“Oh, The Weather Outside Is Frightful”

But let me tell you, this cheesecake is delightful.

Above: It worked! Oh how it worked. Nigella has a whole stash of cheesecake recipes that up until now I’d put in the basket labelled “hmm looks pleasantly gratifying but a little too hard and – waterbath! Heck no, sister!” Am now a complete convert.

It shows that you really should trust more in Nigella, when she says not to be put off by the waterbath…well, don’t be. Wrapping the batter-filled tin with foil and placing it in a roasting dish, which I filled with boiling water and then got Tim to ferry precariously to the oven – well it wasn’t that difficult at all. Now I’m looking forward to trying out in the future her chocolate cheesecake, New York cheesecake, apple cheesecake…and maybe taking out shares in Philadelphia cheese.

Above: Just to put it in context, (and because it’s not all about me) I’d better mention that we had a shared dinner on Wednesday night – it was supposed to be a barbeque but it was hosing down with rain, in a non-summery kind of way. Naturally, it was the day that Tim and I picked three weeks ago to go Christmas shopping. What a long day! I was exhausted by the end of it all, (and terrified to look at my bank balance!) We went into the Christmas Grotto (or whatever they are calling it these days) at Kirkcaldie and Staines, and nearly had a hernia at all the blinking lights. There were different ‘concept’ trees everywhere, and Tim and I (okay, mostly Tim) estimated that one tree alone -we checked some price tags- would cost upward of $3000 if you wanted to duplicate it in your home. We also found this music box that – would you believe it – recreated the entire Nutcracker ballet with little cake decoration dolls and scene changes and everything. I dragged Tim through the Cuisine section (“This would be such a thoughtful gift for someone”) before we trudged out into the rain to recommence.

Tim made some sugar free jellies in my old fashioned moulds for dessert on Wednesday. One was a 21st birthday present from my mother’s sister, and the other was something I scavenged out in a second hand shop. He turned them out onto the plate with ease and don’t they look all jewel-like and festive! The cheesecake tasted lovely – very creamy but also tangy with lime, and the chocolate base was very, very moreish.

I made kedgeree for dinner last night, in one of those “Good grief what on earth will we have for dinner” moments that occur sometimes. Kedgeree always reminds me of Dad because he would often cook it for us at home, though I admit it’s not something, to paraphrase Nigella, that you would serve to the ambassador of India. What we ate last night was merely cooked rice with frozen peas, a tin of tuna, some hard boiled eggs and spices stirred through. Still delicious and a good store-cupboard fallback.

Can’t tell you what else I cooked last night because there is a good percentage of my readership for whom it will be a Christmas present! I know something you don’t know…tee hee.

"The Brain, The Brain, The Centre of The Chain."

The title doesn’t have much to do with anything except for the fact that I am very excited, in a sniffly, boffinish way, to have discovered a Baby Sitters Club blog wherein a 20-something woman goes back and re-reads the books and then writes up all the glaring logistical errors and continuity flaws. The quote is taken from the BSC movie, something I had forgotten about until recently. Yesterday’s obsession is todays’ charmingly kitsch retro-pop-culture…so watch out. And by that, I mean that I have been on Trademe for BSC books. Shh!

We don’t have a heck of a lot of food in our cupboards at the moment. After the massive spree that was shopping for the Christmas dinner, I didn’t want to spend any more money on actual groceries. Let me tell you, I am looking forward to the vege market tomorrow.

Above: This here is the very last of the leftovers, and indeed, the last of most of our vegetables. I’m not so good at ‘making up’ salads, but I was proud of this concoction – the rest of the roast chicken, with roasted cauliflower and red peppers, avocado, and capers. It was so unbelievably delicious! We had this dumped on top of rice, and it was surprisingly filling (you know, for a salad.)

Above: Fish Pie. It is actually a kind of low-rent fish pie that I make a lot in Winter, and since the weather was jarringly cold and wet the other day I decided to have another go at it. Basically it is a can of tuna stirred into white sauce with anything else you have in the fridge – in my case, frozen peas and beans – and topped with breadcrumbs made from crushing toasted bread in your hands. It was inspired by a recipe in the NZ Cookbook, which uses a splash of sherry in the white sauce. I used the sherry Mum gave me recently – its first outing! – and the sauce smelled divine, all winey and warming and delicious. We had this with rice too, some Basmati that Mum sent us (and yes, it does taste a lot nicer than Budget Long Grain.)
Above: Lentil and Potato Pie…you may or may not know that I have a slight obsession with lentils, I think it’s just because they are so good for you that I find their very presence in my meal soothing. This was such an easy dish to make, and came from the NZ Cookbook also. Just layers of onion, potatoes, and brown lentils (I biffed a handful of red lentils in too just for kicks) and then pour in some stock and bake for an hour. I used the Knorr porcini stock cubes (that Nigella uses!) that my aunt brought back for me from Italy, which are so intensely savoury and almost fudgily dense with flavour that they make any bland combination of flavours taste wonderful. This was even better the next day, cold for breakfast, as unappetising as it sounds.
Above: I served the potato-lentil amalgam with mince. Just mince. Sometimes I try so hard to make mince exciting and different to what we had the night before (ie, Bobotie, anyone?) that I forget how nice it can be on it’s own, just fried with some onion and a splash of soy sauce (for Alison Holst Chic!) It reminds me of this time when I was much younger and Mum was away for the week somewhere. Dad cooked us mince and mashed potatoes, (and no doubt some veges too, knowing Dad) plain as anything, and suggested that the two were nice mixed together. It was so delicious I can remember this meal over ten years later. So, simple can be your friend.

I didn’t post last night (Mum, I’m talking to you, here) because of the stonkering fabulous Friday night line up on UKTV. After America’s Next Top Model on 3, there is the genius Green Wing on UKTV, followed by Little Britain, Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps and Shameless. The only thing missing is the old Men Behaving Badly, which I always had a soft spot for. But for real, what a night! How is anyone supposed to move from the telly to go out and do Friday night-type things?
Anyway had better go and cobble together a meal before Tim gets home from making syrup-cinos, so…

Good Bive!

Above: I know, I said no more kittens and music and non-food stuff but…I didn’t mean it. Got this photo off a colleague of mine who was also at the game and could nay resist.

"Brevity is the soul of wit…"

Spake the irritating Polonius in Hamlet, before launching into a lengthy speech, unaware of his foolishness…well at least I’m aware that this is a long post.

As I type I am having a very serene afternoon tea- a bowl of miso soup (made by adding boiling water to a spoonful of white miso paste.) I am even drinking it straight out of the bowl, both hands cupped around its warm curves – how very zen!

Above: What Othello might have called “Ocular proof” that I am, in fact, having soup. Anyway, I need all the “zen” I can get, as I have Shakespeare coming out my ears, rather than staying in my brain where he belongs, and our exam (Monday by the way) looms ever closer.
Last night I decided to peruse a much-loved but never used book of mine – the Victoria League of Auckland’s Tried Recipes, 5th edition (price: 2/-) It has recipes sent in by Good Women of Auckland, and has many chapters, including “Creams, Jellies, and Pretty Sweet Dishes” and “Gravies, Forcemeats and Sauces for Meat Dishes.” How I yearn for the days when cream-based puddings had their own category in cookbooks. I must admit, I was surprised to see the chapter “Vegetarian Cookery and Salad Dressings,” in that I small-mindedly didn’t think anyone was ‘allowed’ to be vegetarian in ‘those days.’ Should the discerning vegetarian about town in the 1940s/50s be looking for a meat-free substitute for brawn, this book has it. (And I quote – “The sago binds it”)

This book, like all good books of its kind, has three trillion variations on fruit cake, not to mention a plethora of obscurely named puddings that all seem to be the same – has anyone out there ever heard of: Chandos Pudding, Russel Pudding, Verney Pudding, Totnes Pudding, Marlborough Pudding? I think it’s worth pointing out that you could replace the word ‘pudding’ with ‘disease’ or ‘syndrome’ and they would sound quite credible. I know they were economising on eggs and butter but surely not beautiful words too? (also noted – the book includes recipes for both American Pudding and Canadian pudding and they are different, thank you very much.)
I know it sounds like I’m making fun of this book, but oh how I love it, and others of its ilk (Aunt Daisy, I’m looking at you.) In fact, last night’s dinner came from it, and I was snared instantly by its straightforward, thrifty title: “A Way to Cook Fish.”
It goes thusly: Fry an onion in butter, add some fish, lemon juice, and two egg yolks (into which I stirred a little cream.) It took as long to cook it as it did to type it out, and it is very, very good. I served it on top of pasta, with some greens that I had squeezed the rest of the lemon over.

Above: Yes, not much based on canned tuna will ever be photogenic. But, it tasted great. So, to Miss E.T Rose, of Stonehurst, Auckland, from whence this recipes came, I salute you.

In the spirit of economy, I decided to use the egg whites for dessert. I had found a recipe on Nigella.com for Butterscotch Mousse, which sounded like one of those store cupboard recipes that the Victoria League would go nuts for. It is very simple. First of all, make a caramel sauce, by melting 75g butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 100 mls cream together in a pot. Let this cool thoroughly, and then whisk up two eggs whites till stiff, and fold them in, followed by 200mls whipped cream (I used the same bowl.) It is rich and creamy and has a wonderful caramel flavour. If you cannot be bothered with whisking things, the sauce on its own would be great poured over ice cream.

Above: The Mousse, partially eaten.
It doesn’t ‘set’ like a gelatine-based mousse but completely makes up for its gloopiness with its voluptous butterscotch kick. We all (even Emma – it’s gluten free!) ate out of the same bowl, passed from person to person, as we watched Outrageous Fortune (technically studying since the title is a quote from Hamlet.)