Sure, New Zealand has the Fiordlands, and the Franz Josef Glacier, and well, the whole South Island, but really as far as cities go, I truly think Wellington is the best we have to offer. If any bands or singers are reading this, (I'm looking at you, Joan Wasser and Jack White) don't bother playing in Auckland. Sure it has a million inhabitants, but Wellington has genuine charm and a dense concentration of everything essential for a travelling roadshow - eateries, drunkeries, and self-conscious hipsters. As a pink-cheeked country gal, I still find living in the city rather thrilling. Though, I know I've become acclimatised because I have developed a special look of cold, steely hatred reserved solely for those miscreants who dare to walk on the wrong side of the footpath at 5pm. Yes, there is a wrong side.
But as well as charm in bucket-fountain-loads, Wellington also has wind. I felt like the sorry love child of Dorothy Gale and Nanook of the North yesterday as the wind literally manhandled me to work , my 12 coats flapping about and - I kid you not (though I was kidding about the 12 coats) - my iPod headphones flew out of my ears. Yes, it's windy here.
Where am I going with this? Frankly, nowhere. I just felt like complaining about the weather.
Our flat is close-ish to some local shops, one of which is a small but charming deli, where I bought a crumbly wedge of cloth-aged cheddar on Saturday. The deli boasts an enticing range of cheeses, meats, cakes, and other sundry items - gluten free pasta, quinoa, nifty olive oils, you know the sort of thing I mean. The girl behind the counter not only accepted my business cards graciously, she also suggested quince as a good pairing and gave me a small piece of the cheese to sample before I purchased it. If you ever find yourself meandering aimlessly on Upland Road, thinking "where on earth can I spend my money" may I suggest you stop in here? It's the only deli on the street, so you can't miss it.
As it happened I had some of Nigella's quince glaze still knocking about in the fridge, which would provide a sweet contrast to the sharp, tangy cheese. To provide a third contrasting flavour, I whipped up some oaty scones, based on Alison Holst's basic recipe, from her Dollars and Sense cookbook that my brother got me for Christmas. I added some extra bits - oats, bran, poppyseeds - and was hoping they wouldn't end up all lumpen and horrible but they turned out very fluffy and light.
Alison Holst's Scones...ish.
I got seven good sized scones out of this. I never roll the dough out, just scoop up a scone-sized lump with a spoon. Makes for the least amount of handling and has constantly given me light scones...Could be that I'm too lazy to break out the rolling pin though.
2 cups self-raising flour
2 t sugar (optional)
25-50g butter (guess which I went for?)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup water
Heat oven to 200 C. Rub the butter, flour, and sugar (if using, and I used a squirt of golden syrup added with the milk instead) together in a bowl until there are no large lumps of butter. Here I added a handful of bran, a handful of quick-cook oats, and a tablespoon of poppyseeds. Pour in the liquid all at once, and carefully stir till everything is sticky. Careful not to overmix. Put good sized spoonfuls (which I pat into a uniform shape) onto a baking-paper lined tray and bake for about 20 minutes.
Above: The three components worked together fabulously. This particular cheese really is very intense, but there was almost something addictive about the salty astringent cheddar and sweet, sweet quince glaze together. The nutty solidness of the scones provided a calming background to this. Or something. It made for a delightful and elegant supper. I began thinking of other ways I could eat this cheddar- perhaps with maple syrup, a handful of walnuts, and a crisp apple...oatcakes, a smear of honey, and slices of pear...Tim really liked it too, which surprised but pleased me, as his tastes can be a little more conservative than mine. I'll never forget our terse, lengthy debate over the differences betweeen olive and canola oil....
Above: The scones were also terriff with slowly-melting butter pooling in their oaty crevices. Expense be damned, happiness is a warm scone.
By the way, we - Tim, Katie, Emma, Scott (our fabulous doctor friend) and I watched the first episode of Outrageous Fortune Season 4 on TV3 last night. Friends, it was sublime. Tip o' the old cap to TV3 for managing to hold on to this gem. Cheryl is as awe-inspiring as ever, and Wolf is back in a big way, which means that Katie and I are constantly having mad palpitations of the heart. Kudos on the producers' choice of child to play Loretta's baby - she really is a cutie. The episode started off solidly and then built to sheer gloriousness. The only thing that stings is the lack of Judd, for goodness' sake come back to Cheryl and don't get back with Glen or whatever your ex-wife's name is. That is one plot trajectory that we all roundly agreed would result in boycotting (okay not really, but definitely in fists being shook.) For those of you overseas, I offer a patronising, pitying smile, because you are missing out on TV GOLD. Did you know you can buy it on DVD through Fishpond? Ugh, I'm sorry. (But really, it's a fact.)
However, you don't have to live in New Zealand to see this interview with Van/Jethro actor and possibly the best looking famous man in New Zealand, Anthony Starr. (I can't pretend I've never found an All Black attractive - there was the short-lived Doug Howlett frenzy of 2003 - but really, look outside the square, people.) I've said it once before but it bears repeating; during scenes with Van and Jethro together, he has chemistry with himself.
Above: As you may have noticed I'm having a bit of a fling with poppy seeds at the moment, I just want to put them in everything for some reason. Luckily Tim and I are way past that "maintain a sense of mystery stage" so I don't have to worry about the dreaded poppy-seeds-in-the-teeth situation arising, with people delicately pretending to ignore it and then you find out three days later what's happened (inevitably meeting every possible person you don't want to see in the process.) It's the culinary equivalent of hoisting your skirt into your pantyhose (and I've so been there too...)
Erm, anyway I had this idea of incorporating poppy seeds and my Boyajian orange oil into a shortbread recipe. Then I thought that adding a spoonful of raspberry jam would be cool. But I also wasn't sure if it would be a socking great disaster, so in a surprisingly scientific move (from someone pathetically bad at science) I divided the dough into three, leaving a "control" group of plain shortbread so that if my dabbling in experimentation went wrong, I'd at least have a small pile of edible biscuits.
They were all delicious! I couldn't be bothered coming up with a base recipe of my own, since most shortbread recipes are much of a muchness anyway - hey, I have Scottish heritage, don't go getting up in arms - so I used Nigella's basic recipe - 200g butter and flour, half that of icing sugar and cornflour - and did nothing to the control group save a dusting of vanilla sugar. For the orange and poppyseed biscuits I added half a teaspoon orange oil (it's potent stuff!) and rolled the cylinder of dough in poppyseeds. For the raspberry orange poppyseed biscuits I added orange oil, a tablespoon of poppyseeds, and two tablespoons of Tim's diabetic-friendly raspberry jam (which is so much better than most commercial jams, because it's way fruitier.)
Fun and educational!
Above: Shortbread, three ways. There's probably an off-colour joke in there somewhere, but I'm too lazy, or perhaps not lazy enough, to think it up.
I'm not sure if it's good news or not but Tim managed to scrape together enough money through various loans to cover the costs of his dental work (appointment this afternoon!) but they will need to be paid off which is kind of worrying especially when we're trying to save. Seriously, these dentists better be giving him some diamond-plated grillz or something for what they're charging. Anyway, Tim and I got all righteous and "damn the man!" and wrote letters to both the Minister of Health (David Cunliffe) and the Minister of Tertiary Education (Pete Hodgson). We asked the hard questions - actually they're not that hard, seriously, how do these people get paid so well to make so many illogical decisions - and I hope we get a reply. A thought-out, not automated reply. But think nice, anethatised thoughts for Tim this afternoon as his teeth get prodded. Whatever we have for dinner tonight, I'm guessing it's going to have to come in puree form...
Overheard in our kitchen:
Tim: These carrot sticks are really nice.
Tim: What'd you do to them?
Me: Put them in the bowl that the pork fat had been in.