31 March 2008

"Run For Your Life..."


Can you believe the final day of March is upon us already? My body clock is still ticking along as though it is late February, when in fact a whole quarter of 2008 has passed.

Because this is Wellington, and not say, Connecticut, we have no discernible Autumn to speak of - no crunch of fallen leaves underfoot, no crispening of the evening air - instead, Winter seems to have launched with a whoosh, and before you know it the drains are blocked with mulchy leaves and your shoes get soaked when you merely leave to check the mail. The upside of this grey, damp onslaught?


Above: Tim and I bought the biggest pumpkin we (*cough* he *cough*) could carry at the vegetable market, and I used it to make soup last night. I have actually never made pumpkin soup before - I guess I am too busy faffing with lentils - but it has always been a favourite. I wanted to roast the pumpkin though, rather than do the usual method of simmering it in stock. I developed this recipe after making the Pumpkin Puree from Nigella's How To Eat, and...I think it is pretty awesome. It is intensely creamy without the addition of any milk or cream, plus, you don't need a blender to make it. I love my blender but dragging it out from under our computer table in our bedroom (hey, our flat has almost no storage space) and cleaning it after can seem like way too much effort sometimes.

Roast Pumpkin Soup

Preheat oven to 200 C. Take half a large pumpkin, and chop that half into eight chunks (or just four, if your pumpkin is not that big.) Encase each pumpkin chunk loosely in tinfoil, pinching the edges together. If you want to add a teaspoonful of butter with each piece, feel free (I certainly did.) Place in a roasting dish and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size. Test the pieces with a skewer after this time has passed - you want it very soft, with no resistance.

Carefully open the tinfoil parcels and one by one, scoop the orange flesh into a pot. This is a tiny bit messy. The flesh should be highly yielding, but give it a go with the potato masher to get rid of any lumps anyway, adding more butter if you wish. At this stage you have yourself a perfectly serviceable bowl of pumpkin puree, which you can place with pride at your dinner table. For soup however, pour in four cups of stock (I used porcini), stirring with a wooden spoon after every cup of liquid. If you need more liquid, by all means add more. It should be thick and not too watery. Now, merely heat it over a low flame - don't let it bubble - and before you want to serve, grate over some fresh nutmeg and add a tiny pinch of ground cumin.

You could make this Thai, by adding curry paste, fish sauce and coriander, or serve it Morrocan-style by upping the cumin and adding cinnamon, tumeric and tomato paste. Just don't try and take a photo of it because the camera lens steam up something crazy, as you can tell by the above picture. This soup won't be quite as velvet-textured as something blended, so knock yourself out, but even in its rough and ready state it still looks like distilled sunshine and tastes warm and fabulous.

On Saturday night, Emma, Ange, Paul, Tim and I went to the Relay For Life. I have to say I have very mixed feelings about the night. Because Emma works with the ANZ Bank, we were signed up with their team and given the 10 till midnight slot. The fact that it was raining very heavily didn't help with the enthusiasm, but when we got to the event and the ANZ tent was absolutely soaked through, with no lighting but for some glowsticks and rapidly-fading police-style blue revolving lights, with some frozen hash browns that Paul was asked to cook, and some bowls of (admittedly pleasant) salad lying on the ground with dripping people stepping over them...I wondered what the heck we'd gotten ourselves into. Since ANZ is apparently one of the most wealthy corporations in New Zealand, I expected at least a table to put our gear on and some slightly more welcoming digs. And some light. On top of all that, the woman in charge of the tent was incredibly unpleasant to us, even though we had volunteered our time and money to help out her business. She seriously made us feel uncomfortable and unwanted and frankly, I am glad I don't hold any accounts with ANZ if this is their representation. Paul had to leave early to go to a party, and the rain made Emma's elbow sore, so it fell upon Ange, Tim and I to keep the alarmingly phallic ANZ baton aloft.

I am very proud to say that I didn't stop moving for our entire 2 hour segment, even though my shoes were filled with water and the persistent showers meant that I was beyond saturated. I walked most of the time, but I did manage to run a whole lap, which I was pleased with. And yes, that is Iron Maiden that I quoted in the title, the song was running, if you will, through my head as I circumnavigated the track! I truly am no runner - I have actually never in my life owned a pair of running shoes and spent Saturday night in an old pair of Converse - so this was quite an achievement. To be frank though, the ANZ tent was so hostile and dank and horrible that it was something of an incentive to stay on the track.

At 8.30pm there was a candle ceremony, which was very moving despite the fact that it was held in an underground carpark. It made me realise how many people - and a few cats - I know that have died from cancer. I also thought briefly of Nigella Lawson, who lost her mother, her sister, and her first husband to cancer. Even though walking for hours round and round a circuit in the rain is not my first idea of fun, it was a surprisingly contemplative time for me. Tim ran for a bit, and Ange, who has amazing stamina, managed to get ANZ's fastest lap. We live in a time of such incredible leaps and bounds in knowledge, technology, science, everything - who knows that one day we won't have a cancer-free world. I certainly hope so.

We got given a goodie bag beforehand, and in said bag was an RFL tshirt, a blue ANZ hat which leaked its dye onto my forehead, and a few other bits and pieces, including these small bags of rather classy scroggin (or scrottage, as it is forever called to me). I decided to use this yesterday to make some muffins, slightly adapting Nigella's Muesli Muffin recipe from Feast.

Above: After removing the vile dried banana pieces, I chopped this all with my mezzaluna, and added some rolled oats and bran to make up the 250g required for the recipe. I am so in love with these positively healthy muffins that once our ex-microwave gets replaced, I plan on making lots and freezing them, to be nuked as required throughout Winter.

Muesli Muffins
  • 225g plain flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 250mls buttermilk *I had none so used plain milk with some lemon juice added
  • 1 egg
  • 175g brown sugar
  • 80 mls vegetable oil
  • 250g good muesli

If you don't actually have muesli, I recommend a mixture of rolled oats, bran, and whatever seeds, nuts and dried fruit you like. This is very simple: Heat the oven to 200 Celcius, and grease or line a muffin tray. Combine the flour, baking soda and sugar in a large bowl, then stir through the muesli. Pour in your egg, buttermilk and oil, and using a wooden spoon, mix gently till barely combined. As with all muffins, you do not want to overstir this, so go easy. Divide the mixture between the twelve holes in the muffin tin and bake for 25 minutes.

Above: The muffins. They are so full of goodness and health that I didn't feel too bad about smothering them with butter before eating...

April is going to be a busy month. I have about forty squillion assignments due, I am flying up home for my best friend's 21st, going with Tim's family to his grandparents' wedding anniversary party, hopefully taking in a performance of Rent in Levin, and turning 22 somewhere in the middle there. I'm exhausted just thinking about it...

27 March 2008

Pride Goeth Before A Fall...(Unless You Have Whipped Cream)

As if 5000 hits wasn't exciting enough, I got 10 comments to boot! (And only TWO of them were from my mother!) I felt like a 'real' blogger, the kind who quite coolly amasses double figure comments on a daily basis and has an RSS feed and takes beautifully lit photos...okay I'm still genuinely struggling on the photography front and I can't for the life of me figure out how to install an email subscription enabler thingy but...

Thanks everyone for making it happen :)

I couldn't spend too much time on my high horse though. Last night I tried making the Lemon Meringue Cake from Nigella's Feast (although it first appeared in Forever Summer) with the idea of putting fresh passionfruit in the middle instead...and nothing would go right. Crucially, I got a tiny bit of yolk in the egg whites - the first time that has ever happened - and true to form, they just would not hold shape. Recklessly, and I admit, a little maniacally, I just biffed the whole lot in the oven anyway where...it got burnt.

However, all was not lost. Luckily the chargrilled stage gave it more of a caramelised, rather than carcinogenic flavour, and with lashings of cream and the airbrushing effect of lots of icing sugar it went from this:

Above: Yes, that is the top layer of the cake in the background. Anyway, here's the 'after' snap:

Above: I would have loved to have taken one of those photos where everything in the background is blurry - it's such a pretty cake - but despite repeated attempts I can't figure out how. Shutter speed or aperture or something...any tips? Anyway, I guess the lesson here is actually: when in doubt, smother it in cream. Despite the odds, this cake tasted wonderfully good - the textures really define it, as you sink your spoon softly into meringue, then sponge, then cream, then fruit, then sponge, then meringue again. There is something truly exquisite about the elusive fragrance of fresh passionfruit and it proved an excellent contrast for all that sweetness. All I can say is, if it tasted this good, imagine how delicious it would have been had I not cocked it up at every step of the way.

In case you thought we'd only been having pudding for breakfast lunch, and dinner (which incidentally, is how I imagined living my life by now when I was a child), you would be sorely mistaken, my friend. (Surprise! It's lentils!)

Above: Another step in my increasingly arduous quest to find the ultimate lentil soup. I think the triumverate of brown, red, and French lentils is pretty essential, as is plenty of garlic and coriander. As well as chopping garlic into it, I'll biff in a couple of whole cloves to gently impart flavour as they simmer. For something so robust, this flavour seems to get lost easily here. Coriander gives the almost too-earthy pulses a kick. I tried making it with spring onions instead of plain ones, but it definitely is better with the latter - spring onions are too delicate in flavour.

Above: The addition of frozen peas worked, giving it a slight sweetness, more texture variation, and they were also aesthetically pleasing (oooh I sound very serious now). Finally, taking a tip from Nigella, I splashed in a little dry sherry. I am getting ever closer, and when I find the prototype you can be sure I post the recipe here.
I realise I am sounding a little Gollum-esque (heck, even I can picture myself hunched over, hissing "pressciousssss") but what can I say. I like lentils. I'm not sure they will ever be 'sexy' in the manner of chocolate and the like - perhaps unless Kate Moss decides that she's into them - but they are not without their charms.

Relay for Life this weekend. I have a deep, deep hatred of relays after PE being compulsory in my schoolgirl years, but this is for a very good cause and I understand that the popular kids won't be choosing the teams. And more importantly, it's about being there, not actually running (finally! A concept that works!)

25 March 2008

Absolut Pask

Oh I wish it could be Easter, every day. Friday AND Monday off feels like untold luxury now that I'm dipping my toe into what they call "the real world." For those of you who have been somewhat alarmed by the increasingly saggy faces of various rockstars gracing this blog over the last couple of days, I offer hot cross buns to soothe you:

Above: My first ever batch of home-made hot cross buns. I used Nigella's recipe from Feast, and it was a very rewarding process - adding the warm spices, kneading the dough, waiting patiently for it to rise, draping over the flour-water paste to make the crosses, and of course, grabbing the tender buns straight from the oven to be slathered with butter.

Above: As it happened, while arranging my buns I unwittingly created a yeasted tribute to the famous Absolut Vodka ad campaign. Just realised at this point that I should probably let you know that Pask is Swedish for Easter. More Easter Baking:

Above: Gluten Free Choc-Banana Brownies. I can't tell you how excited I am about these. They were rigorously tested for quality in my flat (ie, they got snarfed within minutes) and were pronounced delicious. Now, I can't pretend that I truly came up with this myself, in fact it started off as an idea which took shape after a bit of internet research.

First of all, I found this amazing recipe in a woman's magazine (I forget which) for gluten-free peanut butter cookies. It wasn't the first time I'd seen this recipe around, but it kicked me into action and I finally made them. They are risibly simple and yet so delicious; I've made them three times since and never managed to get a picture because they go so fast. From this sprang forth the brownie idea, but first...

Peanut Butter Cookies: Please, make these. I don't even go in for peanut butter and I'm a complete fiend for these.

1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup sugar (I use half brown half white, but go nuts)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg

Preheat oven to 180 C. This is what I recommend you do because PB can be a tacky mess. Take a half-cup measure, and put your sugar in a bowl. Then, using a spoon, scoop peanut butter into the half-cup, and then scoop this in turn into the bowl with the sugar in it. Repeat. I'm not trying to be patronising, but the first time I made this I ended up using nearly every baking implement in the house trying to deal with the peanut butter and it can truly be so much simpler...

Mix together the sugar and peanut butter. Add the egg, stir again, and sift in the baking soda. On two trays lined with baking paper, place smallish balls of the mixture which you have rolled with your hands. Don't worry about flattening them, and they don't spread tooooo much so you don't have to stress about that either. Bake for 12-15 minutes. These won't be at all crisp when you take them out of the oven, but don't fret, they harden up as they cool.

Now eat one, and just try to stop yourself eating the entire batch, cleaning the kitchen scrupulously, and telling everyone you never made any in the first place.

So amazed was I at the magical properties of this peanut butter that I wondered if the same thing could apply to a brownie. Because brownies by nature are supposed to be shallow and dense, it left more room for error. After looking at some ideas on the internet, I came up with this - and it is so much greater than the sum of its slightly troubling parts...

Gluten Free Choc-Banana Brownies.

Each ingredient plays its own special part.

1 cup smooth peanut butter - to do its magical thang.
1 cup sugar - To provide bulk and sweetness
2 eggs - To bind it together
2 small, very ripe bananas - To make it densely moist
5 Tablespoons cocoa - To distract from the other flavours, and provide a deep chocolate taste
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips - To add squidge and more chocolate, of course :)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda - I don't know what this does, but it's very important.
As with the biscuits, set the oven to 180 C, beat the peanut butter and sugar together, add the rest of the ingredients and pour into a brownie tin of regular dimensions. (You know, rectangular, not tooo big) What I did was bake it for 1/2 an hour at this temperature and then turn it down to 150 C, and bake for a further 15 minutes. Perfect.

I realise the combo of ingredients sounds kind of vile, but you don't taste the peanut butter at all. The cocoa sort of covers everything up. But oh the irony - celiac flatmate Emma was in Samoa over the weekend (as one does) so she didn't even get to participate. Luckily I am so enamoured of these brownies that I'm going to repeat them again very soon.

And if you aren't sick of brown things by this stage -

Above: Chocolate Pear Pudding, from Nigella Express. It's basically canned pears with a chocolate flavoured sponge baked overtop, but oh! How wonderful it tastes. For Heaven's sakes, buy this book! I made this for pudding last night (Nigella's Vietnamese Chicken Salad for dinner) and it is perfect to eat while watching Boston Legal and procrastinating about, well, everything.
I hope everyone had a lovely, relaxing Easter break.

24 March 2008

"We'd Like To Do Our Hit..."

Day 2 of Rock2Wgtn: Poison, Whitesnake, and Ozzy Osborne. Title quote courtesy of The Folksmen. Hot Cross buns soon, I promise. And gluten-free brownies.

First up: Poison. Because it was Easter Sunday, the supermarket was closed and so I had to glean our dinner from the largely ransacked Starmart before the show. So twisties and a muesli bar it was. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to cooking dinner again tonight. In my last post I wondered aloud if Bret Micheals was as bloated and orange as he looks on reality TV. In a word: yeah...

Above: It felt right to be eating twisties while watching something so orange, y'know?

All snarking aside, (and it is a cheap shot), Poison put on a seriously great show. Bret sounding like Mr Schneebly as he waxed lyrical about the spirit of rock music, or something. The most important thing to me was hearing Unskinny Bop (a song I really like), which they played with aplomb, and I have to admit I was looking forward to Every Rose Has Its Thorn, not because I even like it that much, but because it's nice to be in the crowd for those singalong moments. Paul and I were discussing that all those Eighties hair metal bands - Poison, Europe, Def Leppard - should have joined forces and created, well, not a supergroup, but a group with more than one or two notable songs. Plus you wouldn't have to worry about telling them apart.

Above: I knew absolutely nothing about Whitesnake. I soon found out that they are British, judging by David Coverdale's accent, and lots of fun. Also turns out they do that "here I go again on my own" song, which the crowd loved. Almost as much as they loved how he told someone in the audience (female, one presumes) that he would like to compliment her on her "bosoms."

Tim and I both were struck, however, by his resemblance to dishy ginge actor Julian Rhind-Tutt, who was the lovely Mac in Green Wing.

Above: On top, David Coverdale, and below, the marvelously named Julian Rhind-Tutt. Exhaustive wikipedia-ing revealed they are in no way related, but you know, you never see them in a room together... I still remain convinced that Coverdale is his uncle.

Anyway, after a lot of mic-stand-as-phallus posturing and a rendition of Crying In The Rain, Whitesnake were gone and it was time for Ozzy.

Above: There was a beautiful full moon last night. No doubt, as we noted, Ozzy was underneath it before his set, stripped nude and sacificing a goat. "Unicorn tears" was Tim's contribution when asked what he thought kept Ozzy going.

Above: Ozzy's stint began with a lot of rather clever movie and TV clips with Ozzy digitally inserted into them. Lost, Pirates of The Carribean (wherein he bit the head off a parrot), The Office, etc. If you are curious as to why the above photo of Ozzy supposedly dancing in OkGo's music video is funny, see the original here.

What can I say though. Ozzy Osborne clearly does sacrifice goats in the nude and drink unicorn tears- the man is a firecracker. He went NUTS and managed to squeeze even more noise out of a near-hoarse crowd.

Above: Look at him go!

He was more than ably backed by his band, which included this engaging fellow:

Above: He gave an awe-inspiring guitar solo. I swear, it was about half an hour long. Just enough time to get Ozzy pumped full of oxygen again.

Above: Ozzy is without a doubt, absolutely fantastic. He did War Pigs, Suicide Solution, that one that goes "maybe, it's not too late, to learn how to love and forget how to hate" and more besides. Mama I'm Coming Home was the rapturously received encore. It was a glorious, on yer feet, hands in the air moment. Then, at the insistence of the crowd (who am I kidding, he was always going to play it) he launched into a thrilling rendition of Paranoid. The crowd basically wet themselves simultaneously. He is pure class.
My only disappointment: Not one band did that classic, drop-the-melody-keep-the-beat-going thing with the audience singing the chorus. I definitely expected some of that from Whitesnake, Poison, and Alice, but not a sausage.
So that was my Easter. When I wasn't whooping it up at rock festivals, I have been writing essays and trying fruitlessly to create a concept for my next photography assignment. So, next time you hear from me I will be considerably more frazzled. "People think I'm insane because I am frowning all the time..."

23 March 2008

For Those About To Rock...

Above: Alice Cooper. He angry.

Food blogging very temporarily on hold. Through my work, I managed to pocket free tickets to Rock2Wgtn, the two-day music festival with some muscular headliners - Ozzy Osbourne and Kiss. These tickets are exceedingly pricey so Tim and I were rather stoked. I realise my list of pet sounds on the right hand column of this blog don't exactly display bogan tendencies, but - and I don't want to come off all David Brent here - some of my favourite music errs on the side of 'heavy.' I count Metallica's 'Fuel' is one of my (admittedly million) favourite songs, and Motorhead's album Ace of Spades gets high rotation on my iTunes (and how could it not, with such ditties as Love Me Like A Reptile?) To be fair though, my knowledge of all the bands headlining is mostly gleaned from various reality TV shows, 80s compilations, and Top 40 Guitar Riff countdowns on C4. Despite, or perhaps because of this, we had an amazing time.

Last night was Alice Cooper and Kiss:

Above: Alice Cooper is absolutely mental. He has to be what, 97 years old? Yet in the course of his set, he threw out ropes of pearls into the audience, attacked a dummy replica of himself, engaged in a glorified display wife-beating with his backup dancer, sacrificed a baby (doll, don't sweat), had three costume changes, (who is he, Kylie Minogue?) got put into a straightjacket, was hung from a noose (it looked pretty real), flung fistfuls of money about and attempted to run for President. A Troubled Man for Troubled Times, was his pithy slogan. (Your move, Obama...) Listening to a lot of Radio Hauraki in my late teens meant that I ended up knowing a lot more of his songs than I anticipated, and so I was able to have a good singalong. His face is just fascinating though. He looks like a Quentin Black illustration. It is just begging to be doodled.

Above: This. Was Kiss. Blissfully ignorant of the definition of "carbon footprint," these platform booted nutters sent off jets of fire, sprayed confetti everywhere, and punctuated their singing with fireworks displays. The lead singer (the one that's not Gene Simmons, the drummer, or that other guy) rode a flying fox across the audience. They were excessive and excellent - truly, truly entertaining.

Above: Ah, the tongue. You better believe this happened a lot. He did not disappoint. It's funny, a lot has been made of Gene Simmons' many er, conquests, but while he was strutting about the stage I couldn't help but imagine him chuckling: "My rhymes are so potent that in this small segment I made all of the ladies in the first two rows pregnant." (I know, quoting Flight of the Conchords is now passe, but here in NZ we tend to always get the memo later than anyone else, and besides, just click on the link.)

Hot Cross Buns and other Easter baking to come (sandwiched between frantic essay writing and photo-taking) and I guess we will find out tonight what Ozzy Osbourne has in store for us, and if Bret Micheals from Poison is as bloated as he looks in Rock of Love.

20 March 2008

Lentil As Anything

Turns out that the Guinness cake is "the nicest cake in the world" according to Paul. He's not wrong. Like a good casserole, fine cheese, or Helen Mirren, it just gets better with age. On Tuesday I ate three pieces of the damn thing. Small pieces (evening things up, you know) but nonetheless: three. So there have been lentils aplenty to atone.

But you don't need me to tell you that the oft-maligned, unsexy lentil is actually seriously awesome. Or do you?

Above: This was Sunday night's dinner. I must admit that I ate a whole ton of jellybeans that were supposed to be for Tim -should his blood sugar go low- while he was at work. I figured the only way to undo this would to make lentil soup. Now, I don't have a hard and fast recipe for this, as I am still experimenting in the hopes of finding the perfect prototype. I think this could be close. I sauteed two onions, and added lots of garlic, some ginger, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and turmeric. While this was softening and becoming headily aromatic, I tipped in half a cup each of organic Puy lentils, organic brown lentils, and red lentils from the bulk section at Pak'n'Save. Into this went a tin of chopped tomatoes, enough water to cover everything, plenty of salt...and that was it. It was pretty magical. Almost more of a curry than a soup, deeply flavoured with a marvelously thick texture. I thoroughly recommend you try it, especially if you find yourself crouching at the freezer with a spoon, surreptitiously eating your way through a tub of ice cream, or accidentally eating a whole loaf's worth of overbuttered toast. Hey, we've all been there. Well, I have at least...

Above: This is what we had for dinner on St Patrick's Day. Somehow it conspired that we had all the ingredients for that Autobahn classic, wedges with cheese, bacon, and sour cream. Even though there are probably far better uses for the bacon, at the time I couldn't think of a better one. I served this with roasted capsicum and beetroot, which I drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

Above: Larb, with Cambodian Cucumber Salad from my Healthy Salads of Southeast Asia book, which was Tuesday night's dinner. Larb is a bit of an in-joke for Tim and me - I guess we're odd like that - we were playing Scrabble this one time (by the way, for someone who read the dictionary for kicks as a child, I am awful at Scrabble), and I used the word Larb. Tim said it wasn't real, I told him he was uneducated, and he asked if I could use it in a sentence. All I could think of was "this is my larb." Anyway, we found this kind of hysterical (I don't expect you to, that's why it's an in-joke) but finally wikipedia proved me right. I still didn't win that game. The cucumber salad is a great use of this particular vegetable, crunchy with cashews and dressed with fish sauce, garlic, and other such good things. I liked it a lot, and Tim said "yes" when asked if it was nice so you might be seeing this again. I'll only tell you larb story this once though, promise.

Above: Lentil Cashew Cakes! (I'm not actually quite sure what to dub them; 'patty' sounds too earnest and I find something suspicious sounding about the word 'fritter' so 'cakes' will have to do.) I saw this recipe in the recipe column of the Sunday Star magazine section. It was written by the wonderful Ray McVinnie, whose column in Cuisine is always outstandingly inspiring, so I should have known these would be nothing less than brilliant. Cooked up brown lentils are mashed with cumin, garlic, coriander, eggs, chopped cashews and a little flour, and fried till cooked through (I used my awesome non-stick pan that I got for my 21st.) These chubby little cakes are fantastic - the soft crunch of the cashews provides the perfect foil for the unfamiliarly grainy texture of the lentils. To go with, I chopped some cucumber up, tossed it in some Greek yoghurt with ginger and garlic (adapting another recipe from this column) and steamed some brocolli. Oh, and there were more wedges:

Above: Wedges!
Easter is just around the corner and though I'm not looking forward to doing assignments instead of flying home, I am very, very excited about making my first ever batch of Hot Cross Buns (Nigella, of course!)
Oh yeah - we went to the cricket on Saturday. Technically we got a good deal: we paid $25 for a ticket to the cricket, (which I don't like), a tshirt (which I'll never wear), a beer (which I don't drink), and a piece of toast with (excellent) bacon and (watery, curiously fishy) eggs at the Loaded Hog before the game. I've made no secret of the fact that I think Sports=Bullying (at least when I have to be involved, anyway) so it begs the question, what on earth was I doing there? Well, I was more than prepared to stay at home but I got told that it would be fun and that I should come and that it was a great way to spend nine hours of your life. So with this in mind it would be facetious (but not out of character) for me to slate cricket entirely; just because I hate something doesn't always make it morally abhorrent. But for real: It is intensely tedious. At about 2pm I almost became frantic, panicky even , with boredom and no forseeable conclusion to this charmless game. There were many times when I turned to Tim and asked him - genuinely - if they were still playing or just having an hour-long team talk, because that's what it looked like. There is literally nothing to see, and nothing to do but sit. I can't emphasise this enough. On a positive note, we were sitting amongst the Barmy Army, who are truly a delightful bunch, convivial and entertaining and ready with a song for every possible eventuality. They chanted "Micheal Vaughan's Barmy Army" for a full eleven minutes. Their insanity kept me sane. So, no more cricket. At least I know for sure now that I don't like it. Does anyone want a free tshirt?

17 March 2008

To Be Sure, To Be Sure

Happy Saint Paddy's! Some of you (cough*mother*cough) may be pleased to know that instead of dressing in green and going out on the slosh like everyone else, I am stuck here, blinking behind the computer working on my photography assignment. I could not be more nervous about handing it in tomorrow, the only thing more sobering than that is the thought of the assignment I have to do after that (first photos in by Friday, if you please!) not to mention all my other essays for English and Media that are looming ominously!

But there is always time for a little seasonal silliness.

Above: Nigella's Chocolate Guinness Cake from Feast. An obvious - some might say mainstream choice, indeed - I'm sure versions of this will pop up all over the blogosphere - and yet so appropriate. Not to mention unarguably delicious. I've made this cake before, and it was every bit as simple as I remember - just melt and mix and pour and bake and then inhale, gratifyingly, the chocolatey, spicy scent it imparts while in the oven. By the way, that is one of Tim's t-shirts in the background (which he obligingly held up for me). I've noticed that photos seem to look better with an uninterrupted wall of colour behind, unfortunately there are no uninterrupted spaces in our flat.

Right, back to the assignment. I made soup last night with THREE different types of lentils in it, but that will have to wait for a time when I am less frazzled and can give such an exciting dish the reverence it deserves.

13 March 2008

Let It Bee

Apologies for the yawning gap between the last post and this one, but there were extenuating circumstances: (a) uni is incredibly stressful (okay, so it's mostly photography giving me grey hair and wrinkles but everything is full-on) and (b) our other goldfish, also called Laurim or Taura, died yesterday and I didn't really have it in me to blog, especially after a particularly draining photog class where my pictures were largely slated by the teacher (who, in all fairness, was most likely correct, but it still stings.) I guess loss is the risk of loving something, but it still saddens me that we are completely goldfish-less now.

Speaking of stings...there's not much that can't be fixed by the sight of marzipan bees.

Above: It was Ange's birthday on Monday (and it's Kieran's birthday today - hoorah!) and she requested that I make her the Chocolate Honey Cake from Nigella's Feast. It was quite easy to make, and in keeping with Nigella's suggestion I fashioned wee bumblebees out of fondant icing and slivered almonds. Aren't they sweet!

Above: The cake is not only cheeringly adorable, it is also delicious - the honey gives it an unexpected depth and complexity, while managing to avoid being viciously sweet.

A bunch of us went to Satay India to celebrate Ange's coming of age. There was seven of us, and we ordered eight curries (they have a two for one deal) and absolutely soaked ourselves in the stuff. I'm not even sure if the photo can adequately convey how much we ate.

Above: As well as all that curry we also got roughly forty-seven pieces of naan. But we managed to dominate the lot. And the cake. Somehow.

Above: Told you we did it!

Other stuff we've been consuming lately:

Above: I seriously love making bread, and this particular recipe was very rewarding. At the Kelburn Fair on Saturday I picked up some Cuisine magazines abandoned stupidly, for only 50 cents! Result! And within one of them I found a recipe for Simit Bread, which is a Middle Eastern ring-shaped bun. (Not a bagel though!) I also found an unintentionally hilarious Cosmo from 1975 - full of nudity and innuendo!

Above: These were delicious. I sprinkled them with sumac and sesame seeds, and served them with meatballs, couscous, roast beetroot and brocolli.

Above: The recipe for the meatballs also came from Cuisine and had a ton of different herbs and spices in it, making for wonderfully flavoursome, er, balls. As I mentioned, the Kelburn Fair was on Saturday. As well as the magazines I also got a cool pair of green and blue t-bar high heels for $2, and a brioche tin for 50 cents. It was only Tim, Paul and I in that day because everyone else had travelled to Ohakune for a 21st. So we had...Rod Steward Appreciation Day. Instigated by Paul, this involves sitting in the sun, drinking, and listening to Rod Stewart. I can't pretend I'm the biggest fan of The Rod - I mean, he has his place and all, and I quite like that "Wear it Well" song, but has anyone actually read the lyrics to "You're In My Heart" without throwing up? Well have you? But it proved to be a novel way of passing the time.

Speaking of novel ways to pass the time, do look up David Bowie and Mick Jagger's Dancing In The Streets on Youtube if you ever wanted to know what the greatest music video of all time is. Even better than the ones Michel Gondry did for The White Stripes. To watch this is to truly witness brilliance.

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..."

5 March 2008

"A Mighty Win" or, "All Your Bar Tab Are Belong To Us."

Just a brief note to let you know that with our pooled knowledge of "German wine, turpentine, Gurtrude Stein," Tim, Paul and I won ANOTHER pub quiz. We came first at this one (held at the fairly lamentable student bar at uni) and won the slightly unsettling prize of a $100 bar tab (yes, another one), a couple of used looking CDs and bumper stickers from Kiwi FM (is that thing still going?) and...a large box of Watties Cup a Soup Chicken and Corn sachets. I'm surprised they didn't give us a pallet of loo roll. But seriously, all free stuff is great fun, and we were amazed that we'd won again - that's $200 worth of plonk in six days. I'm not so crash hot at maths but I'd say we were running at a profit!

Erm...since we decided we never really wanted to go back to that particular bar, we finished the tab last night. Let me tell you, $100 goes a loooong way between three people. I'm feeling alright this morning, but no less terrified about my 4 hour photography class at today - the teacher makes me very, very nervous. Did I mention she was humourless? Rigid? And I still haven't managed to tell her that Aperture is completely over my head - and yes, I've read the instructions for the camera!

In other news, spare a thought for Emma, who has fractured an elbow (her dishwashing elbow, apparently) while falling down one of the many precarious staircases that grace our city. We smirked at the time because she fell over while txting, but it really isn't a fun thing to happen to anyone.

More food soon! Including the first casserole of the year - the weather here is suspiciously Wintery...