What Am I? Chopped Liver?


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

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


Overheard in our kitchen:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sell Out, With Me Oh Yeah!”

I never thought I’d have reason to quote the one-hit ska-punk band Reel Big Fish on my blog but life takes you to some funny places. You may have noticed a new feature of my sidebar, if not, may I subtly direct your attention to it? I’ve been aware for a long time that it’s possible to advertise stuff on one’s blog, but I resisted, because of some would-be righteous “it ain’t me” attitude I suppose, (although the idea of being submerged Daltrey-style in a bathtub of baked beans is engaging)…however I figured if I can gain some revenue off this site then I have no reason not to try at least.

I admit, Fishpond is a little expensive but let me state my case; for kiwis, most things are cheaper on Trademe, but this site has access to all sorts of difficult-to-find texts (including Idina Menzel’s gorgeous but not-released-here album I Stand – if you like slightly overproduced MOR, buy it and she might finally come tour New Zealand!*) which you could never find in Whitcoulls let alone on Trademe, and if you are from America or Britain or elsewhere, as I know several of my readers are, why not give Amazon a miss for once and play the Fun Exchange Rate Game? Buy a book for NZ$50 and it will only cost you about three pounds or ten US dollars! Minutes of pleasure to be gained, I tells ye. And to cap it off any moolah I gain is going towards Tim’s and my savings fund. Like I said, there’s no harm in trying…and watch out for subliminal messages throughout the post…


Okay, that was veering on the side of super-liminal. I don’t want to coerce people in any way, this is a place of food, and Nigella-worship, and self-indulgent pop culture references, not some kind of mercenary avaricious…um, I’m losing steam here. What I’m saying is, no pressure, nothing ventured nothing gained, and time for ham.

Above: So I made Nigella’s Ham in Coca Cola the other night, and it was behaving worse than the most petulant hamster on ANTM, that is, it was very difficult to get a decent shot. I had to resort to using the flash button to get any kind of photo at all. Much to Tim’s horror, I professed my love of the the cola/pork simmering liquid, and only dug myself further into a hole of shame when I tried to explain how I wasn’t eating the pork fat, just the pork attached to the fat…Oh dear. Before I put you off forever, this is a truly delicious recipe, the Coca Cola imbuing the ham with a beguiling, addictive spicy sweetness. In England, you would buy gammon, in New Zealand, pickled pork, and it is merely simmered in a potful of sinisterly bubbling fizz (with a bobbing onion for added flavour) before being briefly flashed in the oven with a treacly, mustardy glaze. Trashy as it sounds, this is one of the very nicest things you could possibly have the good fortune to eat…

Above: A slightly more sedate, less carnal-tastic photo. We managed to make this last THREE meals, even though we could have happily snarfed the entire 1.5kilos by the fistful on day one. I made a surprisingly lovely parsnip orzotto the next day, into which I stirred some diced leftover ham, and then we finished the ham, sliced as above, with a salad the day after that.

Above: This is one of those meals that comes about after scanning your cupboards and fridge and trying to make things fit together coherently…I roasted diced pumpkin, a whole red chilli, a bulb (yes, a whole bulb, what can I say, I like it) of garlic and once everything was done I left the pumpkin to cool a little while I vented any frustrations I might have had on the garlic and chilli in my pestle and mortar, adding cinnamon, sea salt, and olive oil. I don’t know what made me go for cinnamon, I was thinking nutmegnutmegnutmeg as you often do when dealing with pumpkin but made the last minute switch and it was really good – the warmth of the cinnamon reflected the muted heat of the roasted chilli rather pleasingly. So, where was I…I poured the dressing over the pumpkin and added a drained can of borlotti beans, mixing it gently, and finally sprinkled over gorgeously nutty poppy seeds. The only real bad thing about this was…I got the wrong beans. Cannelini beans are great for diabetics, lots of slow-release carbs and little sugar. Borlotti beans have about as much carbs as a steak. So Tim had to have some toast after this. This salad could, if you ate enough of it, make a decent lunch in its entirety as well as being an out-of-the-ordinary side dish which is how we had it. And as you can imagine, it’s even better the next day when the dressing has really steeped into everything.

Above: And of course, there have been noodles. I have eaten so much noodle-based stuff lately, mostly soba or udon floating snakily in broth, but there was also this marvelous stirfry, inspired by a post on the stunning stunning stunning
Use Real Butter blog. Sometimes I don’t even photograph the noodle-food (foodle?) we eat in case you become weary of overexposure towards it…actually, and I digress violently and suddenly, I have noticed on my travels that I am one of the only bloggers who talks about more than one meal per post. I don’t see many other bloggers attempting to fashion their titles out of song lyrics or obscure puns either. I don’t know how you do it, to be honest. I salute you for your ability to be concise, regular with your posting, and lucid with your titles. Hopefully my method isn’t too confusing.

Above: Back to the noodles. For all that the stir fry conjures up images of a swift, healthy, crisp dinner, I find that it’s very easy to get wrong, greasy, over and undercooked at the same time, and boring. Somehow though, in my hamfisted way, I cobbled together a really nearly perfect one and true to form, didn’t write down what I did. There were lots of capsicums, and I simmered the carrots and parsnips in with the noodles. The oyster sauce that I added was the thing that made it special I think, along with the miso in the ginger-carrot emulsion (adapted from the recipe on Use Real Butter) that I stirred through. Not just plain salty, but complex and savoury and richly flavoursome. The ginger-carrot thing was supposed to be a salad dressing but something about the combination of ingredients made me think they’d work in a stir fry, and oh, how they did.

It just occured to me recently that I should give credit to Marc, he of the elegant No Recipes blog, for the idea of using green tea as a broth for noodles, he mentioned it on his blog and I tried (and loved) it and wrote about it a post or two ago, and should have known I couldn’t have come up with something as nifty as that on my own…Perfect for after sweating it out after a Bikram Yoga class (and inevitably one gets stuck next to the hairy, flatulent guy who wants to get in touch with more than just his chakras) or indeed any time you want your comfort food to be light but nourishing. I have this quite often, but as I mentioned just before, have spared you many bog-standard shots of it in my white soup bowls…

New Zealand is such a funny little country. I had been working at my current job for about a year when I found out that the receptionist, Kerry, is related to me. In hindsight it makes so much sense, despite our differences there is a kinship between us – fostered, I believe, by a love of the ridiculous and the beautiful – that makes me think “well how could I not have known that he and I were family.” Ah, New Zealand. Probably the only place where your mother taught the guy you just met at the bar, or your gyneacologist lived down the road from you and paid you to mow their lawns as a child, or your dentist is Peter Jackson’s aunty. Possibly even the Garden of Eden had more degrees of separation.

Where am I going with this? Nowhere, to be honest. But anyway, across the road from where we work is a small, but perfectly formed, Belgian chocolate shop. I had resisted it for some time, for the obvious reasons – money – but Kerry one day surprised me with THREE chocolates from this shop – Melting Perfection – and I was utterly smitten with them. In the picture above is the White Chocolate Champagne Truffle, the Maple Cream, and the Poire William, which I bought on a whim today after nearly going insane – you think I’m exaggerating – from hours of dealing with invoices. These chocolates are some of the very, very best I’ve ever tasted. The Champagne Truffle was just ridiculous – the touch of alcohol providing that elusive note of flavour that somehow made the white chocolate taste butterier, creamier, but also lighter and not in any way cloying or over-sweet. The chocolates are beautiful, handmade, and taste like they were made by someone who knows what they were doing. If you are ever in Wellington you should absolutely go to their Featherston Street shop (#109, on the way to the railway station) and if you are not in Wellington, then friend, it’s worth the pilgrimage. For loving photography and a list of the imaginative chocolates they sell (and yes, there’s even something there for the sea-salt and caramel kids out there) visit their website: Melting Perfection. Mention my name when you visit their store and recieve a bewildered look!


*To clarify – from what I’ve managed to hear online I actually really like Idina Menzel’s new album (of course I do!) but it definitely falls into the realms of that category I dread – Adult Contemporary. It is a lot more polished and less kooky than her earlier pop efforts, probably because she wants to you know, shift some actual units, but is also a heck of a lot better and more real than any other misery-inducing music being put out these days in that bracket. Obviously her personality helps, as well as her unmistakeable voice, but the songs absolutely grew on me, and truly, I don’t listen to any music that I don’t genuinely love (life’s far too short.) I hope she collaborates with Jamie Cullum for the next one, they both have that confessional style of writing, and he knows his way round a likeable tune. Anyway, this album isn’t released for sale in New Zealand, (I’ve recieved many a funny look by asking for it at the counter at CD shops) and so if enough people buy it off a New Zealand site mayhaps her record company will want to send her out here for some kind of promotional tour (probably after I’ve scraped together just enough money from shilling her album to head overseas…)

“Some Things I Cannot Change…”


…”But till I try I’ll never know…” Argh. I mean, I posted those Tetris photos last time breezily saying how I was prepared for them to be criticised. Heck, I even quoted Back To The Future. But secretly I thought they were cool. The teacher absolutely hated them and told me as much in our interim presentation on Wednesday (worth 20% of the assignment’s grade!) I kid you not, I actually started to tear up right there in class. My throat got tight, my nose got prickly, and I could only but sullenly nod at her before racing out of the class to sob in the girls’ loo for 20 minutes. Once again; she was well within her rights to say that, also, they probably were “technically awful,” but how the heck am I supposed to pick up the camera and carry on with the assignment now? On top of that everything negative that she said about the last assignment in class applied directly to what I had done. I felt like I was twelve years old again. I felt like hugging my mother. I felt made of fail.

So yeah, I hit the butter pretty hard.

Above: After watching a performance on youtube of ‘Popular‘ from the musical Wicked, featuring Kristen Chenoweth and the ever-ridiculously-astounding Idina Menzel, (yes, my fangirl-ness extends to youtubing musicals I’ve never even seen), I felt like creating some pink and green iced cupcakes. After all, as Glinda says, “Pink goes good with green.” I don’t know why I thought cupcakes would be a good way of expressing this, or indeed that it needed to be expressed at all, but it certainly filled my baking-as-catharsis brief for the time being…

Above: And looked rather cute to boot, no?
I’ve made these so many times and in so many forms that I don’t need a recipe, but you might: Take 125g each of soft butter and caster sugar, beat till fluffy with a wooden spoon, add two eggs, (beat beat beat) a little vanilla extract (beat beat) and 125g flour (still beating with your wooden spoon). Finally, you scoop the mixture into a 12-bun muffin tin, (with paper liners in each indentation) or into 12 or so endearingly pretty silicon cupcake holders like mine. Bake at 180 for about 15 minutes. This recipe is courtesy of Nigella, and is actually in every single book she has done, in one guise or another. Double the recipe and add baking powder and it becomes a Victoria Sponge recipe, to be baked for about 30-ish minutes in two paper-lined 20cm springform tins, and sandwiched together with any number of combinations of things…cream, lemon curd, jam, mascarpone, stewed rhubarb, banana slices, dulce de leche…

Above: I’ve made these biscuits/cookies (choose as applicable depending on hemisphere) and seriously loved them. Just to show how versatile the recipe is, in the book they are called chocolate chip fruit and nut cookies. In the ones I made there were none of these components (apart from a certain necessary amount of cookie!) and instead I doubled the oats, loaded in pumkin seeds, and then threw caution to the wind by adding linseeds (some throw caution to the wind by, I don’t know, skydiving. I add linseeds.)

I managed to refrain from eating all the mixture this time.

And yes, I did manage to get some study done yesterday, but I truly had hit a brick wall when it came to the photography assignment and couldn’t bring myself to get started on it again. I’ll need to harden up soon and get on with it, but yesterday I couldn’t help but wallow, walrus-like, in the solace of the kitchen for a little longer…

Above: It just occured to me that if you zoomed in on this picture, maybe upped the saturation somewhat, it might look like an early Pink Floyd record sleeve. This technicolour mix is actually an uber-wholesome combo of ripe bananas and frozen berries, plus a spoonful of brown sugar, which I turned into ice cream. Well, is it ice cream if there is no cream in it? Jill Dupleix thinks so, and I salute her for coming up with such a splendidly delicious recipe, but the finished product has more of a sorbet-like granular, slushy texture. No matter, it tastes pretty incredible and can claim to be gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, almost sugar free (one tablespoon! and it was my idea, not the recipe), and even vegan. Who would have thought I’d ever make something vegan?

This came to be, not only because I had a whole lot of cheaply bought baking bananas that I couldn’t get rid of fast enough, but because Tim and Paul (with a little help from the rest of us) valiantly cleaned out our fridge (well, one of them; we are a two-fridge family in this flat) which was so bung that the ice growth on the back wall had literally grown over some of our food and encased it. Anyway, they found a half-bag of frozen berries that I’d bought and were going to biff them (I know) but luckily thought I might want them. And so, to justify their existense, and to get rid of the scary bananas, I made Jill Dupleix’ icecream from Lighten Up.

Above: I don’t go in for bananas in a huge way, but good grief this is delicious. And not because of all that it lacks, or even because of all the vitamins and potassium it contains (though I believe they do add that extra zing) but because of what it has: a gorgeous, deeply pink hue; an amazing sorbet-like texture, and the intense flavour of fruit, unadulterated and allowed to taste of itself. (I know, I know, I’ve totally been drinking her Kool-Aid)

I think (lazily) that Dupleix’ recipe is a little unnecessarily complicated, so here’s what I did: Take six or so ripe bananas (cut away any brown bits) and chop them very roughly into a bowl. I mean, cutting them in two is fine. Tumble in 150g of frozen raspberries (I had a berry mix which gives a lovely purple tinge to the pink mixture) or more if you like, I didn’t bother to measure what I had but I think it was actually more than that. I also added a tablespoon of brown sugar to add a little sweetness; Dupleix specifies fresh berries which are sweeter. Leave them for twenty or so minutes for the berries to soften. Throw the whole lot in the food processor, blend till thoroughly smooth. Tip back into the bowl, or an icecream container, and freeze, stirring to break up ice particles at some stage of the proceedings. You won’t be sorry.

Whither the dinner in all this?

Above: On Wednesday night I put sausages, potatoes, onions (love roast onions) yellow peppers and beetroot into a couple of roasting dishes, shoved them in the oven, and came back maybe an hour later to find dinner ready. Although Tim likes his sausages fried, they are so much easier done in the oven and I admit I rather like the hard, crispy exoskeleton they acquire after roasting. You probably already know how I feel about roasted beetroot; if not: LOVE IT.

This weekend is going to be instensely busy, what with extended family driving down from home, old-but-not-forgotten flatmate Kieran showing up on our doorstep yesterday with several bottles of hard liquor, creative differences with my photography teacher to sort out, tests to study for, mini-essays to write, and The Food Show. You can guess which of these things I am excited about. I have been practising for the Food Show (Hello, I’m a food blogger in the Wellington region. May I take a photo? Hello, I’m a food blogger….)

Oh and I booked a ticket to see Rent in Palmerston North next Friday. Am very excited, even if I’m going alone. Tim wouldn’t be tricked by reverse psychology (“didn’t want you to come anyway!”) and there was no pending birthday to use an excuse, in fairness to him he was a very good sport about it last time. As luck would have it our recent flatmate Stefan has moved to The Palm so I have a spare room to crash in. All’s I am saying is, they’d better not kill off Mimi like Levin did…that’s right, I’m still not over it.

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 tastespotting.com! 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.)

“And Wednesday, don’t mention Wednesday…”

Yesterday was a bad day for me. Oh sure, a decent enough day in a global sense but, on my own terms it was pretty rough. .

I had Photography. This was all well and good until we had to display our assignment photos (that we’d handed in on Tuesday) and get critiqued, one at a time, by the teacher. The teacher told me that my photos were completely unsuccessful, in front of the entire class, and now I guess I’m just waiting to see if I failed or not. I wasn’t the only one, she didn’t seem to like anyone’s efforts, which made for an incredibly uncomfortable three hours. After all the time I put into the photos it was all I could do not to burst into tears (which I am wont to do at inopportune moments) and run screaming from the class. Mercifully I held it together, but really what do you say to someone when they tell you that your photos are terrible? Are you supposed to say “thankyou so much for that valuable insight! Now I’m all fired up for the next project!” The point is, she may well have been right – the photos probably weren’t that great – it is a bloody beginner paper after all- but her opinion counts because she’s doing the marking.

Catharsis over! On the upside I was pleased enough with my Media essay that I handed in yesterday (managed to slip in “the subordination of women” although didn’t find a place for “juxtaposed”) and I saw the Magic Dog on my way back to the flat. The magic dog is this snowy white Samoyed that lives down the road from us and Tim and I get a bit worked up when we see it. Trust me, it’s one majestic beast. Tim and I decided this dog was magic and assigned it properties as such – you know, if it sniffs you, you will never die from drowning, where it urinates shall spring forth an ancient oak tree, that sort of thing.

When I was a lot younger I had this nightmare about the Donny and Marie Show, which is odd because I’ve never in my life seen an episode. They starting singing I’m a Little Bit Country and A Little Bit Rock’n’Roll. Marie then sang “I’m a little bit crunchy,” turned into a giant Crunchie bar and Donny bit her head off. It was this that I reminisced still-nervously about as I made homespun Crunchie bars.

By the way – oh the irony! – the above is a very special photo for me because it’s the first one ever where I’ve managed to manually do that sharp-foreground-blurry-background thing that has so long eluded me. Hello macro button! I’ve finally found you! No more complaining about it, I promise. Thanks for all the advice, too 🙂 If it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t have known that the macro button was capable of such wizardry.

This recipe is so easy yet so rewarding. First of all, the kitchen smells like caramel while the sugar is cooking. Then you get to watch the mixture whoosh up when you add the baking powder. It’s fun, and stress-releasing, to bash the finished product into shards and chunks with a rolling pin. It tastes amazing. Oh, and there’s only three ingredients…

Cinder Toffee (Nigella’s words, not mine) from How To Be A Domestic Goddess

200g caster sugar (I used regular to no obvious ill effect)
4 T golden syrup
1 T baking soda

Above: does making this for a Type-1 diabetic with sore teeth make me a bad person?

Liberally butter a 21cm square tin, although this will fit into whatever you’ve got around that size to be honest. Mix the golden syrup and sugar to a granular paste in a heavy bottomed saucepan, and then cook it over a low heat. This takes a wee while but it is fun to watch the sugar go all melty and ripply like in the picture above. Simmer gently for about 3 minutes, it will darken but you don’t want it to be too dark. Once it has bubbled away for a while take it off the heat and using a fork or something stir in your tablespoon of baking soda. It’s a bore, but it might pay to sift the soda into a small bowl first so you don’t end up with lumps. The caramel will foam up awesomely. Quickly spread into your tin and leave it to set, which will take at least an hour. Tip out of the tin, bash with a rolling pin (don’t even try to slice it!) and dip or drizzle with chocolate as desired.

Above: It tastes so good, just like proper Crunchie bars. Which I happen to love.

But I had this idea that folding some honeycomb into the batter for one of those self-saucing puddings (or as I knew it as a child, “Chocolate Floating Pudding”) might be kinda cool. It wasn’t, I have to admit, entirely successful – I think I had unnattainable dreams of a butterscotchy sauce with chunks of still-crunchy honeycomb in the finished product – but it still tasted rather good.

Mmm, gooey. I had planned to make a pudding last night as a “Yay Wednesday’s Over For Another Week” kind of thing but was too exhausted in the end. Mayhaps tonight…Oh and just in case you’re worried I’ve been spending the last couple of days cleaning my teeth with muscovado and washing my hair with treacle: We have been having worthy, healthy dinners. Not quite soul food, but definitely brain food.

Above: This lentil and pumpkin take on shepherd’s pie came from Jill Dupleix’ Lighten Up, and while it can’t replace the real thing, it was very pleasant and warming and just stupidly healthy. It had five vegetables in it. And if lentils weren’t enough…I’m a little ashamed to admit this…I added a handful of rolled oats to the mixture. Well, they sort of disappear, so it’s not like I was being insanely militant. The good thing about this dish was that between the lentils, the pumpkin, and the oats, there were more than enough long lasting carbs for Tim so I didn’t have to boil up some rice or anything. We had this with roasted cauliflower, just to bring another vegetable to the party.

Speaking of roasted cauliflower, the next night I repeated the Orzotto for dinner – barley being cheap and superhealthy – and managed to cram in spinach, capsicum, and carrots to the mixture. It looked so depressingly earnest that I didn’t even bother to get photographic evidence, but it tasted pretty good.

By the time I got home last night I knew I wanted pasta and had decided on carbonara until I realised we had no cream. So instead I used the rest of the bacon that I splashed out on for my birthday, and fried it in butter till crispy. I then added a generous slosh of Marsala, more butter and served it over spaghetti to which I’d added some peas. Alongside was roasted beetroot and broccoli, and it was…just what I wanted.

Above: I find pasta SO comforting. I suppose nothing beats a bowl of buttery mashed potatoes, but for low effort, quick balm to the soul, pasta is my carb of choice.

It’s not all dire as far as my education goes though. I got an A- for an English essay I did…and if nothing else my photography assignment has introduced me to the awesomeness that is Richard Maxted whose work I was inspired by. Don’t try and google him – he has a lamentably low profile on the internet. In a moment of “why the heck not” I sent him an email using the contact address on his site…and he replied, was incredibly nice, and even answered some questions to provide quotes for my assignment. Seriously, he’s kind of a big deal in the photography world (though he has no Wikipedia page!) so for him to actually reply was very exciting. If you feel like looking at ridiculously good photography go to his website and wait for the red asterisk to turn fuzzy (you then click on it to enter the site.) I had planned on uploading a couple of my own photos here but now I’m far too disillusioned so I’ll leave you with one of Maxted’s rather more reliable works instead.

Above: Guess what this is a photo of.


Toothpicks. Clever, yes? Hopefully his help can save my grade…*update* 9/5/08 – Thanks for the kind words! but I’d just like to make clear that (having had a sense of the-teacher-is-always-right instilled into me at an early age by my mother, who teaches) it’s not exactly being told I was rubbish that I object to (it sucks! but if they’re technically bad photos then that’s that) it’s the fact that it was done in front of the whole class for three hours. I am sure there was a less heartbreaking way to do it. Didn’t want to make it seem like I was on some kind of woe-is-me, heat-of-the-moment vitriolic rampage (heck, I’d cooled off thoroughly by this stage. Can you imagine how worked up I was at the time?) But yeah, the teacher was of course well within her rights to give me her unadulterated opinion. Cheers 🙂

Country Roads…Take Me Home…


I’m writing from home – not the flat – Tim and I flew up yesterday morning and already it feels like I’ve never left. Funny how quickly you adapt to your surroundings. We had Mum’s vegetable soup last night for dinner and not only was it instantly soul-nourishing and delicious- it was much nicer than mine. Some things are worth traveling miles for…

Tim and I went out for brunch for my birthday on Thursday (it was supposed to be breakfast, but I always take too long to get figure out what to wear.) The weather was cold and miserable and I was half-tempted to stay in and make pancakes or somesuch but we persevered in the name of paying someone else to do it for us. We ended up at Epic Cafe on Willis Street, where the servings are large and the prices aren’t terrifying, and you can briefly feel like a character from Sex and The City for dining so well. Unfortunately the foul weather ruled out any would-be Carrie-style clothing creations, I went for practicality in jeans, hoodie, scarf and Chuck Taylors.

Above: I ordered the savoury French toast with sauteed vegetables and pine nuts, plus a side salad. There weren’t actually any pine nuts on mine…but the combination of their delicious hollandaise, tangy tomato sauce and amazing toast won me over, and, being the pansy that I am, I didn’t complain. The side salad was pleasant enough – for $3 – although I would have preferred some dressing. You’ll have to excuse the badly lit photographs – they were taken rather hurriedly – not only was the waitress looking at us funny but I was far too hungry to make more of an effort.

Above: Tim got the El Rancho Fryup, which featured perfectly cooked eggs and delicious, sweet-salty bite sized corn fritters that I longed to steal off him (I did manage to exchange one for a bit of my French toast.) Not to mention enough beans for one to want to avoid polite company for some time after.

We met up with my aunt who has been child-wrangling at a boarding school in Western Australia, it was fantastic to catch up with her and we spent a leisurely and loquacious afternoon in Smith The Grocer cafe in the Old Bank Arcade. Tim and I were still far too full from brunch to eat anything but I can tell you that their cups of tea come with a deliciously spiced complimentary wafer. She gifted me all sorts of wee foodie goodies including some black food colouring which I am very excited about trying out (she suggested an All Blacks cake – as if!)

Above: This is what I made for my birthday dinner. Because we were leaving for three days the next morning I couldn’t do anything too wildly extravagant – which was probably for the best, considering what it might have cost – but I did splash out and purchase some bacon. I fried and deglazed it with Vermouth, and added it to a vat of pasta along with brocolli, peas, lemon juice and the last of the creme fraiche. It was a lovely combo and also managed to use up a few things loitering sadly in the fridge. Please excuse the low-rent photo (noticing a theme?) the lens kept steaming up and this was my most serviceable shot. Any tips from more seasoned bloggers on how to prevent this?

Other things we have been eating lately…

Above: I made this free-form tart the other day for dinner, and though it really shouldn’t have worked…well, it did. First I made pastry out of 125g each of butter and flour, and bound it with a little buttermilk. I did this by hand, as I couldn’t be bothered dragging out my food processor (and there was anyway no benchspace for it) but I quickly was reminded why it’s worth the effort, as rubbing all that butter into the flour takes forever and strains the wrists substantially. Eventually I had a lump of something resembling pastry, so I rested it in the fridge, rolled it out, and started to freak as it began to almost melt on the tray, which had been heated by the oven underneath. In a blind, twitchy panic I flung my ingredients at it (creme fraiche, tomatoes, capers, pine nuts) and baked it at 200 C.

I expected to see a gooey, floury mess 25 minutes later but miraculously the pastry had come together. The tomatoes became deliciously scorched in places, making them even sweeter, which contrasted rather fabulously with the salty capers. The pastry itself was buttery and flaky, even though it really shouldn’t have been. Not the healthiest dinner, but a delicious one all the same, and something rather more “restaurant-y” than we normally get. Try it yourself – maybe even get out your food processor – and use whatever you have in your pantry that you think would go well together. I can imagine thinly sliced courgettes and parmesan being wonderful, for example…

Above: I don’t really go in for stir-fries that much – they seem kind of overdone and it’s easy to make them claggy and oily (not to mention all that damned fiddly chopping!) However upon seeing a can of water chestnuts gathering dust in our pantry I decided to make something resembling one for dinner the other night. We didn’t have a heck of a lot of vegetables so it comprised of courgette, carrots, garlic, ginger (the real, knobbly, amazingly zingy thing, not the acidy stuff from a jar), sliced water chestnuts, and cashews. A fairly slim meal, yes, but there were only two of us, and once it was banked up against a pile of brown rice and had a few judicious droplets of sesame oil, it was quite substantial. I flavoured it with fish sauce, lemon juice, and a little bit of black bean sauce. Black bean sauce is so slow moving and it is impossible to scoop it out of the narrow bottle with a spoon, so I made the mistake of shaking it over the pan with the lid off…which resulted in salty black streaks all over the wall.

All that aside, the end result was quite lovely, the water chestnuts have an intriguing texture and it was gratifyingly salty. Also, anything accompanied by brown rice makes me feel instantly Zen; a nice payoff for the long time it takes to cook.

On a “happy birthday to me” whim I purchased Jill Dupleix’ Lighten Up from the warm and friendly Unity Books on Willis Street. I have often flicked through this book and thought “eh,” but closer inspection revealed that it was actually full of exciting recipes. I’m quite wild with anticipation about trying her Lentil and Sweet Potato Pie for example… There is something about Dupleix’ authoritative “tone” that can be a bit annoying, even laughable at times, but on the whole her cookbooks make very enjoyable reads. Mum and Dad gave me a $100 grocery voucher for my birthday so I can’t wait to go buy lots of vegetables and get cooking from it. Speaking of purchases, today they bought a shiny shiny new oven (the last one made industrial grinding noises every time you turned it on which was most disconcerting and it never got hot enough). The new oven is self cleaning! What an age we live in…

Jonesing For Quinces

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quince Loaf Cake

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

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

Quince Glaze
1 quince
750 mls water
750g caster sugar

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

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

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

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

"Remember My Name!"

I had the most enormous craving to watch Fame tonight. I love this movie – how it starts off so great, gets really dark and twisted, and instead of offering the slightest inclination of resolving any of the subplots, it just ends with the main characters singing a song. A great song, admittedly – the soundtrack is fantastic. (Also, am I the only one who thinks that had Irene Cara been born ten or fifteen years later than she was, that she would have made a spectacular Mimi in Rent? Crossover appeal!) Furthermore, did you know that the guy who directed Fame also directed Pink Floyd The Wall? Tim is in Napier tonight, having a boy’s weekend (even though it’s only Wednesday) with Paul and a couple of his colleagues, watching the NZ/England cricket game. I had to work today and although I don’t really enjoy cricket in the slightest I am a bit miffed to be missing out on the fun. Perfect time though, to be watching self-indulgent movies. So I thought. Could not find Fame for love nor money anywhere in Wellington. I didn’t know it was that obscure… Eh, I guess I’ll just watch Rent again, like I usually do.

Speaking of fame, I made up a recipe that I really think is The One. Nay, THE ONE. I don’t like blowing my own trumpet (truly) but this really is something. It is – tentatively titled – Cinnamon-Date Ice Cream. I was going to call it Sticky Date Ice Cream but I thought it didn’t convey the cinnamon aspect so well and also I didn’t want it to seem like an icecream version of a pudding, you know? Anyway, as soon as I tasted a spoonful I said to Tim that if I ever get famous, it will be because of this recipe.
Above: Pity it doesn’t look that great. It was nobody’s fault really; the ice cream was too melty and I just ain’t that great at taking photos.
Above: Even when I did that whole, “close up and dusted with cinnamon” thing it didn’t really mesh. In fact…it kind of looks like hummous.
Nevermind – it tastes brilliant! Brilliant I say! Dense, fudgy, intensely caramelly and warm – somehow amongst the cold – with cinnamon. Really, ridiculously moreish. I meant it when I said that I’m not one to boast, but this really is pretty special. There are a whooooole lot of posts below where I don’t talk myself up like this, if you are a new reader thinking I am some kind of egomaniacal, er, maniac. Honestly, I’m so amazed that I of all people managed to come up with something like this.
The recipe is still in its loose stages but I will write it up soon so you can try it (if you like – I’m pretty bashful about it, in spite of all the shameless self promotion.) I have bought myself a little red notebook to write my recipes in. Who knows what will happen if I get enough of them! “Remember my name…FAME!” Ahem, etc. At the very least, I’ll have a collection of recipes that I made up.
Above: Well…you probably don’t need to see another photo on here of roast veges, least of all beetroot (no cauliflower though!) but I liked the colours of this. I can’t even remember which night we ate this, since I make roast beetroot so regularly.
Above: This is another recipe I made up (I need a more sophisticated term than made-up, I think…) I dubbed it Hearty Lentil and Chickpea Soup, since that’s what was in it (y’all know I’m a fiend for lentils) and to be honest…I wasn’t 100% taken with it. It sort of felt like it was missing something elusive.
Surprisingly though, Tim absolutely flipping loved it, so it might still be going in the notebook. I used red lentils – which I love for their ability to dissolve into mush – and canned chickpeas – along with a selection of vegetables and a can of tomatoes. It was nice, don’t get me wrong, it just didn’t make me want to jump on a couch a la Tom Cruise the way the ice cream above did. More garlic next time, I think…
Above: I went to the public library the other day, having quite forgotten what a treasure trove it is, and found Vatch’s Street Food, written by the same guy (with one heck of a name that I can’t even begin to spell off the top of my head) who did my Healthy Salads of Southeast Asia book. Judging from a quick read, the main difference that street food has over healthy salads is that everything is fried. And it’s pretty seductive reading…Last night I made some pork satay, which was incredibly delicious. I looove satay sauce and this one, coconutty and tangy with tamarind, was amazing, and not the slightest bit throat-catchingly peanut buttery.
Uni starts next Monday so my Thoroughly Modern Millie phase comes to a close. I’m looking forward – yes – to learning, but I’m not looking forward to essays…First term papers are – Renaissance Lit, some media paper I’m doing to make up my major, and – get you this – beginner’s digital photography class! Everyone wins!

I DO Like Green Eggs And Ham…

Above: What a genius idea – crepes, flavoured with pesto, wrapped around slices of ham. Nigella, you magnificent woman. Having said that, I wouldn’t be making this if I hadn’t found some heavily reduced pesto at the supermarket – these days companies will quite coolly charge you $9 for a small tub of flavourless green sludge.

Green Eggs and Ham (from Nigella Express)
– 1 egg
– 75g flour
-75g pesto
– 150mls skimmed milk (I used half full fat and half buttermilk because that’s what we had)

Mix all this together, heat up a pan with a tiny bit of oil (or use non stick) and fry this mixture, in dollops of a quarter of a cup or so. When the top looks dry and the edges are cooked, flip and cook for a little more. This makes about 5 or 6, perfect for two. Delicious, and all the more charming for it’s name being Seussical. I could eat these in a house, I could (“could” meaning I have the ability, not that I want to) eat these with a mouse – our flat is currently plagued by the wee blighters.

This was tonight’s dinner, by the way. I know I normally waffle on before getting to the food part, but I’m tired, and being tired makes me type recklessly, heedless of syntax or flow. Apologies.

Above: This was the rest of tonight’s dinner. In the background on the left you can glimpse the Green Eggs and Ham, and to the right is – surprise – roasted beetroot with avocado. I didn’t make a big deal of it, surely you don’t need to see another photo of this! In front however, is what Marjorie Dawes from Little Britain would call “Summin Else!” Oeuf En Cocotte, also from Nigella Express, could not be simpler or more elegant. I actually used some white truffle oil, that I had bought myself, as Nigella recommends – it was quite exhilarating. The basic premise of this recipe is that into ramekins go plain, but quality ingredients: A free range egg, a spoonful of cream, Maldon sea salt, truffle oil. This is then baked quickly in a bain-marie till softly set. I’m sure this would have been perfectly pleasant on its own, but with the white truffle oil it truly tasted magical. It is difficult to describe the flavour of this stuff (mercifully, it tastes good) but it is sort of rich and savoury and earthy…and gratifyingly, it tastes of expense. We finished off the last of the homemade bread with this, its grainy texture went nicely with the unctuous eggs.

Above: This is the Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake from How To Be A Domestic Goddess, which has the wondrous virtue of being super easy, but also wonderfully intense. I had passed this by for a while, as it only had two eggs and 100g dark chocolate in it – How dense could it be? I scoffed (worryingly…) But yesterday I felt like doing some baking and gosh darn it, we had all the ingredients. The batter is faint-makingly liquidy (250mls boiling water goes into the mix) but all comes right in the end. The texture is incredible – fudgy, warm, somehow almost mocha flavoured (I think it’s the muscovado sugar that does that,) and yet resolutely cakelike – comforting and sliceable, not rich and moussy. If you have this book, it is definitely worth the $3 or so to buy the muscovado sugar, not to mention the fact that the batter tastes out of this world delicious.

Now for something completely different. I mentioned in previous posts that I got a Jill Dupleix book from Nana for Christmas, New Food. For the last couple of days I have been making myself her overnight muesli, or “Summer Porridge” as I like to think of it (I forget what the recipe is actually called.) It is very good – not exactly delicious, but it couldn’t be more virtuous than if it was made of lentils, and you know I’m a sucker for that sort of thing. Basically, you get your bowl, put in half a cup of rolled oats and quarter of a cup of water. Leave in the fridge overnight. The next morning, grate in an apple (if you like the misery) or slice in a banana, (much easier) and away you go! I usually dispense with the fruit (because my alloted time for “figuring out what the heck to wear today” almost always runs over into my “dealing with fruit” time.) I stir in some LSA (linseed, sunflower seed and almond meal) and have it with soymilk, which I genuinely enjoy the taste of. You leave the house not only filled with Low-GI goodness but with the absolute smugness that can only come from having a stupidly healthy breakfast.

Above: This is not something I have cooked, but is worth looking at all the same – the sunrise this morning. This photo was taken at Victoria University, where Tim and I expand our minds…While you marvel at the beauty of the photo, spare a thought for Tim, who took the photo at 5.30am while on his way to make Orange Mocha Frappuccinos for about a million people.

In other news, Ange came round last night and we, with Emma, watched my feature length documentary on Jonothan Larson, the late author of Rent (did you know that Rent won a Pulitzer Prize? Tim still doesn’t like it even though I told him that.) Then, as these things happen, we ended up watching the whole movie AGAIN. And Tim sat through the whole thing, completely mocking it. This made me think of when boys in school throw mashed potato at you and trip you up because they secretly like you. (Although I have to agree with him – the “Bon Jovi” moment in Santa Fe is completely overwrought.) Anyway, we ate the chocolate loaf cake throughout (except for Emma, as it wasn’t gluten free) and everyone agreed that it was amazing. If I had the energy I’d type out the recipe for you, but if you really want it let me know and I can do it another day. “Another dayyyyyyyy…”

In OTHER, non-Rent-related news, there is apparently a new Nigella book (I know, already!) coming out in October called “Nigella’s Christmas.” I wonder if we grass-hut dwelling New Zealanders (I kid, we have had electicity since like, 1982) will actually see this book before Christmas arrives. Anyway, excitement!

We’ll Meat Again

“I don’t feel a house is a home until there are leftovers in the fridge, and Christmas leftovers are my all-time favourite.”

-Nigella Lawson

At times like these Nigella is highly reliable for a quote about food that doesn’t get eaten. She is possibly the only person I can pluck out of the air that fits this description. Having said that, and not surprisingly in a house of five voracious people, there really isn’t that much food left after The Christmas Dinner, so my visions of playing what Jade from ANTM 6 would have called “Leftover Lady” have been somewhat quashed. Nevertheless:

Above: Paprikasburgonya! Although it sounds as though it should be followed by the word Gesundheit, this is actually the name of what I made for Tim and I on Monday night to go with the rest of the sweet, sweet ham, and comes from my lovely Jewish Cooking for Pleasure book. And no, I didn’t pair the kosher with the pointedly non-kosher just to be funny…the opportunity merely presented itself when I discovered I had all the ingredients.

The title doesn’t lie: it was indeed a pleasure to make. Whole, boiled potatoes are cubed and fried till crisp, with capsicum and onions, sprinkled with paprika and swirled with sour cream. Although it sounds stodgy it tasted surprisingly light and used up the rest of the sour cream that went into the rugelach pastry. Pleasingly circular, no?

Last night I thought I’d better use up some of the chicken, which was stirred into penne pasta along with some of the cream cheese (it sort of melts into a sauce), peas, tomatoes, capers, feta and walnuts. Not sure what I was going for, but it certainly tasted alright.

Above: We ate this while watching Coro…which was really just something to occupy our time until Outrageous Fortune. We were all lulled into a soft fug of warm-fuzziness at Loretta being nice and sisterly to Pascalle, and at how adorable Van was being, when we were slapped in the face with Munter’s arrest! Not kind, wise Munter! Not to mention the inevitable fireworks that will ensue at Wolf’s return – oooh he makes me nervous…

I have the day off work today, which means I can have a leisurely breakfast rather than the usual hastily snatched feed before dashing off. Although breakfast isn’t usually my thing – I mean, Weet Bix, those overpriced sawdust-cakes, barely deserve the title of food, and who has time to make stacks of pancakes or blueberry waffles on weekdays, like the supermom in Sweet Valley High “who is often mistaken for the twins’ older sister.” I suppose this attitude stems somewhat from my years at boarding school, where the only options for breakfast were depressing cereal or cold toast with margarine, not butter. They fed us well there, it wasn’t some kind of Dickensian institution, but the breakfasts left a heck of a lot to be desired.

What a rant! Never realised how I felt about the first meal of the day, when all I was trying to say was that I had something nice to eat this morning.

Above: Toast with the most:Nine grain bread, toasted and spread with avocado, linseeds and Maldon sea salt. Worth getting out of bed for!
I have noticed that tons of food bloggers lately are cooking from La Lawson’s new book, Nigella Express. If I were a character in a comic book, there would be wiggly lines above my head surrounding the word COVET!! I had a quick look at it in a bookshop in town the other day, and it looks seriously gorgeous. There aren’t many things in this world that get me all anticipational like the idea of new Nigella material. But, it is also a lesson in restraint (she says, having cooked a million kilos of meat this week) in that I could probably afford to buy it but need to keep money in the bank for rent and bills and the like.
Also, while I am musing indulgently, you may have noticed a new addition to my Pet Sounds – Loveless, the album by My Bloody Valentine. I got this from my younger brother, a guy with relatively impeccable taste in music (he does like some rubbish stuff, but hey, I like Rent) This is my New. Favourite. Album. I listened to it on my iPod at work yesterday, and as soon as it was finished I listened to it again. It is seriously dreamy, and lush, and swirly, and shuffling, and all those other nice words, and slightly Cocteau Twins-esque, and a little difficult to listen to with all the layered guitar- I like music that doesn’t just hand it to you on a plate. I played it for Tim and he didn’t really like it. Now, I am always trying to get Tim to like stuff (haven’t succeeded yet with Rent, but finally managed to convince him that a life without Neil Young is a life wasted) but I had to admit it did sound a bit rough coming out of the computer. Then I tried listening to it this morning through these really good headphones that we have, and it sounded incredible. So, I have concluded that this is an album to listen to by yourself, with headphones, unless you have high class speakers, otherwise it will just sound jarringly messy.
By the way, I seriously apologise for the massively chunky paragraph above, I have tried a million times to enter a break between the separate points, but for some reason Blogger isn’t having a bar of it. It stings the eyes!