I realise, looking back, that the last post was bordering on being unbearably wordy, so kudos to you if you made it to the end without vowing never to return. As anyone who had received one of my emails from England knows, once I start typing about stuff I'm a bit excited about, I find it hard to stop.
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!