It's the miracle of life! I have borne fruit! (well, a vegetable, to be precise)
To grow you is to love you.
It seems I can't pick up a magazine or lifestyle section of a newspaper without some recessionista sighing smugly about how they are positively overrun with their homegrown zucchini and if they have to eat another fritter they will just die. Tim and I, with all the best intentions, embraced our inner hippies and exchanged a large amount of coin for various packets of seeds, a bag of potting mix, a pair of gloves that make your hands chafe and a trowel that bends at the slightest pressure. Three months of tenderly weeding our little garden, gently throwing coffee grounds and potassium-rich banana peels at it in the anticipation of a bounty of zucchini, beetroot and runner beans...
And our impotent, nutrient-deficient soil threw forth one, solitary sodding zucchini.
I couldn't be prouder. Okay, so gardening isn't as easy as every chatty columnist claims it is, (I mean, exactly where are our beans and beetroot?) but the endorphin increase I got from this single vegetable must equal a positively delirious hallucinogenic head rush if you actually manage to harvest an actual garden of edible goodies. So we're planning to buy some more seeds and start again - the grow must go on...
The zucchini was sliced lovingly and went into a ratatouille to accompany the above roasted chicken on Sunday night. I had a feeling that I hadn't eaten meat in forever and needed to remedy this immediately by consuming the sort of protein you just can't get from lentils. When we do eat meat I want it to be good. Luckily the chicken I purchased from Moore Wilson's was tender and fleshy and tasted like the happiest ex-bird ever to socialise and dust-bathe in its natural environment.
While I was being unorthodox, and continuing with the homegrown theme, I thought I might as well make some flatbread to mop up the chicken and ratatouille juices. I don't know about you, but if the gap between the present moment and when I last made bread grows too wide, I become a little antsy. Making bread is just something I really enjoy - watching the unlikely mixture of flour and liquid come together as I knead it, the slow swelling of the yeasted dough, and the incredible smell it imparts as it bakes. To say nothing of the ridiculously wonderful taste of it hot from the oven (with butter, thank you...)
I've made this recipe a couple of times before, it's a very easy dough to work with and while home-made flatbreads aren't perhaps as visually rewarding as a proudly towering traditional loaf of bread, they are just as delicious and make a meal feel like a feast.
Garlic and Parsely Hearthbreads adapted from How To Be A Domestic Goddess, by Nigella Lawson.
500g bread flour
1 sachet (7g) instant yeast
1 tablespoon nice salt (if you're using iodised table salt, halve this amount)
300-400mls warm water
5 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 190 C. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then stir in the water and oil. Stir to combine then knead till it becomes a soft, springy dough, which I find happens quite quickly with this particular recipe. Form into a ball, wash out and dry the bowl, tip in a little olive oil and turn the ball of dough in it before covering it with clingfilm and leaving it to rise for an hour or so. Meanwhile, trim the tops off two large heads garlic, dribble with a little olive oil and wrap loosely in tinfoil, then pop n the oven to cook for about 45 minutes. If you sit the bowl of dough on top of the warm oven it will aid the rising process.
Once the dough is sufficiently risen, punch it down and leave it while you remove the garlic from the oven and turn it up to 200 C. Divide the dough in two and press each out into a large, roughly oblong shape (you will need two lined baking trays for this) Prod them with your fingers to make dimple marks and cover them with a teatowel and allow to prove for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, Nigella recomends blitzing the cloves of garlic (squeezed out of their skins) and a good bunch of flat leaf parsely in the food processor but you might find it easier just to chop it all together. Mix in a little olive oil either way, and spread this fragrant mixture across the dough.
Bake for 20 minutes or so until the breads are golden brown and cooked.
These are unbelievably delicious.
Is it slightly obscene that the two of us ate roughly one and three quarters of these enormous flatbreads on Sunday night?
I've also been doing a bit of baking. I like to keep the old tin full at all times in case of any unexpected dips in blood sugar from The Diabetic One, but I just like to bake selfishly for its own sake too, to be honest.
I found this recipe in the February/March edition of the magazine Essentially Food. It can be hit and miss in terms of content, but it's improving and they are really worth sifting through because there's almost always a couple of brilliant recipes in there. This is one of them - Belgian Slice. I don't know if y'all around the world get Belgian biscuits which are essentially two small spicy cookies bound with jam and bearing a disc of pink icing. What they have to do with the nation of Belgium is beyond me - perhaps they'd be more appropriate if they smelled of fine beer and were sandwiched together with aioli, but who am I to question culinary history? This following recipe is infinitely easier, combining the flavours of Belgian biscuits in non-threatening slice form.
1 Tablespoon golden syrup
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup raspberry jam
Preheat oven to 170 C. Cream the butter and sugar, then add the egg and beat well. Mix in the golden syrup and then the dry ingredients. Press the mixture into a baking paper lined swiss roll tin and spread carefully and evenly with the jam. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Essentially Food recommends covering it with pink-tinted icing before sprinkling over raspberry flavoured jelly crystals but as I didn't have any in the house, I compensated by adding raspberry flavouring to the pink buttercream instead.
There's something about the refined, spiced biscuit underneath and the garish, artificially flavoured buttercream and the contrasting textures of each that is both comforting and strangely delicious. Like a culinary crossroads between "childish" and "grown-up" flavours.
I'm really tired this week, all this going out to gigs and such is kind of catching up on me. My feet are bruised from being constantly stood on in audiences and my neck ached all last week from craning my neck (being undertall, I was doing this quite a lot...) The Kills last Wednesday were great fun, I was right up in the front and could practically grope their achingly hip, Kate Moss-dating ankles. However being up the front meant we were dealt a terrific mauling due to the extremely vigorous jostlings of the audience. We emerged feeling like potatoes that had been pressed through an expensive ricer (well those weren't Tim's exact words). At Kings Of Leon on Friday it wasn't much better, even though we were considerably further back. They were in cracking good form and handsome as ever, even though they didn't talk as much as they did at their concert last year. The next big thing on my horizon is the production of The Winter's Tale, directed by (gasp!) Sam Mendes, up in Auckland and Sylvie Guillem back here in Wellington later next month. I think I can confidently say that watching Shakespeare and ballet should be fairly moshpit-free.
In other news, (self-pimping alert here) I've been asked by menumania.co.nz to write for their blog. Check out my first post by clicking ---------------> here. I'm still finding my feet with the direction I want my posts to take but it's fun to stretch myself and certainly an honour to be noticed and invited!
Next time: Bearing in mind that what I say will happen next time often bears little relation to what actually happens next time...I have this pie recipe I really want to try from an old edition of the gorgeous Cuisine magazine. Watch this space.