31 May 2008
Now for the dinner-type stuff, admittedly not as alluring as Budino di Cioccolata, but then healthy can have its charms...
This rather beautiful noodle broth that I made for dinner the other night is starting to feel like a very distant memory. I'm struggling to think of anything I ate in the last 24 hours that had any discernable vitamin content. But oh what a good time we had. Tim and I decided that we owed it to ourselves to bunglingly attempt drunkenness last night, what with the stress of the semester finishing and all. Unfortunately we didn't get any photographic evidence (I spend 97% of my time in jeans or trackpants so when I do manage to get gussied up I like ocular proof) but we spanned the length and breadth of Cuba St and Courtney Place, dipping in and out of bars, (and stumbling into a house party) before settling in the Welsh Dragon. Mercifully it wasn't raining and we didn't run into any crackheads (although there was that wild-eyed lad at 2.30am in Burger King who cried "don't be sucked in! It's what the big corporations want!" before dashing off leaving a trail of saliva...) We'd had fish and chips for dinner and I finished the night with a bag of twisties (the best part, in my curmudgeonly opinion, of going out drinking, apart from coming home and going to bed) and then this morning we, along with Paul, Katie and Anna, shared two pizzas and some hot chips for brunch. It certainly seemed like a good idea at the time...
Above: But just looking at this broth makes me feel a little better about my inevitable, pending obesity. To be fair, Tim and I never go out so it's not like this is some kind of vicious cycle we are entering. But yeah, I seem to veer wildly between virtuous eating and ridiculous culinary hedonism, I can't seem to stick to a proper 'plan' if you know what I mean. I guess as long as I eat enough lentils and keep having my oats in the morning things will be okay...Tim thinks it's psychological. Who knows? All I know is that too often I wake up feeling like some kind of visual aid for Morrissey's song "You're The One For Me, Fatty..." Anyhow, for this broth I used a mixture of soba and udon noodles, which, did you know, are just ridiculously good for people with diabetes. In a 90g serving of noodles, there is something like 64g of carbohydrates, and ZERO grams of sugar. Sorry to be a bore, but as Tim is diabetic, and I cook for him, I have thrown myself rather zealously into the pursuit of foods with a good simple-to-complex-carb ratio.
This was kind of based on the "Noodle Soup for Needy People" from Nigella Express, except that I used almost none of the same ingredients as her. Nevertheless, the recipe itself kicked me into action to make it in the first place, and I certainly have been feeling needy this week, so credit where credit is due. I did something I've never tried before, and added (perhaps unorthodoxly) a Zen teabag (Green Tea with Peppermint) to the water in which the vegetables were simmering. I've heard of green tea being used as broth for noodles before and was intrigued, and thought the minty aspect could only but perk up the flavours. I also added a spoonful of miso paste, a star anise, soy sauce, and finished with the tiniest shake of sesame oil. So delicious, and so much more complex and exciting in flavour than you might first think. It is also genuinely quite soothing to eat if your nerves are feeling jangled. I will definitely be making this again, and soon...it is like lipbalm for your chapped soul.
I seem to be having something of a Nigella Express renaissance at the moment. It's always fun rediscovering things...especially now that I have the time to do it.
Above: This Lamb, Olive, and Caramelised Onion Tagine, also from NE, is just so delicious. I could have eaten the whole thing on my own. To be fair, I say that about a lot of things so I understand if you think I'm exaggerating. Trust me, I never exaggerate. I didn't have the necessary jar of caramelised onions to hand - can you even get them in New Zealand? - so I just browned a couple of sliced onions and added a spoonful of brown sugar, hardly arduous stuff. You barely even need a recipe for this, just adjust proportions according to how many you have to feed. Place diced lamb, (the sort you need to slow cook), black pitted olives, capers, garlic, caramelised onions (or use my method) cumin, ginger, and good stock into a pot and either simmer (like I did) or bake gently for 1 1/2 -2 hours. I added frozen peas, because that's how I roll, and served it on a nubbly bed of organic burghal wheat. Which I managed - just - not to add any butter to.
Above: This post starts and ends with noodles it would seem. In Palmerston North (when I was there for Rent two weeks ago...or was it last week? Time is so blurry these days!) I found this shop by the bus stop which sold heaps of interesting food, including those vacuum packs of egg noodles for 79c! So I bought a couple and used one in a vaguely Chinese stir-fry thing the other day. Mince, a fat red chilli, vegetables, noodles, some soy sauce, sherry, sesame oil - very simple stuff, but very delicious. To be honest I didn't actually use those chopsticks to eat dinner by the way, just put them in the photo to make it look a bit more interesting...
For dinner tonight I made the Baked Tomato Polenta again, but it didn't look that great so I didn't even try to photograph it. Good grief it tastes nice though. Tonight is quite the contrast to last night- watched the director commentary of Rent (again), which totally re-affirmed my love for that film, as well as making me wish they'd just left Goodbye Love uncut, (anyway!) made dinner, read a bit, perused youtube, sat in on some league game happening on TV in the lounge (slightly more interesting than rugby, but then so is paint drying) and here I am. I much prefer to go out on Friday night anyway - there is nothing nicer than waking up in the morning and thinking it's only Saturday...
28 May 2008
"and this bird you cannot change...ohhhhhh....*twelve minute guitar solo*...." ahem. Don't mind me, I'm just practically floating due to the enormous weight lifted from my shoulders - to wit - my last photography class was today. Hence why I've been humming Freebird (a song that will forever remind me of my parents dancing at their 25th wedding anniversary party four years ago...and yes, there's much more to Lynyrd Skynyrd than Sweet Home Alabama for those of you who only have the Forest Gump soundtrack...)
Because I'm feeling so darn sweet I've decided to stick to pudding photos tonight...dinner can wait for another day. Last night I was in a sort of crazy limbo zone - I'd submitted my final assignment for photography but I still had today's class to get through. However after all the many hours of my life that had gone into it (let me tell you, it's not fun walking home through the red light district in torrential rain at 9.30pm and knowing you have to go back again tomorrow to wrangle photoshop) I decided that a small pudding would be appropriate. So; crumble for two.
Above: I didn't follow Nigella's recipe at all (I'm talking about the Jumbleberry Crumble from Nigella Express) apart from cooking times, but I definitely credit her with the inspiration. I mean, I didn't have anything resembling "jumbleberries" and I always just make up my own crumble toppings...but I wouldn't have thought to make it had I not been flicking through this book.
My version ended up having a base of canned peaches and a sliced apple. Low-rent, sure, but I love canned peaches, and I have a bit of a nostalgic view of them (well, as nostalgic as someone who only turned 22 last month can possibly be) since quite a few of the puddings I had as a child involved canned peaches...Peach crumble, for one thing, but also peach sponge-topped pudding, peaches and ice cream, peaches, cornflakes and evaporated milk...I tend to make a lot of crumble topping - even for two smallish ramekins - out of foresight, because there's no use pretending I won't eat half of it before it gets sprinkled on the fruit. Have you ever tried raw crumble topping? There's something incredible about that combo of butter, brown sugar, flour...I also craftily added a large spoonful of custard powder which gave a certain creaminess to the crumble mixture, and made the fruit somehow saucier. Anyway before your arteries start throbbing in sympathy I added rolled oats to this as well which means that the butter barely even counts. These were so delicious - I don't make crumble that much, but every time I do it feels like the perfect, unimprovable pudding and I wonder why the heck I ever make anything else.
Above: Buddino Di Cioccolata, half done. I knew I was going to want something rather ridiculous for pudding tonight to celebrate. What could be more ridiculous than this silky, silky chocolate pudding? (also from Nigella Express)
I used some of my Donovan's 80% dark chocolate purchased from the Wellington Food Show. I only tried the milk (which is 50%) at the show, so I couldn't resist having a nibble of this...I was very impressed, it was smooth and dark and slightly bitter but rounded (not sure if I'm describing this properly here) and perfect to counter the richness of this pudding. No recipe this time because I just can't be bothered but I found a copy of it here (sorry it's in American measurements though!)
Above: I took this photo on top of our washing machine. The cup was part of a Living Kitchen set that my flatmates got me for my 21st last year and as you can see, doesn't just have to be used for measuring...This chocolate pudding was just so silky, I realise that's the third time I've used the word but I just can't think of a more pertinent synonym right now. Seriously, the texture is amazing, and provided you have fairly decent cocoa and chocolate, so is the flavour. Tim, Paul and I ate this while watching Scrubs tonight (that show has managed not to jump the shark yet, am I right? Mind you, there was that musical episode...) and all agreed that yes, Nigella is high priestess of the universe. What better way to celebrate never having to stress about photog again than with chocolate?
Speaking of amazing women...I'm sorry to keep bothering you with Idina Menzel videos (*voice offstage* "you're not sorry at all!") but truly, I am continually astounded by Youtube. (and her, obvs.) Just when I think there can't be much left to find, a video will pop up that I've never seen before. Tim, bless him, keeps pretending to be interested when I relay this information to him. Tonight I discovered what is allegedly Idina's first performance of Over The Moon from when Rent moved to Broadway. Even if it's not, it's the only video of this song that I've seen from that era - 1996! - and it's an amazing piece of history...
Thank you deeply for the ongoing well-wishing during my photography class, I hope I didn't come across as too petulant (even though most of the time I probably was being petulant) because I did get a lot out of the class and also appreciate all your kind words! Here's hoping next term isn't quite so stressful. If I sound a little manic in this post, well, you already know why. I still have two exams to get through but it's amazing how much lighter my brain feels already. Oh, and funnily enough all this business with my photography assignment hasn't put me off Tetris. In the Guinness Book of Records Gamers Edition (yes, such things exist), I found that the record score was 9,999,999. I think I've got it in me to challenge that...
25 May 2008
22 May 2008
In one week Tim and I will, bar a couple of exams a-looming, have finished our penultimate semester at university. Scary stuff. Almost as scary as watching how much oil felafels absorb. Good grief. There I was thinking they were practically health food.
I'm not sure that it matters whether or not you use the coarse, gritty polenta or the finer, flourier stuff. I used a mix of both because I had a tail-end bag of each. Oh and if you can't find it at the shop, try looking for "cornmeal" (same diff...)
19 May 2008
Above: And now for something completely different - Hamilton-based Donovan Brothers Chocolate. I purchased three dark chocolate blocks (80%) for $10 which was rather thrilling as it means I have a solid supply to bake with. One thing I will say though is that their blocks are an awkward 210 grams each. Now, when most recipes call for round figures - 100g, 250g, 200g - what made them decide to make it this size? Anyway, I'll forgive the dubious looks I got from the guys at the stall for taking my photos, because the chocolate is very, very good.
15 May 2008
..."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.
13 May 2008
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.
150mls white wine.
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.)
10 May 2008
To liberally paraphrase Elton John, Saturday night's alright for writing essays. It has to be. I shouldn't even be here, but I've allowed myself a break from wrangling Renaissance English. It's not a good sign when I can't even understand any of the essay questions...I can't be hating on this though, even when it means I'm stuck behind the computer typing feverishly all weekend. How could you possibly dislike a play (Jonson's The Alchemist) whose very second line is "I fart at thee?" A play which contains the phrase: "Thou look'st like Antichrist, in that lewd hat?" (which makes me long to find something fitting the description of a lewd hat.) Of course you couldn't. But still, 2500 pithy, succinct, brilliant words need to be produced asap.
Don't even get me started (truly, I said plenty enough in the last post) on the interim photographs I'm supposed to present on Wednesday for my next photog assignment, which is, just for kicks, worth 20 percent of the final grade of said assignment. Who knows when I'll have time to do them, between classes, essays and work - perhaps if, Yorkshireman-style, I get up half an hour before I go to bed and work for 29 hours, I might just get it done.
As I mentioned ruefully in my last post, it seems that whenever I swear off pudding I always end up waist deep in the stuff. I wonder if I vowed solemnly only to eat pudding, would I be wearing a size zero by the end of the week? Sheer luxury indeed.
Above: Now, I know using the microwave to actually, y'know, cook, basically means you forfeit your right to consider yourself a decent human being in some circles. Oh, I won't lie, I don't think the microwave is that brilliant as a sole means of producing meals. It sure helps though.
When I was younger - maybe ten? - there was a lengthy stretch of time where we didn't have an oven for some reason (seriously, Mum, why?) and we cooked all our meals with -brace yourself- an electric frypan and the microwave. I still remember this amazingly good "feather pudding" that Mum used to whip up occasionally, golden syrup on the bottom and sponge on top...anyway, snapping out of that radioactive haze of reminiscence, surely a microwave can't be that bad if it managed to produce something like the chocolate pudding pictured above. This pudding is just stupidly chocolatey and rich. And it cooks in 5 minutes...literally.
Above: The batter is magically delicious too. Don't lose a finger (or your tongue!) on the processor blades.
Microwave Chocolate Pudding (from Nigella's How To Eat)
- 120g butter
- 250g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
- 100g light brown sugar
- 1t vanilla extract (if it's essence then don't bother)
- 125ml cream (yes, cream)
- 40g plain flour
- 1/2 t baking powder
- 3 eggs
Butter a 1 litre bowl generously. In the food processor, whizz up the chocolate till it is in rubbly, small chunks. I'm warning you, this will make the most unholy sound, so be ready. Don't make this beside a sleeping baby or in a monastery or something. Add the butter, whizzing again, and the sugar, and then the rest of the ingredients. Scrape into the bowl, cover tightly with microwave safe clingfilm. Cook on high for 5 minutes, or until set - it might take an extra minute or so as ovens vary, don't put it in for too long though or it could turn to delicious rubber. Remove from the oven, pierce the clingfilm and then cover the bowl with a plate and sit for ten minutes. I don't know why, this is just what Nigella says. Who am I to argue. Serve. Feel your thighs expanding with every mouthful.
Above: Once more, with feeling.
I was obviously seriously frazzled while writing my last post as I didn't even add a "Lentil Power" tag to it though we had demonstrably consumed lentils. We haven't had any since, but I did make another dish from Jill Dupleix' Lighten Up. This book has proven to be very useful, I mean, I wasn't that fussed when I first flicked through it at the bookshop but I have used it heaps so far. Can't judge a book by its cover...bwah! (sorry)
Above: Not a great photo sorry, but it was getting cold and I couldn't seem to get rid of my own shadow!
This is a very, very simple lamb tagine. On Thursday morning Tim and I went to the store to spend a grocery voucher I got given for my birthday (thanks Mum and Dad! We'd be eating dust otherwise..."zoom in on my empty wallet.") We took a calculator to make sure we didn't go over and were very discerning and frugal, but I found some stewing lamb for very cheap so bought a heap of it to make various slow-cooked things over winter. This recipe involved sauteeing an onion, carrot, and lamb with various spices - ginger, tumeric, paprika, saffron - before stirring in honey, dates and dried apricots. I didn't have the apricots, and I added some spinach at the very end, but I think it doesn't matter too much. I served it over an earnest pile of brown rice and it was delicious. Not terribly innovative - I daresay I could have come up with this on my own eventually - but a simple, unfussy combination of flavours that take care of themselves and taste reliably good together. Also it's nice to have ideas for healthier things to cook in winter to distract from my desire for something dripping in butter and cheese.
Above: While we are in vaguely North African mode, I give you Pasta with Sauce A-la-Marrakesh, from The Accidental Vegetarian by Simon Rimmer. I soaked the chickpeas on Thursday night (proactive lady is proactive) and simmered them as soon as I got home from work on Friday. The spaghetti sauce is made up of all sorts of good things - tomatoes, (tinned in my case), a shake of cumin, cinnamon and tumeric - I added a diced carrot but completely forgot the flipping flaked almonds even though I knew that I had some. Welcome to my brain.
So the production of Rent in Palmerston North (two hours from here by bus/train) got a positive if disappointingly vague review, and I gotta say that I feel honour-bound to see it, if only because it's there, you know? How it will pan out I don't know. I am a little concerned that from the promotional picture I saw, Collins looks rather old and white and Mark appears to be balding (Levin 1, PN 0) but...maybe it was badly lit or something. "We'll see, boys!"
In other news, Paul managed to come within pit-spitting distance of my Tetris score (he got to level 41, I got level 45) proving once again that the Vincent genes are pure, distilled excellence. Tetris has become so entrenched in our routine that I composed WWF-style stage names for us: Paul "The Suth" Sutherland, Laura "Two Hands" Vincent, and Timothy "Tim" Herbert. Aw, I need to get out more. Can't though, because of all these essays and assignments...which brings me full circle. Have a good weekend!
PS: 10,000 hits! I'm a real blogger!