27 April 2010

to fruits, to no absolutes

I had a wonderful weekend at home, but I feel a bit talked out on the subject of RENT. All the way up to Auckland in the car my family and Tim politely listened while I talked about it anticipationally, and all the way through dinner afterwards and on the drive home I was generously tolerated during my frame-by-frame debrief of the entire production. But - oh my gosh thank goodness I imagine that I hear you say - I'm not entirely out of steam. For the sake of all involved though, and because I'm probably the only person who cares what I think about this particular production, I'll keep my review to the following thoughts: (I have more thoughts though! So many more!)
  • I was very, very happy to be given the opportunity to see the songs I love so much performed live, and the Auckland Music Theatre did a great job.
  • The vocal sound was a bit restrained which didn't do them any favours, because in RENT if you miss one throwaway line, well there goes an entire subplot.
  • The choreography for Out Tonight wasn't overly satisfying, and I was a little disappointed Mimi wasn't wearing blue tights, but this seems typical of all local productions I've seen.
  • Some of the songs - including the difficult Contact ("Mum, there's this giant, metaphorical...sex scene") in which Cameron Clayton as Angel just stunned and La Vie Boheme were staged and choreographed absolutely brilliantly.
  • I didn't like what they did with Over The Moon - while it was clever to have it more dynamic with the cast-as-audience it lost the actual audience participation. And the cowbell.
  • While the cast was overall brilliant, and it's not fair to compare them to the original Broadway stars, occasionally a singer's range didn't stack up to what you expected to hear.
  • I really liked Kristian Lavercombe as Mark, he brought this narrow-hipped Buddy Holly feel to the role and led the show well.
  • The much-publicised Annie Crummer (let's face it, there are no real main characters but if there were, Joanne wouldn't be one) looked stunning and sounded great but her distinct vocals coupled with the slightly quiet mic made most of her lines hard to hear. If you didn't know them off by heart already that is.
  • Go see it if you can - it's running till May the 7th and frankly, I'd go back again if I could. We saw the Saturday matinee and I would have happily stuck around and seen the night show. I don't say that lightly.
Oh yeah... and it was fun hearing the name of my blog in the title song.

We're so countrified that we spent five traffic light cycles taking a photo of me in front of the Civic theatre on Queen Street. I guess since our community is now shunted into the Waikato we can officially qualify as tourists in Auckland supercity. Imagine if I ever made it to New York - but then there are probably thousands of people who take photos of the "look at me standing by this distinctive structure" variety over there.

I was also home for Anzac Day and after watching the amazing and moving coverage on Maori TV (I could have done with someone a little drier in delivery than Judy Bailey, that said, I wish I had her legs), we went to the local wreath-laying ceremony, catching up with plenty of whanau in the process. A large bag of feijoas was pressed upon us by old family friends and I managed to carefully transport them back on the plane to Wellington. Feijoas are a fairly localised fruit, I think they mostly pop up in NZ and Australian cooking but not necessarily many other places in the world. I would describe them as being similar to passionfruit in fragrance, a little like a strawberry mixed with pineapple in flavour and not unlike guava in texture. They're basically the greatest thing on earth.

Unfortunately their relative rarity and short season (they're one of the best things about the colder autumn days) means that recipes are few and far between. So I decided to improvise, and made Feijoa Coconut Brownies. If you aren't within reaching distance of a feijoa I'd substitute equal weight of banana or applesauce.

Improvised on the spot though these may be, they tasted like they'd been prophesied about to come and save the world by some holy sage a thousand years ago. I'm trying to say they were really good.

Feijoa Coconut Brownies

200g butter
100g good dark chocolate
150-200g feijoa flesh (just cut them in half, scoop out the flesh with a teaspoon and mash with a fork. The weight here refers to the flesh only, not the whole fruit)
100g sugar
3 eggs
2 tablespoons good cocoa (like the Fairtrade stuff Mum gave me! Yay!)
50g thread coconut (or dessicated, the longer thread stuff gives good texture)
200g flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
100g good dark chocolate, chopped (optional)

Set oven to 180 C/350 F. Melt the chocolate and butter together gently, either in the microwave or in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir to combine. Tip in the rest of the ingredients apart from the flour and baking powder, and mix thoroughly. Fold in the flour, baking powder and chopped chocolate if using, and spread the mixture into a baking paper lined 20x30cm-ish tin. Bake for 20-25 minutes (no less - this is a supermoist mixture, it can handle the slightly longer oven time). Allow to cool a bit, then slice into bars.

Notice my new favourite toy - a cakestand from my godmother and family. I love how clean and elegant it is - makes me feel very Scandinavian. Or at least what I think being Scandinavian might feel like. (Other characteristics: writing excellent electro-pop and sprinkling dill on everything)

These brownies were, and I don't care that I'm saying so myself because look at them, gorgeous. The feijoa gave an acidy kick to the chocolate's embroidered velvet pants, while the softly textured coconut buffered against the feijoa's grittiness and provided a delicate richness of its own. They are super moist, cocoa-y and dense. They're damn good brownies.

I had one for breakfast this morning and it felt good.
Title coming your way via: surprise! RENT! I'm confident that feijoas aren't the kind of fruits that Mark sings about in La Vie Boheme...and yet feijoas are undeniably one of the fruitier brothers in existence, so it all kind of works out.
Music lately:

Just one more - Santa Fe from RENT. I don't have a favourite, but this mellow beauty still thrills with every listen despite not being one of the huge showstoppers. I was a bit let down by the staging/arrangement of this song in the production we saw, but funnily enough Mum thought it was going to be the end of Act I, like Act II would be all about this group of bohemians and their attempt to start a restaurant out west. Looking back to when I first heard this song, I have to admit I didn't quiiiiite pick up on the hypothetical nature right away either.

The amazing M.I.A's new Suicide-sampling song Born Free. Watch the video if you dare (if you can find it) it's definitely...an eye-widener.
Next time: I've been given so many cool food-related things for my birthday (cake tins, maple syrup, limoncello, etc) that I'm going to have fun working out how to use them all, hopefully managing to incorporate my new cakestand in the process...


  1. OH MAN! i've the soundtrack and dvd but have yet to see Rent live. That's amazing :) And these brownies look lush. So gotta love these more than the plain ol' boring brownies.

  2. Oooh, that cake stand is absolutely gorgeous! And I think that recipe could channel all of the feijoas that keep invading my kitchen into something quite lovely, 'specially as I actually don't like them by themselves!

    So glad you had a wonderful time in Auckland :)

  3. HerbertimoApril 28, 2010

    The chocholate and feej brownies certainly have some sweet "embroidered velvet pants". I'm not looking forward to the last piece...as it will mean these pants are no more!!

  4. I definitely was looking forward to, and appreciate, your thoughts on RENT. Completely see where you're coming from about the missed throwaway lines - there are so many intricate parts to the musical; that's part of what makes it so lovely to listen to over and over again! (I've only seen it the once, you see.)

    I've only had a feijoa once in my life and loved it... but would never have thought of it as a brownie ingredient. Wouldn't mind a feijoa kick in my own pants, really.

  5. I've missed commenting on your last couple of posts but have read them all! I have a confession to make, after all this time of reading your blog, I have yet to see Rent! I hope to rectify this soon (finally), because I do love musicals and stage productions and theatre, so I really should see this too.

    Your brownies look amazing. I also like your cake stand :). My fave line from this post is: "The feijoa gave an acidy kick to the chocolate's embroidered velvet pants" :)

  6. Diva: Thanks...they're still pretty lush two days later.

    Kathleen: Isn't it? Makes me want to bake little cakes all day just so I can use it again. I could eat fejoas by themselves till the cows come home but these brownies are definitely a good way to use them up if you have more than you know what to do with.

    Herbertimo: You're an embroidered velvet pants!

    Hannah: Ah, thanks! If only feijoas travelled well through the mail, I'd post you some right away - they're that good :)

    HayleyB: Not to worry :) and maybe try looking for the DVD of the RENT film - it's a good place to start as they use most of the original cast and the storyline's easier to follow. All this talk of RENT is making me want to see it again now!

  7. Glad you got to see Rent. Yay for brownies!

  8. om nom nom those brownies look delish! I'll be buying a heap of feijoa's at the market this sunday. I bought the crappy small ones last week...

    Glad you liked Rent. I have no money to go up to auckland. It's sad.


  9. My personal favourite metaphor was the Last Supper.

    Glad you liked the cocoa - and RENT. And, I gotta admit, it was funny hearing "hungry and frozen" in its original context.

    Love the idea of feijoa brownies.

  10. Sadako: Thanks :D me too!

    Olivia: It does suck :( nice bumping into you today :)

    Mum: :) the last supper metaphor was definitely very cool. Was nice to experience seeing it live with you guys!

  11. Beautiful cake stand! I've never tried a feijoa.

  12. Love the cake stand! Hah, I laughed out loud when I read the Scandinavian part. You're too funny

  13. i really miss feijoas, they don't eat them over here for some reason.... mmmm so good with roast pork instead of apple :)