29 November 2007

The Air Near My Fish Fingers

Have just done The Grocery Shop for the Christmas Dinner, which is breathing down my neck...wait that doesn't sound so positive. It's looming - wait, that sounds too shadowy and dark. The Christmas Dinner approacheth! I won't lie, I'm feeling a little frazzled but I really don't want to turn into one of those people who insist on doing everything themselves and then complain that they have so much to do. But look at it this way: The dinner is on Sunday. I am working all day tomorrow, then we are going to the Phoenix/Australia soccer game. On Saturday night is the Beckham/Phoenix game. I will be very, very busy. I was going to get the truffles started tonight, but of course the only (so far) thing I forgot to buy was bloody icing sugar and the stuff we have has gluten in it which kiboshes that. Never mind, I feel that making truffles after 10.00pm can only end with a tearful breakdown, followed by eating All The Truffle Mixture.

In other news, the USB cord for the camera arrived today, so I can stop borrowing Kieran's (extremely flash!) camera. It also means I can show you the finished Chocolate Guinness Cake - yes, him again! (I don't know why I think of this cake as having masculine properties, it is clearly far too late at night for this sort of thing.)

Above: A tip for ye, don't for goodness sake ever use lite cream cheese for the icing of this cake. It is runny as heck and no amount of refrigeration would thicken it. So I abandoned the idea of emulating the froth on top of a pint and went for the artistic drizzle look instead...still tasted like a dream - this is a seriously special cake.

Anyway, we spent an inordinate amount of dollars at the supermarket tonight. It was partly covered by a generous donation from an anonymous fan of the blog cough*mother*coughcough* which helped immensely. I was too exhausted after all that to think about food so this was our dinner, and a fine one it was too:

Above: Fish fingers (or fish sticks as our Canadian friend calls them) and chips from Aro Valley (it's a place near where we live, not a magical valley where fried foods grow on trees.) Had a sudden craving for fish fingers after thinking about retro food, prompted by a cooking forum I frequent. Now I am feeling full and cranky, but after salad for lunch I think it balances out...plus I drank sooo much green tea at the office after reading about how good it is for you.
So yes: tomorrow night and the next night will be spent watching football so I have to plan this out somehow. I will leave you with a maths problem, because not only is any maths a problem in my books but...well, that's it really.
2 stuffed Chickens need about an hour and a half at 220 C
Potatoes need to be at 200-220 C for an hour or so.
Challah needs to be at 180 C for about 40 minutes and apparently starts going stale instantly so can't be made ahead.
The ham can be baked at either 200 C for 20 minutes or at 180 C for about 40 minutes...
The Challah shouldn't sit round for long, the meat can handle sitting for a bit covered in foil, and the potatoes need to be hot. If my brain explodes from crunching these numbers, what time will the 3.45 train get to London and exactly how many apples will Sally have left?

27 November 2007

Everybody Must Get Sconed

Before you ask, I didn't make scones just so I could use that as a title. I am not like the oily Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice, who stored up delicate compliments and witticisms in the hopes of being able to drop them in the conversation at some stage...Ah, who am I kidding.

Outrageous Fortune is about to start and I'm blatantly not going to finish this by 9:30 - I guess I will have to dash back in the ads. If Judd doesn't come back, or worse, if Cheryl pashes Gary I wouldn't even try reading any further because it probaby won't be coherent.

There is much to be excited about this week: David Beckham, old Goldenballs himself, is gracing our fair shores and the entire Team Hadfield (plus some ring-ins) are going to see him and LA Galaxy playing the Phoenix team this Saturday. Then on Sunday is the annual Hadfield Christmas Dinner (well, we had one last year, which is as good as a tradition to us fickle youth.)
The menu will run thusly, and you will be finding out about all this later on in the week.

Fully Festive Ham (From Nigella's Feast)
2 Roast Chickens
Roast potatoes, pumpkin (if I can find someone to chop it for me) and kumara
A big green salad
Boiled peas.
I may attempt bread sauce. Am also toying with the idea of making challah, but don't want to end up a gibbering wreck and not enjoying myself at all.
Lemon Prosset
Platter of Chocolate Truffles, Rugelach (a Hanukkah treat also from Feast) and Malteaser traybake, a recipe I found on Nigella.com which I am quite wild to try out.

I have already booked my slab o' piggy from the butcher and will be picking it up on Saturday morning. I need to do a big grocery shop though - especially since Tim and I are still living off what was in our cupboards before we went up home last week. Like Santa, I will be making a list, and checking it twice. Last night's dinner, by the way, was a vegetable curry with brown rice - the curry consisted of cauliflour, carrot, and parsnip, and although it tasted good the parsnip gave it an odd sweetness.

Above: Vege curry, brown rice, retro plate! To beef it up (ironically), I added some baked cauliflour on the side - it is a Nigella suggestion to dust them with ground cumin, which I didn't have, so I used some garam masala instead. I prefer cumin, but it is a fine substitution. I realise the word 'cauliflour' doesn't exactly make one's knees quiver with excitement, but this is a great way of cooking it.

Above: It wasn't Salute to Cauliflour Day or anything...I just had a lot of the stuff. Just bake florets, dusted in cumin, in a hot oven for about 20 minutes.

The scones I made quickly, without a recipe in fact, not because of some smug sense of self-importance, but because I wanted it done quickly. I do realise that a recipe gives you more chance of success, but I've never been one to roll out the dough and stamp out rounds - I prefer it more free-form, which also means you don't handle the dough so much.

Above: "They'll scone you when you're at the breakfast table..." Once baked, the warm scones were eaten while we watched Knocked Up on DVD, a movie which is not for the faint-hearted but seriously, intensely funny.

Outrageous Fortune update: Loretta, don't give away your baby! Cheryl, don't go near Gary! And once more, Judd! Come back! Only two more episodes till the season ends which means only two things: things will get even more fraught on the show, and there will be a black hole in our Tuesday evenings till Season 4 starts.

26 November 2007

Guinness Gracious Me

Another day, another disorganised camera drama. This one isn't on the scale of The Pork Debacle or the day the biscuit photos disappeared...but it is nonetheless a pain. This means I can't show you a photo of my new pride and joy, a large bottle of sherry - a present from Mum - which I am super excited about using, or all the cookbooks that Tim lugged back for me from home, which I also can't wait to try out, or - more's the pity - the finished Chocolate Guinness Cake, which deserves every bit of its capitalisation - it is enormous, dense, and dark, a king amongst cakes.

Don't fret though, as I do have some photos which I uploaded to the hard drive before leaving home. I organise with one hand, and disorganise with the other. And, as all you can do is step back in time, here are some things from the weekend, when I was still at home.

Above: The veges for the Tunisian vegetable stew from Nigella's Feast! Look at them all! I made this, and the Chocolate Guinness Cake also from Feast, to take along to a family party on Saturday. Tim helped me chop everything, otherwise it would have taken hours. I have often made the meatballs - just the other day we had them, in fact - and have made the vege stew before, but haven't had them together yet, as per Nigella's suggestion. Well, it is a fab combo, and great to take to potluck dinners. We didn't have any harissa, so I just added a bit more cumin to the mix, which didn't matter as there were going to be people of all ages eating this who might not like chilli!

Above: The meatballed stew in its toureen, with Feast in the background...never realised how useful those cookbook holders are for preventing your books from getting mucky - haven't seen one in shops for ages though! This stew is not only easy, it is delicious, very good for you, and adaptable as heck.

Above: Butter and Beer, together at last. Mine and Tim's favourite things, respectively... Reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Homer asks Apu if he has any of that beer with candy floating in it, "You know, Skittlebrau?" Apu says Homer must have dreamt it. So Homer buys a dozen beer and a packet of skittles. By the way, the above picture is for the Chocolate Guinness cake. We could only find packs of 4x440ml cans and the cake needed a mere 250mls so Tim manfully dealt with the rest...

Above: This is the biggest one-tin cake I have ever made! I don't know what makes it so enormous - perhaps the Guinness bubbles?

Mum is posting me the usb cord for the camera, so you won't be able to see what the iced cake looks like till then. Let me tell you this though: It tasted intensely gooood. And, I suspect, it would taste even better the next day. Now, I'm off to work, which is a little jarring after a week of gallivanting and watching movies I'll admit...

25 November 2007

That's Entertainment...

Just a quick post, to tide things over. Tim and I have been back in Wellington, at Hadfield specifically, for a couple of hours now - after saying goodbye to Mum and Dad and bonding with the kitties for one last time, we jumped on the bus which would take us on our distinctly uncomfortable, 10-hour trip back to the capital. There is lots to write about, but I'll do that tomorrow. In the meantime, I thought I would let you know that Muse were absolutely mind-blowingly wondrous. This isn't my own personal music-review blog, exciting thought though that may be, but I will divert briefly from the food for today. As words can't describe adequately how excellent this concert was, I thought this might help:

Above: This photo, taken by Tim, pretty much sums up what the gig was like.

Above: And this neatly describes how we felt the entire time. Dad and Julian loved it too; Julian braved the mosh pit, while the rest of us enjoyed the fantastic view from our seats.

What the pictures don't quite convey, however, is how unbearably WARM it was inside the stadium - by the end we were sweating like mules carrying barrels of tequila to Mexico. Isn't it funny with big-name concerts - you spend all the time beforehand thinking "How soon is now?" And then when it actually is happening, it feels like you have been there forever, but also that you need to focus on every-single-second before it is all over, and then when it is over - did that really even happen? Maybe this is just me - when I do care to engage my brain I tend to overthink a situation...

Anyway, we are about to collapse into bed, but just so we remember this is a food blog, I boiled us up some pasta when we got back to the flat, into which I stirred a little butter (okay quite a bit) and grated over some fresh nutmeg. Instant comfort food, which is what the soul craves (even if the hips don't) after a ten hour bus trip.

22 November 2007

Enchilada y Ensalada

Tomorrow night is the Muse concert! Excitement! It seems like only yesterday that I got the text at work from Tim saying that he had bought the tickets. Adding to the general sense of anticipation is that Muse seems to have won every "Best Live Act" award up for grabs in the last couple of years. On top of that, Tim and I watched The Aviator yesterday, which featured one Rufus Wainwright in a cameo, singing at the Coconut Grove. Absolutely cannot wait to see him in February! Speaking of The Aviator, isn't Cate Blanchett amazing? So elegant, I felt dumpy and short-legged just watching her act the pants off anyone else on screen.

Above: Roger, in homage to the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet.

I've been having a marvelous time cooking dinner at home. It is endlessly gratifying to be eating at a big wooden dining table, with the sun streaming through the French doors, and drinking nice wine (not cheap plonk for once!)

Last night's dinner:

Above: Free-form enchiladas (much easier than the real thing.) I made a cumin-scented meat sauce, to which we added tomatoes, cucumbers, rice and cheese, and encased the lot in these nifty pesto-flavoured wraps that Mum had bought. I waited till people started to eat before telling them about the secret ingredient - a spoonful of cocoa in the mince. It isn't some fanciful fusion-style addition, but a classic one, giving depth and warmth and mercifully, not the slightest hint of chocolate flavour. Unfortunately we couldn't use any avocados as they were still too tensely unripe, like a clenched fist, but I managed to find a softly yielding one for tonight's dinner.

Above: Since it was so hot today, I decided to make something light that wouldn't sit heavily in the stomach, or indeed, wouldn't involve stirring things endlessly over a hot oven. So; I sauteed some diced chicken breasts (oh the luxury! We only ever have thighs and wings, and though I love the flavour of thighs, breasts are so versatile. Just realised how funny that could sound taken out of context...) toasted some walnuts, chopped up the one edible avocado I could find, and tossed it all with half a pack of those wonderfully useful mesclun salad packs and some diced cucumber. To go with I boiled up some potatoes and drizzled them with something else I look forward to when I come home - that mellow, green-gold avocado oil.

Above: The potatoes, and some tomatoes that tasted blissfully of themselves. I think the last time Tim and I bought tomatoes was February - they have been so expensive, not to mention watery and anemic that we gave up on them, but thankfully their season to shine is coming round.

Watched Rent on DVD on the big screen TV today - what a revelation! Haven't seen it in a while, and had forgotten how knee-quiveringly brilliant it is. I do realise I speak as someone a little biased though. Tim even sat through it (pointing out all of the character Roger's "Bon Jovi Moments" to my brother Julian) which gives me hope that one day he will like it.

Who knows what we will be having for dinner tomorrow night - probably Burger King or somesuch - but with any luck there will be some Muse photos to post! Hoorah! As Shakespeare would say, "Where art thou, muse?"

20 November 2007

More Posts About Buildings And Food (and the cats)

Notice: no more "Mama I'm coming home" style titles.

And, Look!

Above: A brief pause from Roger.

Today Tim and I went to the Waiuku Op Shop - possibly the best op shop in NZ (I hate ones like Savemart, that masquerade as a cheap place to buy second hand clothes and then try and sell you things for $15 and up...) I found a lovely blue dress and an exciting cookbook - published in 1964, called Jewish Cooking For Pleasure, by Molly Lyons Bar-David. It is a fascinating read, involving all sorts of offal and about forty thousand different recipes for fried dough. Another interesting read is a wee book that Mum gave me, published in 1953, Ethelind Fearon's Herbs: How to Grow, Treat, and Use Them. The redoubtable Ethelind says, eloquently and also ahead of her time: "The oil [must be] the best olive, not that sticky and anonymous material which passes as salad oil all too often." However it was her assertion that "There is no section of a meal, from Hors d'oeuvres to junket or savoury" which cannot benefit from herbs, that really made me love this book, I suppose because I have never had junket in my life and the idea of it being the first thing one thinks of when considering a meal tickles me no end. I will refrain from lifting her complete text, but basically, every word is a gem.

We had lunch at possibly the best eaterie in Waiuku - the Hot Bread Bakery, which is next to The Wild Olive pizza place. Yes, there are more upmarket places to go, but if you want incredible hot chips, or a staggeringly marvelous custard twist bun, at preposterously cheap prices, I implore you to go here. Indeed, also try the other bakeries in Waiuku - anything but Subway (the presence of which is completely unnecessary in a town so small and resented by moi.) After dining like kings we walked to the other side of town to help Nana and her husband sort out their Christmas lights - talk about the bright lights of Waiuku.

It has been great fun cooking at home, I love the gas hob which is so much nicer than the electric coils we have at the flat, and the kitchen feels so clean and spacious. This is what I cooked for dinner on Monday and tonight:

Above: Meatballs based on the ones from the Wedding Mezze menu in Nigella's Feast. I make these quite a bit for Tim and I and they are a delicious use of mince. Since the groceries hadn't been done at the time I was making these, I had to stretch 300g mince to five people, something I feel I did rather admirably using what was in the cupboard- a grated carrot, a few spoons of this ground linseed-sunflower seed-almond meal that Mum has, and two bits of crumbled toast. I flavoured them with ground cumin, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon, and served them with an oniony pilaf.

Tonight I made a chicken and tomato pasta sauce for pasta based very loosely on something I'd seen on The Barefoot Contessa show, all sharp and flavoursome with fennel and capers. We had neither in the house but I improvised using what we had and the end result was pretty delish.

Above: Oh, sweet gas hob, how I love thee.

Just had a brief break to watch Outrageous Fortune, which is a whole new experience on Mum and Dad's big flat screen telly - and all I have to say is "Noooo, Judd!! Come back!!"

19 November 2007

"Home, Home Again...I Like To Be There When I Can"

Above: Gratuitous shot of Rupert the cat sitting in Dad's drum kit. Roger, our newest kitty, is far too mercurial to be caught on film. He was named for Roger Waters, who wrote the lyrics for the song that I took the title from.

Tim and I went to my cousin's 21st in Rotorua the weekend just been, and by the time we got home last night I was too tired to make anything other than spaghetti on toast. It is lovely to be home though (Wellington is home to me, but here in the country with my parents is home, if you know what I mean.) So, no pictures of what we have been eating, which is not to say we didn't eat well on the weekend - the pub that the party was at provided us, among other things, with the singularly most incredible potato wedges I have ever had in my life.

The morning after we went to my aunty's fantastic burger bar: Rapscallions, on Fenton Street (opposite the Police Station!) She opened it about two years ago, but this was the first time I have actually been in it, and I was seriously smitten with the place. We didn't have any burgers because it wasn't open yet (and thank goodness, as I was far too hungover) but we cooked up some bacon, eggs and hash browns and Charlie showed us their new addition - an enormous shiny espresso machine. Tim had a go making coffee too and noticed that, ahem, they had much nicer milk jugs than Starbucks has.

Above: Outside Rapscallions.

Above: Inside - the counter and the blackboard. Notice the neat handwriting - my aunty is also a teacher.

Above: Charlie making coffees and hot chocolates for everyone.

Above: Mum's Chai Latte - isn't it pretty?

Above: Me, having a go at frying the bacon. After my 3 minute stint behind the grill I have newfound respect for Tim's time spent employed at McDonalds - it gets so hot back there!

Above: My favourite bit, the tables shaped like jigsaw pieces. Apparently you can actually fit them together too!

So, if you are ever in Rotorua, for goodness sake get thee to Rapscallions. Even in my unable-to-eat-anything state the burgers looked incredibly delicious - I would be the sort of annoying customer that would spend fifteen minutes bouncing between options, unable to choose what to eat because it all looks so good- not to mention the fact that you can get coffee of such quality that it will impress a guy from Starbucks.


Above: One for the road. Well, I haven't seen the cats since July, so I think a little gratuity can be allowed.

17 November 2007

"Once in a while I return to the fold...

...of people I call my own." Tim and I have about 20 minutes before we are to jump on a bus to Rotorua for my cousin's 21st, after which we are going up to my home for a spell. Didn't get to sleep till 2am last night, because Ange was visiting and Team Hadfield was united once more! Nevermind - we will have alllll the time in the world to sleep on the bus. For anyone not from NZ - find a map, look at where Wellington is and then where Rotorua is - you will see what I mean.

I think I've mentioned before that I have been trying to cook purely from what's in the cupboards, since we are going away. It's actually a good excercise in restraint. Last night I made the Union Square Nuts from Nigella Bites, which were incredibly moreish and quite beautiful looking, all burnished in varying degrees of gold.

Above: these are maaaarvelous; mixed nuts tossed in a little butter, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, and rosemary before being toasted in the oven.

Keeping with the nutty theme, I made some satay sauce to be poured over brown rice, which was just too overwhelmingly brown to take a photo of - trust me, it didn't look so good on film. All in all a very unhealthy dinner - turns out I was labouring under a misapprehension that nuts are good for you, apparently the little blighters are densely packed with pure unadulterated fat. How depressing! They are very filling though, Tim and I ended up staggering about in a nut-filled stupor for a while after.

Am very much looking forward to going home, I'm sure I'll get a chance to cook dinner and put it up here - not to mention a few gratuitous photos of Rupert and Roger the cats.

16 November 2007

Quack With Me

Today marks one year since we moved into Casa Hadfield. Having never moved house before (that's to say, my parents still live in the house I grew up in, and I don't count coming to Wellington clutching a bag of clothes and a food processor as 'moving') I didn't realise how horrendous it is, especially if you are doing it yourselves, (with the greatfully recieved help of Tim's dad) while it is pouring with rain, and your awful soon-to-be-ex-landlord is being sinister, not to mention the people at the house you are trying to move into left The World's Heaviest Beds behind which smash a window while you are dragging them out of the house and you have to pay to take them to the dump, and then get the horse float stuck in a woman's driveway for literally 3/4 of an hour...

Yes, it is no wonder that Team Hadfield looks back on this day with a shudder. But the reason this day really sucked unequivocally, was this: As we made our first trip of many, ferrying stuff to our new flat, we saw that one of the ducks that used to chill out in our courtyard had been hit by a car, and her partner was standing over her, folorn and helpless. He didn't move the entire day. Not only was it heartbreakingly sad - they mate for life, you know - but it was also portentious of what kind of day we had ahead.

So, in honour of the ducks, and as a way of marking the year spent here, Tim and I decided to, via Oxfam, buy three ducks which would be given to people in needy countries and, according to the website, can "eat insects and snails, helping farmers protect their fields. Eggs provide extra family nutrition and an income source." I'm not trying to schill for Oxfam here, or act smug for doing something charitable - but by all means check out the website.
Above: Did not actually take this picture - it's from Google Images.
Thank you ducks, for eating the bread that I threw out the window, for making our landlord's precious asphalt your toilet in what we took to be a sign of your defiance to him and allegiance with us, and for the very public sex you so often had that provided us with much hilarity. Gone but not forgotten.

15 November 2007

Set the Controls For The Tart of The Sun

Disclaimer - it is getting very late, and I am soo tired, my mind is on the blink...I wonder should I get up and fix myself a drink...Hopefully whatever follows is coherent.

It was with the greatest intentions that I swore off cooking pudding for a while, it was also with the greatest of intentions that I started cooking tonight's pudding. Now, with the benefit of hindsight (she is a cruel mistress!) I can see that something involving homemade pastry, baking blind, separating eggs and using a double boiler probably isn't the best thing to make when you get home from work. I wish I had some kind of alarm system that would go off whenever I have a fit of deranged domesticity like this, but it does creep up on you. One moment you are craving something sugary, the next you are up to your elbows in temperamental egg yolks.

Firstly, last night's dinner. It consisted of two salads, which, as unfilling and cold as that sounds, made a lovely meal. Because we are going away for a week on Saturday (home to see my family, the cats, and Muse!) I'm trying to use what we have in the cupboard. Thus, we ended up with this:

Above: This was a mixture of rice vermicelli noodles (the sort that I put in rice paper rolls) with cabbage, beans, brocolli, and one of those fish sauce-and-lime juice dressings. It was a lovely combination of flavours but I have to say vermicelli noodles are a bugger to eat - this might work better with something a little less slippery. A good store cupboard meal.

To go with, I made this, which required a bit more planning.

Above: Where do I start? First of all, I soaked the chickpeas yesterday morning, then cunningly cooked them up with the pearl barley, which meant they were ready at the same time. Meanwhile I chopped up and roasted what was left of the capsicum and fennel, plus a beetroot. While this was happening, I made dressing of the mashed up garlic that was boiling away with the chickpeas, some orange juice, and a little red wine vinegar. Finally I added some chopped up chorizo because Tim was bemoaning the lack of meat present and some linseeds to make it even more virtuous. I realise that the noodle salad's Asian flavours clash somewhat with the earthier flavours of the chickpea and barley salad but they actually went well together - even on the plate.

Above: Juxtaposition. One of my favourite words when I was studying art in high school - just throw it in conversation, nod sagely, and you will pass.
Both salads tasted great, though probably would have tasted better with bucketloads of oil in the dressing...I think the best way to avoid this is to maximise on flavour and texture which certainly was achieved.
Now to tonight's dinner:

Pudding technically isn't essential in the way that carbs are for insulin-packing Tim but my soul was saying, Morrissey-like, "Please, please, please, let me get what I want" and I gave in to its wheedling, by making the Raspberry Curd Tarts from the January 2004 Cuisine magazine. Cuisine is an NZ food magazine and has to be one of the classiest and most elegant food publications in the world. Its recipes aren't always terribly accessible but this one seemed to be - in that I didn't have to go out and buy anything - and I really was itching to make some pud.

I started off making the pastry, which then chilled in the fridge while I made the raspberry curd, which involved softly stewing the berries till they collapse in their own juices, before cooking them in a double boiler (or in my case, a bowl suspended over a pan of water) with butter, egg yolks and sugar till thickened. This was an undeniably messy job, and rather disappointingly, the raspberries lost their fabulous scarlet tinge, turning into something that reminded me of a lipstick that Mum used to have.

Above: The curd a-curding. It thickened surprisingly quickly.

What followed was a little nightmarish - draining the curd through a sieve to get rid of the pips. I can't tell you how many photos I took trying to get an artistic 'drip' effect. It would drip like mad and then as soon as the camera flashed the little blighters would disappear!

In between all this I made dinner:

Above: No, I didn't actually serve dinner festooned with kaffir lime leaves, I just thought the meat patties looks a little...brownly naked without anything on them. I made the patties out of pork mince, garam masala, and some red lentils that I cooked up (you can hardly taste them in the meat!), and had that with some brown rice and the carrots, which I cooked up with fenugreek, vermouth, garlic and paprika following a recipe in the gorgeous Herb Bible that my godparents gave me a while back. Everything tasted great. I'm too tired to think of a fluttery adjective at the moment: this is how it is.

Nearly fainted after dinner when I realised I hadn't read the bit about blind baking.

Above: The bane of my existence - blind baking, made more excruciating by being executed mini-style. Although there is something satisfying in seeing a crisp, golden pastry shell awaiting its filling.

Finally, I poured the curd into the cooked shells - and was too exhausted to eat anything (also scoffing too much pastry while rolling it out may have contributed to this - hmm, this isn't the first time I've said this...)

Above: Tart, top and sides.
Like I said, I didn't try any, but Tim and Kieran did, plus Alicia who also works at Starbucks and her mate Vi. The general concensus was that it tasted awesome - thank Heavens is all I can say. Do I recommend this recipe? Hard to say. On the one hand, you could make everything in advance, which would make things a lot easier than hitting the ground running after work. And according to everyone it does taste pretty fantastic, not to mention the fact that the tarts are undeniably cute. On the other hand, I am now a gibbering wreck, not looking forward to going to work tomorrow.
I guess you could call them The Great Gig in The Pie...perhaps a Tart of Gold...okay, okay, I'm going to bed.

14 November 2007

...Baby, One More Time

To paraphrase 'Seasons of Love', how do you measure a month in the life of my blog? How about 900 hits! Woohoo! Did not expect to have this many already since my immediate (and I do mean immediate) family are probably my main readers. Thanks to all who have been making those numbers climb - a month has gone so fast, and I'm having heaps of fun with this. Didn't post tonight because I got distracted by the excellent movie Once Apon A Time In Mexico and now I need to get to bed so...adios for now!

13 November 2007

Farewell to Feta, But Hopefully Not Jethro...

Thought I'd better post before Outrageous Fortune as it finishes late and looks like a weepie episode tonight. Will Jethro or Van go to prison? I hope not! It has been raining here but it isn't dark yet, and the quality of the light is bizarre, almost sepia toned, and all the trees around us in the valley have taken on a hallucinogenic green colour. Yes, it sounds odd. I tried taking a photo to show what I mean, but it didn't come out so well. And yes, I do live in the city but also adjacent to a verdant valley - welcome to New Zealand.

Anyway, what we have been eating lately:

Above: Nigella's Greekish Lamb Pasta from Forever Summer, with some of its ingredients behind. This is truly delicious, and comfortingly reminiscent of spag bol for Tim (okay, he's not hard done by in the food stakes but I know he appreciates something recognisable.) It was not, however, the last of the scenery-chewing feta...

Above: Parsnip and Brocolli Soup, which was tonight's dinner. I didn't use a recipe for this, just sweated the veges for a bit (such an unpalatable term!) simmered them in some stock and whizzed it up in my food processor with the last chunk of feta. In hindsight I probably should have crumbled it over the soup, I don't know what I was expecting but whizzed up the flavour just disappeared. Nevertheless the soup was lovely, but really would have benefited from a bucketload of cream. Sigh. Afterwards we had pasta dressed simply with butter and nutmeg so it's most likely a good thing the soup was relatively austere.

I am by no means on a diet, but after breaking a nail trying on some jeans at a shop the other day I figure it wouldn't hurt to up the veges and lessen the butter. I'm always reminded, whenever I have moments like these, of that scene from the Simpsons -

Homer: "Marge, how could you let me get so fat?"
Marge: "I'm not the one who put butter in your coffee!!"

Somehow I think Homer and I are kindred spirits.

On a different note, I got an A for my Writ paper (bask!) for which one of my assignments was to write a review of something in the media. I chose Nigella's How To Eat, which got an A-!! She did not fail me - and more importantly, neither did my lecturer.

Update: Outrageous Fortune has just finished and Jethro is okay! Phew! It is HOSING down here, and the sky is erupting with thunder and lightening. It is nice to go to sleep to though. I used to worry when Tim did midnight shifts at McDonalds in weather like this...I hope it has stopped raining by 5.30am tomorrow when he has to go to work at Starbucks!

11 November 2007

"To Huevos Rancheros, and Maya Angelou"

Yes, I realise referencing Rent in the title of my blog, at the bottom of my blog, and in the latest post of my blog may seem a little excessive, but let me tell you, I didn't just make Huevos Rancheros for dinner tonight because they appear in a song from this musical. It is the reason why I made it the first time though...

After our weekend of excess I felt like something quick, but packed full of vegetables. I first made Huevos Rancheros from a recipe in The Accidental Vegetarian, which turned out wonderfully, indeed, exactly like the sort of dish you might sing about while doing scissor-kicks on a tabletop in a show of defiance against the "yuppie scum." (What better way?)

Tonight I made it without a recipe, as I think it is open to interpretation depending what you have in the fridge. My salsa was made of capsicum, onion, fennel, celery, and chili, all of which I simmered together. Once it looks hot enough, carefully break in a couple of eggs, clamp on a lid, and leave a couple of minutes till the hot sauce has cooked the eggs. Genius!

Above: You can't actually see the softly poached egg under all that salsa but it's there. I sprinkled chopped coriander over because I think the flavours suit. When we last had this, I made a batch of Nigella's cornbread to go with which Tim and I ate, buttering each slice as we went and dipping it into the tomato-ey sauce. It was a fantastic, and natural combination but I was looking for something faster and less likely to be ending up buttered. I couldn't find any rice, so used my usual fall-back-carb of bulghur wheat, which couldn't be easier, if somewhat unusual paired with this!

From tomorrow I enter my Thoroughly Modern Millie phase as a working girl, however unlike Millie I am not working simply to find a husband. Our student loan payments end this week so from now on I'll be working 9-5 (what a way to make a living) and paying things like rent (oh how we have come full circle tonight) solely from whatever I earn. I realise that for many, many people this is just life, but for a uni student it is a comparitively big step...

Everybody Loves Cake

Last night Tim and I went to his friend's 21st party in Palmerston North. We had a fantastic time and ate and drank like lords. I thought that I would show you a picture of the staggeringly enormous birthday cake - it was about 2ft wide!

Above: As Wesley in the Princess Bride would say: "I have never seen its equal."

It took us forever to get back to Wellington on the bus, mostly because of the incompetent boobery of our driver. However my faith in bus drivers was restored when Tim and I, weary with carrying our heavy load and longing to get home, emerged from the railway station, hobbled across the road, and saw the bus that goes up to our flat about to take off in the distance. I ran towards it and waved it down and the driver actually stopped and let us on. The fact that buses that go up our way only come around once an hour on Sunday made this victory extra sweet.

9 November 2007

For once: not Nigella.

Apologies in advance if this post is a little lacklustre - have just watched a lot of telly and am pretty tired.

I have a difficult time staying consistently 'healthy' in my eating habits. I'll do pilates, have some soymilk, and then follow it up with a buttered chocolate bar. Okay, I'm joking...barely. Last night's dinner was a good enough example of this - salad and lentil soup (healthy) with homemade mince pies (unhealthy.) However, in my opinion, as long as there are lots of vegetables and other good things present, it can't be too bad.

The lentil soup came from Alison Holst's Dollars And Sense cookbook. I have no snarky comments to make - it was great soup, very easy and made from stuff I had in the cupboard. Yet another reminder of why this book is worth reading over.

Above: Lentils, vegetables, spices, water - this pretty much cancels out buttery pastry...right?

So taken was I with the beetroot and feta tarts that I thought I would make the pastry shells again and fill them with (much cheaper) mince to make a kind of homespun Big Ben pie, if you will. As you can see I got a little excited with the leftover pastry scraps...

Above: Twinkle, twinkle little pie...These were not just a pretty picture, they tasted rather lovely too. I could only manage one (my pie tin makes four) probably because I'd eaten too much pastry while making them, but Tim snarfed his down. He had my second one for breakfast this morning and said it was the best he'd ever had. Well, I guess anything beats Weet-bix (to which I have a particular aversion.)

Finally, balancing this out was a salad of beans, cucumber, and our old friends feta and walnuts. I didn't have cucumber so replaced it with fennel, quelle surprise! This recipe comes from the New Zealand cookbook, and is a fabulous combination with a lovely lemony dressing. Tim and I hoovered it up in about ten seconds - it's very more-ish.

Above: Hopefully everyone isn't sick of seeing things scattered in feta and walnuts...

Dinner tonight was something I've been craving all day- a vast pot of pasta. I don't know if there is Italian blood coursing through my veins somewhere but few things make me happier than pasta. Of course, creamy cheese-laden pasta dishes are a lot easier to love than the more austere tomato sauce that we had tonight, yet it was still richly flavoured and filling and all those other good things. I based the sauce on a Moroccan recipe in The Accidental Vegetarian, which adds cinnamon, cumin and tumeric to give aromatic depth. I biffed in a handful of red lentils and let them simmer away into nothing. It was delicious! I suppose it didn't help that I ate half a packet of wine gums while watching America's Next Top Model (oh the irony!)

Above: Made with canned tomatoes for 60c from Kmart! Tip for the wise: never buy your canned tomatoes from the supermarket, they are much cheaper at Kmart or the Warehouse. By the way...I crumbled some feta over the pasta, as you can probably see, but hastily stirred it through so it wouldn't be a focal point of this picture.
Right, am off to bed now: being crosseyed and dozy does not make for a sparklingly witty blog.

8 November 2007

"My conscience, thou art feta'd..."

On the one hand: overkill. On the other hand: It's what Shakespeare would have wanted...

But really, I am going to have to reign it in.

Last night's dinner used up the last of the pork. I thought there wasn't much left on the bone, but once I started digging I amassed a sizable pile. To go with I made Feta Bread from The Accidental Vegetarian, and the Red Peppers with Feta and Almonds from Nigella Bites. Except I didn't have almonds so I used walnuts. I like to get the most out of my luxury items (guess which two things they are this week?) which is why you may notice some repetition in ingredients this week...

Above: Doh! This is the dough after rising for an hour or so - I halved the recipe, and this is our biggest bowl - I can't imagine what would have happened if I'd kept to the original proportions. I don't know why this photo came out so dark, but I rather like how it looks rather sinister and dark side of the moon-esque...

The recipe was incredibly easy, the only difficult bit was kneading in the feta, mint and olive oil after it rose. I think if I were to make it again, I'd add the oil at the start, as putting it in at the end made the dough completely uncooperative, and nothing would cohere. I eventually managed to bully the dough into incorporating the feta but it looked a bit messy. Luckily it cooked up well and tasted amazing!

Above: The finished product. It tasted wonderful! I think it would be great as part of a 'bread and dips' selection.

As I mentioned up there, we had red peppers sprinkled with feta and walnuts to go with. For the two of us, I cut one large red pepper into six - they are still pretty expensive, hence the holding back, as I could eat cooked peppers till the cows come home! This is a very simple recipe - just shove the peppers under the grill for a bit, and that's about it. I added some sliced fennel for contrast and, well, extra presence of veges. The combination was, not surprisingly, fantastic.

Above: Pretty, too! I imagine this would be fab chopped up and stirred through pasta as well.

After that we all drank wine and beer (prompted by Emma, who had her last exam yesterday) and stayed up yarning till 3am asking all those questions that life throws at you - like, "why are students taxed so bloody much when we earn so little?" and "is it pronounced di-PLOD-oh-cus or dip-lo-DOH-cus?"

7 November 2007

Is This A Beetroot I See Before Me...

After handling the stalks and leaves of a bunch of beetroot yesterday, I came to the conclusion that Shakespeare is trying to tell me something from beyond the grave...Hamlet style! Or perhaps more in the style of Richard III, after all...okay, I'll stop, I mean I have finished my exam and everything.

Above: Out, damned spot! I guess it makes sense that if beetroot make your hands red, so will their stalks. If there is one thing I enjoy more than a pun it is a visual pun, and as soon as I saw my hands turn so "incarnadine" I knew that somewhere out there, Shakespeare was endorsing my continued delight in misusing his words.

Anyway -

Above:These are the intensely pink stalks of beetroot, which, with the leaves, went into my intensely healthy lunch yesterday: Noodles with Beet Greens from Nigella's How To Eat. I made this because I had noticed that our beetroot from the market was so, erm, well endowed with stalks, and didn't want to waste them, even though it had never occured to me to eat them before. A word of caution - apart from the obvious, that they stain - only use the very thin stalks, anything too thick will taste unsurmountably fibrous and woody. So: into boiled soba noodles go the steamed and wilted beet bits, followed by a few Asian flavourings.

Above: Once I got over the fact that like a panda, I was eating shoots and leaves, I really liked this. The greens (and pinks) had a strong silverbeet flavour which went well with the soy sauce I'd put in, and it was satisfyingly filling.
For dinner we had leftover pork, which I augmented with some Beetroot (waste not, want not) and Feta tarts from The Accidental Vegetarian. Well. They are incredible. I simplified the recipe somewhat, making my own pastry - smugly, I didn't even use a recipe. Well, I think pastry is justifiable to be smug about, but then maybe it's not - all you do is use flour, half its weight in butter, whizz it up, add a little water...and that's it!

I got to use some awesome little tart tins that I bought impulsively at the Food Show earlier this year (all the while telling Tim "of course I'll use them!!") The very cool thing about them is that the base lifts out of each little indentation to make it easier to lift them out.

Above: I can't believe something that dinky sprang forth from my hands.
I filled them with a mixture of roast beetroot, parboiled brocolli, feta and walnuts. Ooooooh they were good.

Above: Ooooooh. Words fail me.
I guess it goes without saying that after dinner we watched Outrageous Fortune...