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.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

To Bee or Not to Bee.

A simple bee sting has created semi controlled havoc in my life since May 24. The wee blighter got me on my face and all hell has broken loose. Going out in public is a challenge right now and the prospect of having bits cut off my face today is a little daunting. But I guess there is learning and growth in every situation....I have learnt that I don't much like bees, that we must support our friends and actually make time for them. That kids are incredibly accepting and can be more supportive than some adults. Saying all this - I'd still rather not've been be honest.
A random set of Facebook posts as my journey has progressed.
Dear Bee. I wonder why you flew into my hair and then objected when I tried to get you out? If only you hadn't stung me on my face, you wouldn'tve gone off and died. I would not look like half a chipmunk and I wouldn't have to wear piles of make-up to avoid scaring young children. Dear Bee...why oh why??
Dear Bee. You have now begun to cost me lots of money. 1st visit to the nurse, then doctor plus prescription - $37. On Thursday I have to go and have bits cut off my face for biopsy...who knows how many $$ that will release from my wallet. My lips are swollen like I've had bad botox, my face is on fire and your poison has made my immune system go crazy and probably caused discoid lupus. Dear Bee...why oh why??
Dear Bee. Just to show that I would not be beaten by a 1 and a half centimeter, 90 milligram monster, I went to the Food Show with my bright red, blotchy face, which burned more and more as the stadium got warmer. Only a few people cowered or averted their eyes as I passed! See are dead, and I am very, very, full! So there there!
Dear Bee. It wasn't a very nice weekend thanks to you, but I have to say, I am very impressed with the kids I teach and how accepting they are of my 'condition' as ugly as it is. Today I was at Kahutara School, explained your unprovoked attack and they were really nice, not even mentioning it again. So bee, my faith in human beings has grown - and you are still dead...take that bee, take that!
Dear Bee. What I like most about u is that u are dead. What I like least about u is that u stung me & now I have a big pile of pooh on my face that hurts like a nasty hurting, burning thing. On Thurs I get to go to the doc & he will cut bits off my face...then put the odd stitch in & that seems to be ok with the medical people. But bee, I am alive & whinging, you are dead & unable to haa bee!!! So HAA!
Dear Bee. Last night when my eye closed over with swelling I reflected on the last week's journey. There is obviously a learning experience in here for me, but at the moment I'm not entirely sure what it is. Maybe it's 'looks don't matter' or 'beauty is only skin deep'...maybe it's 'don't scratch itchy things on your face' or even 'cats like the taste of pawpaw ointment'. Maybe its - 'when friends are struggling...for goodness sake go out of your way to support them' I've had awesomeness from my friends and family over the past few days. So bee...I guess I have learned some things, and I, dear bee will go forth a stronger and hopefully less itchy and blotchy person...and you dear bee...will by now probably 'bee' reduced to a pile of dust...To be bee...or indeed in your case...not to bee!
Kindness comes in many forms... 
This facebook message is exchangeable for one great foot massage using lovely smelling tui massage waxes in the comfort of your own home followed by the use of a spa too draw your focus away from your current infliction and improve your overall sense of well being for at least 10 mins, guaranteed.
Let's face it though, in spite of my recent less than stellar experience with the humble bee, they are pretty darned special. They're always so busy and imagine a world without honey (a world without beestings, I can imagine). I love to use honey in cooking and we are blessed here in NZ with such variety of types and innovation in honey based products. I found a recipe which combines 'two of my favourite things', honey and duck, on the Beesonline website

Duck Breast

Duck Breast
4 Duck Breasts, skin and duck fat removed

Half cup red wine
Quarter cup Beesonline Red Wine and Manuka Honeygar
4 bay leaves
Half cup Olive Oil

With a sharp knife carefully remove skin and fat from duck breasts and combine breasts with marinade ingredients. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Beesonline Red Wine and Manuka Honeygar Glaze
24g butter
2 tablespoons flour
325mls chicken stock
50 mls red wine
30 mls Beesonline Red Wine and Manuka Honeygar
1 teaspoon Manuka honey

Melt butter in saucepan, whisk in flour and cook to make a roux. Stir in remaining ingredients, heat to boiling, then simmer 10 minutes skimming off the fat to create the glaze.

Leek and Bacon Sauté
50g butter
1 leek, sliced
4 rashers bacon, diced
Heat butter in pan, add leek and bacon and sauté until soft.

Heat oven to 200 degrees C. Remove duck breasts from marinade and discard the marinade. Sear duck breasts briefly (2 seconds) in a very hot ovenproof pan, cover the pan and bake in oven for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

TO SERVE:Slice each duck breast diagonally into several slices. Serve duck breast slices on a bed of wild rice with sautéed leek and bacon. Dress with the Red Wine and Manuka Honeygar Glaze.

TIP FROM THE EARTHSONG LODGE CHEF, TREVOR RENDLE: Discarding the skin and duck fat makes this a lean and healthy main course choice and the marinade tenderizes and enhances the flavour of the duck breasts.



Thursday, 28 April 2011

At Least There's Not a Drought

It's school holidays - and predictably the weather is appalling! It's rained heavily for days and a lot of the North Island is flooding. People are being rescued from camping grounds by the army in the middle of the night, or sitting huddled in cars waiting for rescue. At 1 minute 35 of this news bulletin is my Facebook buddy Sarah, being evacuated from Ocean Beach - very scary!

The 'rescuee's' view from the back of the army's unimog! Thanks Sarah for letting me use the pic.

How bizarre that seems to me as I sit huddled over my fire. I live on the flat, apparently my tiny town is in a bit of a 'dip' too - yet in spite of torrential rain - we're safe and sound - so far.

I wonder what it is that makes some places prone to flooding and others more resistant? When we were buying one of our Tawa houses, we were told it was in the 100 year flood plan (but that was good because it used to be in the 50 year flood plan), meaning that every 100 years or so, it was expected to be affected by the local Kenepuru stream going haywire. Later, we were told that because the council had done such a lot of work on the water catchment up in the hills, there was really no risk of flooding in our area anymore...a relief at the time...thank you WRC! I'm hoping that this is the case here in my wee piece of paradise! The Tararua's (our local mountain range) are well known for receiving enormous amounts of rain - so someone, sometime must've thought ahead I think - stay tuned!!

I have had to have the fire going a lot though and man has that been a mission - don't get me started about my 'woodman'! For a few days my woodburner burned brilliantly (when I didn't REALLY need it), then on Monday - when the weather turned cold, it decided to become temperamental - and therefore, so did I! The darned thing won't stay burning no matter what I do or which way I hold my tongue, so it has now become my daily challenge to beat it into submission. Doesn't help that my beautifully stacked 100 year old pine wood is WET and huge...see I told you not to get me started about the 'woodman'. I cleaned a whole shopping bag of ash from the bottom yesterday, having decided that would cure the problem - WRONG!

Don't be fooled by the photo! It looked like this before I left the house for an hour, when I came back, it was barely smoldering - and I was really smoldering!

So, while I have been battling with the 'fire from hell', I've also had Foodtv on almost constantly (to escape Royal Wedding Fever on every other channel) and I have to say I LOVE the NZ cooking shows, particularly Kai Ora. Anne Thorp creates such amazing dishes and the whole programme just makes me want to move to the beach and eat seafood forever. My fare is a little less exciting (or expensive) however - but perhaps a little more realistic for most people. Last night I used two of my favourites, potatoes and sausages to create what my children always called Koo Potatoes (because the first time I made it for lunch about 15 years ago, their dad finished his and said 'koo that was good!'. The best thing about Koo Potatoes is that it is different every time I make it.

Last night, I microwaved 2 Agria potatoes in their skins and cooked 4 Moroccan Lamb sausages - they're called slims, so they are long and skinny, then sliced both (the sausages on the diagonal just so there are different shapes). I sauteed an onion in my delicious local Stone Valley Leccino olive oil, along with a shake of red chilli flakes, then added the potato, sliced red pepper, sliced leek, and a couple of chopped mushrooms I'd found on my back lawn and sauteed them as well. Once the vegetables were almost done, I threw in some coarsely chopped parsely (I like to see the green), some freshly ground black pepper (because of the salty sausages, it doesn't pay to add salt) and the sausages...made sure it was all hot...then ate it. YUM.

There are so many variations to this basic potato dish. Any sausage or salami will do although I like to use the more strongly flavoured varieties. Add any herbs or spices (be a little thoughtful) and anything in the veg line that you have in the fridge or garden. I often put it into an oven dish, sprinkle over quite a lot of grated cheese and grill it briefly, remove from the oven and add a good dollop of sour cream.

A small amount of the mixture stirred into a frittata mix is delicious and it is great the next day. I would've added a photo, but ate most of it last night and the rest for breakfast before I decided to mention it in my blog...but since it changes every time, I'm sure you can use your imagination!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Detour in the storm

Today I was driving home from Carterton...usually a 6-7 minute drive. Carterton is another small Wairarapa town - bigger than my Greytown, but still in the scheme of things - very little. I was about 3-4 minutes from home when the traffic on State Highway 2 stopped...with a diagonally parked police car up ahead. Eventually I got to the police be told that I would need to detour via Martinborough - a good 30-40 minute drive away, through the countryside, in a storm.

Never one to shy from adventure, I headed off. My sense of direction is appalling at the best of times..but when under stress, might as well not exist. Because we had to twist and turn through the countryside, I had no idea which direction I was travelling - tho' I was following a car that seemed to know where it was going.

I thought we were going north - wrong way. I couldn't find any landmarks I recognised...but suddenly, out of the gloom, the sun shone and thanks to my girl guide days, I worked out that the sun was on my right...which meant I was travelling south (normally for me, whichever way I'm going is north) at least I knew I was headed towards Martinborough.

This was huge diversion - I should have asked if I could wait for the road to open BUT, on the journey, I was once again reminded about how beautiful and unique our country is. I drove through farmland rich in cows and sheep, through trees just turning into autumn colours and through fields where hay bales are waiting in readiness for winter feed.

Eventually I arrived in the outskirts of Martinborough - and was reminded of a wonderful day at Taste Martinborough last November - a celebration of the area's wine and food. My favourite dish of the day was a whitebait fritter..delicious in it's simplicity and divine flavour. I love fritters in any way shape or form, but struggle to make them taste like anything other than a hot blob of flour and you have a favourite fritter recipe...maybe sweet or savory?

Whitebait Fritter Ingredients

Makes 2 fritters
NZ Whitebait 200g
3 large eggs
Salt, pepper
Italian parsley chopped
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Knob of butter
1 Lemon

Recipe Method

Drain excess water off whitebait and pat dry on a paper towel. In a bowl add the eggs and whisk with parsley and seasoning, then add the whitebait.
Take well proven iron skillet or non-stick fry pan, add the oil and heat. Add butter and once foaming add the fritter mixture.
Quickly move the mixture in the pan with a fork till lightly set. Turn over with a fish slice, the whitebait should have just turned white and take off heat, being careful not to overcook.
Transfer to serving dish, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice and serve immediately

My sister Tammy makes awesome corn fritters and hopefully she will share them on here with us.

Tammy's Corn Fritters
310 gram can corn (Tammy uses cream corn)
1 egg
salt and pepper
1 cup self raising flour

Mix first 3 ingredients thoroughly. Add small amounts of ham, bacon, chopped onion (I'd cook it first), finely chopped herbs such as chives, parsley, coriander or any leftovers that sound exciting. Add flour gradually until a thick consistency. Drop dessertspoonfuls into hot oil and cook until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Enjoy!


Saturday, 16 April 2011

Can I have the recipe please?

So, it's been a bit of a day of discovery for me.  

I was out picking grapes for my Gawn inspired chutney; my resident fantail (in Te Reo piwakawaka) was REALLY having a go at me, disturbed by my presence in his/hers grape vine. Suddenly Twyler my real scaredy cat, went racing inside, raced out, back in, under the bed, back out...back in, under the bed again. I think that darned fantail attacked him - all because I dared to pick MY grapes! 10 minutes of cuddles later and he's settled...piwakawaka pie for dinner? (with grape chutney!). I tried to put a pic of a fantail on here but the link was a gazilion miles long so I encourage you to look it up. But this is my poor traumatised Twyler.....

I made the chutney and it's delicious:
1. Put 5-6 cups of grapes into a saucepan and sprinkle over 2-3 teaspoons of cinnamon and 3 teaspoons of vanilla essence.
2. Add a sprinkle of salt, 1/2 cup of white vinegar, 1/2 cup white sugar and 1/2 cup of raisins or mixed fruit (optional).
3. Put on stove top on a low heat and simmer until the mixture has reduced to 1/3 of its volume.
4. As the grapes warm up they start to swell and then you can have great fun squashing all the juice out of them one by one.
5. Stir often so the mix doesn't burn/stick to the bottom of the pot.
6. Once reduced, remove from the heat and allow it to cool.
** I added some brown sugar as it was a little tart and then I also blitzed it briefly with the stick blender towards the end so it's now the consistency of thick, slightly lumpy gravy.

Serve with soft cheese (eg cream cheese, feta) and crackers or add a small amount to the side of your plate to sample with different chicken/fish dishes. 

Tonight, I tried it with some blue brie on crackers and it is absolutely delicious. so then I thought why not try it with chicken.

First I dusted some sliced chicken breast with Moroccan spices - I got them at the Martinborough Fair, but there is no contact info on the pack so as I can't replace them - they are like gold - absolutely yum.

Then, I turned the oven on to 150 C, and heated some oil in my tagine on the stove top, put the chicken in and added a handful of peeled shallots, some sliced leeks, a few fresh mushrooms I found on my lawn (they were mushies!), a good dollup of the grape chutney and a splash of chicken stock. I put the lid on and popped it in the oven to slow cook for an hour or so (depends on how much and the size of the chicken).

So far it smells delicious!
Last night, I made Poisson Cru - or Tahitian Raw Fish. I love it and lived on it when I was in Tahiti last year. This time it was a little disappointing as the fish didn't get was tasty but tough. So earlier, I decided to cook the leftovers (I hadn't added coconut cream to the leftovers).

I heated a blob of butter in a pan, and chucked in the bowl of fish...there was quite a lot of juice from the limes and I guess just the liquid from the fish. I tossed it, then served it up as a very early entree. It was divine! Reminded me of the best tasting fish from when I was a kid - when snapper, crayfish, blue cod and flounder were not only for the rich and famous.

So, why am I telling you all this...?
I reckon there's a place out there for those of us who love to cook, but aren't all that innovative...or just like to follow a recipe. I have access to such good food here in Greytown, a fab butcher, fresh produce stores, Moore Wilson's just up the road...and some great supermarkets. I love to cook and to try new things but wouldn't say I have too much talent with making things up - or presentation.

I'd love to share recipes with people who just would like to give something a go...and then happily brag that it worked.  

This evening I walked outside, it is a beautiful autumn evening and there is a full moon.  I have lovely food in the oven and my world isn't shaking...from earthquakes or bombs...I am truly blessed.

Ahhh - Sunday

Blogging has never seemed to make much sense to me, but having been inspired this morning by the Gawn's - I decided to give it a try myself. Because of Rose's post, I am about to embark on a grape chutney making experience - which surely rates higher than my previous plans for the day, which included vacuuming and reading my very boring book.

No doubt this will be a work in progress and I hope I remember a. that it exists and b. what my log in details are...I suspect I had one of these before but after trying several login/password combos, decided new is best!

The title of my blog...'Life - It ain't a dress rehearsal', makes it sound as though I'm a bit new ageish doesn't it? I'm not, but I do try to make the most of things...and sometimes I get it right...other times...well life is a work in progress! My favourite saying (today) is 'I feel like I'm diagonally parked in a parallel universe' and for those of you who know my parking abilities - you'll understand.

I can park this - if I try hard!

Life without a job, has it's not having to get out of bed on wet and cold days - but when the pay slip arrives and there isn't enough on it to pay the rent...suddenly getting out of bed seems a lot more attractive. However, I think I needed this break - now it's time to move on...Lotto Powerball do your thing!

Stay tuned - there may be another post in the near or distant to pick the grapes!