7 March 2008

Camera Obscura

A warning: Tim and I have a new camera. It is very shiny and cool and high tech, but I just can't take any decent photos. Please stick with me though. Hopefully these are just teething problems, and not a chilling vision of things to come for this blog.

I was planning to go to a Bikram Yoga class with Ange after work today, but we decided it took up altogether too much brain-space and so we went for an equally zen peppermint tea and soy chai respectively. On the way home, at the library, I got myself the River Cafe Two Easy Book, and the first Barefoot Contessa book. No offense to my American constituency, (or constichensy if you will; rewatched O Brother Where Art Thou last night and had forgotten how wondrous it is), but a lot of American chefs don't really appeal to me, particularly - gasp! - Martha Stewart, who I just don't get. (Fear not though, I can't see the charm in Delia either.) Ina Garten, however, or the Barefoot Contessa as she grandly entitles herself, I really like. There is something so wonderfully, bosomly comforting about her, and all her recipes seem warm and delicious and inspiring. I can't wait to peruse this book.

Above: You are still going to get the same old Laura-calibre photos until I figure out how to make the camera heed me. Seriously, I thought it would be instant Donna Hay up in here, but I guess there's more to it than that. The food, by the way, in the above photo is of a casserole I made from Nigella's How To Eat - the first casserole of the year. I absolutely love stews and the like though, so I was secretly excited when the weather was cold enough on Monday to warrant such a dinner. Notice the elegant bowl, Christmas present from the parents. Another stew I have made this week comes from the Hudson and Halls cookbook that Mum sent me. It was supposed to be Chicken Marengo, but I had no button mushrooms, so I suppose it is only Chicken Marengo-esque. Nevertheless, this is a seriously moreish dish, I couldn't believe how great it tasted. It must be the inclusion of the magical elixer that is Marsala - but more on that later...

Could someone - perhaps American or well-travelled - explain what the deal is with Santa Fe? Does it possess some kind of mystical properties that I am not aware of? I only ask because it is mentioned quite a bit in Rent- there is a whole song devoted to how they want to run away to this place, plus numerous other references - and then on the Fame soundtrack, Montgomery also sings about his longing to escape to Santa Fe. I wikipedia'd it (as I am wont to do with this sort of thing) and although it certainly seems very pleasant, the site didn't really offer much info. Anyone? Interestingly, these two songs are some of my favourites on the respective soundtracks (who am I kidding, I can't choose)...perhaps Santa Fe has got to me, too.

Above: Amazingly, this photo is even worse than the above. This picture shows an apricot crumble I made the other day, using some fruit that Stefan had bought back from the Hawkes Bay. You don't want to know how much crumble mix I ate...the finished product got generally glowing reviews from the flatmates, but I can't pretend that the oat bran I put in the topping made it healthy.

Above: Un-hummoused Chickpeas...(which is to say, chickpeas with cumin, olive oil, sesame seeds, and lemon juice) and -

Above: Morrocan Vegetable Stew. Guess what we served it on? Couscous! I have to say, if there is one thing Nigella has taught me, it is how to make a good vegetable stew. I am forever in her debt. Onion, garlic, carrot, parsnips, canned tomatoes, red lentils...a pinch of cinnamon and tumeric...beyond easy. This was dinner for Tim, Paul and myself on Wednesday (I took pity on Paul who couldn't be bothered cooking dinner.)

Above: The photo may not be so fab, but let me tell you friend, this tasted LUSH. I had been nursing a small idea for this very creation for some time now, and it came to glorious, calorific fruition yesterday. In case you thought I was doing nothing but lentils these days.

White Chocolate Macadamia Ice Cream with Marsala-Butterscotch Sauce. Does this sound good to you? I got Ange, Paul, Tim and Emma to test-drive it for me, and they loved it, Emma said it was even better than the Cinnamon Date ice cream. This is definitely a grownup dessert - the Marsala gives the sauce a seriously delicious flavour.
White Chocolate Macadamia Ice Cream with Marsala-Butterscotch Sauce

Ice Cream:
-4 egg yolks
-50g plain sugar
-50g light brown sugar
-500mls cream
-125mls full fat milk.
-200g White Chocolate with Macadamias (can I just mention here that I got this chocolate by mistake and decided to pretend that I meant it to be that way, and it ended up being really good. So, I'm sure plain white chocolate will suffice just fine.)
Being the cream and milk to the boil in a pot. While this is happening, gently whisk together the egg yolks and sugar till combined. As soon as the cream and milk starts to bubble, take it straight off the heat, pour it over the yolks and sugar and whisk thoroughly. Then, transfer this mixture back into the pot (which you have rinsed and dried) and stir constantly over a very low heat. You are making custard, so you don't want to overcook it at all, but for heaven's sake don't stress. If I can do it, so can you. Keep stirring till it is well, the consistency of custard, then remove completely from heat. Melt the white chocolate, stir it into the custard thoroughly, let it cool and then freeze. Try not to drink it as it's chilling.
Marsala-Butterscotch Sauce
-50g butter
-50g muscovado sugar
-200mls cream
-1 T Marsala (I used my All'uovo, which is sweeter, but I'm sure dry would still be wonderful)
-1 T custard powder mixed with a little water.
Melt the butter and sugar together in a pot. When the sugar has dissolved into the butter, add the cream, and let it simmer for a bit. Pour in the Marsala, and finally the moistened custard powder, allowing it to thicken gently. It will thicken more on standing. If it sits for long. I'm just saying...

Above: Ah, the soothing balm of lentils. After all that sugar I needed something intensely healthy to calm me down and this soup had two different types of lentils in it. Oooh...I know I've said it before, but I have a theory that eating lentils just immediately cancels out anything. I long for a scientist to prove me right.
It's flipping chilly in Wellington at the moment - and not chilly in the BSC sense, but really very cold. "Sunny Santa Fe would be nice..."


  1. Ernest lentils with decadent white choc desert - I would say its balancing all the food groups LOL.

    Forgot to reply to your news of Patrick Swayze - I feel the need to race out and get a copy of Dirty Dancing to watch. Not a good year for leading men (remembering Heath as well).

    Are you heading up to Wku over Easter at all? Do you get a break at uni or is it too soon?


  2. Glad you are enjoying the H&H book. You can tell Lynn's been too long in the Australian outback - and consequently confuses a good deSSert with the deSert. (I know....I'm a bit retentive over these things, but hey, it's my job.)

    Being that it was a Friday in Lent (Lynn will no doubt understand the implications of that)we had a fish theme for Lorne's birthday at Viv's on Friday night. Fish pie, fish cakes (home made, of course), yummy savouries, salads etc and lashings of wholesome fresh horse-paddock mushrooms, courtesy of Gerard. Viv had made a beautifully light celebratory sponge and a pavlova out of egg-whites found lurking in the fridge since the creation of the hazelnut home-made ice-cream. (Pause to wipe up dribble from keyboard).

    What obliging flat-mates you have, always ready to test-drive your culinary experiments. So, are you giving up anything for Lent (yoga, it appears?) Lentils, of course, are far too earnest and healthy....and possibly etymologically connected?

    Off to walk around and around in circles (or ovals, probably) at Pukekohe in the middle of the night, with Viv and Dianne and others with Kariaotahi connections, for the Cancer Society relay. Feel suitably impressed enough to sponsor us, if you like.

  3. Viv and I have returned - am sitting at computer with feet in foot-massager (your Xmas 06 prez to moi), gently and soothingly caressing away about 35 laps of the Pukekohe A and P show grounds. Do the maths - each lap is about 440 metres. And the 18 laps we did, (With Denise and Dianne) between 2am and 4am must surely count for more than that, especially as it was about 220metres to the nearest "convenience" which seemed frequently necessary at that hour of the morning.

    We, of course, did not go hungry or thirsty. Started the afternoon with freshly assembled croissants and fresh coffee (took own coffee plunger, lace table-cloth and silver dish to accommodate "nibbles")followed by a suitably labelled bottle of "Diva" brut, fresh fruit and later a communal dinner with our team. Two a.m. saw a restorative cup of tea (took china tea cups) and chocolate biscuits, 4 a.m more restorative tea and fresh fruit salad. Sleeping (between relay duties) was intermittent, cold and uncomfortable but with good company in a small tent.

    I thoroughly recommend you do the relay - it's an amazing experience (and that's not just the food....).

  4. I must say I find your work inspirational. And your food looks damn good. It's what gets me up in the morning to continue my work

    Barrack Obama

  5. Lynn - Will be heading up to Waiuku briefly, probably from the 18th to the 21st. Have a ton of uni work to do :(

    Mum: Thanks, yeah I have been scarred for life by relays forced upon me at primary school but am all for a good cause (plus we don't actually have to run!) Your picnic sounds fab! Lorne's party sounds great.

    Barrack: Thanks, but I should confess I learned everything I know from Paul Sutherland. You would be wise to look him up...