15 October 2008

Still Hungry and Frozen

I was highly excited anticipating the one-year-anniversary of my blog. I invisaged all manner of things - maybe some kicky new features, or a photo essay dedicated to the cat, or some kind of conceptual baking, or maybe a video, something new and fun to try and make our relationship last beyond the honeymoon, "hey this blog is mildly diverting" stage and into full-on commitment. But then I had to hand in a 3000 word essay, and if that were not enough we exceeded our 20gb internet limitation...by a lot. We lack the technology to make a cooking video happen and I was not feeling telegenic in the slightest. So, a few days late, I apologetically offer you this post, like a bunch of wilted flowers and slightly melted chocolates purchased at the last minute from a petrol station.

But really - it is exciting to me that this blog has existed for a whole year. I remember having the epiphany to make one, I don't remember when, it was just an idea that made so much sense to me. I'd read blogs and thought "I'd like to do that," and I read other blogs and thought, hubristically, "well I can definitely do better than that." Little did I realise that my badly lit photos taken on auto were not going to cut it with fickle blog readers. I rather naively assumed that my terrible photography would be seen as charming and positively daring, but actually it was just...terrible. And as I learned new skills (helloooo macro function) I gained more readers. But I'd like to think it's the content and recipes as well as the photography that makes people stick around, especially because my photos still have a long way to go. Indeed if you have a little time on your hands and you're up for a laugh, why not peruse my very early archives? I truly thought that all I had to do was put my opinion out there and the adulation would pour in. I love my blog wholeheartedly and with complete bias though, it has been a haven, a diary, a self-indulgent soapbox, a recipe file, and a record of my life for the past, swift-moving year. I look forward to seeing how long it lasts.

I went to the vegetable market on Sunday and gamely trudged back up the hill with my spoils, (sweating like a donkey all the while, as is the nature of Wellington hills) but it wasn't till I got my breath back and stopped perspiring that I realised how utterly gorgeous the vegetables were. They made me want to don a voluminous cape and floppy beret and paint them in a still life. Fellow food-bloggers, tell me I'm not the only one who thinks food is really preeettyyy.

I mean these would not look out of place in some medieval, suckling pig feast. I've honestly never purchased shallots before (don't faint, but I've always used onions instead when a recipe asked for it, well I am a student) which is probably why I'm so embarrassingly enthusiastic, but they were cheap and rather beautiful so I grabbed a bunch.

Oh asparagus how I love you. Especially when it's two fat, healthy bunches for $3, that can last for four separate dinners. I used the shallots and asparagus in an intriguingly delicious recipe from Simon Rimmer's excellent, inspiring cookbook The Accidental Vegetarian. It was so monumentally good that I considered making the whole thing again the next night, or perhaps eating the whole lot on my own and pretending it never existed. I've altered the recipe a bit as Rimmer's version was more coconut-happy than I go in for. It's a little fiddly but not difficult, and makes the kitchen smell completely fabulous.

Rendang Shallot and Asparagus Curry

50g butter
75g brown sugar (yes, it does sound like a lot and yes, I used less for the two of us)
20 banana shallots
400g asparagus

400ml tin coconut milk
3 T toasted dessicated coconut
Coriander to serve

Melt the butter in a pan, add the sugar and when it starts to dissolve throw in the shallots, peeled but left whole. Turn down the heat and cook slowly for at least 20 minutes, (he recommends 45 but they were more than fine with less). Blanch the asparagus and refresh in cold water. I sliced them into two-inch lengths.

Curry Paste:

1 onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
3 red chillies, or however much you desire
1 tsp ground coriander
1 T tamarind paste (or substitute lemon juice)
1 t tumeric
1 t curry powder
1 stalk of lemon grass (which I left out because I didn't have any)
pinch of salt

Whizz the lot together in a food processor, or chop and mix everything well like I did using my mezzaluna. This results in a chunkier but no less flavoursome paste. Heat a little oil in a pan and gently fry the paste, carefully, and stir in the coconut milk, letting it bubble away and thicken slightly. Add the now magically caramelly shallots and the blanched asparagus, letting it simmer for about ten minutes. Finish by stirring through the toasted coconut and chopped coriander. If you like, add a handful of frozen peas to beef it up (as it were) quite easily. This should serve four-six.

The combination of flavours were so perfect - zingy, spicy, earthy, fresh, sweet. I truly could have eaten this whole thing surruptitiously by myself. And shallots - oh my! Rich, mild, gently oniony, what have I been missing out on all this time!

My blog's one year of existence coincided rather bittersweetly with the closing of [title of show], one of the most exciting new shows on Broadway...I, of course, make this statement without having seen it at all, such is the nature of being a theatre fan from New Zealand. Rice Krispie treats are referred to in one of the songs, and I've had a distinct hankering for them ever since hearing it for the first time. Nigella has a version made with melted marshmallows which indeed sounds delightful, but I opted for an old Edmonds recipe for what we in New Zealand call Rice Bubble Cake, using honey and butter to bind the cereal together in sugary squares.

Rice Bubble Cake

125g butter (incidentally, one year ago a block of butter was $2.70 from the corner shop, now it's $5)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon each of honey and golden syrup

Melt the butter and sugars together till gently bubbly. Once it has bubbled away for a little while, remove from the heat and carefully stir in 4-5 cups rice bubbles. Spread this into a waiting square tin, and allow to cool. The butter-sugar mix will be very hot, so don't go sticking your face into it or anything.

Rice bubble cake makes me reminisce twofold; I remember making this with mum as a child, wanting to eat the buttery sugary mixture so bad and not thinking it would be enough to cover all those rice bubbles. It also reminds me of my gap year in a boarding school in England, where the kitchen would serve up cakes of some sort for afternoon tea with soothing regularity. One of the mainstays of afternoon tea was rice bubble cake, sometimes it was sublime and sometimes it was crumbly and oily and weird. We never knew what happened behind the scenes to make it so, and frankly I don't want to know. But for those of you who've never tried this before, I know it looks a little odd, but just try and stop at one piece. Or three. Crunchy, texturally delightful, caramelly, buttery - it's great stuff.

To paraphrase [tos], let my blog be the Rice Krispie Treat?

Overheard in our kitchen: (in the throes of discussing what we'd do if we won the $30 million lotto this weekend)

Me: I could fund my own cookbook and get it done next year. Then I could create my own stage show around it, where I bake stuff and tell hilarious anecdotes and feed the audience and...maybe sing and dance...
Paul: You mean like an infomercial?
Me: NO! Like a proper stage show! But with baking, which I'd give to the audience! And it can promote my book but also be a fantastic piece of theatre in its own right!
Tim: So...it'll be an infomercial.

Well, I do have plenty of hilarious food-related anecdotes (particularly involving grapefruit and Jersey Caramels as friends and family will know from the many times they have been told). But that's the thing about imagining what you'd do if you won the lottery, especially if you have a particularly vivid imagination like me - your mind bounces from concept to concept and then you get overexcited and your heart starts to thump wildly with the very fullness of your own potential excellence and then you remember that you haven't won $30 million at all.

As I said earlier in this post, I handed in a 3000 word essay - well it was my final essay for uni. I have an exam on the 4th but my lectures, assignments, etc, are over for good. Luckily I've finished on a relative high, getting A's on two essays (on the social influence of Idina Menzel and the subordination of female Beat poets respectively) and loving all my papers. I started this blog while still in the middle of uni, now that I've come to the end of that time it's a little sad, but also exciting to think what might be in store for me next. Hopefully you, the reader will stick around with me - I'd flatter myself that this is kind of a fun read - and not just come here if Tastespotting tells you to.

In the words of Rent: "How do you measure a year in the life...how about love?"

In the words of the always inspiring Nigella Lawson: "I have made the most of being a food obsessive. For good or bad, it's my life, it's me and I don't see anything changing."

And appropriately, in the words of [title of show]: "I'd rather be nine peoples' favourite thing than a hundred peoples' ninth favourite thing."
So true. Quality over quantity any day. And ah, maybe next year I'll do something more exciting to mark the occasion.


  1. Congratulations on your blogs first birthday!
    You've done a great job.

  2. Congrats on the BIG one year, Laura. I think your epiphany is similar to many of ours, where we all go "Yo I could soo do that" :)

    I wouldn't worry about the pics. I come here for the conversation and laughter. So just keep that up, and we'll be miles and smiles buddy.

    Rice Krispie Treats are everyone childhood baking adventure. Without those, I think we'd be much different, sadder people. Butter and marshmallow anything tastes great :)

    Oh and thanks for for the support on my blog. I'll tell my dog he has another fan ;)

  3. Congratulations on all your anniversaries.

    There should be an envelope arriving at work for you soon. (Now there's something to anticipate...)

    Lovely to read all your regulars' comments. You've almost got me interested in cooking. Ahhh - the rice bubble cake - how easy it was to impress you with my kitchen wizardy then. (Surpassed only by the sickly Kremelta and milk powder "White Christmas" version of the same recipe).

    Loved following your improving photography too.

  4. And appropriately, in the words of [title of show]: "I'd rather be nine peoples' favourite thing than a hundred peoples' ninth favourite thing."

    what a cool quote! Congrats on your first blogoversary Laura, a great read as always! Even more impressive given you had the big essay to do. Hope the exam goes well and look forward to hearing about the next chapter of your life. You write so well I think you will have absolutely no trouble getting work, enjoy the summer before you go taking the leap into real life though!(you will be in it for a loooooong time :)!)

  5. Hey Laura!
    That was a lovely blog. Wow a year... and to think I just jumped on the bandwagon so late!
    Also happy blogbirthday!
    Might see you all tomorrow.
    (only one week left of med school classes!!)

  6. Hi Laura, This is your Nana!! Congratulations on your year bloganiversary. It has been so entertaining, (and I was already converted!!!) Do hope you will keep it going. Lots of love and hugs, Nana

  7. Congratulations on a year of blog posts. It's great to see the NZ food blogging world growing.

  8. i agree - food is so pretty! congratulations for your blog's one year anniversary and i pray you keep on posting - recipe, thoughts or life. you've definitely got a loyal reader in me! x

  9. OMAP: Thanks heaps :)

    Adam: lol your dog is pretty adorable. Glad to hear that Rice Krispie Treats transcend hemispheres :)

    Mum: Had forgotten completely about White Christmas...all that kremelta can't be good. Your cooking still impresses me - esp your corned beef :)

    Linda: It's such a cool quote, right? You should hear the rest of the musical! And thanks for the kind words :)

    Scotty: you bandwagon-jumper. Enjoy the end of your med classes!

    Nana: Thanks for supporting me right from the beginning :)

    Barbara: Thank you and thanks for stopping by :)

    Diva: Likewise :D

  10. Congrats on one year, I just celebrated mine too actually. I knew it was coming up but wanted to let it pass quietly because I didn't want to be compared to a few other, more successful bloggers who also had been blogging a year. How lame am I?!

    I too usually just swap onions. Shallots are too much work!! And they have a more delicate flavor -scrap that! Bring on the serious stuff!

    Yeah, I read the title of the second recipe, rice cake something or other. I didn't get it until I saw the pic! Yup, looks like RKT sans the mallows!

  11. Happy Anniversary, blog! As you can see, I'm the type who hopes they can get away with an airy "it's the thought that counts" rather than flowers, cards or chocolates, but rest assured that I do think about you a dispropportionate amount.


    Okay, you used the word hubris. I actually blogged about this very word, bc it is actually one of my favorite all-time words. So under utilized, and there you went just tossing it out there like the wordsmyth that you are indeed.

    And the rice bubble cake? In the US, we use marshmallows and they're called Rice Krispie Bars. Love them. Highly addicting - wonder if you've ever tried that combo? Fantastic.

  13. Your Grandad Harris used to grow and pickle his own shallots for his world-famous in the family pickled onions. I don't know what happened to the recipe. John as-in-Lee, a veritable connoisseur of the pickled onion, really liked them, so that is indeed high praise. You are truly... the Lady of Shallot?

    Ta for the support re the Youtube Video.(And thanks also to all your lovely readers who viewed it).

    Am off to read all your friends' blogs as I feel I have got to know them a bit over the last year.

  14. I think your pictures are great... I can't wait to try some of your vegatarian ideas... We always try to eat healthy...and the aspargus looks amazing...

    all the best


  15. $5 for a pat of butter? For the love of god, who can afford that?

    Congratulations on your blogoversary. I completely missed mine.

  16. Happy anniversary! I can't remember the first time I stumbled upon your blog but it was shortly after I started mine.

  17. Congratulations on your bloganniversary - it depends on what mood I am in whether I look for comments on mine or check yours first, LOL. Also congrats on the end of the essay writing for uni - its a great feeling. Good luck for the exams and for Tim also. Can't wait to catch up over Christmas with you guys. Am getting tickets booked this week, yay.

  18. Hooray for a whole year of blogging! I am really enjoying your blog, and wish I had found it earlier. Hoping to get the chance to go through some of your earlier posts, as I've only been reading it for probably about 2 or 3 months now.

    Your idea for a cooking stage-show would be quite entertaining (not in an infomercial kind of way).

    I enjoy your food photography and the reviews of the recipes you post, but the reason I keep coming back to your blog is that it is such an entertaining read (wish I could be as entertaining... my blog is a bit boring since it's just about food and food photos... no hilarious anecdotes).

    I will definitely have to try the ricebubble cake thing. I have made something similar (sort of) but it had melted mars bars mixed through.

    (PS. I love asparagus too).

  19. Happy Anniversary!!! I love reading your blog Laura as well as our chats on The Pantry.

  20. Congratulations on your blogiversary. Keep up the good work. Looking forward to reading many more posts and looking at all the lovely things you cook.

  21. Thanks for you "plug" for the Village cause. Who'd have thought that the juxtaposition (to quote one of your fav words)of cooking and small-community-outrage-against-inappropriately-placed-industry could be so effective.
    Almost makes me want to cook something in apprecitaion - though you'd understand if I wanted to avoid anything oily in the recipe for the meantime. Cheers.

  22. Hello there.

    I stumbled upon your blog as you came up in google when I was DESPARATELY trying to find a recipe for rice bubble cake, and there it was! I am a kiwi living in London, and although I've got my edmonds with me it's a 2000's edition which doesn't include the bubble log recipe (it's a travesty I tell you, who decides which recipes to take OUT, why do they do that!)

    Any how, now thanks to you I can make it, I need to use up ricebubbles after making mars bar slice last week.

    Oh and I've had rice krispy squares, and they are not a patch on our version, they are soft, I like the butter crunch of the teeth rottingly sweet caramel, but that's just me.