Spring Awakening


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.

Solid Gold Easy Action


These potatoes are neither radioactive nor laced with the sort of E-numbers that will keep a three year old awake for a week. It is in fact, my new friend tumeric, which I’m sneaking into everything these days. It has a squillion medicinal properties (and Mum, according to Wikipedia it repels ants if you sprinkle it in the garden), a delightfully earthy sweet flavour, and stains your food pleasingly, eye-scorchingly yellow.

Panchphoran Aloo, or potatoes with whole spices, comes from Nigella’s seminal text How To Eat and is what I made for dinner tonight. HTE is so densely packed full of wonderful recipes that with initial reads it is impossible to take everything in. It took me a while to pick up on this fabulous potato dish but now I’ve made it so many times that I don’t even use the (tumeric-smudged) book anymore. What you want to do: Get lots of floury potatoes, scrub them and then parboil for five-ten minutes. Nigella doesn’t instruct you to do this, but it makes them a lot easier to cook. Drain and dice the potatoes, then toss them into a hot, non-stick pan, stirring occasionally still somewhat golden. Add a spoonful or so of the following and stir: cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fenugreek, fennel seeds, mustard seedstumeric. There’s a bit of standing and stirring involved but it’s really simple to make and tastes marvelous, especially with plenty of sea salt.

This is a very cheap meal for me because I have all those spices to hand (including a 500g catering-sized pack of cumin seeds that I’ve made surprising headway with) but I can see why the lesser-stocked amongst you might freak out at an ingredients list like that. I find health food stores really handy for cheap bags of spices and things if you want to start somewhere. There’s one on Cuba Street which has all manner of enticing wee bags of things…that I am quite embarrassingly addicted to purchasing. Last time I was there (on the way to The Dark Knight) I walked out clutching 2 bags of quinoa flakes, a bag of kibbled rye, a bag of ground linseeds and a bag of bran. It’s addictive I tells ye.

By the way, I apologise for the harsh photography. I’m having ongoing camera issues, which, coupled with the total lack of natural light here (it has rained for about 3 weeks straight) does not good food porn maketh. I also apologise if this post is lacklustre…these assignments are keeping me stressed and busy, instead of stressed and stationary.

With the rain and the sleet and the damp and the cold comes a couple of benefits. For example: steamed pudding. I first bought my pudding steamer in the infant days of this blog (back when I had permanent poor exposure and no depth of field, ah, circularity) and it occurred to me that it hadn’t gotten any use in a while. A casual flick through Nigella’s delicious How To Be A Domestic Goddess (while I should have been doing something more productive) had me longing suddenly to introduce butter to its amigos sugar and flour. You have to get going in advance – the whole two hours steaming thing – but apart from that these things practically make themselves. And they’re so delicious, not stodgy at all, but miraculously light. And I love the way a fat, golden jammy slice of this pudding slowly soaks up the milk pooling in the base of the bowl…I highly recommend you look up all your very old cookbooks, you know, the sort that have recipes for salads set with gelatine, and make yourself a darned steamed pudding. Unless you’re in the northern hemisphere in which case maybe wait a few months. It’s one of the best things about this weather.

If I can’t be perky, nothing livens things up like the neighbourhood cat – seriously, I defy you to view this and not feel the slightest stirrings of mirth in your soul.

Above: This isn’t our cat. If the landlord is reading, this isn’t even a cat, it’s…a teddy bear (ceci n’est pas un chat?) But seriously, it’s this kitteh that hangs round our ‘hood and occasionally stands by the door looking cute and vulnerable and what would you do? Turns out that its most natural, ideal sleeping position is…face-planted. Did you know cats can breathe out their ears?

Next time: I’m not sure, again, so I’m also not sure why I persist with this “next time” feature. I bought some brisket though, with a view to cooking it slowly somehow…any suggestions?

O Broth, Where Art Thou?


Just because it is summer in America, does not (unfortunately) mean it is summer in New Zealand. Just putting it out there – while y’all are consuming sorbets and frozen yoghurts and cooling salads, we have had snow in previously un-snowed locales, closed roads, gale force winds…Because of the said seasonal conditions, I have been on something of a soup kick lately. We’ve had it in various forms all week for dinner, and it’s ideal for combatting the incessant sharp chill of winter that permeates our damp, un-insulated, World Health Standard-violating flat.

Soup 1:

Above: Gold on gold…a taste of sunshine for when it’s rainy outside. This soup is something I came up with while riffing on my standard pumpkin soup recipe. Basically it is the same – roasted pumpkin, mashed roughly with a wooden spoon and with stock stirred in – but I added dense, mushy cooked red lentils, a good 2/3 cup which and pretty much made it a complete meal. As well as this I sprinkled over plenty of yellow tumeric, as you can see in this picture, and ras-el-hanout, a spice mix to which I am quite addicted. It isn’t too obscure, most places these days are stocking it, and it imparts headily warm, aromatic, gentle spiciness.

As well as being seriously healthy, pumpkin and lentils are two of the cheapest things around these days. The lentils I used were some organic ones my mum sent me and the pumpkin was from the local vege market. Mmm, moral fibre and actual fibre in one bowl.

To go with the soup, and to augment the sunny golden-ness, I whipped up a batch of cornbread. The recipe I use is Nigella’s and is a favourite of mine, it always works and can be fiddled and faddled with to no ill effect and is the perfect accompaniment to almost anything (particularly butter…)


175g cornmeal (or polenta, same diff so look for either)
125g plain flour
45g caster sugar
2 t baking powder
250ml full fat milk
1 egg
45g butter, melted

Set oven to 200 C. Grease whatever you’re using – a muffin tin, a 20cm-ish brownie tin, etc. What I usually do is melt the butter in a decent sized microwave-proof bowl. Then I stir in the milk and egg with a fork. Then tip in all the dry ingredients, mix till just combined – don’t worry about lumps – then pour into your receptacle and bake, for 20-25 minutes. I have made this with superfine cornmeal and the more granular stuff, and a mix of the two, anything is fine really although the granular stuff gives slightly more bite to your finished product.

We had this soup again, with leftover cornbread for mopping up, the next night. This time I roasted some carrots as well and mashed them in once tender. They gave an added note of natural sweetness which was quite effective…
Soup 2:

One of my favourite things about Cuisine magazine is Ray McVinnie’s Quick Smart column, where he gives, every month – how does he do it? – an exhaustive list of meal ideas and recipes based on a particular theme. After reading his promptings to make any number of soups, I tried this. I sauteed finely chopped onions and garlic, then added some chopped free-range bacon, stirring till cooked. I added diced, floury potatoes, dried thyme, and porcini stock, and allowed it to simmer till the potatoes were utterly tender and melting into the stock. I sprinkled over some nutmeg and pink peppercorns and biffed in a crisp green handful of chopped spinach, which wilted on impact. This deliciously thick, comforting soup was what Tim and I ate while watching Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story on DVD. After we finished watching it we weren’t overly impressed, but the next day we were repeating quotes back and forth and cracking up…anyway it’s worth it for Jack White’s cameo as Elvis Presley alone.

On Friday night Tim and I had fish and chips, a decision perhaps fuelled by the amount of wine I had at after-work drinks that afternoon (nothing to worry about, but put it this way – I didn’t make it to Bikram yoga.) Through work I scored free tickets to see Samuel Flynn Scott, one of New Zealand’s most prolific musicians. He is well-known for his work with the Phoenix Foundation and the Eagle vs Shark soundtrack, as well as dabbling in other side projects yet…I’d never really heard any of his stuff. All I knew about him was that he was endowed with a fullsome beard and had participated in our Smoking: Not Our Future campaign. What can I say – we had a great night. He and his equally beardy band Bunnies on Ponies were tight, charismatic, fun, and the banter mercifully tended to err on the side of witty. Because I’ve never really heard much of their music I wouldn’t want to make any comparisons in case they were absolutely wrong but…they had a kind of ModestMouse-happyREM-SplitEnz thing going on. They finished with a rousing cover of the Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society, a ditty that I love…

On Saturday I was lucky enough to catch up with my mother and my godmum, who were in town for a language teachers’ conference…after an enormous lunch with them at the Black Harp Tim and I had soup number 3 for dinner – a light, noodly Japanese-style broth.

Soup 4:


I have stopped buying exciting ingredients with such mad gay abandon these days, partly because of money, partly because of lack of space, but when I found some dried borlotti beans going very cheaply at the Meditteranean Warehouse in Newtown I consciously ignored that rule…They were soaked, and simmered up for Nigella’s Pasta e Fagioli from Nigella Bites. It couldn’t be simpler – it is basically just cooked up beans and pasta. I added a tin of tomatoes and a splash of sherry, and it made for a perfect Sunday night dinner. No accompaniments necessary, apart from a spoon.

Tim and I start back at university tomorrow. It seems like just yesterday that I was dashing up hill and down dale in February trying to register for my classes in the sweltering heat and now I’m in my final term. I’m doing three 3rd year papers this semester, hopefully it’s not too gruelling, but then I think to myself, surely nothing could be as gruelling as the photography paper. By the way, I finished up with a good, solid B as my final mark for that particular gem of a class, not bad eh what? And in a matter of months I shall be Laura Vincent, BA…

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’?

“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.)

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…

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?

My Funny Valentine

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

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

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

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

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

Look what happens when you stir it!

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

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

I have been making other stuff lately:

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

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

“I’ll Cover You” or, “Today It’s Your Birthday, We’re Gonna Have A Good Time!”

Firstly: HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Dad and my younger brother. They were born on the same day, many years apart (but of course!) If I could, I would be singing “Birthday” by the Sugarcubes (ie, early Bjork) in Icelandic: Once heard, never forgotten.

Today was one of those rare days in Wellington, city of much wind, where you could wear a skirt without fear that your knickers will become fair game for passers-by to gawk at. Unfortunately I gauged it wrongly this morning (gauging has never been one of my skills) and ended up sweltering in jeans at the office all day. It is still warm enough here to have the bedroom windows open at 8.30pm. Oh how I love summer, even though it means I have to be super vigilant about not getting my pale, pale skin burnt.
You may have noticed, O faithful reader, that we seem to have been eating a lot of roast cauliflour lately. Tonight was no exception.
Above: Although roasted cauliflour is seriously dear to my heart, roasted beetroot is a close second. You don’t even need to add any oil, (for those of you who worry about such things, as I do occasionally when my jeans feel tight.) Avocado is the perfect foil for my roasted vegetables – it provides cool, silky contrast in texture, and the colour seems to do something lift-y to the whole operation too. One of the best things about summer is how cheap and consistently edible the avocados are. No matter how often I eat them they still taste exciting.
Above: Tonight’s dinner, as well as the roast vege avocado thing, was also Chicken with Soy and Sherry which was basically an idea I got from the New Zealand Cookbook, and some leftover gratin from last night – she says, realising I haven’t even written about the gratin yet – and…
Above: We probably didn’t need this on top of everything else, but I had all the ingredients and it is really rather light. I used the Simple Tomato Tart recipe from The Accidental Vegetarian, and the title does not lie – a few slices is all it takes. I grated parmesan cheese over and cut some dinky stars out of the leftover pastry. It tasted flipping delicious – summery and buttery and tomatoey. Did you know that tomatoes are actually better for you if you cook them? It increases the lycopene in them. Which makes me feel better about eating them on a mound of pastry…
Above: This is the aforementioned gratin, Potato and Mushroom Gratin, specifically, from Nigella Express, which was last night’s dinner. It was quite easy to make, although I don’t recommend you attempt it if you are doing the dishes – the dish is a complete nightmare to clean afterwards, and requires lengthy soaking. The gratin itself tasted great, the mushrooms were a fantastic addition and the fact that it was only cooked in milk meant I didn’t have to rush out and buy any cream.

Above: I served it with the Bacon and Tomato Hash from Feast. This is so simple – just fried bacon and tomatoes – so simple that I passed it by for a long time (also, bacon is kinda expensive.) But it is seriously good, fast, and well, good again. Since there seems to be a theme tonight of revealing what things are after I’ve mentioned them, I might as well tell you that we mopped up the salty tomato juices with the leftover bread that I had baked the night before.
Above: I made this on Sunday afternoon. It is a recipe from the excellent Brenda, from the food forum I am a member of, and this is not the first time I have made it. Let me just come right out and say this: I LOVE making bread. I love kneading it, watching it rise, the smell of it baking…I can see their use, but I don’t think I could ever own a breadmaker – it just takes all the fun out of the process.
With this I made the Chef’s Salad again – that’s how much I like it.
Above: This one was even better than the first one I made, because I had actual chunks of ham in it, not shaved (“ham ends” were very cheap at New World, perhaps because with a name like that no one would buy!)
And that is basically everything we have eaten up until this point.
Much as I hate how whatever they are calling the generation after me tends to overuse the word “Random,” Tim and I had a very random Sunday night. Tim was doing a shift at Starbucks that afternoon, when some American guys came in. They got to talking, after ordering their Venti Mocha Whatevers, and it conspires that these Americans were in fact, in a band that was playing at the San Fransisco Bath House (an ostentatiously named venue in the city) that night. Their name is Me First and The Gimme Gimmes. Their gig was sold out and Tim had never heard of them before, but he must have absolutely charmed them with his, well, charm, because they told him they’d put his name on the door with a plus-one (that’s me!) and he could go to their gig. Tim was pretty stoked with the whole name on the door thing, and came home and told me. You may be asking who this band is. Basically put, they are a punk rock covers band, which may not sound terribly alluring, but I had a massive thing for these guys in third form and so was pretty excited that we could just waltz in for free. And also the idea of one’s name being on the door of an event makes one feel pretty darn grown up.
They were excellent fun, and played some of my old favourites that I used to listen to on Channel Z – like Leaving on a Jet Plane and Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Amusingly, they would say “Okay, for this next song we’re going to play a cover” before every tune they played. Purists may well sneer at a punked up cover of Blowin In The Wind, but how can you resist when they precede it by saying “Here’s a song we’ve basically stripped of any meaning whatsoever.” After the gig we talked to their sound guy, (I’m sure there is a more technical name for what he does) who was very friendly and gave us the set list. Rock and Roll!
It might not be quiiiite as cool as the time the guy who plays “Hands” on Boston Legal went to Tim’s work, but it is giving me half a mind to quit my job and work at Starbucks if only for the occasional celeb sighting. Yes, “You can take the girl out of Hicksville” etc etc.