Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Springing Into Spring.

Up here in 'the rapa', it's been spring for sometime. My daffodils are well past their best now and the local lambs are...well to put it bluntly, probably almost ready for 'the works!'

And of course now that spring has officially sprung...we get one, and it won't be the last, of our southerly blasts going through the whole country; snow closing roads, torrential rains causing flooding and freezing temperatures sending me spend quality time wrapped around my fire or heater. Yesterday when I drove home it was 19 degrees C (66.2F), today, I'd be lucky if it was 9 degrees C (48.2F).

BUT in less than 2 weeks, I'll be in Africa and I believe the temperatures in Botswana will be up in the 30's (C), during the day. I'm packing a jacket for the night time, but better not have to wear it while the sun shines! My wee white sparrow legs will be poking out from my shorts...and I will be loving every minute of being warm again!

And we will cook most nights over an open fire, with food wrapped in foil! Wonderful childhood memories involve bonfires at our house or the neighbours, where we tossed potatoes into the embers and came back some time later armed with butter and ate the gorgeous roasted white flesh inside, smothered in butter and seasonings....bliss. Not sure what we will cook, but I'm sure that after a day of negotiating rural roads...anything will be welcome! (accompanied by a glass of wine or two).

No foil in my childhood days, but now, some of my favourite meals are 'parcels'; fish done in foil, with veg inside...a one pack meal. I usually use something like terakihi or gurnard.

Method: Pre heat the oven to 200 degrees C.

Decide which vegetables you want to use. I include some root veg; potato, kumara, celeriac, pumpkin etc, green veg like spinach or kale, and carrots, red onion...whatever you like. If it's a root veg, then you need to mostly cook it first.

Rip off a piece of foil large enough to wrap the meal. Spray with canola oil...or brush with a lightly flavoured oil.

Layer the root veg, then top with fish. season, then add more veg. Don't over do it. Wrap your parcel, not too tightly, you want the steam to be able to form and bake for about 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish fillet. Remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes.

Open the parcel and either serve straight out of the foil, or carefully slide it onto the plate.
Ok, Ok, I didn't actually make this one, but I would've if I could've!


Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Dinner For One.

Inspired by my lovely niece Kerry and her wonderful foodie blog, I've decided to resurrect my blog...and hope to share my limited culinary thoughts and snippets of life here in 'the rapa' with you.

Time has certainly moved on since my last post. America came and went and I'm back in the 'Town of G'. Often, I'm exploring delicious food with Mr H...but at times I still find myself cooking for one...and sometimes struggling to find the motivation to actually eat well. The good intentions are there...I start thinking about dinner from the moment I wake up, but arriving home to:
Throw kitty litter Gus and Stan aged 6 months.

  • light the fire
  • feed the cats
  • clean up the kitty litter thrown around the floor
  • sweep up bird feathers
  • phone, then stay 'on hold' for ages to sort out odd things that have happened on various accounts
  • put the laundry into the drier
  • empty the dishwasher
  • ...Well you get the idea...!
...makes cooking seem like more of a chore than an enjoyable activity.

So, when I find a simple and tasty recipe like I did tonight, it makes me happy and want to share. It's from Annabel Langbein's book 'The Best of Annabel Langbein' and as usual, she turns simple ingredients into mouthfuls of deliciousness.

Of course, cooking for one involves a little creativity with quantities. The original recipe serves I sort of cross my fingers and hope for the best.

So here goes:
Soy and Ginger Glazed Salmon.

2 to 3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 to 3 tablespoons rice wine/sake
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger (mine came out of a jar)
Almost a level teaspoon sugar
1 salmon fillet (I bought it bone in...nightmare...if you can get it boned, just makes life easier and quicker). A pair of tweezers or a strawberry huller will do the trick when faced with boney salmon.

Heat oven to 250 degrees C. Place soy sauce and rice wine/sake, ginger and sugar in a pot and boil 5 minutes (I put it in a microwaveable jug and nuked it for 90 seconds), until slightly thickened. Cool. So now I lined a baking dish with baking paper (makes cleaning up super simple). Place salmon on the baking paper and pour sauce over fish, turn so it's completely covered. If possible, let sit for 10 minutes.  
Bake for 5-8 minutes until cooked...check after 5...if it's a fatty, it might take longer. 
Micro greens - rambo radish, coral mizuna and red cabbage.
Salmon shouldn't be over cooked! I let it sit, covered over with the baking paper with an oven mitt on top to hold in the heat while I dished up the rest. It literally fell apart!

I served my salmon on a root veg mash - potato, kumara and white carrots (originally from Slovenia I believe)...I couldn't find my celeriac darn it; with some simply cooked leeks on the side. I've just started growing micro-greens, so had the last few sprinkled over top. Delicious!

Start to eating...20 minutes max!

Do you have a tried and true meal for one? I'd love to read about it!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Dreams of Exotic Places...

I'm lying in bed, on a bleak Sunday morning, full of germs and missing my voice. Ahhh what better time to update my blog. Yes well, it seemed like a great idea, only Chester, my son and his partner's 5 month old kitten has decided that my tummy/chest is a good place to snuggle up - so typing is rather tricky. He's a rather adorable young man, but insists on taking on my 3 cats...incessantly, so it wasn't a huge surprise to find, upon visiting the vet yesterday, he's been brewing an abscess or several from claw and bite marks (you'd think he might reflect on the pain and work out what's causing it - wouldn't you?). Looking at him in the pic,  butter would melt in his mouth!?

Usually, on a Sunday morning, I spend time going through the latest culinary delights on Stuff Recipes. My list of bookmarked recipes I 'must try', is growing faster than my ability or perhaps time available to give them a go. Today, there was a delicious sounding Lamb and Kumara Tagine (sweet potato), which I'm determined to make tonight.

I have two tagines, one that's perfect for one or two, and a bigger one, I could possibly use to serve 4-6.  I don't usually follow a recipe as I have some awesome spice mixes from The Best Ever company...only problem is they only sell at fairs and don't have a I have to stock up and use them sparingly. My favourites are the Ras El Hanout, Persian Mix and the all time fav...Baharrat. Sprinkled over chicken, fish, any meat, they give a wonderful exotic flavour, add onions, potatoes and any other vegetables, bake on a low heat for 1 and a half hours (or longer), and the meat is divinely tender and moist. The beauty of tagines is that the design causes the steam to condense in the lid and run back into the dish - so no drying out. I do the same just with vegetables, always adding the greens such as broccoli towards the end so they don't go soggy.

The tagine is great for me, being somewhat disorganised - I never quite manage to get the slow cooker organised, so that I come home to a house filled with delicious aromas and dinner waiting to be served. It's so simple to prepare tagine cooking, the dish can be used on the element/gas for browning, then transfered straight into the oven. So if I'm home by 5pm, we can still have the delicious aromas AND a dinner waiting to be served by 6.30ish. They can be somewhat expensive to buy though...I watched Peta Mathias Peta Mathias Culinary Adventures in Marrakech with envy, as she went to markets and was faced with piles and literally piles of terracotta tagines - presumably a far cry from our $NZ100++.

Ah well, I guess tagine envy will get me nowhere!

Friday, 13 July 2012

Gosh, it's such a long time since I've blogged. Well actually, I've blogged weekly on another site for my class...but I do admit to neglecting my own thoughts and more!

This year has been an amazing journey. I'm now teaching way out in the country and WHAT a revelation. I now know that John Deere tractors are green, New Hollands are blue and there is a tractor called Deutz Fahr and it's spelt...Deutz Fahr. I know that wearing shoes to school is an optional extra, even in the middle of winter...and polar fleeces are not necessary even in a 5 degree frost. Gum boots (Wellies) are essential and Gypsy Day is when people and cows in rural communities are on the move.

I've learnt loads about our community. At Cross Country (when the kids actually run across the country), I mentioned that I needed some firewood. within a couple of hours, it had been sorted for me and a few days later, a huge load of wood arrived in my backyard. When we go on trips...parents arrive in their 4 x 4s and people take our children wherever they need to need for buses out there. 

I've been on holiday for 2 weeks...I haven't really done much at all - and that's been great. I've watched loads of Foodtv...and tried a few things. Darren, my son (who is a trained chef) moves in with me tomorrow as he's now a qualified teacher and has scored a job at my school. I'm hoping that I can get my passion for cooking back now that it's not just me to eat my creations. So last night I made a wonderful potato dish I found on I encourage you to look at it, then adapt it to the ingredients you have in your fridge. I didn't buy expensive cheese, rather, I used bits and piece I had in my fridge, Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Gourmet Traveller
50 ml olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
100 g. lightly smoked bacon cut into matchsticks
125 ml dry white wine
6 waxy potatoes, such as desiree, cut into small cubes (leaving skin on)
100 ml pouring cream
250 g. Reblochon or any other washed-rind cheese

Fresh thyme, for decoration (optional

1.Preheat oven to 180°C. Heat oil in large deep-sided frying pan, add onion and bacon and cook over low heat until onion is soft (5-10 minutes), add wine and cook until evaporated (2-3 minutes). Add potato and cook until tender (10-15 minutes), then season to taste. Add cream, cook for 1 minute and remove from heat. 

2.Lay half the potato mixture in an 8 cup-capacity casserole or two 4 cup-capacity baking dishes, scatter over half the cheese, then repeat with remaining potato mixture and cheese. Bake until dish is golden and bubbling and potato is tender (30-45 minutes). Serve immediately with plenty of crusty bread. 

If you have you own potato recipes, share them here!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Rugby World Cup and Other Stuff

So, the Rugby World Cup has started and the opening ceremony was gobsmackingly awesome...I couldn't believe what New Zealand had cooked up. I had goose bumps and tears and I'm not even a real rugby fan. I admit, I watched it the next day on TVNZ On Demand...and when I tried to share it with friends overseas, they couldn't see it due to 'New Zealand tv copyright' or something weird...seems a shame we can't show off the very best of NZ!

I've watched some...of some games, and as always New Zealand loves the underdog. We shouted for Romania against Scotland (they lost but what a game), and screeched for Japan (how many Japanese are in their team??) even though they lost to France. Argentina was perhaps our favourite against England...was that a grudge match or what!

The best thing abut RWC is not necessarily the rugby for people like me who couldn't really care too much one way or another for the game. But what a huge and momentous moment for New Zealand. We are an awesome country, with so many great things to show the world and I hope that out guests get to see the very best of New Zealand while they are here. I hope they get to sample the best of our food and our finest hospitality.

On that note, here's something I made today. Last Sunday, being Father's Day, I saw a comment on a foody blog, saying they were cooking roast pork for FD. I got inspired and went and bought the very smallest roast pork I could find. Alas, that still meant, I've been eating cold roast pork all week...the crackling was ok, not great but passable. On Friday when I went to watch the first game of the RWC at the local Working Men's Club, it was suggested to me that I make pork patties and freeze them...rather than waste the remaining meat. This is what I did:
Cut the cooked pork off the bone and in to smallish pieces and place in a food processor
1 diced onion
1 slice of bread (I used grain bread)
1 egg
A large handful of fresh, washed and chopped herbs, I used sage, coriander, oregano and parsley.
The rest of a tin of Watties Apple Baby Food that I used as apple sauce.
A splash of tabasco sauce...or maybe sweet chili would be good.
Black pepper and a good pinch of salt
Process until minced. Shape into patties and coat in flour. Fry in olive oil on medium heat for 4-5 minutes on each side. Serve with whatever you like!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Roast Pork and Other Adventures

I've been back in New Zealand for a week and what week it has been. I started back in my school after 2 and a half terms doing relief (substitute) teaching, while trying to find a job out of teaching. That in itself was an adventure and way out of my comfort zone; there are no jobs in the Wairarapa, unless I want to milk cows or drive fork lifts...and I don't. So back to relieving - I am definitely a nester...someone who likes to have a space and make it my own. So relieving, walking into someone else's class almost daily was a real adventure and I am pleased to tell myself, I did a good job. I got asked back to schools and got put on the top of their reliever's list. BUT being back in my own class is a real relief for the reliever. My kids have lots of learning to do about behaviour and expectations, but they will learn and we will enjoy the rest of our term and a half together.
Then there are my lovely pets...they keep me sane while living on my own. My cats were all here within two minutes of Carly delivering me home, my bunny was hopping round in her cage and George my gorgeous turtle, was swimming his wee heart out. Within an hour of returning I had cracked and destroyed his tank, but he is very happy in his new pimped out, bachelor pad aquarium. My frog Wellington enjoyed his holiday with Millie and I am very pleased to have them all home with me.

So on to dinner's Father's Day and I saw on Facebook, a friend saying she was cooking pork for her dad. My dad passed away in 1985, 2 weeks before my lovely Darren was born. Laughing...back then, whenever I cooked a roast, I had to ring mum...via a very expensive toll call, to ask how to cook it - and it still never turned out like hers.  So tonight, even though it's just for me, I decided to cook the perfect roast pork.
I've NEVER been able to cook pork crackling is always 'soggling' and when I put it under the grill to make it crackling, it usually ends up burnt. But tonight I am determined to become a roast pork queen. I have watched hours of FoodTV, I've taken on board every bit of advice and my pork has just completed the mandatory 15 minutes in a hot oven to ensure the crackling will crackle...stay tuned.

To go with it, I have adapted a recipe I saw on FoodTV this week. I LOVE leeks and think they are much maligned. On Ready Steady Cook UK, they did something with leeks and loads of cream, but I've made my own version which is possibly slightly healthier.
Cut a length off the leek, depending on how many you are cooking for.
Slice it in half lengthwise and wash.
Place into boiling, salted water until just soft.
Remove from the water and drain.
Place into a baking dish which has been sprayed with oil and smear with something like...sour cream, any dip, cream cheese etc. Then dot on parmesan or another cheese. Grill until bubbling. And enjoy!

Monday, 29 August 2011

Travel and Other Exciting Adventures

Miss Lizzie's wedding - something I always said I would return to England for. And on August 13, Miss Lizzie married her handsome Dean at Peterborough Townhall. I feel so privileged to have been invited to share their day - and humbled by the wonderfully warm 'welcome backs' I received.

It is such a long journey to get from New Zealand to...well anywhere really. Australia and the Pacific aren't so far, but anywhere else, we just have to grin and bear it, I've learned - take drugs. I left NZ at 5pm Monday and reckon 35 hours later, I arrived at Ali and Richard's in Thrapston - 30 minutes out of Peterborough, England. A whole day hanging round Wellington waiting to leave, one hour to Auckland, three hours hanging round the airport, twelve hours to Los Angles, then two hours plus hanging round in the disgusting transit lounge...mercifully with free coffee, salty snacks and clean loos, then another 11 hours to Heathrow. A quickish jaunt on the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station, transfer to Kings Cross, then 1 hour to P'boro...and at last, a warm welcoming hug from Richard. A warm reunion with Ali and mercifully...bed!

An interesting 'adventure' with my lovely friends was the discovery of really weird pooh in their backyard...suddenly the 'pooh' started to move and I discovered that indeed it was not pooh, but 'grey (altho' they were brown) be the judge!

I ate delicious food at an Indian restaurant back in P'boro, at a 'Welcome back to Suzanne and catch up with Lizzie before she gets married' evening, and yummy risotto made by Richard. In Norwich, I ate at a delicious restaurant just down from my 9.99 pound a night room, and then back in Thrapston, I took Ali and Richard to the Bridge Hotel...a gorgeously old and full of character pub, just a short walk from their house. The theme here I guess is...there is delicious food where ever you go...make the most of it and eat as much as you can!

Then on to the USA. Mega portions, at my first restaurant I couldn't eat much more than the entree (which in the USA is a main course). I soon learned to order just appetisers - certainly not a main course. In Brigatine at 'the shore' (New Jersey) I ordered the mussel appetiser, and received the biggest bowl of delicious, tiny crustaceans ever...add some bread and I was a very fully and happy diner. We had a fantastic meal at Edie's...7 diners, 6 desserts, and an equally enjoyable dinner party at 'our place', again 7 diners, but this time only 3 desserts. I made Moroccan chicken, scalloped potatoes, salad, garlic bread, herbed carrots, riccota lasagna, chocolate mousse, fresh fruit and ice-cream...and two gorgeous cakes were brought by Marcie...the Americans sure do good cake.

The airline food on Air New Zealand was really good considering I was travelling 'cattle class'. The whole Air NZ experience was marvellous...compared to previous snooty...'we're really far too cool to be bothered with you cattle class plebs' flights. The cabin crew on all Air NZ flights were older...incredibly helpful, accommodating and a joy to spend 12 uncomfortable hours with. The new 777's and the touch screen tvs are great...just touch the screen and your drink or snack requests arrive in just a few minutes...awesome! BUT, I visited a pharmacy in Philadelphia the day before I left and asked for something to help me sleep...what a stroke of genius! After hanging around JFK and San Francisco airports for hours, it was so good to be able to eat dinner on the plane then drift off to sleep, albeit somewhat uncomfortably...and being aware that I was possibly snoring...and not even caring - how many of those 300+ people will I ever have to see again...really?

So...a recipe. My most famous and popular (and most requested) dessert is for my chocolate mousse...and it is dead easy.
Take a king size block of chocolate, around 250 grams. You can use any flavour...I've used Cadbury's Caramello. Peppermint, Black Forest...or just milk chocolate. In the USA I used Hershey's but it was VERY sweet.
Melt the chocolate with 300 mils of cream, stirring until smooth...then cool.
Whip another 300 mils of cream until stiff, then fold in the cooled chocolate/cream mix.
Pour into  a serving bowl and refrigerate until set. Or you can speed up the process by putting in the freexer for 3-4 hours...but make sure it doesn't freeze.
I serve it with fresh sliced fruit...mmm....mmmmmm.