I never thought I'd have reason to quote the one-hit ska-punk band Reel Big Fish on my blog but life takes you to some funny places. You may have noticed a new feature of my sidebar, if not, may I subtly direct your attention to it? I've been aware for a long time that it's possible to advertise stuff on one's blog, but I resisted, because of some would-be righteous "it ain't me" attitude I suppose, (although the idea of being submerged Daltrey-style in a bathtub of baked beans is engaging)...however I figured if I can gain some revenue off this site then I have no reason not to try at least.
I admit, Fishpond is a little expensive but let me state my case; for kiwis, most things are cheaper on Trademe, but this site has access to all sorts of difficult-to-find texts (including Idina Menzel's gorgeous but not-released-here album I Stand - if you like slightly overproduced MOR, buy it and she might finally come tour New Zealand!*) which you could never find in Whitcoulls let alone on Trademe, and if you are from America or Britain or elsewhere, as I know several of my readers are, why not give Amazon a miss for once and play the Fun Exchange Rate Game? Buy a book for NZ$50 and it will only cost you about three pounds or ten US dollars! Minutes of pleasure to be gained, I tells ye. And to cap it off any moolah I gain is going towards Tim's and my savings fund. Like I said, there's no harm in trying...and watch out for subliminal messages throughout the post...
BUY STUFF OFF FISHPOND BY CLICKING THE ICON ON THE RIGHT
Okay, that was veering on the side of super-liminal. I don't want to coerce people in any way, this is a place of food, and Nigella-worship, and self-indulgent pop culture references, not some kind of mercenary avaricious...um, I'm losing steam here. What I'm saying is, no pressure, nothing ventured nothing gained, and time for ham.
Above: So I made Nigella's Ham in Coca Cola the other night, and it was behaving worse than the most petulant hamster on ANTM, that is, it was very difficult to get a decent shot. I had to resort to using the flash button to get any kind of photo at all. Much to Tim's horror, I professed my love of the the cola/pork simmering liquid, and only dug myself further into a hole of shame when I tried to explain how I wasn't eating the pork fat, just the pork attached to the fat...Oh dear. Before I put you off forever, this is a truly delicious recipe, the Coca Cola imbuing the ham with a beguiling, addictive spicy sweetness. In England, you would buy gammon, in New Zealand, pickled pork, and it is merely simmered in a potful of sinisterly bubbling fizz (with a bobbing onion for added flavour) before being briefly flashed in the oven with a treacly, mustardy glaze. Trashy as it sounds, this is one of the very nicest things you could possibly have the good fortune to eat...
Above: A slightly more sedate, less carnal-tastic photo. We managed to make this last THREE meals, even though we could have happily snarfed the entire 1.5kilos by the fistful on day one. I made a surprisingly lovely parsnip orzotto the next day, into which I stirred some diced leftover ham, and then we finished the ham, sliced as above, with a salad the day after that.
Above: This is one of those meals that comes about after scanning your cupboards and fridge and trying to make things fit together coherently...I roasted diced pumpkin, a whole red chilli, a bulb (yes, a whole bulb, what can I say, I like it) of garlic and once everything was done I left the pumpkin to cool a little while I vented any frustrations I might have had on the garlic and chilli in my pestle and mortar, adding cinnamon, sea salt, and olive oil. I don't know what made me go for cinnamon, I was thinking nutmegnutmegnutmeg as you often do when dealing with pumpkin but made the last minute switch and it was really good - the warmth of the cinnamon reflected the muted heat of the roasted chilli rather pleasingly. So, where was I...I poured the dressing over the pumpkin and added a drained can of borlotti beans, mixing it gently, and finally sprinkled over gorgeously nutty poppy seeds. The only real bad thing about this was...I got the wrong beans. Cannelini beans are great for diabetics, lots of slow-release carbs and little sugar. Borlotti beans have about as much carbs as a steak. So Tim had to have some toast after this. This salad could, if you ate enough of it, make a decent lunch in its entirety as well as being an out-of-the-ordinary side dish which is how we had it. And as you can imagine, it's even better the next day when the dressing has really steeped into everything.
Above: And of course, there have been noodles. I have eaten so much noodle-based stuff lately, mostly soba or udon floating snakily in broth, but there was also this marvelous stirfry, inspired by a post on the stunning stunning stunning Use Real Butter blog. Sometimes I don't even photograph the noodle-food (foodle?) we eat in case you become weary of overexposure towards it...actually, and I digress violently and suddenly, I have noticed on my travels that I am one of the only bloggers who talks about more than one meal per post. I don't see many other bloggers attempting to fashion their titles out of song lyrics or obscure puns either. I don't know how you do it, to be honest. I salute you for your ability to be concise, regular with your posting, and lucid with your titles. Hopefully my method isn't too confusing.
Above: Back to the noodles. For all that the stir fry conjures up images of a swift, healthy, crisp dinner, I find that it's very easy to get wrong, greasy, over and undercooked at the same time, and boring. Somehow though, in my hamfisted way, I cobbled together a really nearly perfect one and true to form, didn't write down what I did. There were lots of capsicums, and I simmered the carrots and parsnips in with the noodles. The oyster sauce that I added was the thing that made it special I think, along with the miso in the ginger-carrot emulsion (adapted from the recipe on Use Real Butter) that I stirred through. Not just plain salty, but complex and savoury and richly flavoursome. The ginger-carrot thing was supposed to be a salad dressing but something about the combination of ingredients made me think they'd work in a stir fry, and oh, how they did.
It just occured to me recently that I should give credit to Marc, he of the elegant No Recipes blog, for the idea of using green tea as a broth for noodles, he mentioned it on his blog and I tried (and loved) it and wrote about it a post or two ago, and should have known I couldn't have come up with something as nifty as that on my own...Perfect for after sweating it out after a Bikram Yoga class (and inevitably one gets stuck next to the hairy, flatulent guy who wants to get in touch with more than just his chakras) or indeed any time you want your comfort food to be light but nourishing. I have this quite often, but as I mentioned just before, have spared you many bog-standard shots of it in my white soup bowls...
New Zealand is such a funny little country. I had been working at my current job for about a year when I found out that the receptionist, Kerry, is related to me. In hindsight it makes so much sense, despite our differences there is a kinship between us - fostered, I believe, by a love of the ridiculous and the beautiful - that makes me think "well how could I not have known that he and I were family." Ah, New Zealand. Probably the only place where your mother taught the guy you just met at the bar, or your gyneacologist lived down the road from you and paid you to mow their lawns as a child, or your dentist is Peter Jackson's aunty. Possibly even the Garden of Eden had more degrees of separation.
Where am I going with this? Nowhere, to be honest. But anyway, across the road from where we work is a small, but perfectly formed, Belgian chocolate shop. I had resisted it for some time, for the obvious reasons - money, thighs - but Kerry one day surprised me with THREE chocolates from this shop - Melting Perfection - and I was utterly smitten with them. In the picture above is the White Chocolate Champagne Truffle, the Maple Cream, and the Poire William, which I bought on a whim today after nearly going insane - you think I'm exaggerating - from hours of dealing with invoices. These chocolates are some of the very, very best I've ever tasted. The Champagne Truffle was just ridiculous - the touch of alcohol providing that elusive note of flavour that somehow made the white chocolate taste butterier, creamier, but also lighter and not in any way cloying or over-sweet. The chocolates are beautiful, handmade, and taste like they were made by someone who knows what they were doing. If you are ever in Wellington you should absolutely go to their Featherston Street shop (#109, on the way to the railway station) and if you are not in Wellington, then friend, it's worth the pilgrimage. For loving photography and a list of the imaginative chocolates they sell (and yes, there's even something there for the sea-salt and caramel kids out there) visit their website: Melting Perfection. Mention my name when you visit their store and recieve a bewildered look!
*To clarify - from what I've managed to hear online I actually really like Idina Menzel's new album (of course I do!) but it definitely falls into the realms of that category I dread - Adult Contemporary. It is a lot more polished and less kooky than her earlier pop efforts, probably because she wants to you know, shift some actual units, but is also a heck of a lot better and more real than any other misery-inducing music being put out these days in that bracket. Obviously her personality helps, as well as her unmistakeable voice, but the songs absolutely grew on me, and truly, I don't listen to any music that I don't genuinely love (life's far too short.) I hope she collaborates with Jamie Cullum for the next one, they both have that confessional style of writing, and he knows his way round a likeable tune. Anyway, this album isn't released for sale in New Zealand, (I've recieved many a funny look by asking for it at the counter at CD shops) and so if enough people buy it off a New Zealand site mayhaps her record company will want to send her out here for some kind of promotional tour (probably after I've scraped together just enough money from shilling her album to head overseas...)