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!