Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Neenish tarts

Even though it seems I do a lot of it, I actually don't really like baking. Cooking, yes. Baking, no. It's mostly because I don't know enough about it to be able to make a lot of things without a recipe. With cooking you can taste test along the way and work out if it needs a little more of this or a little more of that, or if you suddenly realise holy crap I forgot the main ingredient most of the time it's easily remedied. With cooking once you know a little about what things work together, unless it's something fancy, recipes are a bit redundant. That's why I like cooking.

Baking to me is so much more of an exact science. If I stood there with a recipe book open, solely concentrating on that one thing it probably wouldn't be so hard. Instead I always have a couple of things cooking at once, am watching something on dvd and doing something else around the house all at the same time. Because of this I sometimes forget a key step or ingredient. Like tonight.

Neenish tarts. I started making the pastry last night and that turned out fine. Today I whipped up the filling and put it in the fridge to set. Just a little while ago I iced them. We sat down to eat one with a cup of tea and my flatmate asked what was in the filling. I replied "condensed milk and lemon juice" and then it dawned on me - what lemon juice? Whoops. No wonder they are so sweet. The lemon would take the edge off.

The thing is though that I've been wanting to make neenish tarts since I was a kid but never had. I used the Edmonds recipe. Next time I make them I'd keep the pastry the same but make the filling more lemony - maybe with a cream cheese and lemon curd kind of mix - and then ice the top with melted chocolate rather than plain icing.

Anyway, lessons learnt. They are edible - just one in one sitting though - and do look kind of cute. What do you think? Anything you've always wanted to try make but never gotten around to it?

Pottering about

I was supposed to give blood today but when I got there I realised I had forgotten my ID so that was a no go. Instead I visited the local library and pottered around the house finishing off my neenish tarts and tidying up the garden.
I've started to collect all the poo from inside Buque's hutch. Make him earn his keep by fertilising the garden. If he's going to eat us out of house and home he can at least help keep us in carrot tops to feed him with.

Isn't he so cute? Actually the little cutie is sitting next to me as I type this. Fingers crossed he doesn't use the couch as his restroom.
Then I tidied out front, finally hanging up the hanging baskets. I never did scouts so I'm not entirely sure my knots will hold up in a Wellington gale. Here's hoping.

At least the spinach is growing well...

I'm not sure why but the tomato is awfully droopy at the moment. It's not for lack of watering...
I noticed the olive trees are covered in tiny fruit too. This year I'm going to have a crack at harvesting them. From what I read at the library today it's a two month job getting them from the tree to an edible product. Bring on the challenge

Monday, January 30, 2012

Some beautiful vegetables

We just ate our first homegrown tomato. It tasted amazing. I reckon they look pretty darn good too. Especially this bunch - a traffic light of colours. That's probably my favourite thing about this time of year. Everything you put on your plate is so colourful and pretty. It makes eating your 5+ a day so much more interesting.


This was what was on the menu tonight. Leftover lentil and silverbeet lasagne with a garden salad. Everything except the capsicum, spring onion and avocado came from our small vege patch. It's topped with a Jamie Oliver salad dressing recipe - one of those ones that you shake up in a jar.

6tbsp plain yoghurt, 2 tbsp white wine vinegar, 1 tbsp olive oil and salt/pepper. So deliciously simple. You can't really see them but I tossed through some edible flowers for extra colour.  

I also tossed together some roast veges; some for tonight and the rest for tomorrow's salad. I couldn't help taking a picture because the colours were stunning. So much purple! It also has kamo kamo in it which is one of my favourite summer crops.

Monster prams

Yesterday I was on the bus when a woman boarded with a pram. Well I should say attempted to board as this pram was nearly the size of a small car and she struggled to get it down the aisle and then manouevre it into the wheelchair spot.

It got me thinking about why people need such a huge piece of equipment for carting around such a small baby. To the casual bystander it looks ridiculous. Not to mention it must be a right pain when walking around a store (would you park it out front like you would a dog?) and how would you even fit it into a car boot? Do you get some sort of extra mummy points for having the biggest/most expensive pushchair?

I've been crammed into a minibus before in Peru when women have boarded with their babies. I think they are really onto something with the baby in a sling on their back. They simply had to swing it around when they sat down so the baby was on their front and also conveniently in the right position for breastfeeding as the bus drove off. Their hands were free to carry their shopping, other children, spin yarn or in many cases chat on their mobiles (you'd be suprised just how many women in indigenous dress have cell phones up in the Andes).

Even if you didn't want to carry a child on you, surely a smaller pushchair would make sense and make it easier for your fellow footpath users. It's a scary sight when you see two of these prams barelling towards you and you have to step out onto busy Adelaide Road to let them pass.

That's just my random thought for the day. Now I'm going to enjoy my day off work by trying out the 1 hour french bread recipe I found on a blog and tidy the house. Then it's up Mt Victoria for a walk because the view from the top always makes the effort getting up there worth it.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A tourist in Wellington

The sprog and I at Te Papa
Well I've had a fun couple of days playing tour guide around Wellington. Having my sister and niece to stay gave me a great excuse (like I really need one) to do all the fun kids stuff like visiting the zoo, watching Hugo again and exploring Te Papa. We also did a couple of grown up things like going out for Mexican, a coffee out at Chocolate Frog and for a drink at Mac's. Wellington lived up to its reputation and turned on the wind for us as we wandered down Lyall Bay beach (brr), hit up the op shops in Miramar (fondue set for 10 bucks) and posed with Gollum at the Weta Cave.

I took a few photos.

Lyall Bay

The playground at Lyall Bay

Roxy Cinema in Miramar

Figurines at Weta

Mr Bear joined us for dinner at Pan del Muerto

Enchiladas de mole (chocolate and chili), margaritas and stuffed jalapenos

Friday, January 20, 2012

Omelettes a la Julia Child

I have a feeling this week is going to be a long one. I picked up another shift (an extra 9 hours on a public holiday = money!) and so my next day off is Wednesday. I have to give blood on Wednesday morning too. Here's hoping I don't faint this time!

So when I came home from work yesterday, a slap up dinner was in order. We decided to make omelettes and follow Julia Child's recipe. We are big Julia Child fans, or rather her as played by Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia. The omelette recipe is several pages long including some rather detailed diagrams.

Apparently 2-3 eggs is the ideal size. You beat those with a fork and add herbs. Then heat butter in a pan and slide the pan back and forth. Then there was something about a 45 degree angle, banging the handle 4-5 times and then folding the omelette over... I followed the instructions while my flatmate read out each step.

The end result actually looked like an omelette. I'm sure with practice I will have them looking better but for the first time in my life I made an omelette that wasn't scrambled! Yuss! One more recipe to take off my 'things I fear making' list.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Busy baking

I've been busy in the kitchen all day. And by all day I mean the day that started after I slept in until midday. It's my only day off until Monday next week and the shifts I work mean I eat lunch or dinner at work or often both. So I had 2 options; spend the day at the beach (preferable) and buy takeaways all week, or slave away in the kitchen and ensure I have delicious meals for the rest of the week. I chose the latter. Cooking is a lot of fun anyway and if I get up early tomorrow I can fit in a dip in the ocean before work.

So what have I been making?

First there was pea and mint soup.
It's now blended, gorgeously green (kind of looks like I chucked kermit in the blender), bagged and freezing.

Then a sweet treat. I got a new bottle of pisco for Christmas so it's actually kind of suprising it's taken me this long to make chocolate pisco cupcakes. In the new cases I got at Pak n Save. Still need to ice them - I'm thinking strawberry. There was enough batter for a cake too. Afternoon tea time at work is going to be awesome.

On to pizza bases. The kind that takes longer to make (with yeast) but tastes so much better. I made 8 small ones. I tried a new recipe (a Alison/Simon Holst one) and it tastes so fantastic I'll definately make it again soon. I kept it simple with a tomato sauce, capers, basil and cheese - parmesan and cheddar. Delicious!

Now the foccacia is rising but I'm not going to stop there. I'm on a roll! I'm thinking muffins or date loaf for the freezer and perhaps some other kind of bread as it is so fun to make! And perhaps some pesto. Mmm.

Righteo, now it's time to attack the mountain of dishes so I can make more mess.

This'll make the dishes more fun.
PS. I saw the mouse again today. I've put 4 rat poison baits out around the place on top of the traps. What will it take for the little bugger to die?!

Monday, January 16, 2012


I've been really trying to avoid buying anything that I can make myself without too much difficulty.

Saturday's vege market had lots fruit for less than $1.50kg. So Saturday afternoon I spent hanging out next to the stove while my jam bubbled away. I've made several batches of jam in the past year and all have been tasty but this one definately takes the cake. I put a little on a saucer while it was cooking to see if it was thick enough and dipped a finger in to taste. "F%*# me", I exclaimed loudly. I don't normally swear but this jam tasted so amazing there was nothing else to say. I yelled at my flatmate to come give me a second opinion. She agreed. This jam was tasty. It has peaches, nectarines and plums in it but the flavour that comes through the strongest is apricot.

Cucumbers were also cheap - three for $2. I decided to have a go at making chutney (something I've never done before). I used a recipe from the Rural Women's cookbook. I heard somewhere that you should leave it for a few weeks before eating so the flavours develop so I guess I'll let you know if it's any good sometime in February.

For dinner I wanted to make something quick and easy that uses a lot of lettuce. We have a never-ending supply. Tortillas it was. They may not be the prettiest but they taste great and are so much cheaper to make yourself than buying a packet, not to mention way more fun.

My homemade weekend didn't stop with food. I had a go at making a facemask out of rolled oats, egg, honey and olive oil. It was a bit of a mess and we don't have a bath so I ended up sitting on the bathroom floor reading the nearest book (Harry Potter) while it did its thing for 15 minutes. Next week I might try an avocado thing.

Tonight I washed my hair with vinegar to get rid of residue build up. I learnt my lesson from last time and used plain white vinegar instead of cider. Last time it took days to get rid of the smell although my hair did look nice afterward.

And just a few minutes ago I got to try out a homemade rabbit pee cleaner. One towel quickly the chucked on it to soak up the worst + a heap of baking soda to soak up the rest and neutralise the smell + 5 minutes of vaccuming up all the baking soda + dabbing at it with a damp cloth and a bowl of warm water with baking soda and white vinegar. We'll see in the morning if there is a stain.

I think I'll have a go at Julia Child's mayonaise recipe tomorrow. Apparently it's also good to put on your skin.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Meal memories

I don't really like watching television, mainly because there never seems to be anything on worth watching. We only get a couple of channels and they are fuzzy at best. Instead at times like now when I am indulging in some couch time to rest my ankle I find myself searching out one of my favourite shows online, No Reservations. Anthony Bourdain must have the coolest job in the world. Imagine getting paid to do my two favourite things, eating and travelling. I'm rewatching the Uruguay episode and it's getting me thinking about some of the most memorable meals of my life and most memorable in each country I've been to.

In Uruguay I sat in exactly the same seat as Anthony Bourdain although I ate slightly less of the meat. Being accompanied by a vegetarian I couldn't order the full parilla as it was way too much for one person,so I settled for a steak the size of a family roast with some crispy intestines on the side. The vegetarian had fish (barbequed in meat fat I think).

We shared a bottle of Uruguayan wine called medio medio. It's half white wine and half sparkling and incredibly refreshing. Just the thing when you are sitting in front of a giant grill in a building packed with giant grills all with fire lit underneath them.

The meat was to die for. I don't think my life will be complete until I go back there again and order the full parilla. The sweetbreads, the blood sausage, all those different cuts of meat.... oh my goodness if I close my eyes I could be back there again with the heat, the smell of all that sizzling meat and the sound of the cooks (all men) talking as they chuck logs up onto the fire.

Something out of next to nothing meals

When we were tidying the lounge today I realised just how many cookbooks I own. Some are more well thumbed than others, some have copped a few food spillages or torn pages, and a few mostly sit there waiting patiently for a special occasion. There's so many more I'd love to own too. I can spend a happy half an hour perusing cookbooks at Moore Wilsons.

Most days while I eat breakfast I'll browse through one looking for inspiration or just salivating over the pictures. Half are probably written by Annabel Langbein and Alison Holst as their recipes are so reliable. But the reality is that 90% of the time I don't use a recipe but rather see what I can make with whatever is in the pantry.

Today was definately a day for making something out of nothing much. We haven't done a proper grocery shop since before Christmas and vege market day is tomorrow. First up was banana and strawberry muffins made with strawberry pancake sauce (strawberry jam made by my flatmate that didn't set properly). These will get chucked in the freezer to take to work for lunch. Tomorrow I'll make another batch of apricot and almond with tinned apricots. Next up was bread as we are all out. My basic recipe makes enough for 3 loaves. And finally pasta bake for dinner.

Lea blogged about her pasta dish recipe the other day so I thought I'd share mine. It's vegetarian but meateaters will barely realise.

Cook pasta as usual. I use whatever is in the pantry. Today was macaroni. Once it's done put it in a lasagne dish.

Next make the tomato sauce. Fry garlic  (2-3 cloves) and onion (used spring onion today instead) in olive oil. Add one tin of tomatoes to the pan with a glass of red wine (or water), 2 tbsp tomato paste or sauce, soy sauce, 1 vege stock cube, salt, pepper, sugar and 4 tbsp red lentils. Simmer until the lentils are cooked and sauce has thickened. At the end of its cooking time add a large handful of chopped herbs from the garden (parsley, basil and oregano).

While that's cooking, make the white sauce - just a normal white sauce. I probably use about 50g butter, 3 tbsp flour and heat that for a minute, then add 2 cups milk. Season with salt and pepper and 1 tsp nutmeg.

Tip the tomato sauce onto the pasta and stir it up. Add some thinly sliced vegetables and stir them in too. I use whatever is in the fridge or in this case the garden so courgette and spinach today. Mushrooms are good too.  Then pour over the white sauce and top with grated cheese and a bit of parmesan too if you have it. Bake for about 20 minutes and then serve.

So easy and so yum. Tomorrow I'll make pizza bases for the freezer and make one up for lunch. The basil is doing well at the moment so it'll be simply that and cheese with a garlicy tomato sauce and perhaps with some capers if we have room in the budget at Pak n Save. That's my favourite pizza flavour. So simple and so delicious.

Righteo I'd better go. Buque is getting ever more curious and comfortable inside the house so I have to watch him constantly to stop him chewing cords and sneaking off into the bedrooms. We really need to buy him a playpen to keep him out of mischief.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Lazy morning

There's nothing better than sleeping in until midday when you have two full days off ahead of you. Except perhaps having a lazy breakfast of trifle and freshly whizzed banana/berry juice and a cup of tea while browsing all the sales knitting websites have on at the moment.

Gold star for me though as I have thus far managed to stop myself buying any. This has less to do with my amazing will power (trifle breakfast speaks for itself) and more to do with me already spending $50 on yarn this week.

I had to visit my GP a few days ago who is all the way out in Karori and so decided to make a morning of it. I had a chilli hot chocolate at the lovely cafe at the library and visited the cute wee yarn store. She had big discounts on all sorts of beautiful yarns. It took me forever to decide what to buy. In the end I went with 7 balls of chunky yarn in a nice beige that will be turned into a cowl before winter sets in. Or sooner if this weather keeps up.

So today I am going to brave the gales and do a little gardening, attack the housework and bread making and head into town to see yet another film, War Horse. I've been told to bring tissues.

On the gardening/cooking front, has anybody cooked courgette flowers before? I have a recipe on its way to me but looking for other ideas too as we are definately not short on them. I remember the talented kiddies on Junior Masterchef stuffing them and have heard you can lightly batter and fry them...hmm some experimenting in my kitchen this weekend I think. Hopefully they'll taste good as the bunny that eats almost anything turned his nose up at them.

A beautiful piece of storytelling

I just got home from a late night screening of Hugo. It's stunning. What more can I say?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Buque in a box

Much like children, you can buy them all the toys in the world but all they really want is a cardboard box. And food.

Problems in the garden

First I'll start on a good note with everything that is good about the garden this week.
  1. We're eating salad greens every day.
  2. The peas straight from the pod are plentiful and delicious.
  3. The beans are shooting up skywards and have pretty flowers.
  4. The courgettes are producing daily so I've stockpiled lots of recipes to use them up (from courgette and lemon muffins to courgette and parmesan soup and of course courgette and feta fritters).
  5. There's lots of fruit on the tomatoes even if it's still green.
  6. The cucumber has lots of tiny cucumbers on it.
  7. We are still picking strawberries and they are delicious.
However gardens being gardens I'm having a few issues this week.
  1. The slug slam pellets I've sprinkled on the garden to ward off the slugs have gone all furry. Perhaps from the humidity?
  2. The courgette leaves have gone all rusty.
  3. Some tomato leaves are yellowing. Time to spray it?
  4. The Cape Horn Gooseberry has grown so huge it's smothered to death a couple of strawberry plants.
  5. The neighbour's cat keeps digging up my pot plant. I haven't planted the seeds in it yet luckily but it's so annoying.
  6. The main plot is lagging behind its neighbour. The corn in it is a third of the height. Need to fertilise?
  7. The radishes and beetroot are running to seed really quickly.
At least any failures, Buquebus can eat. Speaking of himself, here's a picture of him enjoying a breakfast buffet of strawberry, apple and brocolli stalks a few moments ago. He's damn tricky to take a picture of though as he never fails to move at the last moment.

Alright better go. I need to go to work for my first shift back after munting my ankle. 8 hours standing on my feet. I'm so looking forward to it. Actually I've costed a new recipe for one pot raspberry and chocolate cupcakes that I'm looking forward to testing on some punters. Yum! (Thanks Annabel Langbein).

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sprained ankle and movie filled weekend

Last Thursday I was going to do a very short post saying only this:

Pain = doing a 10 hour shift in heels because you misplaced your work shoes.

However after a few too many drinks after work on Friday night and an incident with a step (the kind of incident where you don't see the step and fall over and land awkwardly on your ankle), I would like to revise that to:

pain = walking the three blocks to catch a taxi home on a sprained ankle even with colleagues propping you up. Ow! And embarrassing!

I decided to leave the visit to A & E until the next morning hoping that a few hours sleep would have sorted it out. Not so. I spent this weekend off work and on crutches and have another 2 days off to go. What an idiot! I can see physiotherapy in my future.

On the plus side I have plenty of time to knit, bake bread and watch movies. In fact I watched four films at the cinema this weekend (and even managed to help out behind the bar with one crutch holding me up. I just can't help myself).

I saw Melancholia (brilliant), Sherlock Holmes 2 (pretty good), Tintin in 3D (not really my cup of tea but alright) and the Muppets (hilarious!). While on leave I also managed to watch Happy Feet 2 and We bought a zoo which were both great too.

So today I'll leave you with a clip of the song I've had stuck in my head all weekend and if you haven't seen it already, go and watch the Muppets (and Melancholia too).

Isn't it brilliant?! Love Bret Mckenzie. Alright I'm off to start moving my non-heavy stuff to the other bedroom as we bid our jafa flatmate farewell today so I am upgrading to a slightly larger bedroom. Yay!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Christmas photos

Finally I've gotten around to uploading them. Wellington put on a gorgeous day for us. The best kind of day for eating, drinking and reading books in the sunshine.

Christmas breakfast - bagels and fruit salad
The tree

Our kiwiana angel

On the reverse side, the real Angel :-)
Pommy flatmate got all the ingredients for trifle. A not so subtle hint...

Argentine wine and Julia Child. I am easy to buy for.

She's moving out so she got stuff to start her own garden. Whether she wanted it or not.

Nibbles in the backyard.
Being our day off we had to do the washing and a bit of gardening too.

Buquebus didn't miss out. We gave him wrapping paper to tear up.

BBQ dinner. How kiwi of us (except for that pom - those are soy sausages...) Check out that salad plate.

The queen of pims cups. Just the thing on a hot day.

Didn't she do a good job?! I still can't believe they buy trifles from Tescos in England. Nothing like homemade.
When I got home to the farm a few days ago I got some other awesome prezzies - very spoilt this year. Annabel Langbein's Free Range in the City cookbook, NZ gardener garden diary, a knit your own boyfriend kit (thanks to my cheeky niece), a couple of good books and babushka measuring cups (red ones!).

Happy New Year

Well New Year's Eve has come and gone. I saw it in with a glass of wine, knitting and a comedy while it poured with rain outside. The best part was that I'm on holiday so I didn't have to set an alarm and so slept in before getting up to do more knitting. It's great having time to be a nana.
Last year I only had 3 resolutions and I ticked off the last one less than 4 hours before midnight. Nothing like a deadline. My resolutions were to shave off my hair for a cancer charity (tick), take Samoan classes (tick) and make a baked alaska (ticked off just last night).
It was quite yum but it will definately taste better next time. Things I learnt:
  1. Don't let any egg yolk get into the whites mixture. It doesn't get stiff and thus ends up on the oven tray instead of on top of the bombe alaska forming that all important seal.
  2. I could have left it in the oven for closer to 5 minutes to get the merigue nice and crunchy and the icecream more melted.
  3. Don't put frozen berries in the middle. They stay frozen. Better to use fresh berries next time.
  4. And I didn't pour brandy over it and set it alight (mum wasn't keen on me attempting this). Next time. It sounds like fun.

I've been thinking about resolutions for this year. I already have the list of 25 things to do before my 25th this year so instead of adding more to that I have 5 culinary things I'd like to achieve this year.
  1. Make chicken liver pate from scratch. I love the taste but not so much the thought of the livers so this will make me face that fear.
  2. Make croissants. I've been wanting to since I was about 9 years old but was told they'd be too hard.
  3. Make fresh pasta.
  4. Make tiramisu.
  5. Make marmalade.
Completely achievable and should be a lot of fun.
I hope everyone had a great New Year and best wishes for 2012.