a track that can only be described as ASTONISHING. (Listen to it on youtube by clicking here.) Even if you’re not into what I (probably inaccurately) term dad-rock…and Pink Floyd can dip into pompousness…the sheer spine-chilling effect that this song has can be appreciated in its own right.

“and if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes…I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon” I love this photo, one of the earlier ones of the band in the sixties. I think it’s the artfully draped neckerchiefs that make it. Rick Wright is on the far left, then Roger Waters, the late Syd Barrett, and Nick Mason. Syd Barrett was replaced by David Gilmour. Gilmour was better looking than Waters and a superior guitar player…but Waters was the better lyricist and has aged much more gracefully. (Silver fox!)

By the way, I refuse to use “great gig in the sky” as some kind of pun/metaphor for wherever Wright may be now because I know that every journalist and would-be journalist will be doing so. I thumb my nose at such laziness and instead my title and captions have all been taken from Pink Floyd lyrics. In case you were wondering what on earth was going on.

“The time is gone, the song is over, Thought I’d something more to say…”

12 Hour Party People


Now for the dinner-type stuff, admittedly not as alluring as Budino di Cioccolata, but then healthy can have its charms…

This rather beautiful noodle broth that I made for dinner the other night is starting to feel like a very distant memory. I’m struggling to think of anything I ate in the last 24 hours that had any discernable vitamin content. But oh what a good time we had. Tim and I decided that we owed it to ourselves to bunglingly attempt drunkenness last night, what with the stress of the semester finishing and all. Unfortunately we didn’t get any photographic evidence (I spend 97% of my time in jeans or trackpants so when I do manage to get gussied up I like ocular proof) but we spanned the length and breadth of Cuba St and Courtney Place, dipping in and out of bars, (and stumbling into a house party) before settling in the Welsh Dragon. Mercifully it wasn’t raining and we didn’t run into any weirdos (although there was that wild-eyed lad at 2.30am in Burger King who cried “don’t be sucked in! It’s what the big corporations want!” before dashing off leaving a trail of saliva…) We’d had fish and chips for dinner and I finished the night with a bag of twisties (the best part, in my curmudgeonly opinion, of going out drinking, apart from coming home and going to bed) and then this morning we, along with Paul, Katie and Anna, shared two pizzas and some hot chips for brunch. It certainly seemed like a good idea at the time…

To be fair, Tim and I never go out so it’s not like this is some kind of vicious cycle we are entering. But yeah, I seem to veer wildly between eating healthily and culinary hedonism, I can’t seem to stick to a proper ‘plan’ if you know what I mean. Anyhow, for this broth I used a mixture of soba and udon noodles, which, did you know, are just ridiculously good for people with diabetes. In a 90g serving of noodles, there is something like 64g of carbohydrates, and ZERO grams of sugar. Sorry to be a bore, but as Tim is diabetic, and I cook for him, I have thrown myself rather zealously into the pursuit of foods with a good simple-to-complex-carb ratio.

This was kind of based on the “Noodle Soup for Needy People” from Nigella Express, except that I used almost none of the same ingredients as her. Nevertheless, the recipe itself kicked me into action to make it in the first place, and I certainly have been feeling needy this week, so credit where credit is due. I did something I’ve never tried before, and added (perhaps unorthodoxly) a Zen teabag (Green Tea with Peppermint) to the water in which the vegetables were simmering. I’ve heard of green tea being used as broth for noodles before and was intrigued, and thought the minty aspect could only but perk up the flavours. I also added a spoonful of miso paste, a star anise, soy sauce, and finished with the tiniest shake of sesame oil. So delicious, and so much more complex and exciting in flavour than you might first think. It is also genuinely quite soothing to eat if your nerves are feeling jangled. I will definitely be making this again, and soon…it is like lipbalm for your chapped soul.

I seem to be having something of a Nigella Express renaissance at the moment. It’s always fun rediscovering things…especially now that I have the time to do it.

This Lamb, Olive, and Caramelised Onion Tagine, also from NE, is just so delicious. I could have eaten the whole thing on my own. To be fair, I say that about a lot of things so I understand if you think I’m exaggerating. Trust me, I never exaggerate. I didn’t have the necessary jar of caramelised onions to hand – can you even get them in New Zealand? – so I just browned a couple of sliced onions and added a spoonful of brown sugar, hardly arduous stuff. You barely even need a recipe for this, just adjust proportions according to how many you have to feed. Place diced lamb, (the sort you need to slow cook), black pitted olives, capers, garlic, caramelised onions (or use my method) cumin, ginger, and good stock into a pot and either simmer (like I did) or bake gently for 1 1/2 -2 hours. I added frozen peas, because that’s how I roll, and served it on a nubbly bed of organic burghal wheat.

This post starts and ends with noodles it would seem. In Palmerston North (when I was there for Rent two weeks ago…or was it last week? Time is so blurry these days!) I found this shop by the bus stop which sold heaps of interesting food, including those vacuum packs of egg noodles for 79c! So I bought a couple and used one in a vaguely Chinese stir-fry thing the other day. Mince, a fat red chilli, vegetables, noodles, some soy sauce, sherry, sesame oil – very simple stuff, but very delicious. To be honest I didn’t actually use those chopsticks to eat dinner by the way, just put them in the photo to make it look a bit more interesting…

For dinner tonight I made the Baked Tomato Polenta again, but it didn’t look that great so I didn’t even try to photograph it. Good grief it tastes nice though. Tonight is quite the contrast to last night- watched the director commentary of Rent (again), which totally re-affirmed my love for that film, as well as making me wish they’d just left Goodbye Love uncut, (anyway!) made dinner, read a bit, perused youtube, sat in on some league game happening on TV in the lounge (slightly more interesting than rugby, but then so is paint drying) and here I am. I much prefer to go out on Friday night anyway – there is nothing nicer than waking up in the morning and thinking it’s only Saturday…

Jamon, Jamon (Ham, Ham!)


We had fish and chips for dinner tonight. Sometimes I’m too exhausted from you know, going to lectures at 11am or whatever it is that students do, to make dinner so I do something like Tomato Rice or pasta with whatever’s in the freezer biffed in it. Tonight I couldn’t even get that far. As I’ve mentioned before, I get unnattractively grouchy if I can’t cook dinner; let this be an indication of how munted I am from schoolwork. I’m not going to outline the details, they’re not that interesting, but let me tell you this: my brain feels crispy.
Above: This actually is pasta with everything, and is what we had for dinner a few nights ago. Kindly take a moment to really admire the photo, because it took me a squillion goes to get it right, holding the ladle in my right hand, resting the mini-tripod against my bosom, (not, by any means, the most level of surfaces) and using my left hand to adjust the aperture and press the button…the things I’ll do to have a macro shot like the cool kids! I’ll warn you now, my photos aren’t that great this time, but (external validation! Swoon!) my honeycomb picture two posts down was one of the most-hit-upon links on! People rate me up there with Peanut Butter Green Tea Cupcakes with a Creme Brulee Centre and Vegan Mocha Peppermint Chip Frosting! (Ohhh, I’m not being snarky, but really, those cupcakes! I can haz clarity?)
Back to the pasta, I started off emulating Nigella’s Baked Veal and Ham pasta, (minus the veal of course – can’t afford) from How To Eat. In the end the only thing that the two had in common was ham and a splash of Marsala, and instead I just loaded the dish up with vegetables – capsicum, frozen peas, spinach, carrot, onion…it would have been a fairly healthy dinner had I not stirred a heap of butter into the pasta after draining it. Like a moth to the flame…

Above: Hot dish coming! And he’s carrying pork! Oh go on, force out a chuckle. I got Tim to be the bearer of Sunday night’s dinner because the there were no clean surfaces in the kitchen at the time and I didn’t like the idea of putting it on the floor to take the photo. We hardly ever have pork, because I want quality, happy pig stuff which is even more expensive than your normal variety. But Tim and I saw that per kilo pork was cheaper than mince at the supermarket the other day, which is how we ended up with it. I served it, Italian-style (by which I mean, I don’t know if it bears any relation to Italy) with a bowlful of brown lentils, into which I stirred spinach and tinned tomatoes. This is so easy and makes a proper, big dirty old fashioned roast.
Care of Nigella, via How To Eat.

Loin of Pork with Bay Leaves
(I should point out here that I’m not sure if what we had on Sunday was a loin – I’d totally fail at Letterman’s Know Your Cuts of Meat game – but it worked fine anyhow)
6 T extra virgin olive oil (this is 125mls or half a cup, I dare say you could use less, I did)
4 cloves garlic, crushed somewhat
6 peppercorns, also crushed, or “bruised” as Nigella poetically instructs…
6 dried or fresh bay leaves
2 1/2 kilos loin o’ pork, boned derinded and rolled (which will give you 1.8kg oven-ready pork)
1 medium onion
More bay leaves
150mls white wine.
In a large bowl or snaplock plastic bag, marinate the pork in the oil, garlic, and peppercorns (I used mild and beautiful pink ones), for as long as you have, be it one hour or 24 hours. I’d veer towards the latter but my pork only sat around for three and was scrumptious so there you go. I also only used two bay leaves in the marinade. Did you know, we have a bay tree at home, which has been my home for 22 years now, and it was only in April – last month – that I realised that what I thought was the bay tree was actually nothing of the sort, and the innocent bay itself was about three trees over. Goodness knows what I’ve been putting in our corned beef…Heat the oven to 200 C. Make sure the pork is at room temperature before you cook it. Tumble the pork with its marinade into a roasting dish, slice up the onion and add it along with more bay leaves as you wish. Roast for 1 3/4 hours, basting at regular intervals. Once it is done, use the wine to deglaze the pan for delicious gravy. Mm, pork fat. Oh and the onion bits taste incredible. Cook’s treat. I actually used some bacon fat, leftover from flatmate Emma’s morning fryup, to shmeer over the pork, this made the pan juices, and indeed my arteries, marvelously hammy.
This should serve six, if you follow directions. Our bit of pork had a whacking great bone in the middle, with some judicious carving it might have served four people who are far too polite to pretend how hungry they are. Or two with plenty of leftovers.
Above: With the leftovers the next night – Monday – I made a sort of salady thing (much to Tim’s quiet dismay, having been cheated out of roast potatoes the night before, and now there were more lentils) comprising of the leftover pork, steamed brocolli, and more brown lentils. The salad was actually delicious, with wonderfully contrasting textures and the earthiness of the lentils and the red wine vinegar I splashed in cutting through the fat pork. I gotta say I have a lot of time for humble brown lentils – cheaper and slightly nuttier than the Puy variety and pleasingly they hold their shape unlike red lentils.
Perhaps one day people will link me with lentils the way that they mention Proust every time they make madelines.
Above: Patatas Bravas, which is Spanish for love. And is the awesomest thing Spain has ever graced us with (apart from, perhaps, Javier Bardem, hence the title of this post) Oh sure, I love roast potatoes (Nigella style, with semolina and buckets of fat) but this stuff is truly transcendant, and is what I made to go with the salad above. I first found it in The Accidental Vegetarian but never consult the recipe; you needn’t either. Simply take lots and lots of floury potatoes, cube them, and while you are doing this heat up some olive oil in a roasting dish in a 200 C oven. Tip your potatoes into the hot roasting dish and let them bake for about 20 minutes till crispy. If you have garlic cloves on you, throw some in. After they’ve baked for a bit, stir in a tin or two of chopped tomatoes (depending on the size of your dish) and some chopped red chilli if you like (I don’t) and put it back in for another 20 minutes or so. Viola, a vat of Patatas Bravas! Not to be particular about it but if you don’t love this you hardly deserve tastebuds.
It’s even better the next day.
Congratulations to Tim’s mother who is graduating on Wednesday (again!) from Massey. Now Tim’s mother is nice and all but when we are getting B’s and whatnot at uni and the powers that be are having to invent new letters for her because A+ isn’t high enough…well, it certainly spurs you on.
In non-food news, and if you’re interested – these aren’t the photos that got ridiculed last week, but in fact a new batch for the next assignment, ready for whatever criticism comes their way in class. I decided to post them because they took forever to do, but are never going to actually get used (they’re basically a draft.) Maybe also to showcase the fact that I got to level 61 Tetris with a score of 980,000. I am a Tetris Savant. Of all things… Please excuse the crudity of my photos, they aren’t finished products. Oh, and the concept itself – the classic tale, boy plays tetris, boy awakes to find tetris pieces floating everywhere, boy nearly crushed by stacking tetris pieces, boy at the mercy of however I figure out the end of the concept, Laura trying to convince everyone she didn’t come up with this on an acid trip. (Am far too meek for that sort of thing; My density brought me here.)
Above: On the one hand, yes, Tim needs a haircut. On the other hand: Fierce!
Above: The red thing there is the roof of our flat (I spake the truth when I said we were wedged into a hill.) I realise the tetris pieces might look a little rough, but once photographed ($2 shop mosaic pieces!) every shape had to be painstakingly resized, the saturation adjusted, rotated, and layered on individually, with the background brushed out. Yeah, I don’t understand Photoshop either.
Above: Model through it. The background shot of Tim wasn’t terribly well lit, but the battery flattened on me and I didn’t have time to take more. However I’m rather fond of this. Am very nervous about how it will all go in class, mind you I’m so tense I’ll probably just burst into sobs when the teacher says hello, let alone actually starts to critique my work.

Better than crying though, would be to boldly inquire “What? Why?Be more constructive with your feedback, please. Why?”

(Passe, I know, to be quoting FOTC now and not in 2002 before they got enormous or something, but still a salient question, I feel.)

“I’ve Said It Once Before But It Bears Repeating”

To liberally paraphrase Elton John, Saturday night’s alright for writing essays. It has to be. I shouldn’t even be here, but I’ve allowed myself a break from wrangling Renaissance English. It’s not a good sign when I can’t even understand any of the essay questions…I can’t be hating on this though, even when it means I’m stuck behind the computer typing feverishly all weekend. How could you possibly dislike a play (Jonson’s The Alchemist) which contains the phrase: “Thou look’st like Antichrist, in that lewd hat?” (which makes me long to find something fitting the description of a lewd hat.) Of course you couldn’t. But still, 2500 pithy, succinct, brilliant words need to be produced asap.
Don’t even get me started (truly, I said plenty enough in the last post) on the interim photographs I’m supposed to present on Wednesday for my next photog assignment, which is, just for kicks, worth 20 percent of the final grade of said assignment. Who knows when I’ll have time to do them, between classes, essays and work – perhaps if, Yorkshireman-style, I get up half an hour before I go to bed and work for 29 hours, I might just get it done.

Now, I know using the microwave to actually, y’know, cook, basically means you forfeit your right to consider yourself a decent human being in some circles. Oh, I won’t lie, I don’t think the microwave is that brilliant as a sole means of producing meals. It sure helps though.
When I was younger – maybe ten? – there was a lengthy stretch of time where we didn’t have an oven for some reason and we cooked all our meals with an electric frypan and the microwave. I still remember this amazingly good “feather pudding” that Mum used to whip up occasionally, golden syrup on the bottom and sponge on top…anyway, snapping out of that radioactive haze of reminiscence, surely a microwave can’t be that bad if it managed to produce something like the chocolate pudding pictured above. This pudding is just stupidly chocolatey and rich. And it cooks in 5 minutes…literally.

Above: The batter is magically delicious too. Don’t lose a finger (or your tongue!) on the processor blades.

Microwave Chocolate Pudding (from Nigella’s How To Eat)

  • 120g butter
  • 250g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 1t vanilla extract (if it’s essence then don’t bother)
  • 125ml cream (yes, cream)
  • 40g plain flour
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 3 eggs

Butter a 1 litre bowl generously. In the food processor, whizz up the chocolate till it is in rubbly, small chunks. I’m warning you, this will make the most unholy sound, so be ready. Don’t make this beside a sleeping baby or in a monastery or something. Add the butter, whizzing again, and the sugar, and then the rest of the ingredients. Scrape into the bowl, cover tightly with microwave safe clingfilm. Cook on high for 5 minutes, or until set – it might take an extra minute or so as ovens vary, don’t put it in for too long though or it could turn to delicious rubber. Remove from the oven, pierce the clingfilm and then cover the bowl with a plate and sit for ten minutes. I don’t know why, this is just what Nigella says. Who am I to argue. Serve. Feel your thighs expanding with every mouthful.


Above: Once more, with feeling.

I was obviously seriously frazzled while writing my last post as I didn’t even add a “Lentil Power” tag to it though we had demonstrably consumed lentils. We haven’t had any since, but I did make another dish from Jill Dupleix’ Lighten Up. This book has proven to be very useful, I mean, I wasn’t that fussed when I first flicked through it at the bookshop but I have used it heaps so far.

Above: Not a great photo sorry, but it was getting cold and I couldn’t seem to get rid of my own shadow!

This is a very, very simple lamb tagine. On Thursday morning Tim and I went to the store to spend a grocery voucher I got given for my birthday (thanks Mum and Dad! We’d be eating dust otherwise…”zoom in on my empty wallet.”) We took a calculator to make sure we didn’t go over and were very discerning and frugal, but I found some stewing lamb for very cheap so bought a heap of it to make various slow-cooked things over winter. This recipe involved sauteeing an onion, carrot, and lamb with various spices – ginger, tumeric, paprika, saffron – before stirring in honey, dates and dried apricots. I didn’t have the apricots, and I added some spinach at the very end, but I think it doesn’t matter too much. I served it over an earnest pile of brown rice and it was delicious. Not terribly innovative – I daresay I could have come up with this on my own eventually – but a simple, unfussy combination of flavours that take care of themselves and taste reliably good together.

Above: While we are in vaguely North African mode, I give you Pasta with Sauce A-la-Marrakesh, from The Accidental Vegetarian by Simon Rimmer. I soaked the chickpeas on Thursday night (proactive lady is proactive) and simmered them as soon as I got home from work on Friday. The spaghetti sauce is made up of all sorts of good things – tomatoes, (tinned in my case), a shake of cumin, cinnamon and tumeric – I added a diced carrot but completely forgot the flipping flaked almonds even though I knew that I had some. Welcome to my brain.

So the production of Rent in Palmerston North (two hours from here by bus/train) got a positive if disappointingly vague review, and I gotta say that I feel honour-bound to see it, if only because it’s there, you know? How it will pan out I don’t know. I am a little concerned that from the promotional picture I saw, Collins looks rather old and white and Mark appears to be balding (Levin 1, PN 0) but…maybe it was badly lit or something. “We’ll see, boys!”

In other news, Paul managed to come within pit-spitting distance of my Tetris score (he got to level 41, I got level 45) proving once again that the Vincent genes are pure, distilled excellence. Tetris has become so entrenched in our routine that I composed WWF-style stage names for us: Paul “The Suth” Sutherland, Laura “Two Hands” Vincent, and Timothy “Tim” Herbert. Aw, I need to get out more. Can’t though, because of all these essays and assignments…which brings me full circle. Have a good weekend!

PS: 10,000 hits! I’m a real blogger!

Rainy Day Woman


Today – Saturday – was just as wet and miserable as last weekend. Luckily I love rainy weekends – cosying up with a blanket, becoming engrossed in a book, lazily browsing the internet…However with breakfast and lunch lamentably comprising only of Chocolate Guinness Cake, I forced myself to leave the house to get some fresh air, and found myself at Moore Wilson’s. Wherein I bought some organic buttermilk, some feta, a tub of white miso paste, and two quinces.

Above: Oh! You pretty things. I love quinces. In New Zealand now is the time for them, so grab one if you can. They are impossible to find year-round, absolutely rock hard and have to be cooked very slowly but their incredible fragrance and sweetness makes it worth the effort. Nigella has a whole swag of recipes for this particular fruit so I look forward to trying something new.
I got back to the flat in an advanced state of saturation. My $4 Kmart white canvas sandshoes (that are now rather fashionable and you can’t get them cheaply anymore) are on their last legs, and were completely filled with water. So, after getting out of my miserably drenched clothes I decided to make a warming curry for dinner, filled with vegetables and even some soul-soothing lentils to counteract the day’s cake-eating. (That’s a little misleading actually – I assure you, I did put some more clothes on before starting on the curry. I think the world only needs one Naked Chef…)
Pumpkin Curry For a Rainy Saturday

This is a very gentle and mild – no chilli at all, come to think of it – so if your tastebuds are made of stronger stuff than mine, by all means add as much chilli as you dare.
1/2 a pumpkin, chopped into large dice
1 T butter
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 red capsicum, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
2 T tomato paste
1 t ground cinnamon
2 t cumin seeds
1 t ground ginger
1/4 cup red lentils
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 t garam masala
Melt the butter in a decent sized saucepan. Stir the onion, garlic, cinnamon, cumin seeds, and ginger together over a gentle heat till the onion is soft, but not browned. Add the tomatoes and paste (or if this is too much of a pain, just half a tin of chopped tomatoes) and the capsicum, and let this cook for a bit. Tip in your orange chunks of pumpkin, and then add 250mls water to the pan. You might need more depending on the size of your pan, you want the pumpkin pieces half-submerged in the water. Bring this to the boil then lower the heat and simmer till the pumpkin is nearly tender. At this stage add the lentils, and a bit more water – about half a cup. Simmer till the lentils have disappeared into the sauce. Finally add the coconut milk and the garam masala. Don’t let it boil at this stage. Serve over rice. This will feed 2 or three people. Just add a bit more of everything if you have more people over.
Above: I served it over brown rice, which is not so hard to cook as people think. This is the method I use: bring a pot of water to the boil, tip in a cup of brown rice, boil the living heck out of it for about 15 minutes or till it’s soft but firm, then drain. It barely takes longer than white rice. The curry itself was warm and inviting, the perfect thing to be eating by the greedy bowlful with this inhospitable rain beating against the windows.
Above: I made this quick pizza for dinner the other night, using a recipe of my paternal grandmother’s that I found whilst browsing through a folder of recipe clippings that I compiled as a teenager. I don’t think she was that much of a ‘foodie’ – for all I know she may never have actually made this recipe – but it is still meaningful to me that I got her cookbooks and bits and pieces. This particular recipe involves melting butter and frying in it garlic, diced tomato and sliced courgettes, and I assume it is supposed to be a side dish. Well I made it one night, and was so taken with the simple but delicious flavours, that I had to make it again, and soon. On Thursday night, having made it for the second time, I spread it thickly over a scone dough base (the recipe of which I found in Alison Holst’s Dollars and Sense, which my brother got me for Christmas) topped it frugally with cheese, baked it, and ate it whilst watching Coronation Street on telly, which Katie has got me back into. I see that Gail Platt is as depressing as she was last time I was into this show -rather comfortingly, some things never change.
We are having something of a David Bowie Renaissance in the flat – his songs are just so densely brilliant that they don’t lose any gloss with repeat (and I mean repeat) listenings. Just try not to hug the next person on the street you see after listening to Modern Love – possibly the greatest song of all time (along with all the other greatest songs of all time.)
It is just Tim and I in the flat tonight – Paul is in town, Katie and Stefan are in Napier, and Emma has trotted down to Dunedin. I’m trying to convince Tim that watching Rent would be the perfect way to end a rainy Saturday…but I think we might end up compromising with Green Wing, Season 1. Eh, either way I win!
Update: We actually watched some Black Books instead. Whenever I watch this show…I sort of wish I actually was Bernard Black, just for a bit.