Pasta Of The House

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I apologise in advance if this post is lacking in my usual sparkle and moxie (presuming of course that I usually possess said qualities), Tim and I went out last night to our good friend Dr Scotty’s birthday shindig and…I awoke this morning with a sliiight (by which I mean thumping) headache. And now I’m craving apple crumble and so help me, we have no apples. Tim and I had a great night though, and I made some chocolate cupcakes to add to the general pool. At the last minute I adorned them with some garish sweets that mum gave me a while ago, and took a quick photo.

Above: Yes, I took the photo on Auto but I was in a hurry, my point being to illustrate the alarming extent to which these lollies resemble plastic. And don’t they just? But nothing says “par-taaayyy” like an elephant on a cupcake. They certainly seemed to go down well.

When I saw this recipe for Manti last week in the September 2004 Cuisine magazine I thought, “I’ve got flour, I’m got mince…cheap dinner! Kapow!” It wasn’t until halfway through that I realised I was actually knee deep in home-made ravioli, which, when put like that, sounded so much more complicated.

You’d think I would have figured it out sooner, since it completely resembles ravioli In. Every. Way. It really is easy in execution though, and has that rare virtue of being something new to do with mince. This is supposed to serve 6 as an entree or light lunch…but you could also comfortably serve it as dinner for two people like I did.

Okay I have a confession to make. After extolling the simplicity of this recipe, while re-reading it to type it up I just, JUST now realised that I actually missed out an important step. Where the recipe it tells you to cut the pasta into small squares, I just…didn’t. So Tim and I ended up with eight large ravioli as opposed to many small, dainty pieces as per the recipe. I mean it was delicious but…missing a whole step of the recipe? In the words of Rush, “Why does it happen? Because it happens.”

Manti – Turkish Ravioli

Pasta Dough:
1 egg
190g flour

Combine the egg with 1/4 cup water, mix into the flour and knead for five minutes till the dough is smooth and elastic. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for half an hour. Chill the dough that is, although feel free to kick back and relax yourself.

Filling: Mix the following in a bowl.

250g minced beef or lamb
1 medium onion, grated (I used some of Nigella’s caramelised onion that I’d made earlier and frozen in 100g lots. I haven’t blogged about it so…nevermind)
handful finely chopped parsely
pinch of good salt.


Cut the dough into six pieces, and roll out each piece as thinly as possible. I did this by layering it between two pieces of gladwrap, which made it clean and easy to roll without sticking. Cut each rolled out piece into 5 squares about 9x9cm. Place a heaped teaspoon of the filling in each little square, fold over diagonally and press down to seal. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, salt well. Cook the ravioli in batches for about 3 minutes each, then drain well.

Above: Yes, I did take this photo on top of the washing machine. Well, it was the only available benchspace. I’m still Laura from the block you know.

I served the giant ravioli with a sauce made from Greek yoghurt, sumac, and chopped garlic (that I’d poached in the boiling pasta water to soften and mellow the flavour). Roasted asparagus and cos lettuce on the side, coriander sprinkled over…it really was a marvelous meal, the pasta was not stodgy in the slightest in spite of my heavy-handed rolling and the sauce gave it that lovely rounded flavour that only garlic and more garlic can provide.

One more recipe, because this is too delicious to let it get lost in my archives of dinners that I’ve photographed…

From Simon Rimmer’s excellent and meaty-in-the-non-literal-sense cookbook The Accidental Vegetarian comes Pan Haggerty, which you could describe as a kind of low-rent dauphinoise. It comprises astonishing proportions of butter, cheese, and potatoes, so need I say more?

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Pan Haggerty
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50g butter
1 onion, finely sliced
200g new potatoes, cleaned and finely sliced
75g mature Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 180 C. Heat half the butter in an ovenproof fan and fry the onions till soft, then set aside. Put a layer of potato in the pan and fry for a few minutes. Layer up with fried onion and sliced potato, finishing with a layer of potato on top. Dot with the remaining butter, bake for about 40 minutes. Just before serving, grate the cheese over and pop under a hot grill for a few minutes. If you don’t have an ovenproof fan, you can do what I did which was just transfer the fried onion and potatoes to a smallish pie plate. I forgot to layer the onions and just left them on the bottom but they went all caramelly and soft and wonderful so you know, serendipity! Oh and I used what was left of the Havarti cheese that mum sent down with me so feel free to use whatever you have to hand.
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Once again, sorry for lacking in lustre, I’m just pretty weary. Tomorrow Tim and I will attend our last ever lectures at university, which is pretty heavy, although we aren’t altogether finished – I have a socking great essay due on Monday and we both have an exam on the 4th. Hopefully after a good night’s sleep I can produce the kind of bloggery that you deserve…especially since this blog is almost one year old. Good night!

Spring Awakening

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Momentous times: Next week will be my very last week ever of university classes. On the 13th, it shall be my one year blogoversary. On the 23rd, Tim and I have been ‘going steady’ (or whatever other mildly nauseating term you want to apply to it) for three years. Stick around, folks because where we’re going, we don’t need roads.

We do need comfort food though. Despite the fact that it has officially been Spring for a whole month now, the weather is still regularly chilly (punctuated by brief, teasing bursts of sunshine) and so my northern hemisphere readers may well get the same kick out of this food as I did down here in New Zealand.

I have oft sung the praises of NZ food magazine Cuisine, which I believe is the classiest one on the market. Elegant yet functional, inspiring but attainable. Also kind of expensive for the average student, which I why I source out back copies at second hand book stores. I found this interesting sounding meatball recipe in the September 2004 edition, and I know, meatballs are meatballs are meatballs but this is utterly fabulous – warming, softly spicy, saucy and comforting. Here is my adapted version, although I’ll cite the original proportions of ingredients. As I have a well-stocked spice collection and mince is always in my freezer, this was a very cheap meal. Not to mention that I got a sizeable bag of gorgeous wee new potatoes from the vege market for a cool dollar…

Oven Baked Meatballs and Potatoes

Don’t be put off by the list of ingredients, this is so easy and mercifully doesn’t use as many pots and pans as you might think. Also, the original recipe specified a jar of artichoke hearts as an ingredient, if you have some, be my guest.

Serves 6

800g minced pork (although I used beef, lamb would be fab too)
1 onion, finely diced
2 t ground cumin or whole seeds
2 t ground coriander
a pinch sweet smoked paprika if you’re lucky enough to own some
1 cup finely sliced, washed spinach leaves
a handful of chopped coriander leaves
1 egg, beaten
2 T plain flour, plus extra
6 or 7 waxy new potatoes…as many as you fancy really, chopped into smallish chunks.
2 T tomato puree
1 litre chicken or beef stock

Heat oven to 190 C. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan, then add the onion and spices, stirring till the onions are soft and becoming fragrant. Add the spinach, cooking briefly till it wilts. Tip all this into a bowl with the mince, egg, and coriander. Squeeze it all together with your hands, roll the mixture into meatballs, and toss them in the flour. Using the same pan that you fried the onions in, brown the meatballs in batches, transferring them to a shallow oven dish as you go. In that same pan, cook the potatoes gently for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a spoonful of flour and let it absorb all the residual pan juices, then add the tomato puree and stock, bringing to a robust simmer. Carefully pour this over the meatballs, cover with foil (I admit I forgot to though) and cook for at least half an hour.

With spring comes asparagus, that wonderful vegetable that I’ve been waiting for since, well, since last October. A stroke of luck led me to find a generous bundle of it for a staggeringly cheap $1 at the vege market last week, and so we were able to have roast asparagus – one of my favourite things – twice with dinner this week. If you have not yet experienced the joys of this then amigo, read on and learn.

This is something I picked up from Nigella Lawson’s marvellousmarvellousmarvellous How To Eat, but it’s barely even a recipe. Heat your oven to 200 C, and place your asparagus spears on a foil-lined oven tray. Roll them in a little olive oil, then bake for 25 or so minutes till slightly crispened. If you have asparagus of the tough, stringier variety, you may need to trim an inch or so off the bottom. Serve sprinkled with a little good salt. This is near on perfect, but imagine rolling the spears in basil pesto before roasting would appeal also…

And of course, when the weather is cold I crave some kind of pudding. Also when the weather is fine. Either way, we haven’t had a proper pudding in a while and after dinner on Thursday I didn’t quiiiite feel ready to finish eating for the night. I played with the Chocolate Pear Pudding from Nigella Express, I’ve made it before but it’s quite adaptable. Here it takes the form of Chocolate Banana Surprise Pudding, (the surprise being the unexpected square of chocolate that is nestled within the batter!) It is beyond simple to whip up. What I did was cream 150g soft butter with 125g brown sugar. I added an egg, 1 overripe banana, 125g flour, 25g cocoa and 1 t baking powder. You may need to add a little milk if the mixture is too stiff. This went into three 250ml ramekins – although I’m sure you could play with proportions – and I pushed a couple of squares of dark chocolate under the batter of each. These were baked for 25 minutes at 200 C. The tops are cakey and delicious while a spoon, plunged into the heart of the pudding reveals stickily saucy chocolately depths. Perfect with a spoonful of Banana, Pear and Dark Chocolate Sorbet melting into it…

Last week I was fortunate enough to embark on my first business trip. I was taken up to Auckland because Smokefree, who I work with, were one of the sponsors of the Juice TV music awards, and there was a swag of signage that needed to be erected. I got to stay in a lovely hotel, meet some fantastic people, and attend the event. Here are some things I learned…

-Wellington is a nicer city than Auckland. Hands down.

-The people that work at Juice TV are awesome, friendly and welcoming.

-The NZ musicians present at the event seemed to think they were somehow above it all. I’m looking at you, Mr young blonde whippersnapper, late of Zed and now playing guitar with The Feelers. Hardly a career trajectory, so why are you so lacklustre on stage? Look alive! Furthermore, many of them chose to hang languidly outside the performance room hobnobbing with each other rather than actively support the bands on stage. I mean really. You’re not Mick Jagger.

-Boh Runga, younger sister of NZ wonderkind Bic Runga, is really, really pretty in person.

-Just because you are impossibly leggy and have doe-eyes does not mean you make a good TV presenter. It does still make you impossibly leggy though, to which I say *sigh*. Would I take good legs over a personality though? Well, perhaps not.

You may be pleased or disappointed to know that my night finished quite early, not with me snorting cocaine off a dolphin, but with a cup of tea and a good night’s sleep. It was an interesting time though, and great fun, and I may be repeating the experience again come mid-November for the SouthernAmp festival…

Speaking of music, once more shall I plug dad’s protest video on youtube because, well, it’s still important to me. If you’ve watched it already, if you’re curious, if you pretended that you watched it last time but didn’t actually, help out our cause and please, see it by clicking here. If you have a youtube account, any comments of support would be wonderful! We are currently on 879 views which is flipping AMAZING for a video from the tiny tininess that is Otaua. While I’m plugging things I might as well give you the link again to this amazingly hilarious [title of show] video. Once again, if you are lucky enough to live in New York city, go see this sparklingly brilliant musical before it sadly closes. If you are like me and don’t live in NYC, then watch the video because it’s ridiculously funny. Even Tim laughed, which, given his weary suspicion of most of the Broadway shows I’m into, is quite the endorsement.

Next time: I make my own ravioli.

What Am I? Chopped Liver?

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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.

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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.)

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

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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’?

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 crackheads (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 virtuous eating and ridiculous culinary hedonism, I can’t seem to stick to a proper ‘plan’ if you know what I mean. I guess as long as I eat enough lentils and keep having my oats in the morning things will be okay…Tim thinks it’s psychological. Who knows? All I know is that too often I wake up feeling like some kind of visual aid for Morrissey’s song “You’re The One For Me, Fatty…” 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.


Above: 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. Which I managed – just – not to add any butter to.


Above: 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…

"I Had A Brain That Felt Like Pancake Batter…"

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I couldn’t think of a title for this post. Nothing seemed to work in my head. So, when in doubt, why not quote Jack White? He certainly describes how I currently feel, as you will find out later…Unfortunately I haven’t actually cooked any pancakes. Goodness knows what I’ll use for a title when I do…
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This is my 100th post! How about that! Between this, and my six-month blog anniversary, and my birthday all occuring recently, I hope you don’t think I’m one of those girls who bursts into passive-aggressive tears if my significant other doesn’t buy me a diamond pendant to mark the three weeks that have passed since our first date.
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Above: Picadillo, which ended up focussed backwardly. Depth of field, I do not haz it.

There’s something about those cheerfully forced “midweek meals” that womens’ magazines regularly publish that seem so, well, cheerfully forced. In my line of work I am exposed to a lot of womens’ mags and though I keep a keen eye out, it has been a long time since I’ve been inspired by any of the recipes. They never quite get it sounding right, what with their Thai Pumpkin and Couscous Bake and Sausage Chow Mein with 2-Minute Noodles. I mean, everyone needs those midweek meals, including me, it’s just the ones I see seem to be so…colourless. Although I cook dinner at every possible opportunity (sometimes even at lunch) this week has felt particularly practical and magazine-y. Monday: Picadillo, a Cuban mince dish (done in the slow cooker!). Tuesday: Salmon burgers, even the kids will like them! Wednesday – Spaghetti Puttanesca… which Jill Dupleix coyly describes as pasta for “working girls.” I like to think of it (rather gleefully I’ll admit, but how often do you get a name like this) in its more literal sense – Whores’ Pasta. Suddenly things aren’t looking so dull after all…In fact happily everything has tasted great so far.

On Monday night, spurred on by a recipe on the Tea and Wheaten Bread blog, which in turn was using a recipe from Culinary Travels of A Kitchen Goddess, I chose to make Picadillo. It looked easy to make, very cheap, and a bit out of the ordinary. Even though it has risen so alarmingly in price that it’s not much of a cliched student ingredient anymore, mince would still be what Tim and I eat most of from the meat family. And it is difficult to find new twists on it. So when I saw that this had olives, raisins, and lots of spices in it, not to mention that I could bung it in the Crock Pot and forget about it, I had to try it…unfortunately I forgot to put the raisins in. I always forget one crucial thing it seems, even when the recipe is right in front of me. But it still tasted great. To be honest I didn’t initially think there was much point in doing something like mince in a slow cooker – it’s not like it’s going to get any more tender – but it definitely seemed to enhance the deep, mellow flavour. I’ll be making this again for sure this Winter, and hopefully will remember the raisins next time (well, I’d substitute sultanas. I know they’re practically the same thing, but I can’t stand raisins. Maybe I subconsiously left them out on purpose.)

On Tuesday night I decided that I (rather desperately) needed some brainfood, so attempted to make salmon burgers. Because I was in overachiever mode, I made the buns as well, using a laughably easy recipe from Nigella’s Feast, that I have made so many times I know it off by heart. Well at least I hope I do. It is rather late at night that I’m typing this…


Above: the background necessarily blurred because I have carny hands, “neither beautiful nor practical.” Hopefully it looks a bit upmarket on top of that.

Nigella’s Buns (*titter*)

  • 500g high-grade/bread flour
  • 1 sachet yeast (the sachets come in little cardboard boxes, I can’t deal with any other sort)
  • 375mls milk
  • 25g butter
  • 2t sugar

Place the flour, yeast and sugar in a large bowl. If you use a large enough bowl, you don’t even need to get your bench dirty as you can just knead the dough inside it. Well, it works for me…Warm the milk and butter in a small saucepan till the butter has melted and the milk is tepid. You don’t want it too cool, but neither should it be anywhere in the neighbourhood of ‘hot.’ Tip this into the flour, and using one hand (I find it handy – ha! – to just use one) knead this mixture till smooth, cohesive, and elastic. For some reason this mixture comes together remarkably fast. Once it’s looking good, tip the mound of dough onto a plate, and grease the bowl it was in. Put the dough back in the bowl, turning so that all sides get a little shiny, then cover tightly with gladwrap and leave in a warmish place for an hour or so.

In an hour’s time, punch the now spookily-puffy dough (satisfying!) and then shape into buns. Nigella recommends quite small ones, (these are dinner-roll type thingummies) but because I was using them for burgers I made mine bigger, and therefore got less out of the mix. Now, leave them to sit on a tray, covered with a teatowel, for about 20 minutes. You might as well turn your oven to 200 C and sit the tray on top so as the residual warmth helps them to rise even more. Finally, brush with a beaten egg or melted butter (guess which I plumped for, as it were) and bake for 15-20 minutes. Actual timing is a bit vague, it’s dependant on size of bun and type of oven, but reckon on something like that. These babies smell incredible, and though they don’t have the staying power of shop-bought stuff, can be recussitated the next day in the microwave.


Above: You’re supposed to tap them on the underside to see if they sound hollow, therefore cooked- but fresh-baked bread is one of the hottest things known to man. Use oven mitts, please…don’t go down the same sorry path I did (on the upside, should I choose to commit a heinous crime, the police can’t fingerprint me!)

Above: Breakage.
While all this was happening, I set about making my Krabby Patties, using a tin of salmon, some bran (hey, why not? You can’t even taste it but it’s doing you good) an egg, two grated, parboiled potatoes, and a few spoonfuls of Za’atar. I think the lack of flour was what made them a pain to cook – you had to be insanely delicate with the spatula or they’d break. I had two casualties, and four proper ones. Not too bad. You could quite easily have one patty per bun, but I am a greedy, greedy person so Tim and I had two each.


Above: Ooh they were good. The combination of tender, still-warm buns and slightly crunchy salmon was awesome. Worth the effort, I assure you.
Finally, my pasta a la doxy. This came from Jill Dupleix’ Lighten Up and was a very easy (ha!) meal. You barely have to think while making it. Unfortunately I didn’t have any anchovies to hand, (couldn’t justify spending $4 on a tiny tin of them, yes, I know they’re good) so I just pretended that I was vegetarian for the moment and meant for it to happen that way. I also used pitted black olives, which I know are basically the devil’s snack as far as food purists go, but again, they were much, much, much cheaper than the lovely real thing, and I figured that by roughly squashing them they might look more like something Jamie Oliver would approve of.


Above: Unfortunately this was the best shot I could get, the lens kept steaming up and none of my twirly-fork tricks were working and anyhow pasta seems to get cold and claggy very fast, so I just snapped and served it. Tasted much nicer than the photo looks though. I love how the olives and capers provide an addictive saltiness that is so much more complex than just salt itself.
I am not good at many things – mathmatics, tidiness, committing to a healthy eating and excercise plan – but I am very, very good at Tetris. To paraphrase Stacey from The Baby Sitters Club, it’s true, I’m not being conceited! One of my many addictions is online tetris – if you feel like immersing yourself into this heady underworld, go to freetetris.org– and nearly everyone in the flat is quite into it. Basically it is fairly cruisy until level 9, where it gets a lot quicker, and by level 10 it is quicker again. Everyone was amazed when I got to Level 19 while they were floundering round 8. Now most of the flatmates can make it to about 14, but then on Monday night I managed to get to…Level 31. We didn’t even know it existed. It was insane. And then guess what happened on Tuesday night. I said to Tim, “If I get a score of quarter of a million will you watch Rent with me?” He said only if I got half a million.
Above: The only way this could have been more triumphant was if I’d managed to get a score of 525,600. Don’t worry, I won’t force the poor lad to watch the movie again…but there is that production opening in Palmerston North soon…
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I apologise if this post has been a little lacking in my usual lustre, but with all these essays and photos bearing down on my head like the sword of Damocles I’m feeling pretty weary. (*googles sword of Damocles* – okay it’s not really a pertinent simile.) I got some not-very-good results back today on a test I did in Photography about aperture and stuff – apparently the test was “too easy” and anyone who got under 75% was very disappointing. I got 65% and felt those disapproval rays loud and clear! Seriously though, there are so many numbers involved in digital photography, and that sort of thing makes my head swim. However I have had some fun taking photos for my current assignment. If I get a decent mark I’ll upload a couple for your viewing pleasure, if I don’t, I’ll just go to sleep until next semester. By the way, to those of you who have noticed out loud my improved photography skillz – mostly due to Picassa and my nifty wee tripod – thank you, it means a lot that you comment on it 🙂
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And finally, because I like to talk about the weather even though no-one cares about it, by gum it is rainy here in Wellington. I’m talking get yer ark pronto.

"In The Cold, Cold Night…"

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Baby, it’s cold outside…in Wellington, at least. Talk about hungry and frozen. I didn’t plan on making vegetable soup this early on in the year but what else can you do in this situation?

Above: Vegetable soup always reminds me of home, of making a large vat of it every weekend in winter, and letting it sit warmly in the crock-pot, only getting better with time.
I don’t follow a recipe, but I think you have to have onions, celery, and carrots – the basis of many a slow-cooked meal – and I like to really let the vegetables cook (I refuse to say sweat!) before adding any liquid. Because I was all out of the classic King’s Soup Mix, I just used some lentils and barley that I found in our pantry. By the way, King’s Soup Mix isn’t nearly as declasse as it sounds – it’s just a prepacked bag of lentils, beans and barley. It is very cheap, and so good for you – I don’t know why people don’t make this all the time.

So that was dinner last night. To go with I made a rather sassy Puy lentil, pea and feta salad. After adding peas to my lentil soup the other day, it struck me that this humble frozen vegetable could be paired with lentils in other ways. The earthy darkness of the Puy lentils, the perky green sweetness of the peas and the creamy saltiness of the feta was surprisingly moreish.
Above: I didn’t actually measure anything so I can’t give you an exact recipe…however I did make a dressing out of three tablespoons each extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. With so few ingredients it should be easy to recreate it yourself, if you are so inclined.
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Above: Unfortunately I remain intimidated by our new camera, as you can see by this picture where the meal is out of focus and the wooden spoon is in. I tell you, I can’t seem to get it the other way around. I’d like to think there’s something wrong with our camera…but I suspect it’s still me.
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More soul food (if you can see it in that photo, anyway!) tonight in the form of a layered meat and pasta dish from Annabel Cooks, by NZ author Annabel White. It is very basic, a kind of no-effort lasagne – cooked small pasta is mixed with sour cream and cream cheese, and layered with mince that has been cooked in the usual spag-bol kind of way, topped with cheese, and baked. It sounds too simple and seen-it-all-before to be any good, but in fact I think she’s on to something. Much depends on the quality of your meat sauce, I’d recommend using red wine in it, and a tin of tomatoes instead of some premade pasta sauce. It is very comforting bowl-food, and helped to stave off the chilliness of our (inevitably freezing) student flat momentarily.
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As Nigella The Wise says in How To Be A Domestic Goddess, the benefits of colder climes are largely culinary, and I heartily concur. I can’t wait to try out more soups (getting ever-closer to The Lentil Soup), rich casseroles, melting stews, baking more bread in the weekends (proving it by the heater if need be), dusting off my pudding steamer…and, er, my Pilates DVD…

Lentil As Anything

Turns out that the Guinness cake is “the nicest cake in the world” according to Paul. He’s not wrong. Like a good casserole, fine cheese, or Helen Mirren, it just gets better with age. On Tuesday I ate three pieces of the damn thing. Small pieces (evening things up, you know) but nonetheless: three. So there have been lentils aplenty to atone.

But you don’t need me to tell you that the oft-maligned, unsexy lentil is actually seriously awesome. Or do you?

Above: This was Sunday night’s dinner. I must admit that I ate a whole ton of jellybeans that were supposed to be for Tim -should his blood sugar go low- while he was at work. I figured the only way to undo this would to make lentil soup. Now, I don’t have a hard and fast recipe for this, as I am still experimenting in the hopes of finding the perfect prototype. I think this could be close. I sauteed two onions, and added lots of garlic, some ginger, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and turmeric. While this was softening and becoming headily aromatic, I tipped in half a cup each of organic Puy lentils, organic brown lentils, and red lentils from the bulk section at Pak’n’Save. Into this went a tin of chopped tomatoes, enough water to cover everything, plenty of salt…and that was it. It was pretty magical. Almost more of a curry than a soup, deeply flavoured with a marvelously thick texture. I thoroughly recommend you try it, especially if you find yourself crouching at the freezer with a spoon, surreptitiously eating your way through a tub of ice cream, or accidentally eating a whole loaf’s worth of overbuttered toast. Hey, we’ve all been there. Well, I have at least…

Above: This is what we had for dinner on St Patrick’s Day. Somehow it conspired that we had all the ingredients for that Autobahn classic, wedges with cheese, bacon, and sour cream. Even though there are probably far better uses for the bacon, at the time I couldn’t think of a better one. I served this with roasted capsicum and beetroot, which I drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

Above: Larb, with Cambodian Cucumber Salad from my Healthy Salads of Southeast Asia book, which was Tuesday night’s dinner. Larb is a bit of an in-joke for Tim and me – I guess we’re odd like that – we were playing Scrabble this one time (by the way, for someone who read the dictionary for kicks as a child, I am awful at Scrabble), and I used the word Larb. Tim said it wasn’t real, I told him he was uneducated, and he asked if I could use it in a sentence. All I could think of was “this is my larb.” Anyway, we found this kind of hysterical (I don’t expect you to, that’s why it’s an in-joke) but finally wikipedia proved me right. I still didn’t win that game. The cucumber salad is a great use of this particular vegetable, crunchy with cashews and dressed with fish sauce, garlic, and other such good things. I liked it a lot, and Tim said “yes” when asked if it was nice so you might be seeing this again. I’ll only tell you larb story this once though, promise.

Above: Lentil Cashew Cakes! (I’m not actually quite sure what to dub them; ‘patty’ sounds too earnest and I find something suspicious sounding about the word ‘fritter’ so ‘cakes’ will have to do.) I saw this recipe in the recipe column of the Sunday Star magazine section. It was written by the wonderful Ray McVinnie, whose column in Cuisine is always outstandingly inspiring, so I should have known these would be nothing less than brilliant. Cooked up brown lentils are mashed with cumin, garlic, coriander, eggs, chopped cashews and a little flour, and fried till cooked through (I used my awesome non-stick pan that I got for my 21st.) These chubby little cakes are fantastic – the soft crunch of the cashews provides the perfect foil for the unfamiliarly grainy texture of the lentils. To go with, I chopped some cucumber up, tossed it in some Greek yoghurt with ginger and garlic (adapting another recipe from this column) and steamed some brocolli. Oh, and there were more wedges:
Above: Wedges!
Easter is just around the corner and though I’m not looking forward to doing assignments instead of flying home, I am very, very excited about making my first ever batch of Hot Cross Buns (Nigella, of course!)
Oh yeah – we went to the cricket on Saturday. Technically we got a good deal: we paid $25 for a ticket to the cricket, (which I don’t like), a tshirt (which I’ll never wear), a beer (which I don’t drink), and a piece of toast with (excellent) bacon and (watery, curiously fishy) eggs at the Loaded Hog before the game. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I think Sports=Bullying (at least when I have to be involved, anyway) so it begs the question, what on earth was I doing there? Well, I was more than prepared to stay at home but I got told that it would be fun and that I should come and that it was a great way to spend nine hours of your life. So with this in mind it would be facetious (but not out of character) for me to slate cricket entirely; just because I hate something doesn’t always make it morally abhorrent. But for real: It is intensely tedious. At about 2pm I almost became frantic, panicky even , with boredom and no forseeable conclusion to this charmless game. There were many times when I turned to Tim and asked him – genuinely – if they were still playing or just having an hour-long team talk, because that’s what it looked like. There is literally nothing to see, and nothing to do but sit. I can’t emphasise this enough. On a positive note, we were sitting amongst the Barmy Army, who are truly a delightful bunch, convivial and entertaining and ready with a song for every possible eventuality. They chanted “Micheal Vaughan’s Barmy Army” for a full eleven minutes. Their insanity kept me sane. So, no more cricket. At least I know for sure now that I don’t like it. Does anyone want a free tshirt?