Sunday, April 24, 2011

Postcard from Wellington: Craft 2.0

 So even though Craft 2.0 just celebrated its 5th birthday, I'd never been to it before or even heard about it until recently (it's my sister that's the craft market junkie). It was such a great day out. The stalls were beautifully presented with all sorts of tempting items to buy and engaging people behind them to chat to.
Apart from browsing for cute knicknacks, I was also curious to see what people were charging for baby knits. Low and behold I recognised most of the clothes from my ravelry favourites list, and the exact toddler mitts I made the other week were selling for 12 bucks. Maybe I should start charging...

But the highlight was definately the "jam-off" judged by Al Brown. It was a billington plum jam that won overall (good news because mum has one of those trees!) and a very kiwi winning speech - "full credit to the plums". The rosehip, vodka and quince jelly sounded pretty darn delicious too!

I couldn't leave without buying some yarn (suprise, suprise) so I'm going to make this scarf at some point with a merino-silk blend from Spinning a Yarn. And I have to say, I just read her blog and I am in love with her red mixer! How cute would that look in my kitchen if I had more than half a metre of bench space either side of the sink?!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Postcard from Wellington: Petone

Pommy flatmate enjoying the first
 lot of sun we've had in ages - you can tell it's sunny by the way
her glasses make her look all 'Ben Affleck in that
god awful, monstrosity they called a superhero movie'.
Despite living in Wellington for over 5 years now, today was the first time I've been to Petone proper. Not through Petone, or to Petone beach, or just to Mitre 10 Mega,  but I actually spent the day wandering Jackson Street. Wandering is probably not the right word; making a beeline for Holland Road Yarn Company more like!

I've decided it's best that my visits out there don't become too frequent because with Holland Road and Wanda Harland on the same street, my wallet is going to suffer! Mumsie heaven! Nb: There's also heaps of second hand/antique stores which I didn't check a chance to check out - I mentioned that I was beelining, didn't I?! 

After perusing the yarn (and spending *cough* $40 *cough*), it was time for a tea and scone in the cafe next to the old jail. Some of the buildings are really lovely and there's lots and lots of antique/second hand stores to browse which I didn't get to today(best to save those pennies for Samoa, or for that small inconvenience called 'the rent')

My purchases - the cascade is made in Peru!

Keep calm and pom pom on

Cut out a 'donut' shape from cardboard
Wrap wool around and around

Cut the loops of wool.
Whoops missed a step. Pom pom fail.
Realise you need 2 'donuts'. Wrap wool again.
Cut loops and then tie a piece of yarn around,
in the middle of the 2 'donuts'...
...leaving you with a pom pom and a
string to sew it to the hat with.

Stitch the pom pom to your hat.

The hat pattern can be found here and the fingerless mittens, here.
They are both really simple and knitting in the round on a magic loop. Now I just hope they'll fit their intended recipient and that they are cool enough for a discerning one-year-old gal.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What to do with leftovers...

With a southerly ripping its way across the country, yesterday was definately a stay-in-bed-and-do-nothing day. What a luxury! I did actually shower and put on fresh pajamas. The cold made the forays outside of bed few and far between only for a steaming cup of Healtheries rhuburb and apple tea - luxury buy of the week.

By the time flatmate number 1 arrived home, I was in the mood to eat, but so not in the mood to cook. Leftovers jazzed up it was. While she headed down to the shops to rent the all important Outrageous Fortune season 6 (going to the exhibition next week and we were just 3 episodes shy of watching all 6 seasons since December), I kept an eye on the cooking.

On Saturday night we had friends over for a roast (who came bearing Saint Claire and Roaring Meg pinot noirs and a late harvest riesling for dessert - amaaaaaaaazing!). At the time we chopped up extra vegies and cooked them in a non-meat-contaminated pan for later in the week - smothered in a buttery, honey glaze, mmm.

So last night it was these veges + risone + leftover brocolli and feta filo pie (cooked by the pom) for dinner.

And this pizza base + veges + feta+ sauce made from good ole t-sauce mixed with garlic, smothered with cheese for today's lunch.

Not bad for venturing outside of the duvet for the least possible time, cooking time. Oh and there was also leftover pinot noir too *picture happy, grinning mumsie here*

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Chocolate Pisco Cake (otherwise known as heaven on a plate)

If somebody told me they were going to Iquitos (a Peruvian city planted smack bang in the Amazon, only accessible by boat or plane) the one piece of advice I'd have for them would be to go to the Dawn on the Amazon cafe and try the Chocolate Pisco cake. I did. Twice. Biting into that slice of heavenly goodness and taking a sip from an ice cold glass of sauvignon blanc is a food memory that will never leave me. Thinking about it puts me back in that moment, sitting in a comfy chair on the malecon watching tourists amble past, hawkers trying to flog off cigarettes,t-shirts or tours, a couple of ladies across the street selling juanes and coconuts and hippies sitting next to their pop up jewellery stands. I can hear the roar of mototaxis (tuk tuks) going past the square and the heat hangs heavily on me, my skin glistening with a constant layer of sweat. I'd spent 4 nights sleeping in a hammock on a rust bucket of a ferry to get here. Spent another couple of days exploring the faded grandeur of this city and the nearby zoos and butterfly farms (even being groomed by monkeys) and had sat on a white sand beach in the middle of the river chatting to the local kids.

Then I'd ventured out into the jungle for a 4 day tour with a lovely Slovenian girl and a rather creepy, dolphin-obsessed (and not in a oh dolphins are so cute way but dolphins as sexual objects way) guide, caught a piranha and eaten it, had a shaman blowing smoke and chanting over me to cure my vomiting bug, and held a pet sloth who was so lazy he didn't seem to notice he had huge lice-like creatures swarming over him. I had sweated profusely non-stop for at least a week in the opressive humitity and drunken so much juice (the choice of tropical fruits!) to counteract that that a child hawker knew me as the lady who really, really loves juice.

Iquitos was an absolutely magical place. And the bite I took of that straight-from-the-refrigerator Chocolate Pisco cake washed down with an actually cold glass of wine was beyond magical. It is one of my top food memories in a trip full of 'em. It's definately right up there with the first bite of a steak fresh off the barbie in Uruguay, sinking my teeth into a trout empanada to die for in Bariloche, the faina (chickpea bread) on top of a simple margerita pizza in La Boca, or a sip of Torrontes from Vistandes vineyard in Mendoza.
Since then, I've wanted to replicate it but couldn't find a recipe for Chocolate pisco cake anywhere online. How could this be?

So I've used my favourite chocolate cake recipe gleaned from my mother who in turn gleaned it from some unknown (to me) source. Instead of 1 cup of hot coffee I used 3/4 cup coffee and 1/4 of pisco (Peruvian/Chilean white wine brandy) - possibly it doesn't taste quite pisco-y enough, but still a worthy first attempt.

Here's the recipe.
In a food processor combine
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk or plain yoghurt
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 200g softened butter
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 cups self-raising flour
  • 3/4 cup boiling hot coffee
  • 1/4 cup pisco

Cook for 1 hour in a 160 degree oven, although mine is taking longer than that - possibly due to the pisco?
I also had enough mixture for 6 cupcakes made from the mixture. 3 of which I totally have not eaten while writing this post :-)

 Just for fun, here's a couple of other pics of food in Iquitos. Peru really is foodie heaven.

Dinner in the jungle
Palmito salad hit the spot after 4 days of chicken/fish, rice and banana 3x a day

Caiman (alligator) in garlic sauce. Note the huge jug of juice

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Postcard from Wellington: Government House

There's so much to see and do in Wellington for free or on the cheap. After over 5 years living here, I have my favourite places to visit and many that I've still not got around to seeing. My new goal is to do something 'touristy' every week or so.

This weekend was the open day at Government House. It's just had a multi-million dollar makeover but sadly I didn't get to look inside this time as the queue was so long they weren't letting anyone else join it.

We had a quick peek through the windows of the breakfast room though. Hopefully there's another open day next year. A few years ago I did a tour of the house and the thing that I remember most is that they use a ruler to measure out the place settings in the dining room and have to empty the salt out of the shaker straight afterwards because the shaker is made of real silver.

I could totally see myself at home here.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

the mother of all haircuts

Mendoza, Argentina. We are sitting outside a restaurant with an almost empty bottle of sauvignon blanc in front of us (possibly after an afternoon biking around the vines, tasting more wine than was good for us). For some reason it seems a good idea to decide to shave our heads to raise money for charity next year.

Wellington, New Zealand. 5 months later. The Leukemia and Blood Foundation's 'Shave for a Cure' week is upon us and it's time to shave off my hair, which is now sitting below my shoulders and straightened for the occasion. I realise then how much I like having hair but it's too late now to back out. Notice how I say I, but 5 months ago it was a "we" shaving our heads. I won't name names, but we'll take it as further evidence that kiwis are made of sterner stuff than those from the motherland.

A few minutes in the chair, over $600 in donations later and here is the result. 


Can't say I'll ever do it again. On the positive side I will save a lot on shampoo and spend way less time getting ready to go anywhere. However, I will probably also remain single for the next year as the hair-do kind of screams 'butch'. I now also know who Sinead O'Connor is. I could've quite happily gone the rest of my life not knowing this though.

Mostly I'm thankful that I had the choice to do it, and that I could raise money that may help people who don't have that choice. And I'm speaking of those with Leukemia and other blood conditions not males suffering from premature hair loss, although I now emphasize with you too.
I'm about to cast on a hat made of beautiful angora yarn from the Shearing Shed. Bald head = best excuse ever to knit lots and lots of hats.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bonny wee booties

I've been struggling with baby booties on way too small needles with way too thin yarn. It's been a nightmare. So I took a break and used up some of the gorgeous yarn I picked up in Buenos Aires to whip up pair for a workmate's daughter. Didn't they turn out cute? I like them so much I'm thinking of knitting myself a similar, but much larger pair for those cold winter mornings. Adult booties...hell yes!

Warning: the raverly website is highly addictive and may leave you with a knitting 'to do' list that you will be lucky to get through before you are a wrinkly old nana for real. Like Dumbledore, "I do love knitting patterns".

Next up is a hat to hide my soon-to-be-bald noggin.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Barefoot in the kitchen

 Today was one of those days where like a true housewife mumsie I spent the entire afternoon barefoot (well I would've been had the temperature risen above so friggin cold you'd think you were at Scott Base) in the kitchen.
I had a bright idea the other day that the person who ate the last slice of bread should have to bake the next loaf. Of course that person was me. I didn't mind because I have a brand new bread bin that is so ridiculously cute. Yay for closing down sales and bargains to be had. No bread bin that adorable should be left empty and so I got to work. This is the recipe I always use. It's yummy, but not too yummy. My flatmate makes an incredible loaf that never lasts more than a day because it is that good. Sneaking a piece on your way to the bathroom at 2am kind of good. Thus, that is not every day bread.
Normally I leave it out in the sun to rise - a bit of a problem today. Solution = turn the oven on and sit the dough on top of it. And since the oven's on, might as well get some baking down while you're at it. Cue anzac bikkies (my all time favourites) and Bill and Ben's ridiculously easy date loaf. When a bag of dates winds up in the shopping trolley it's a not-so-subtle way of flatmates saying "MAKE US SOME DATE LOAF, MUMSIE". Another thing that doesn't last more than 1 day. Served with a scrape generous mound (a la Julia Child) of butter of course.

Tangelo & tequila jelly
Then it was off to Samoan class but not before juicing (in my hands - note to self; buy juicer) the tangelos that didn't get eaten last week and making jelly for dessert. Tequila and tangelo jelly. It's an Annabel Langbein recipe from her Pacific inspired recipe book, except hers has lemongrass, lime and rum. I didn't have rum so tequila it was. Any attempts to turn the jelly onto the plate from it's rammekin nest failed. How the heck do you achieve this? Ideas? I tried sitting it in some hot water and slipping a knife around the sides, but it still didn't work. But I could hear Meryl channeling Julia ("never apologise")and left it in the cups - it looked rather awesome if I do say so myself. Except for tasting the tiniest bit burnt - don't use the pot with the burnt bottom next time. Success.

Loving all things Samoan at the moment and so dinner was Luau (sp?) which is basically palusami without any corned beef.


Take one can of coconut cream and a bunch of silverbeet/spinach (taro leaves if you can find some, which I can't) and simmer for about 45 mins. I added a pinch of chilli, garlic, salt, vege stock and there should be lemon too but we're all out. Serve on rice. Fatty and delicious!

 I made soup too. Let's call it an experiment in what happens when you blend orange pumpkin with purple cabbage. I'm about to whizz it up in the processor to see. Every time I look into the crockpot I'm reminded of Bridget Jones' epic blue string soup. It looks about as appetising. Hoping it doesn't taste too 'interesting'.

And check out my latest pot garden pic. They're all still alive, although the basil looks like it needs a trip to the infirmary. For that I blame the cat, but that is a WHOLE 'nother blog entry.