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December 20, 2012

all is calm, all is bright | farewell 2012

The time has come! It's the end of the year, the beginning of the holidays, and I couldn't be more happy about it. I'm planning on reading a few books, spending some quality time with family and friends, treating my hair to regular doses of salt from the sea, probably gaining a few more freckles, and generally making merry. I flew home last night and I've already spent time with Dad up in the Wairarapa, played a few carols on the piano, caught up with an uncle and a cousin.. and the weather has been warm, so warm for this summer solstice day (that may or may not be the end of the world). 

I wanted to take this time to thank each and every one of you who take the time to follow along with my blogging journey - I truly appreciate and value each and every one of your comments. I hope your holiday season is kind, relaxed, happy and joyful; and if you're in the Northern Hemisphere, fingers crossed for a white Christmas! For me, I'll be contemplating whether or not a river swim is in order, and hopefully basking in the sun. I'm signing off until the New Year (will be back with lots of recipes early January) - have a very happy one. In the meantime, please enjoy my December playlist - not too Christmassy, don't worry - and my favourite results of a black and white film I recently developed. 

Arohanui, namaste.. xx


1. the submarines - birds
2. bob dylan - little drummer boy
3. vampire weekend - cape cod kwassa kwassa
4. iva lamkum - black eagle
5. 17 hippies - el dorado
6. the magic numbers - take a chance
7. lcd soundsystem - movement
8. ben howard - keep your head up
9. mariah carey - o holy night
10. cary brothers - blue eyes
11. okkervil river - a girl in port
12. bic runga - birds
13. she & him - christmas wish
14. beach house - childhood
15. band of horses - is there a ghost
16. bing crosby - medley: what child is this/the holly and the ivy
17. neutral milk hotel - in the aeroplane over the sea
18. coheed & cambria - always & never
19. ella fitzgerald - have yourself a merry little christmas
20. explosions in the sky - postcard from 1952
21. local natives - sun hands
22. the beach boys - cotton fields
23. the brian jonestown massacre - somewhere
24. bing crosby - mere kalikimaka (merry christmas)

December 16, 2012

all the silver girls gave us black dreams | things lately

I've been a bit quiet around here, after the intensity of last week I've been enjoying evenings spent at home or in the garden, taking pictures here and there ..

1. As authentic as I could make - dal makhani. One of my favourite Indian curries that I made for dinner tonight to celebrate the fact that this time last year I was heading to India.
2. Ginger and cracked black pepper - crucial additions to the perfect cup of chai tea. Saffron is another decadent addition!
3. This afternoon was a wet, warm one - quite unusual for Dunedin. The windows were open and the pot was steaming, just like the ground outside. 
4. Rye bread and Bonne Maman cherry conserve - delicious!
5. One of many coriander plants in our garden that I harvested this week.
6. Coriander roots, ready for processing.
7. Simple crostini made with going-stale sourdough, home made coriander pesto, tomato, red onion, feta for the annual Maitland St barbeque which started outside in our courtyard and finished much later in our landlord's place with dainty small glasses of cointreau "that's not for the parsley!" and the trying on of vintage hats from the 1920's. A most excellent evening!
8. One from India last year - a rooftop restaurant in the desert city of Jaisalmer.
9. Spice paste - I made four different types of kratiem prik thai spice paste with our big coriander roots harvested this week from the garden.
10. Spice paste, frozen in convenient usable amounts in our ice cube tray.
11. Sunrise in Wellington last week - photo taken at 5:30am, the beginning of a beautiful day. 

I cannot write a post without mentioning the unmentionable - the tragedy of the loss of 28 lives this week in Conneticut. I've avoided news articles on it, as it is just heartbreaking. It makes me realise the value of taking time to be grateful, being mindful, and appreciative. I also sometimes think how incredibly lucky I am for all of it - every single thing I have, lucky to be born to the supportive parents I was born to, to be blessed with brothers and a sister, to live in a house, to have a wide range of friends, to enjoy the food I am able to enjoy. It's overwhelming how lucky we all are, against the most incredible odds. 

This year we're not doing Christmas presents. My sister and I might make small crackers for our family members (she might not know this yet... Hi loo lah!) but apart from that we'll just be enjoying the time together, just the six of us. If the weather is nice we will drive up to a secluded piece of land in the middle of the forest, and stay in a simple hut and possibly sleep under the stars. We won't have a huge Christmas dinner as we'll be limited to what we can carry on our backs into the hutt - it's a 40 minute walk from the end of the road. It's going to be simple and relaxed, and I for one am looking forward to it. What will your Christmas look like?

I leave you with this video - I thought of the story of stuff after I watched it, and implore you to recycle, reuse, make something for your gifts. I read a lovely post today about making a vegetable garden for a Christmas present. Show people you care by caring also for the planet.


day 6/365
today I'm grateful for gardens and all the goodness they provide - the satisfaction of nurturing a seedling, watching it grow, and harvesting it. Our coriander produced a bumper crop this year that got made into pesto, kratiem prik thai spice paste, and gifted to a few friends. We still have some leaves frozen for future garnishes! 


title from conversation 16 - the national

December 10, 2012

the moment is now | bare-cupboard salad

I've been away and it's been fantastic. I travelled up the country over land by car, train, and ferry, and spent time along the way catching up with family and friends I haven't seen for a while. The final three days were spent in Auckland, attending Power Shift, a youth summit focussing on climate change and action we need to take. It was intense and inspiring, and I'm still processing my thoughts and ideas and plans ... There are many more things to say but I will save them for another day. The top picture shows the train we travelled on, passing by the coast in between Kaikoura and Blenheim in the South Island.

We (unfortunately) had to fly back last night - and after the scariest experience I've ever had on a plane caused a delay of a couple of hours, we got home close to midnight. The plane was halfway through taking off - accelerating down the runway - when the brakes were suddenly applied and the take off was aborted. After sitting in the plane while the pilots and engineers chatted, it was decided to change planes for our journey - much to everyone's relief.

When I got home this afternoon I realised I had completely forgotten to stop by Taste Nature on my way home. Our lovely friends had stopped by and left milk bottles in our fridge and a loaf of beautiful bread on our bench, as well as completely spring cleaning the kitchen, and leaving a worm farm by our front door! However, a worm farm won't help you produce vegetables in time for dinner ... but your garden will.

I felt much more inspired after collecting arugula, coriander, kale, chard and nasturtiums from the garden. I put some red and white quinoa on to boil and this simple, bare-cupboard salad was born.

bare-cupboard salad

1 cup quinoa
1 onion
a few leaves of chard
a few leaves of kale
arugula (or mesclun/spinach)
pumpkin seeds
raw nuts - I used peanuts
chia seeds (optional)
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
sea salt
cracked pepper

Wash the quinoa and put it on to boil with plenty of water. While this is cooking, chop the kale leaves into small pieces, avoiding the "ribs" (the stem/stalk part). Put the chopped kale in a bowl, add a little olive oil and a good amount of salt, and massage it with your fingers. It might sound strange, but massaging helps break down the fibre and starches in the kale that can make it quite bitter. You will notice that after about two minutes of massaging, the leaves are now softer, darker, and silkier. The amount will probably appear to halve in size too. Taste it - it tastes different now!

Slice the onion and chard and sauté these briefly. At the same time, dry roast the nuts and seeds. I just do this in a fry pan without adding oil. Make sure to move the nuts around a bit during this process, either by stirring or shaking the pan. You will know they are ready because the pumpkin seeds will start popping.

The quinoa will most likely be done by now - you'll see that the circles have popped open and released a little worm shape - this will make sense if you've cooked with quinoa before! Quinoa is such a versatile food - you can substitute it for rice or pasta - or you can eat it colder as in this recipe. It's good for you as it's a complete protein - meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. An essential amino acid is one that cannot be synthesised by our bodies, so it's important to ensure our diets contain adequate amounts of these amino acids.

Drain the quinoa and rinse cold water through it to end the cooking process. Assemble all the previously prepared ingredients together, mix to distribute evenly. Chop the coriander and add this too. I made a simple dressing for this with equal amounts of balsamic vinegar and olive oil and a little salt and pepper - but as I made a much larger salad to take for lunch tomorrow, I kept this on the side.

I ate this with a plain piece of toast - and I felt pretty pleased I managed to pull this together from a rather bare cupboard, and motivate my tired body to make some dinner when it was just me at home.  If you needed a reason to start a vegetable garden, hopefully this post will help convince you! Our garden is currently producing so much coriander - it always amazes me at what a transformation it is, big tall plants from tiny, delicate seedlings we planted two months ago. Our neighbours left/gifted their blender to us while we were away so I think that pesto might be in order .. 


day 5/365
today I'm grateful for inspiring individuals and the chance to connect with passionate people over the weekend. A quote from the weekend "we are unstoppable: another world is possible." - which ties in nicely with the 100% possible campaign that was just launched - check it out! 


title from macklemore ft ryan lewis - ten thousand hours (love the malcolm gladwell mention)

November 30, 2012

he's a man, he's a guru | endings and beginnings

Endings and beginnings are bittersweet. Tonight we farewelled our lovely lounge-dwellers T and L - we will miss their humour, stories, cooking ... and their lovely faces around the place. L made a soup (a Hugh recipe, of course, recipe to follow), and they gifted J and I a copy of our dream cookbook: veg everyday by none other than our favourite Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. We have had a long term loan of another copy and the question was often raised: "what will happen when Hugh has to go back home?" But now, our very own annotated Hugh remains in our kitchen, propped up at the end of the kitchen table .. 

Do you write in cookbooks? I never used to but ever since T said "It's a way to make the cookbook your own," I think I will be writing my thoughts and experiences in the margins of veg everyday - the pages are perfectly laid out with just the right amount of white space for a comment or two. 

We often make vegetable stock from leftover, slightly wilted, forgotten about vegetables. I've mentioned it before, and usually I just put bits and pieces in a pot and boil it for a while. I did learn the hard way that garlic roots are very strongly garlic-flavoured, but apart from that one failure, most of the times stock was made it turned out well. However, why continue making stock that's perfectly fine when you could make excellent stock if you just take a few notes from ... Hugh, of course! He has a recipe for stock in his book and L followed it for the soup. The main difference is that his recipe involves lightly sautéeing the stock ingredients, then boiling them with fresh herbs (from the garden). Hugh's stock recipe resulted in a stock which was darker in colour and more robust in flavour than previous versions. 

If stock is one beginning, breakfast is another. The muesli pictured was made and toasted by L a few weeks ago and was completely delicious. It contained chopped dates, seeds, almonds, oats, a little puffed millet .. all the good things. We enjoyed it with "Merrell's milk" (raw milk from Merrell's farm). If you're an Australian reader, Nikki over at the wholefood mama is giving away some delicious looking muesli..

I've been thinking a little bit about "this time last year" in the lead up to Christmas. The sunset shown above is the sunset of my 2011 Christmas day, spent under the stars in the desert. And the view from the camel is what I saw for much of Christmas morning and afternoon, pleasantly wandering atop a camel through the desert, with "We Three Kings" in my head. Being atop a camel reminded me of yoga - you had to completely relax and surrender to the camel's movements, and then you'd be naturally balanced. 

And here we are - a seemingly random collection of pictures tied together somewhat by my words. Tomorrow morning J and I are off up the country to Auckland for PowerShift - but we're taking the trains and the ferry, including a two-day stop in my hometown and an overnight visit with more extended family in Christchurch. It's the beginning of a journey. 

Happy weekend and happy beginning of summer (or winter for you Northern-hemisphere folk)!


day 4/365
I'm grateful for house-dwellers, who add doses of humour, stories, music into the fabric of your life at home, and teach you the difference between good spoons and not so good spoons.. T & L xo

title from nick cave & the bad seeds - red right hand

November 27, 2012

keeps me searching for a heart of gold | pumpkin fruit cake

There is something familiar about traditions. Comforting in their reassuring sameness; while everything else might be different, you can guarantee that the one thing, that one tradition, will be as it always was.  I first realised I was a creature of habit when I worked Sundays at a supermarket when I was younger. The Sunday paper used to contain an excellent small magazine "Sunday"*, which had short but interesting features, a little piece on home interiors, a "going up, going down" get the idea. I loved it. Every Sunday, I would run a bath when I got home from work, find the Sunday magazine, and read it while I soaked my tired body. Until one Sunday when I couldn't find the magazine anywhere around the house. "Oh," said Dad casually, "we didn't get around to buying the paper today." And, just like that, my Sunday evening was ruined. In retrospect, it seems a little dramatic, but little rituals are calming amongst the chaos - all the other unexpected events the day can bring.

There are a number of traditions in my family that revolve around food. There is always pink lady cake on Dad's birthday, at Christmas there are fresh berries, and whenever I visit Wellington Dad makes espresso at home. Pumpkin cake is another tradition. Whenever my Grandma Gwen would fly up to Wellington to visit us, she would carry two pumpkin cakes in her suitcases for us. Most often, these were never iced, and were enjoyed for afternoon tea, or in school lunches. We always tried to get a piece with the strange, circular, green or red cherry-jelly. Sometimes these were picked out in advance. Pumpkin cake was usually cut in squares, like fruit cake is at Christmas, and for special occasions, it was iced with butter icing flavoured with port wine; with the same circular pattern knifed into the icing. That's just how it always was.

Like any good recipe, the pumpkin cake has a story. My grandfather was a minister, and in the 1960's, being a minister meant making regular visits to the parishioners, keeping up with their lives. On one particular visit to an elderly lady called Mrs. Hunter, my grandad was served this cake. He liked it so much, he wrote the recipe down on the back of a visiting card** and brought it home to my grandmother. Grandma was intrigued by the use of mashed pumpkin in the mixture - something "quite radical in cakes in New Zealand at the time." It has now been a family favourite for about fifty years! 

*the Sunday magazine still exists, however I can no longer attest to its quality.
**visiting cards were used by ministers, left when they had visited but nobody was home.

mrs. hunter's pumpkin fruit cake

courtesy of my Grandma Gwen

250g butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup cooked mashed pumpkin
1/2 tsp almond essence
1/2 tsp lemon essence
1 tsp vanilla
2 large cups flour
2 full tsp baking powder
500g mixed dried fruit

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg, and beat again until soft and creamy. Add the cooked pumpkin and beat again. Stir in the three essences. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and mixed fruit. Stir the flour over and through the fruit until it is thoroughly coated. Mix together the separate mixtures and stir well.

Spoon into a greased lined 22cm round/square cake tin and bake for 1 3/4 - 2 hours in a moderate (150ºC) oven.

Notes from my grandmother -
This cake keeps well and is best left for a few days before cutting. "Large" and "full" refer to non-level measurements. In terms of the baking, a "moderate" oven is not specific, but grandma says it's better to cook it cooler and longer. The cake is perfectly delicious un-iced but a simple butter icing flavoured with port wine (or a little ginger beer) makes it more of a special-occasion cake. 


What family traditions do you have that revolve around food? Any recipes that have been in your family for generations? I'd love to know ...


day 3/365
Again, it goes without saying, today I'm grateful for traditions: those strange, endearing rituals that identify us and our families.


title from neil young - heart of gold

November 25, 2012

in the shadow of your family tree | 80 years of G.M.C.

The weekend was a busy one - my grandad turned 80 and our extended family gathered to celebrate with him. There was a delicious lunch, a little wine, cake, laughs, a few tears (the sentimental good kind), some wood carvings, some poetry, some piano playing by A, lots of catch ups and lots of memories shared. I realised the importance of family, those people who weather life's storms with you, cheer you on, and hold you up when you need it. It was a weekend of love and it was just so good. 

I flew back to Dunedin, and as we drove back from the airport, the sun was setting over the hills. Sure enough, when we reached the top of the hill that overlooks Dunedin, soft rain started falling - the typical welcome of Dunedin. It is always raining when you return home. We drove up to Maitland where beans and polenta and conversation awaited. After such a fulfilling weekend, I'll sleep well tonight I think. 

1. Delicious food at the birthday lunch in a rural Canterbury vineyard.
2. Mum and I
3. Mum and my Uncle M
4. Extremely decadent pannacotta at lunchtime.
5. Boy talk - my grandad, uncle and brother A.
6. The sun setting over the mountains.
7. A clipping from the Palmerston North Evening Standard when my Mum and her Dad both graduated with their degrees at the same time. 
8. My parents on their wedding day nearly 30 years ago - a favourite photo.


day 2/365
I think it goes without saying - today I am grateful for family. With whom I share memories and experiences, good times and bad .. and throughout it all, we support each other always and love unconditionally. I'm grateful for my Grandma G and Grandad G - who are an example of a successful, loving partnership and marriage; now and always. xx


linking here
title from tv on the radio - family tree

November 22, 2012

so tomorrow there will be another number | meat and three veg

After this lovely lady's post, I've been thinking about food choices a lot more this week: thinking about my own personal journey to the way I eat now, and how those habits developed over time. My food journey began last year - six months into my first "proper" job since finishing my degree, I found myself with a little extra money each week and the ability to be a little more flexible in what I ate. After four years as a student surviving off a very minimal weekly income it was a luxury to be able to afford to experiment a little more in what I cooked and what I ate. 

Prior to this, my food choices had been based around affordability: sometimes this meant two baked potatoes or two minute noodles for dinner in those weeks where there were bills to pay and shampoo to buy. At the end of my fourth year, busy with writing a dissertation, this changed a little to include time as a factor. Could I cook and eat in less than 20 minutes? If not, I didn't buy it. In those last two weeks of 18 hour writing days, I survived off plain pasta, canned tuna, apples, and a whole lot of caffeine. On the last night before my dissertation was due, I was writing all night in my office at university. A friend called me at 7pm: "I'm outside," he said, "come down, I've got dinner for you." And he handed me a warm plastic container full of pesto pasta, before skating back off into the night. I've never forgotten that gesture. 

Most of my friends and family know me to be a vegetarian. And that's mainly true - I only rarely eat meat, and when I do, it's important to me that it is local, free range, and organic; and that I feel like my body needs it for nutrients. This year, I've eaten meat on two occasions. The first was when there was no other option for dinner, out in the wilderness with family. The second was last night.

J returned from four days tramping (hiking for US readers) with plenty of stories of interesting people they'd shared a hut with. They had met some hunters who cooked freshly caught chamois (also known as "shammy" to locals), and also gave them some to bring back home to us. It ticked all my personal "boxes" when it comes to meat-eating and when J told me she planned to cook it for dinner on Tuesday night, I told her I'd love to try some. I'd never eaten chamois before. I made this sauce to go with it - I think it would make a great accompaniment to lamb or beef as well.

mushroom & black pepper meat sauce

This meat sauce would also be great served with pasta for a vegetarian dish. The quantities used here make enough for four people.

Slice two red onions into half rings, and soften them over a medium heat with a little olive oil. Turn the heat up a little and add some apple cider vinegar and honey or balsamic vinegar. Cook for around 30 minutes until caramelised. Add about 1 glass of red cooking wine to the pan - it should bubble a lot, if it doesn't turn the heat up. Chop 8 flat mushrooms (I used portobello) into quarters and add to the pan, letting them cook in the wine. Stir in as much freshly cracked black pepper as you'd like. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Add 1 tbsp flour - either white or wholemeal and stir. This will thicken the sauce up - add milk to thin it back and keep warm until ready to serve.

Last night I cheated a little - we had some french onion soup to use up, so I used that instead of caramelising onions. 

So it came to be - a traditional "meat and three veg" meal was served at Maitland St. The cooking was very much a team effort, with much discussion and consulting the internet as to how to cook the meat. The piece we were given looked like a beef fillet would, so we sliced it into medallions and cooked it, as T would describe "pshhhh....pshhhh..." - translates to one minute each side in a very hot pan. We ate it with the mushroom sauce, potato and kumara (known outside of Aotearoa as sweet potato), mashed together, and lightly fried cabbage and red onion. It was delicious.

I think the biggest mistake we can make is to be inflexible in our diets. I realised that it's important to me to eat mainly vegetarian, but that it's also okay for me to eat free-range, organic, local meat now and then too. After all, isn't it all about moderation?


I've decided that each day I write a post I'm going to include a word or two about something I'm grateful for that day. I used to reflect once a week and take the time to be grateful, and I think that it's helpful for me to look back over my day with gratitude now and then.

day 1/365 
Today I'm grateful for clear and cloudless skies, and that I work in a place where I can take twenty minutes in the afternoon and sit underneath a weeping willow tree, looking at water and the old fashioned clock tower buildings of the university I work at, enjoying the fresh air in my lungs and sun on my skin.


title from stars - celebration guns

November 21, 2012

l'espoir fleurit au ciel de Paris | french onion soup

More so than perhaps any other year, I'm feeling the year race away from me. In the coming weeks I'm travelling to the other end of the country and back, twice, as well as a flying visit to my grandparents this weekend to celebrate a significant birthday. There are end of year dinners, work social occasions, a youth conference/festival on climate change, a brief stop in my home town, two more weeks of work down South, Christmas with the family, and I'll end up at the northernmost tip of the North Island to say goodbye to 2012. Phew!

While it is nice to have plenty of social occasions and dinners out, it's also nice to make the most of a simple dinner at home, cooked in the light and eaten in the light. Evenings stretch out at this time of year, when it's still light at 9pm, and I love waking up early to the sun coming in my open window. I almost always sleep with my window open, only closing it for the iciest winter nights. Mum tells me this is something I inherited from my dad.

Come Monday afternoon, I had a strong craving for french onion soup. As a meal, it seems to be a compromise between seasons - light but hearty, warming and delicious but not too heavy either. I left work and purchased onions on my way home. As I cooked in the late afternoon light, the grey shower clouds parted briefly and sunlight came streaming through our kitchen windows. Soup was cooking and the sun was shining and all was right with the world. 

french onion soup | soupe à l'oignon

The French have a certain culinary class like no other. It takes a certain je ne sais quoi to make a soup consisting almost solely of one of the most common vegetables, and legitimately call it cuisine. But it is deliciously good, even when you replace the traditionally used beef consommé with a homemade vegetable stock. Don't let that put you off: you will hardly even notice the extra effort to make vegetable stock from scratch!

for the soup:
10 medium sized white onions
50 grams butter (or oil to make this recipe vegan)
a good cup of dry white wine
a sprig of flat leaf parsley
a sprig of aromatic fennel
a sprig of sage
2 bay leaves
brown miso paste
sea salt
cracked pepper

for the stock:
a variety of left-over vegetable pieces: cabbage hearts, the thick cauliflower stems, broccoli stalks if you don't eat them, the green leafy part of a leek.. We keep these left overs in the fridge for stock purposes!
3 garlic cloves
sprig of parsley
bay leaves
1 medium onion
4-5 mushrooms, preferably a flat, dark type such as portobello.

to serve
two pieces of good, solid bread per person
a little olive oil
3 garlic cloves
cheddar cheese

Begin by making the stock. Add all the vegetables to a big pot, cover with water and gently simmer. If I'm making stock for other purposes I sometimes add a little sea salt, but it's not necessary for this soup. I don't always make stock with mushrooms either, but for french onion soup the hearty taste they add is a delicious addition - although it's still pretty delicious without mushrooms. Keep this heated on low while you caramelise the onions.

Slice the onions en lyonnaise - which is, as shown below, sliced in half and then north to south slicing down the axis, so you end up with little onion crescent moons. It doesn't take long once you get in the rhythm of it, promise! 

Melt the butter in a heavy frypan - I used a cast iron one - over a medium heat. Let it sizzle a little. I used some raw butter we had and it smelled delicious - when it begins to smell nutty, it's time to add the onions. Add the onions in layers and sprinkle a little salt on between each layer. We don't add any salt later: salt at this point draws the moisture out of the onions so they caramelise in their own juices. 

Let the onions bubble away for a good 20 minutes before stirring them. They will release a lot of liquid - this is a good thing! This cooking process is "sweating" the onions, not sautéeing them. If they are sizzling too much, turn the heat down until they just bubble. They will most likely catch on the bottom of the pan, but this is ok. Cook for a further 40 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until the onions are a golden brown colour. Don't be tempted to cut this step short - the flavours that are developing here are integral to the soup, and you'll regret it if you end up with a light onion-y broth.

Strain the vegetable stock and return it to the pot. Turn up the heat on the onions and add the dry white wine. It will sizzle and steam a lot, and probably turn a dark brown colour. This is excellent! Stir for about five minutes, then add all the onions to the stock and heat. At this stage, add the fresh herbs. If you like, you can tie them together with some string to make a bouquet garni, which means it is easier to remove before serving. This is when you also add the brown miso paste. If you don't have miso paste to hand, you could use vegemite/marmite instead.

While the soup bubbles away on the stove, slice up some good solid bread. I've used our bought homemade bread - it's a wholemeal/rye blend made by a local who stone grinds his own flour. It's delicious but good and substantial too. Smush the garlic cloves to a paste in a mortar and pestle - add a little olive oil to them. Mix the ground coriander in too. Rub this paste over both sides of the bread, then toast under a hot grill for 2 minutes. Turn over, add sliced cheddar to the top, and return to the oven for another 2 minutes.

To serve, fill a bowl with the soup, avoiding the herbs, then float the toasted bread and cheese on top. The bread should be crunchy enough to withstand soaking up some of the soup. Eat immediately. It's amazing how filling this is - a friend told me that the best french onion soups have enough bread so that there is a bit of bread for every mouthful of soup. It's warming, filling and amazingly delicious considering it's just made with onions, wine, and herbs.


title from Édith Piaf (who else?) - sous le ciel de Paris. The translation of the lyrics used in the title is "Hope springs again under the Paris sky."