30 December 2007
Benny: "And The Owner Of That Lot Next Door Has A Right To Do With It As He Pleases" Collins: "Happy Birthday, Jesus."
Meanwhile, camping is blissful, and I am spending a brief hiatus at home in order to pick up Tim, who is travelling up to join us today. I realise Christmas is old news now, but because I have been a trifle busy/lazy, I haven't got around to posting the pictures till now. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were both a complete flurry of mad cooking in the midday sun.
Above: Nigella's Frangipane Christmas Mince Tarts. Any smugness I felt at actually making my own fruit mince to put in the pastry cases was swiftly obliterated as I grappled with the nightmare that was the pastry. My parents don't own a food processor (they do have a blender, so they aren't complete heathens) so I had to make it by hand, which in the oppressive heat doesn't make for cooperative pastry. I ended up patching bits onto each other, praying that it wouldn't stick to the tins, and couldn't roll it out for love nor money so I only got to make a half batch.
Above: Luckily the sodding things were delicious...all smugness returned.
Above: I made two of the Marzipan Fruit Cakes from How To Be A Domestic Goddess, to give away as presents. They are very easy to make, and the mixture is delicious, all orange scented and rummy. The only difficult thing was lining the sides of the tins with baking paper. Nearly ended up throwing the whole thing out the window.
Above: The baked cake, paper lining and all. Chunks of real marzipan and dried pears make this rather different and luxe, but also make it a mission to stir without flinging chunks of batter into one's hair.
I don't seem to have any photos of the Christmas lunch itself, which must have been on a different camera. It was a very relaxed, joyfully low-key affair, and we feasted upon roasted lamb with Za'tar (Christmas present!!), roast chicken, new potatoes, and roasted capsicum, beetroot, and zucchini .
Above: Nigella's Pomegranate Jewel Cake, from Feast. The perfect cake for (a) a family with members dabbling in Gluten-free, and (b) a family whose members uncharacteristically do not want anything tooo rich for pudding. It is also perfect for Rosh Hashana, for that is the chapter in Feast it came from. It is not, however, a cake to make when you are stressed and have fifty thousand other things that need baking too and you suspect your oven is on the blink. Miraculously everything got cooked in the end, and I even managed to turn this slightly fragile cake out onto its own plate (not having the right-sized springform tin.) Pomegranates are expensive in Waiuku so I only used one, not the two that the recipe stipulated, but I think this still looks gorgeously rubied and very, (although not obviously intentionally), Christmassy.
So that was Christmas Day, and we did the whole shebang again on Christmas Night with a family who have been our neighbours, one way or another, for many many generations, and who are exactly the sort of people you would want to have second pudding of the day with. Now that we are out camping we are still eating very well; I would be able to show you photos as evidence but Blogger won't upload for some reason. We have been camping there for 21 years now, and each year it gets better and better, but also more crowded unfortunately. I have already read four-and-a-half books - what more could one want for their summer?
27 December 2007
It is also what I would have been saying today had it not been raining intermittently, followed by an icy blast of clattering hailstorms tonight. It is still bucketing down now. We managed to find a brief patch of sun in which to claim a patch of ground at the campsite, in the manner of the Outrageous Fortune Christmas Special - but in this weather I fear for the state of the tents which we left behind as a marker of our territory. Nevermind - being damp and uncomfortable is part of the many joys of camping.
In other news, I spent Boxing Day eating leftovers and reading the charming Anne of Green Gables,wishing resentfully all the while that my eyes were at least half as starry as the titular Anne's are constantly made out to be. I hope everyone had a fabulous Christmas. As at least a third of my readership spent Christmas in my company, I know I can reply fairly confidently that yes, it was a great day. Actual blogging will ensue shortly, with lots of pictures of the "flesh and wine" that was consumed in enormous proportions.
I am, however, still stinging at the $80 that Pacific Blue charged me in overweight luggage fines...
23 December 2007
We have been eating funny meals lately, lots of bits and pieces. We had some bananas growing rapidly decrepit in the fruit bowl, so I thought I'd better make something with them. I ended up making the Banana Muffins from Nigella's How To Be A Domestic Goddess. I had previously bypassed this recipe because, well, it didn't really interest me - banana muffins are nice and all, but nothing new, if you know what I mean. Well I should have known that Nige would be able to create something exciting from even the most commonplace thing. The muffins were wonderful - light, spongy, redolent with honey. There is only 2 tablespoons of honey, no actual sugar, only 30g butter (bugger all when shared between 12 cakes) no eggs and no milk. I almost thought there was a typo when I first scanned the page - what on earth held the mixture together, I don't know, but again, they tasted beautiful.
Above: Nigella's banana muffins. Eating is believing - these really are special.
Above: Last night's dinner was effectively the last meal I was going to be cooking for Tim and I before we went our separate ways, and anyone who knows how I feel about cooking dinner will know that this is a big deal. I didn't want to spend any more money on food, so I followed Nigella's wonderful pasta recipe, which makes a feast out of bugger all (some flour and a couple of eggs.)
There is a running joke in the flat that Tim and I get very, very tense with each other while trying to wrangle the pasta maker, causing the other flatmates to get nervous at its very presence. Luckily we were mature enough to work out our differences last night, even when I accidentally left the cut pasta in a fast-congealing lump and we had to re-roll the whole lot again. The pasta machine was an impulse buy (as one does) but is worth the effort for the silky, tender, unbelievably delicious pasta it yields.
Above: I tossed the pasta in a little butter and freshly grated nutmeg, and roasted the last of whatever veges we had in the fridge to go with it. Delicious!
Above: Because we are so recklessly impulsive, Kieran, Tim and I decided to go out for breakfast this morning instead of packing. Which is, to be fair, a rather miserable job. We went to Epic again, and it was just as amazing as it was last time. From left - Kieran's Eggs Montreal, my Vegan big breakfast ("The Herbivore") and Tim's Ranch-style cookup. I didn't feel like anything too heavy, which is why I uncharacteristically went for the vegan feed. It was perfectly filling, the veges were delicious and the grainy bread it was served on was incredible. We sat outside in the sun and sipped spirulinas with our meals. Seriously - go there if you are in Wellington.
Now I have to run round and do that last minute panic thing, as you do, and say goodbye to the goldfish. Not sure when my next post will be but I'm sure everyone's far too busy to be online anyway. My bags are laden with all the foodie gifts I've made for people - I hope like heck that I don't get fined for overweight luggage at the airport. Merry Christmas Everyone!!
21 December 2007
Above: It worked! Oh how it worked. Nigella has a whole stash of cheesecake recipes that up until now I'd put in the basket labelled "hmm looks pleasantly gratifying but a little too hard and - waterbath! Heck no, sister!" Am now a complete convert.
It shows that you really should trust more in Nigella, when she says not to be put off by the waterbath...well, don't be. Wrapping the batter-filled tin with foil and placing it in a roasting dish, which I filled with boiling water and then got Tim to ferry precariously to the oven - well it wasn't that difficult at all. Now I'm looking forward to trying out in the future her chocolate cheesecake, New York cheesecake, apple cheesecake...and maybe taking out shares in Philadelphia cheese.
Above: Just to put it in context, (and because it's not all about me) I'd better mention that we had a shared dinner on Wednesday night - it was supposed to be a barbeque but it was hosing down with rain, in a non-summery kind of way. Naturally, it was the day that Tim and I picked three weeks ago to go Christmas shopping. What a long day! I was exhausted by the end of it all, (and terrified to look at my bank balance!) We went into the Christmas Grotto (or whatever they are calling it these days) at Kirkcaldie and Staines, and nearly had a hernia at all the blinking lights. There were different 'concept' trees everywhere, and Tim and I (okay, mostly Tim) estimated that one tree alone -we checked some price tags- would cost upward of $3000 if you wanted to duplicate it in your home. We also found this music box that - would you believe it - recreated the entire Nutcracker ballet with little cake decoration dolls and scene changes and everything. I dragged Tim through the Cuisine section ("This would be such a thoughtful gift for someone") before we trudged out into the rain to recommence.
Tim made some sugar free jellies in my old fashioned moulds for dessert on Wednesday. One was a 21st birthday present from my mother's sister, and the other was something I scavenged out in a second hand shop. He turned them out onto the plate with ease and don't they look all jewel-like and festive! The cheesecake tasted lovely - very creamy but also tangy with lime, and the chocolate base was very, very moreish.
I made kedgeree for dinner last night, in one of those "Good grief what on earth will we have for dinner" moments that occur sometimes. Kedgeree always reminds me of Dad because he would often cook it for us at home, though I admit it's not something, to paraphrase Nigella, that you would serve to the ambassador of India. What we ate last night was merely cooked rice with frozen peas, a tin of tuna, some hard boiled eggs and spices stirred through. Still delicious and a good store-cupboard fallback.
Can't tell you what else I cooked last night because there is a good percentage of my readership for whom it will be a Christmas present! I know something you don't know...tee hee.
18 December 2007
Above: I always thought that rice paper rolls were a bit like haircuts - best done by professionals. But the recipe in Nigella's Forever Summer showed me that they were in fact, incredibly do-able. A little fiddly, yes, but nevertheless a simple, impressive, and healthy nibble. We even made them while camping last year, if that is any indication of their non-threateningness (should such a word exist.) I made very simple rolls on Sunday night - just grated carrot, sliced avocado and mint, no noodles or anything. I think they were in fact the nicest ones I have ever made. Once you get into a rhythm of dunking the rice paper, laying the filling on their softened surfaces, and rolling them up, there's not much to it at all.
Above: The real Canadian cake! Alicia's friend sent her a box of Betty Crocker cake mix, complete with a TUB OF ICING and we made it after dinner. Although I am generally vehemently opposed to cakes made from boxes, I was intrigued to say the least. You might not be able to see it in the photo but everything on the packaging is charmingly translated into French as well as English. Anyway, we mixed this up and baked it while watching the Simpsons movie on DVD. How do I put this - the cake was appallingly fabulous. It had this spookily puffy, moist texture, like something not found in nature, and the icing tasted like butter. It also had little clumps of e-numbers, I mean sprinkles, clustered throughout. It tasted pretty amazing, but left me rolling around groaning afterwards, filled with too much sugar.
Above: Tonight I kept it fairly simple. Penne pasta, with avocado and roasted beetroot, capsicum, and courgette. I drizzled over a little of the basil oil that Mum and Dad got me when they went to Australia earlier this year, and it was the perfect foil for the mix of flavours on the plate. The beetroot inevitably stained the pasta, but I thought the combo looked rather festive.
16 December 2007
Above: Everything was going fine until I realised I'd ran out of cornflour, and of course in the unstable world of pavlova every ingredient is crucial. So I thought maybe I could substitute it with custard powder, which is mostly cornflour anyway, right? Well, I sifted it in, poured over the vinegar...and it made this funny bubbling noise. So I folded it all together, spread the shiny mixture onto the baking tray, and put it in the oven quickly. Then I looked at the ingredients on the custard powder and it had cream of tartar in it. Uh oh! I thought. And hoped for the best.
Above: We ate outside again, because it was so warm. The spag bol tasted great - if only cheese wasn't so expensive, we could have grated some over the top.
Above: From the top, the Pomegranate Pav, the Nectarine and Passionfruit Pav, and the Chocolate Raspberry Pav. They make me think of Miss World contestants, all lined up like that. Which do you think looks the prettiest? I sure can't decide...
12 December 2007
By the way - and I can't think of any better place to say it than here - it is one of my greatest regrets in life that I can't sing. It's not like something you can work for in a New Year's Resolution kind of way - you either have it or you don't. You may wonder why I begin my post like this, but I was singing loudly along to the Rent soundtrack today while doing the dishes and as I listened to myself caterwaul it struck me that no matter how much I love to sing, no one would ever hire me to star in a Broadway show. Sigh.
- Take a jar of tomato pasta sauce. Empty into a pot, then half fill the jar with water, put the lid on, give it a shake and tip the contents into a pot. Biff a teacup or so of long grain rice into the sauce, and add more water if there doesn't seem to be enough liquid. Cook at a lowish heat for 20 or so minutes, stirring so it doesn't stick, until the rice is cooked. Pa-dah!
It is warm, and comforting, and transports even the most low-rent jar of pasta sauce into something seriously delicious.
To go with this I made Nigella's potato and onion hash, from Feast. It is basically cubed potato, fried till crispy with onion, topped with a fried egg. The perfect supper.
Finally - I swear, this is the last thing - I made the Blackberry and Apple Kuchen from Nigella Bites. Nigella's version is a sweetened slab of bread which has apple, blackberries, and crumble tumbled over before baking. I had found a punnet of blackberries at the local Four Square for $2.50, and so taken was I with how cheap they were that I had to buy them. This recipe is very easy, the dough is silkily easy to knead and roll out into its tin, and then all you have to do is dice the apple and make the cinnamony crumble. It's a miracle that I didn't muck it up somehow, as the final of Outrageous Fortune was starting when I put it in.
Above: Kuchen in the kitchen. This stuff is sooo good!
Am now off to make a list (and check it twice, I know) of ingredients for all the Christmas presents I'm going to be cooking over the next two weeks. Am also hoping that I get paid soon -eek!
11 December 2007
Actual cooking tomorrow, I promise.
10 December 2007
After a retro cooking challenge was issued by an online food forum I frequent (ooh, alliteration!) I had a think about what I consider to actually be retro food. There is the obvious stuff - cheese fondue (which I have made successfully, and yes, it is delicious) or prawn cocktail, Boef en Croute and black forest gateaux - the sort of thing one reads about in a Jilly Cooper novel. And I concluded that as a child of '86, I was really too young to be thinking about foods as retro - the closest I can get is being snide about that period in the late nineties/early 2000's, where if it wasn't drowned in balsamic vinegar it was covered in sweet chilli sauce, and chicken, cranberry and brie was the height of haute cuisine.
So I decided to let what was in our cupboards decide for me, and ended up with two distinctly different 'retro' dishes - one being Ratatouille, a dish densely packed with vegetables and, I understand, a classic of the seventies. The other thing I made - little coffee flavoured cakes, inexplicably named "Crybabies," came from an Aunt Daisy cookbook that belonged to my great grandmother. Its margins are scrawled with notes and it is a piece of family history - indeed, social history- which I am very happy to own. It's not what I would necessarily call retro, since the book would have been published in the 30's or 40's, but still pleasingly seems to go with the notion of cooking from the past.
Above: Ratatouille! The recipe I found in Nigella's seminal text, How To Eat. It is so easy to make and is, if one entertains friends this way inclined, both vegetarian and gluten free. I had bought most of the ingredients at the vege market, and the only thing I didn't put in the eggplant-courguette-tomato mix was capsicum because they are really expensive at the moment. It turned out absolutely delicious, by the way, and was a breeze to make in the non-stick pan I got for a 21st birthday present from family friends. (More alliteration, brought to you by the letter F)
Above: The Crybabies (sounds like a bad, coat-tail riding sixties girl group, speaking of retro...) These little cakes were so delicious and easy to make, that I'm going to list the recipe. I halved the original, by the way, but if you have the patience and a ton of golden syrup- be my guest.
Mix together the following: 1/2 cup hot, very strong coffee, 125 g soft butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup golden syrup (or, 6 tablespoons if this helps) 1 t each ground ginger and nutmeg. Stir in enough plain flour till it has a thick, cake batter dropping consistency. Pour 1/2 a teaspoon vinegar over one teaspoon baking soda, let it foam up and stir thoroughly into the batter. Drop spoonfuls onto a baking tray and bake at 180 for 20-25 minutes.
These are so good - spicy and doughy and treacly and perfect for dipping into a hot drink, or, as we ate them, to accompany a good movie. In our case, the amazing animated film Spirited Away, which we watched last night.
So; that was my retro project. I have a small problem now - I am going to be cooking lots of presents for Christmas - if this makes sense - but I can't blog about it because a large proportion of my readers (ie my family) are to be the recipients for said food-gifts and I don't want to ruin the surprise. So, although I have a lot of exciting stuff planned for the rest of the fast-speeding away time before Christmas, you probably won't hear about it!
8 December 2007
We don't have a heck of a lot of food in our cupboards at the moment. After the massive spree that was shopping for the Christmas dinner, I didn't want to spend any more money on actual groceries. Let me tell you, I am looking forward to the vege market tomorrow.
5 December 2007
3 December 2007
SO, the Team Hadfield Annual Christmas Dinner is officially over. I am officially all kinds of shattered after Tim and I spent over an hour doing the dishes (I washed, he dried, I felt like the sorcerer's apprentice with the neverending plates appearing) but I can't really complain since I'm the reason all the dishes were there in the first place. The dinner was a massive success, so much fun, and left us all groaningly full. Here it is - no pictures of Beckham, no kittens, no music reviews. Just FOOD.
As you know from the previous post (that's if you actually read it and didn't just pause on the David Beckham picture) I had been making things in advance, and the same pattern continued on Sunday. Tim had work at Starbucks at 7.30am, so I was awake fairly early. That is, my body was awake, my brain was a little on the fuzzy side.
First thing I did was make the ice cream. Sound a little madcap, I know, but I thought the Lemon Prosset would look rather stingy in bowls on its own and this is the easiest ice cream recipe I know. Nigella (who else!) has variations of it in a few of her books, the version I used was the Bitter Orange Ice Cream from Nigella Bites. It defies everything one is taught about making ice cream and shouldn't work, but oh, how it does. Simply dissolve icing sugar - about 150g - in the juice of a couple of oranges, add 600mls cream, whisk till softly whipped and...freeze. You are supposed to add lime juice to this but I didn't have any, so I upped the orange hit with a teaspoon of my beloved Boyajian Orange Oil (Nigella actually namechecked it in her books!) which made it headily...you know it's difficult to find a synonym for "orange" so I'll stop talking about it.
Above: The Orange Blossom Special...I used a whisk, rather than the electric beaters, because I figured that any extra activity would be beneficial. Considering all the cream.
While the ice cream was a-freezing I got on with the Rugelach. Now, I'm not one to appropriate other cultures - she says - but I think that there is nothing wrong with enjoying the many foods that the world has to offer. I say this because of a photo I saw of Justin Timberlake poking out his tongue in imitation while receiving a powhiri - Maori welcome - on his recent visit to New Zealand. I'm not quite sure why this annoyed me, but I had a bit of a think and concluded that it was one thing for me to make Jewish food, but it would be another thing entirely to say, wear a yarmulke while doing so. Anyway, I was getting so philosophical you could call me Anne of Green Gables and I nearly forgot to actually make the blooming things. Luckily they are a doddle.
Above: Doesn't the sight of this make you want to convert...just a schmeer? Rugelach is pastry (which has butter, sour cream AND cream cheese in it, making it very sticky but easy to roll out) brushed with melted butter and, for artery thickening effect, rolled around chocolate and brown sugar. It is glutinous, but it was the only glutinous thing on the menu and frankly I'm not a miracle worker. This recipe comes from Nigella's Feast and is, she says, a Hannukah treat. Nigella herself is actually Jewish, although not a practising one, hence the fact that I used her recipe for ham as well!
My cousin Paul came over at this stage and I realised that (a) I needed more chocolate to dip the truffles in and (b) I really wanted a drink. Luckily I managed to juggle both without detrimental effect, but I will say this - vanilla Galliano is sickly. I tend to enjoy a drier drop. There was a funny limbo time in the afternoon, because I didn't want to get started on the meat and veges too soon, but of course everything would need quite a long time cooking.
The Fully Festive Ham, also from Feast, is a complete joy to make. It is worth pointing out that what I used was not what New Zealanders would know as ham - here we tend to get ours precooked, which we then just glaze and cook on Christmas day. The stuff Nigella uses - which is easier to find in England than here - is uncooked ham, called gammon, or here, pickled pork. Don't be put off by the 'pickled' bit, it's truly just uncooked ham. This means you can simmer it in whatever you want. Like coca cola. But that's another story...
Above: The ham, submerged in a litre each of apple and cranberry juice, plus onion, cinnamon sticks, pink peppercorns and a star anise. You are supposed to use allspice berries but I didn't have any. Anyhow I thought the star anise looked rather pretty bobbing round and the pink peppercorns would add the necessary earthiness. This simmers away for a couple of hours so it doesn't really require too much effort.
I stuffed the chickens, which was about as undesirable a job as I remember it to be (and the cavities are strangely cold.) I scrapped the idea of challah, and bought some bread rolls, as well as a gluten-free loaf instead - didn't have the psychological space in my head for dealing with more dough - so luckily I didn't have to worry about faffing about with oven temperatures.
The potatoes went in the oven and the kumara and parsnips were chopped up to go in Tim's electric frypan that he got for his 21st. It is worth knowing that you can quite effectively "roast" vegetables in this machine, if you are feeding a crowd. I made a quick salad, to offer crisp contrast, out of a packet of fancy salad mix and half a block of feta. Ooooh I love feta. I made a quick dressing out of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and that was it - simple is best sometimes (ha!)
Above: The ensalada. The "green stuff" that saved our arteries from all the chicken and ham and chocolate...
As we were setting the table, Emma said "weren't you going to do some peas?" Bugger! Quickly biffed them in the microwave, and then thought, heck, I might as well make some gravy too. So I poured the chicken roasting juices into a pot, with a spoonful of the cranberry sauce that I used to glaze the ham (which was in the oven at this point) and even though it ultimately makes things gluggy, a spoonful of gluten-free cornflour. While this was boiling up I added a slosh of Marsala, quarter of a porcini stock cube and a cup or so of water and let it bubble away.
Above: "They call it riding the gravy train..." I'm something of a gravy novice, and gluten-free is probably not the best way to start, but it was pretty good stuff. Behind you can see the remainder of the stuffing which I cooked in my silicone muffin tray for people.
And then, it was time to eat.
Above: The groaning board (which handily extends out.) Far left is the ham, then the chickens, and the salad on the right. Of course the chickens were free range, they taste so much better, and as the ham came from our delightful local butchers I was reassured it was a happy pig in life.
Above: Tim's plateful. I'm full just looking at it.
Mercifully, everyone liked it. The stuffing was very well received, the ham was unbelievably tender (hey, it's a good recipe) and we all just ate and ate and ate and ate. We had a brief pause between courses, just enough to try and locate a nook into which pudding could fit.
Above: Psychocandy - from front to back, the Rugelach, the Crunchie Bar Slice, and the Chocolate Truffles. For some reason I never got a photo of the ice cream or the Lemon Prosset, but here - one looks pale and slightly orange, the other looks pale and slightly yellow. As Jack White opined, "Sugar never tasted so good." I'm so glad I decided to do heaps of things- I honestly can't decide which I like more. By the way, the sweeties above are resting in none other than my Nigella Lawson Living Kitchen platter, which is ENORMOUS. I got it ridiculously cheap on Trademe and didn't realise how huge it was when I bought it. It is gorgeous though and the perfect vessel for the dessert. Again, a giant "phew" that everyone loved the desserts. I knew the Lemon Prosset wouldn't fail me!
Now that I have been cooking for two days, washing up for over an hour and typing for two hours...well I don't know how to finish that sentence but my brain is tired and I'm not looking forward to work tomorrow. It was a seriously rewarding weekend (not least because of all the eating) and I had such a great time cooking up The Feast and feeding people who are important to me. It doesn't feel that long ago that we had ours last year, and I who knows where we will be this time next year...
By the way if anyone is here at this point -thanks for reading so far and sorry if it is a little uninspired...but to be fair, my sinuses are packed with ham and my lungs are filled with truffle mixture which may have contributed to the syntactical errors and glaring ommissions above...To finish, it has to be said that the only thing that is better than having an enormous Christmas dinner...is roast potatoes for breakfast the next day. Note to self - rekindle your relationship with Pontious Pilates.