29 February 2008
26 February 2008
Above: On Saturday night I made this quick pizza, using a scone-base recipe from Alison Holst's Dollars and Sense cookbook. This is a great stand-by recipe, very fast to make. I couldn't live from this cookbook alone but, well, someone could.
Quick Scone Dough Pizza Base
2 cups flour
2 t baking powder
1 T oil
1/2 cup (125mls) milk
Sift dry ingredients into a bowl, stir in oil and milk, and mix to form a dough. Roll out onto a greased tray, (this rolls out very easily), cover with your desired toppings (tomato paste and cheese in my case) and bake at 220 C for 15-20 minutes.
That night Tim and I got very drunk, and met up with Emma, her friend Scott, and Paul in town. Sunday morning, natch, was a complete write-off. By Sunday afternoon though, I was feeling up for something cultural and so trekked across the waterfront to see the Philharmonic Orchestra give a free performance of famous film scores (You know, Harry Potter, Psycho, that movie with swords in it, etc.) It was thoroughly enjoyable but after a while it started to rain heavily which brought things to a halt. And made for an awful walk home. Yeh I was wearing a skirt again. I think that's how the weather knows when to be rainy and windy.
Above: By the time Sunday evening rolled gently around, I wanted to eat something healthy, in order to pretend that it would erase the previous night's excesses (and okay, we had McDonalds for breakfast.) So I came up with this Thai Beef Salad. It's not entirely original, in that anyone probably could have thought of it, but I wanted to do something different with mince - use it in a more elegant way. This is basically mince, onion, capsicum, fish sauce, lemon juice and sesame oil, cooked together and tossed with some of those pre-packed salad leaves that make EVERYTHING look like you've made an effort.
Above: Pasta with Beurre Rouge. Last night, our vegetarian ex-flatmate Ange came round to watch Fame (which I finally found, for $10 at Real Groovy! Kapow!) and I cooked her some dinner as well. In a self-absorbed kinda way, the entire meal was based around my recipes - the Miso-Honey Roasted Parsnips, the Carrot and Zucchini Salad, and something new - Spaghetti with Beurre Rouge. Now it's not actually an authentic French dish, it's just something I had an idea for, (as I was about to fall asleep the other night), a kind of tomato-flavoured Beurre Blanc. Hence the name.
I reduced Vermouth with some garlic, simmered it with tomato passata, and whisked in some butter, pouring it over cooked pasta. Here's the flummoxing thing though. I absolutely LOVED it, thought it was the best thing I've ever come up with (I know I say this every time) while Tim just thought it was...nice.
Which totally confused me. Had I actually come up with something good? So I'm going to make it again tonight, just to make sure I wasn't imagining how great it was...or that Tim is completely demented. Ange loved it, which helped my bruised ego somewhat. I shouldn't stress too much, this thing happened the first time I made him listen to "Needle and The Damage Done," come to think of it...
22 February 2008
Finally - this really is the day for recipes, isn't it - the Cinnamon-Date Icecream. I would be seriously appreciative of anyone who tried to make this and gives me feedback, at least so I know it wasn't some crazy fluke that it worked in my kitchen.
20 February 2008
15 February 2008
11 February 2008
Sorry to be a complete bore and talk about the weather and the rising price of dairy again, but good grief! Tim had to get up at 5am this morning to go to work at Coffee Bucks, and the sky was be-flashed with lightening and rain was bucketing down. By the time I went to work at noon, it was intensely humid. I mean, I was sweating like a mule carrying a barrel of tequila. So I figured it was safe to wear a dress. After work (where I embarrassingly stuffed up every single invoice I was supposed to enter - there's a Neil Young song that described my mood perfectly but as I like to keep things clean I won't tell you which one it is) there were gale force winds abound and everyone was looking at me disapprovingly for wearing so little clothing. I know, "four seasons in one day," etc, but really! What's a girl to wear? Get it together, Wellington!
We watched the report on Campbell Live tonight (bless his enthusiastic socks) and it is just unnacceptable (okay, I feel the pain more keenly than some about the lack of butter, but whatevs) that butter can be sold for upwards of $5. You practically need to take out an overdraft to make a bowl of macaroni cheese. A family was interviewed and they are driven to using margarine instead of butter because it's too expensive. Margarine? What is happening to my country!?
9 February 2008
In order to appease you, this post is largely made up of pictures. Soothing pictures. (Especially if there are any Generation-Y kids reading, I've seen how, bless you, growing up amongst all this technology has stunted your attention spans!) The reason for this is that the Auckland posts took ages to do but in the meantime, dinner kept happening and needs blogging about.
Before I launch into it though, I have news that is potentially exciting to me only! The Levin Performing Arts Society is putting on a production of Rent! Okay, it's not the damn Nederlander theatre in New York, but Levin is only an hour from Wellington and if it looks like it won't be entirely rubbish I kinda want to go. It's odd though, I've passed through Levin on the bus before and it doesn't look like the sort of place that would take on such a production. Shouldn't be all judgy though, as I know nothing about the company...I just hope the actors are decent. Because - Rent!! Opportunity!
Above: Nuts! When I was up home (for less than 24 hours, can you believe) I made Mum some more of Nigella's muesli from Feast, which she has taken a real shine to (mercifully, as I gave her some for Christmas. I don't think she's just being polite.) It is very plain, simple, and good breakfast fare: Rolled oats and raw nuts, toasted in the oven for a bit, stirred with sultanas and a spoonful of brown sugar. That's all. You could add whatever dried fruit or seeds you want. It may sound dull, but let me tell you, there is something quietly Zen about making one's own muesli.
Above: Don't you feel all warm and wholesome just looking at it?
Above: This may well look like baby food...which is what I suppose risotto is, in a way, baby food for grownups. What I mean, is that it is so mushy and comforting and formless that it is rather like...well I'm not entirely sure what I mean, I just don't want to insult any Italians that might be roving by. That is, if they aren't already offended by this dish's Anglo title of "Cheddar Cheese Risotto." Now I didn't actually have any proper cheddar to hand, so I used a pleasantly golden mixture of Emmental, Parmesan, and er...Edam. This came from Nigella Express and we ate it for dinner when we got back from Auckland. Despite some trepidation about whether normal cheese and risotto belonged together, it was seriously fab-o.
Above: While in Auckland, I got a cookbook from Borders by a guy called Vatcharin Bhumichitr, called Healthy Salads From Southeast Asia. It was, apparently, one of Nigella's top ten books of 1997 - is there indeed a higher recommendation? This book looks stunning, I want to make everything from it. But I started off with this bean salad. Very simple flavours of soy, lime, garlic - not the first things I'd think to pair with beans but simply delicious.
Above: This is a chicken salad from the same book, and let me tell you, this photo doesn't do it justice (do any of my photos, come to think on it...) This salad was soooo good, I was almost disappointed that I had to share it with Tim.
Above: For some reason, whenever I hear someone say "Ratatouille," I always want to say "Rata-three-ee" just to be facetious. Anyhow, I had the opportunity to do so when I cooked it for dinner the other night. Tomatoes, capsicums and zuchinni are cheap and plentiful, and after Auckland we really oughta eat some vegetables. So it all worked out rather nicely. I didn't use a recipe, just kind chopped and stirred and simmered stuff together with tomato passata.
Above: Okay, so there have been salads and the like but I know what people reeeally get excited about is the sweet stuff. It was Waitangi Day on Wednesday, and I don't know why that equated to butterfly cakes in my mind but that's what I really wanted to do with my time. I used the recipe from Nigella's How To Be A Domestic Goddess, it couldn't be easier. I also used these nifty silicone cupcake-holder thingies that I got for Christmas from my godparents, not only are they useful they also suited my colour scheme!
Above: Now, I'm not one of those girls who is all "Pink pink pink pink! Everything must be pink!" But you know as well as I do that it is the only colour right for the buttercream.
You don't know how hard it has been not to eat the entire lot in one sitting.
As well as that, I made up a cake recipe. That's right- I'm actually super excited about it, as I have massive admiration for people who just make recipes out of their heads. Now that I've started, I want to make more - it is rather intoxicatingly fun. Or weird, depending on how you look at it.
Above: As you can see, I had a pink icing thang going on that day. This cake doesn't as yet have a name, although I was inspired to ice it pink with walnuts by a description of a cake I read about in Anne of Avonlea (what is it with me and Canadian cakes? "What's your business in Canada" indeed!) Anyway, the working title is "Coffee Cinnamon Sour Cream Walnut Cake' although I concede that it is a schmeer cumbersome. I can't pretend that this is the only cake in the world with these flavourings, but I haven't seen one recently, and I didn't use any recipe books.
More importantly, the cake tastes gooood. I got Ange and Tim to give me harsh feedback, but they had nothing but praise. And good thing too, or it would be a bit of a waste of ingredients. Anyway, I might make it a few more times before I settle on the ur-recipe, but trust me: it's an exhilarating experience, making up a cake recipe. Do you know how finite and precise baking has to be? Do you realise how imprecise and unmathmatical I am?
Okay, so in the manner of Green Day in the Simpsons Movie - "We've been playing for three hours now, but we'd just like to take a minute of your time to talk about the environment!" They were booed, and eventually killed. Please hear me out though- it's a little serious and political, but to be fair, I am so rarely either of these things. For what it's worth (as it were):
The country village I grew up in - Otaua (always fun to spell out over the phone) - is being threatened by a company called Waste Petroleum Combustion. They want to put massive oil silos - for more than a million litres of oil - and start a treatment plant. Across the road from my parents' house. Next to a whole swag of farmland. A stone's throw from a school. I can't speak on this with too much authority, but as it would happen, we got on the national news show - you can read the story here - but I wanted to say something, to use my blog as a kind of platform. I realise that this will probably only reach a few foodies in Australia and England, and my mother, but then look what happened with the Rufus Wainwright video below. I have mentioned this here before on my blog (if nothing else, I got a really pleasing Rent analogy out of it) but it seems to be getting serious so I thought I might as well mention it again in order to make people aware. I'm not sure what we are going to do about it but my Dad is now the President of the Otaua Village Preservation Society ("We are the village green preservation society...") which is a promising start. If nothing else, we could try feeding the people of Waste Petroleum Combustion some pink butterfly cakes - if that can't win someone over, I'm not sure what could.
Damn the man!
7 February 2008
Okay, so apart from seeing Rufus Wainwright and pestering local celebrities, we ate stuff...and apart from eating stuff we actually did things too.
I have a head cold at the moment (guess who I caught it off?) so I really just want to go to bed, but I have to get all this out otherwise it will take forever. You don't need me to tell you how sucky a blocked nose is...although it's funny, no one gets any sympathy for having the common cold because it's, well, common - yet once you get it, there is nothing quite like that awful trapped-in-your-own-head feeling you get when unable to breathe out your nose. And I have to eat standing up or my nose shuts off completely and I can't taste anything. It's not as bad as last time I had a cold...You know, that's probably about as much as you need to know about my nasal passages, so back to Auckland...
One thing Tim and I noticed about Auckland was that there were three trillion minimarts/convenience stores. They are EVERYWHERE, and I am only barely exaggerating about the amount of them. Tim and I tried to go into every one we saw, but we just couldn't do them all. Simply couldn't. I think if you gave yourself a week, and only went into minimarts, you might start to scratch the surface. From one of said minimarts we bought some bread and some expired peanut butter (only a dollar!) to have for our breakfasts. The kitchen at the hostel was really clean and spacious and well-appointed - we have seen some seriously grubby ones in our time, so this was quite a relief. And the "Free Food" box was bountiful to say the least - we got a bag of couscous and a whole pack of fettucine!
Above: There is no Wendy's outside the Auckland region. I'm not talking about Wendy's the icecream chain (I have no idea how two companies ended up with the same name in the same country, explanation anyone?), but the burger place with the really annoying guy on their ads. Annoying or not, their burgers are seriously good- the buns of which are rather magically delicious, I'm guessing because they are pumped full of sugar. Tim and I had dinner at Wendy's on Queen Street on Sunday night, before going to see the movie Juno. Which was very sweet, if a little talky. Apparently sales of hamburger phones have gone up 759% in America since this movie (the sassy protagonist owns one.) Frankly, I craved a rich, smooth orange tic-tac after seeing Micheal Cera's character chomp through them - I wouldn't be surprised if their stock begins to rise, too.
Above: I'm not sure whether or not Tim will appreciate me putting up this picture of him but I wanted to illustrate how enormous the Wendy's cups are, in a scratch your head, "Is that legal?"' kind of way. (Also there is a photo of me with the cup but I was having an unphotogenic, er, moment.) Look closely. That cup is about as big as Tim's head. It's more vessel than mere receptacle. I've seen spa pools smaller than that. Et Cetera.
Above: It even proclaims its own grooviness with a big lit up sign! I have nothing bad to say about this place: Tim found a White Stripes single with heaps of live cuts, I found Leonard Cohen's I'm Your Man DVD for $15 (!!) I finally found the Rent OBC recording including its original booklet (!!!!), we got a CD from 1998 featuring a Rufus Wainwright radio interview and live performance, and they gave us a tour poster for free. Which we left in the airport terminal. But if we send them a self addressed envelope they'll send it back to us! In the end that free poster will be pretty expensive.
Above: This is an excerpt of Rufus singing "California" - isn't he jaunty on the guitar!
On Tuesday morning we had a bit of time to burn before our flight, so we decided just to wander the streets lazily, with no agenda whatsoever. We went into Smith and Caughey's, which is (ha!) not as good as Kirkcaldie and Staines. I did, however, spend a good few minutes in their 'foodie' section, and bought myself some Savoiardi biscuits for making Tiramisu or something. The lady behind the counter called me "ma'am" about five times, I didn't know whether to feel grown up or haggard...
Above: I ended up buying two packs because they are rather hard to find and because the more I spend the more reckless I get, it seems.
We had lunch in the food court by Borders, and although my heart (and thighs) were saying "brown rice sushi, just over there" we ended up having enormous slices of pizza with wedges. I told myself it was like when Carrie and her friends on SATC would get similar huge pizza slices. I always feel like stuff you eat away from home "doesn't really count" anyway...Afterwards we had one last Air Hockey for the road, before getting our shuttle to the airport. Auckland feels so different to Wellington (not least because it was raining when we got back to the capital), it's hard to put my finger on what it is exactly.
Right, well I'm going to do my Ruby Gillis best to conquer this cold, before I am back again- as Jilly Cooper would say, I've drank so much herbal tea I'm going to turn into a bouquet garni.
5 February 2008
Above: Zing! Went the strings of my heart, let me tell you!
PS: I also found the Rent OBC soundtrack at Real Groovy on Queen Street...Result!!