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October 28, 2012

light the carnival | mango lassi at home

I have never experienced culture shock like the culture shock I experienced when I landed in New Delhi. Tired after 17 hours of air travel through the night, emotionally exhausted after farewelling family and friends and life I knew in New Zealand, we arrived at a strangely empty airport, dazed but awake in the only way you can be after long distance flying and a completely unfamiliar time zone. My passport was stamped by a customs man with a large double chin who didn't say a single word and we were also silent as we drove through Delhi, taking it all in with wide eyes.

In Delhi, and in fact, all of India, there are a distinct lack of road rules. In lieu of rules, everyone uses their horn excessively. Roads are shared with pedestrian traffic, motorcycles, camels, donkeys, rickshaws and bicycles. It seems chaotic and shambolic - and it is - but somehow it also seems to work.

One of the things we didn't frequently eat in India was lassi - a thick yoghurt drink. Lassi can come sweet, salted, or with fruit flavours - mango is perhaps the most common. We tried to avoid eating too much dairy that had not been sufficiently heated, in order to prevent food poisoning, but one of the places where we just couldn't resist was "the blue lassi shop" in Varanasi. It is tucked away in the old part of the city and to find it you have to walk up from the ghats that line the Ganges, through streets just wide enough for pedestrians, past houses, hidden temples, and small markets and restaurants,  until you come to a blue hole-in-the-wall shop. One man will be chopping and smushing fruit and mixing it with curd, the other will be taking orders and delivering the lassi.

And the lassi - oh my, it was delicious. Made with fresh mango pulp and fresh curd, served in a small clay pot which was discarded after use, a wooden spoon and a newspaper napkin it was completely unpretentious, cost 150 rupees (NZ$4) and was easily the best lassi I've had in my life. I knew that no other lassi would live up to this standard, however, I decided to attempt to make a lassi at home. Part yoghurt drink, part fruit smoothie, not too sweet but gently spiced, I think this makes a pretty good substitute.

maitland st mango lassi

1 tin (400-500g) sliced mango in light syrup (or mango pulp if you can find it) or fresh mango if you're lucky!
400g plain unsweetened yoghurt

pinch sea salt
500mL whole milk (preferably raw)
8 cardamom pods
8-10 saffron threads (if you have them)
natural sugar such as rapadura or muscovado, or honey

Give the cardamom pods a bash with a mortar and pestle (or flatten them with the side of a knife) and remove the seeds. Put the pods in the compost and grind the seeds into as close to a powder as you can get in the mortar and pestle. They should smell very fragrant. Add the saffron threads and smush a little more. Add a little of the milk and let sit for five minutes to infuse, then stir again. The milk should take on a lot of the saffron colour.

Drain the mangos, and smush the mango slices in a bowl. If you are lucky enough to have a kitchen blender (we don't), you could blitz them in the blender instead. Strain the saffron infused milk into the mango pulp, add the rest of the milk, the sea salt and the yoghurt. Blend, or whisk. I used an electric hand-held beater for ours - if you do this, be warned, you will need a clean tea towel to cover the blender as it will splash everywhere! 

Strain through the sieve that still contains the saffron - I found that the tinned mango was quite fibrous so I strained it again to keep the stringy fibres separate. Sweeten with honey/rapadura - it won't need very much, and drink cold. This made about 750mL of lassi - so we had one cup as a taste tester before dinner and then a full 600mL milk bottle for breakfasts this week. I'm thinking mango lassi over whole oats soaked overnight will make a pretty delicious breakfast! 


title from grizzly bear - all we ask

October 24, 2012

wind blow, long low and lonesome | sexy lentil & parsnip salad

There was a severe weather warning in place for strong winds that would appear in the afternoon and drop by nightfall. This is exactly what happened - at 3pm wild winds rocked the trees outside my window, and the ground by our letterbox was sprinkled further with wilted yellow kōwhai flowers. 

I love the wind. It energizes me, blows the unnecessary circular thoughts out of my mind. A good fresh Wellington southerly makes me feel alive. However, I also know for others it makes them feel unsettled, stressed and a bit flighty. A good remedy for such feelings is to eat something substantial and heavy; something to satisfy a possibly anxious stomach. A friend and neighbour, L, was coming around for dinner, planning to introduce us to authentic tortilla espanola after discussion the previous evening of the differences between a Mexican tortilla, a frittata, and tortilla espanola (and the fact ascertained that tortilla is pronounced tor-tiiia, not tor-till-a). We needed an accompaniment to this tortilla espanola, so while L chopped and washed potatoes, I put together this salad.

As I chopped the parsnips, with river cottage Hugh's roasted parsnip recipe in the back of my mind, I located ingredients and thought about the complementing flavours and textures. I had read a very interesting recipe just the day before, which had highlighted the fact that a dish often has multiple different tastes or elements that incorporate and complement each other. Slowly, I gathered bits and pieces from our pantry and our fridge, and a new dish was born.

I was not, however, prepared for the reaction of the two males, T and L, at the dinnertable. Much to J and my amusement their satisfaction bordered on orgasmic - and involved extended, expletive-filled proclamations of delight. L said he saw the lentils and the peanuts and felt a bit doubtful of the end result, but in the end was emphatically won over by his tastebuds (thankfully!). It was even suggested that a dinner of tortilla espanola and this salad could convince even the most devout carnivore that you can have a perfectly filling and delicious meal without meat. As my meat eating friends already know, that is the reason I cook dinner for them (I'm joking...kinda).

Often after finishing a dinner made from a new recipe, we have a bit of a musing on ways to improve it. We'd made hugh's warm parsnip and lentil salad more than once before, following the recipe almost exactly. It was also delicious, and thanks to that recipe I began to appreciate the sweet, earthy taste of parsnips simply roasted with oil, salt and pepper. One thing we wondered after we made the original recipe was if adding walnuts would be good. That is the main difference I've made here - to add pan roasted peanuts. They offer a contrasting crunchy texture and the addition of tahini in the dressing supports their nutty flavour. Hugh's salad is lighter, more zesty and lemony. This is the windy day version! 

sexy lentil & parsnip salad

inspiration for this recipe from hugh fearnley-whittingstall and this recipe from his book, veg everyday.

I know that lentils and parsnips are not exactly the sexiest vegetables in and of themselves. However, the combination of flavours and textures of this group of early spring ingredients looks attractive and tastes unexpectedly delicious - so sexy is definitely a good adjective for this dish. Actually, puy lentils happen to be quite attractive, don't you think?

This salad is also vegan, dairy free, and gluten free - making it a good option for pot lucks where you might not know the dietary requirements of all those eating. It is probably worth mentioning that Hugh's original recipe is not vegan as the dressing contains honey. It is not exactly a quick salad to make - so perhaps not suited for those nights when you're extremely hungry or time-pressured; but it's also fairly non-intensive so you can do some chopping and pop things on, then sit down for 20 minutes to peruse blogs, drink chai, send emails, listen to music. . 

for the salad
miner's lettuce (or arugula, watercress, mesclun, sorrel, or a mixture)
3-4 parsnip
1 cup puy lentils
half an onion
2 bay leaves
parsley stems (3-5)
10-20 asparagus spears
half a cup of red raw peanuts

for the dressing
5 cloves garlic - as evidenced below I actually used 11 - our garlic is currently pre-peeled and preserved in olive oil so we're using a lot more than we otherwise would. The pieces of roasted garlic are really good here so if you're a fan of roasted garlic feel free to add more.
2 tbsp tahini
1 tsp English mustard (not grainy)
olive oil
juice of two lemons
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
sea salt
cracked pepper

Peel the parsnips and cut them into small cubes. Place in a roasting dish, with a little olive oil, sea salt and cracked pepper. Roast at 200ºC for 20 minutes until soft and slightly golden and crunchy. In a separate small container, simultaneously roast the 5 cloves of garlic in some more olive oil, with rosemary sprinkled on the top, for 10-15 minutes or until soft and light brown. If you put them in the same dish, you won't get the uniquely delicious, caramelised flavour of the parsnips.

Put the lentils in a pan with plenty of water and bring to the boil. Let them boil hard for 2 minutes, then drain. Add the lentils back into the pan with new water, and add the onion half, finely chopped, the parsley stems and the bay leaves. If your bay leaves are fresh from the plant, fold the leaves a couple of times first. Have the heat on low and gently simmer until the lentils are soft but not falling apart - this takes around 30 minutes. When they are done, drain them and leave them in a separate bowl to cool. 

Sort your miner's lettuce, trimming any long stems and removing any pieces of grass - our miner's lettuce came from J's parents' garden. If you've purchased yours you may not need to sort and trim quite as intensively! Be careful to let the warm ingredients cool before bringing them into contact with the lettuce or you will end up with wilted greens. This is particularly true if you're using sorrel - which wilts, and turns an unattractive greeny-grey colour. Keep sorrel to the side and serve it separately. 

Snap the ends off the asparagus - my mum taught me to snap the ends off rather than chop them off with a knife, as snapping them means you get rid of any of the end that's dried/woody. Chop the spears into three. After the lentils are done, boil some more water and a little sea salt in the same pan. When it's at a rolling boil, drop the asparagus pieces in. Let it boil for just 2 minutes; then drain and rinse with cold water to end the cooking process. 

Chop up the roasted garlic cloves. Add the tahini, mustard and olive oil. Add the balsamic vinegar, mix. Don't be tempted to use more balsamic vinegar - it has quite a strong flavour and would be too overpowering with more than just a teaspoonful. Add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. You want to have about 1 cup total of the dressing. If you don't have enough, mix in more lemon juice and oil until you do. 

Lastly, dry roast the peanuts in a medium hot, heavy bottomed pan. You'll know that they're done when the skins start to split. When they are almost done, add just a little olive oil and salt, turning the pan so all the peanuts are coated. 

Assemble your salad, starting with your lentils. As you tip them into the bigger bowl remove the bay leaves and parsley stems. Make sure they're warm, not too hot. Add the parsnip, asparagus, miner's lettuce and roasted peanuts. Finally, stir in the dressing, and serve immediately. Serves five as a side dish (to tortilla espanola!) or three as a main.

You will have to excuse the picture - it does not do the salad or its sexiness justice. The good light (daylight) was gone and my camera struggles without it - partly because I refuse to use the flash, but partly because it's not equipped with good low light capabilities. Unfortunately at the time of eating we were all too ravenous to pause for pictures. When it was served, this bowl was filled to the top - the part you see above is what we saved for flatmate L who was working late and arrived home in time for chocolate and tea.

Hugh suggests serving this with some hard cheese, like parmesan or pecorino, but I would not add cheese to this version. I think that the flavour of the tahini replaces the flavour that cheese might add. It's also worth trying the recipe as Hugh makes it, as it's also delicious - but different. 


title from woody guthrie - listening to the wind that blows

top picture taken on a ricoh kr-5; film is kodak gold 200

October 15, 2012

every day seems a little longer | october 12 playlist

Music is a big part of our kitchen. We plug our iPods into the speakers and listen to music that makes menial tasks like washing two sinks worth of dishes bearable - even pleasant. When I have the kitchen to myself I sometimes risk putting my whole iPod on shuffle - it can be very hit and miss! Here are some of our favourites over October.

1. kings of convenience - homesick
2. billy bragg & wilco - listening to the wind that blows
3. modest mouse - the world at large
4. bright eyes - lua
5. belle & sebastian - this is just a modern rock song
6. the mountain goats - broom people
7. buddy holly - every day
8. the falls - home
9. london symphony orchestra - ombra mai fu
10. feist - i feel it all
11. studio ghibli soundtrack - merry-go-round of life (howl's moving castle)
12. grizzly bear - all we ask
13. the white buffalo - love song #1
14. sarah humphreys - happiness is on this hill
15. paleo - world's smallest violin
16. hope sandoval & the warm inventions - around my smile
17. iron & wine - flightless bird, american mouth
18. wilco - she's a jar
19. xavier rudd - paper thin
20. hirini melbourne - te kopere (the rainbow)


title from buddy holly - every day. photograph taken in varanasi, january 2012

October 8, 2012

you'd be the first to know | homemade baked beans

beach dunedin

September is the beginning of spring - at least, that's what the calendar says, so that's what everyone hopes. But September is a strange month, where gorgeous spring days and daffodils in flower are punctuated by icy reminders that winter isn't over just yet; to keep the tights handy and the woollen coats on the nail by the front door.

It's a strange month for meals. On the one hand, daffodils and asparagus are a welcome addition to items available for purchasing, the garden goes crazy growing its greens, begging you to make salads and pesto (if you're lucky enough to have a food processor). On the other hand, the cold weather, made all the more difficult to bear by the teasingly warm spring days in between, makes you feel like hearty soups, spicy curries, beans.

I think that beans are so underrated. They are an excellent and healthy source of protein, and they're so versatile. You can boil them with star anise and cassia bark and eat them for breakfast with avocado, brown rice and canned chopped tomatoes; you can make a bean salad, you can spice them up with chili and eat them in wraps with cumin yoghurt and grated carrot ..

.. and you can make homemade baked beans. 

I have fond memories of school holiday lunches with my primary school teacher dad, who also had the same holidays as us. We relished the break from the monotonous peanut butter sandwiches and almost always had a hot lunch - curried eggs, omelettes, bird's nests, toasted sandwiches, Wattie's baked beans on toast. Simple and cheap, but filling lunches I would gratefully remember and make for dinners as a poor student. There's always a time and a place for canned spaghetti or baked beans (but only if it's Wattie's brand).

However, if you've got an ever so slightly larger budget, a little time on your hands and beans in your cupboard; making them from scratch is incomparably delicious. It takes time - but you'll be rewarded with a delicious pile of baked beans and a wonderfully aromatic house. The beans are even better the next day or the day after - so this is an ideal recipe to make on a lazy Sunday afternoon and enjoy baked beans for lunch at work in the coming week. After all, the time is mostly cooking time! 

baked navy beans

Navy beans/haricot beans are white and large, similar to cannellini beans, which you could also use. Any white bean will do. I wouldn't use the canned counterpart for this recipe. An important note on cooking - cannellini beans are related to (red) kidney beans, and as a result have high levels of lectin, a toxin. This toxin can be denatured (deactivated) by ensuring that you boil the beans hard for at least 10 minutes - never cook beans in a slow cooker, as the slower cooking and lower temperatures mean that the toxin might not be denatured. 

2 cups navy beans, presoaked overnight.
2 cans whole peeled tomatoes (ever since I reading Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book veg everyday, where he says that he feels he gets more value for money buying whole canned tomatoes as opposed to the chopped variety, I've been following suit!)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp tamari (or worcestershire sauce, or 1tsp brown miso paste, or 1tsp vegemite)
2 bay leaves
8 cloves of garlic, cut into pieces
25g butter (can be substituted for a high-heat oil like canola to keep this dairy-free).
2 onions, chopped finely
1 leek, chopped finely
6 shallots, chopped finely
1 red onion, cut into wedges
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp English mustard
handful of good olives - we use a brand which is the best, according to a friend who devours olives. They are not pitted. Definitely don't use the stuffed green ones (shudder) or the tasteless chopped black ones. They're not essential so if you don't have any good ones, just leave them out.
1 tbsp capers

Put the dry beans in a large bowl and cover with plenty of water. Leave to soak overnight, for at least 12 hours. Soaking the beans makes them quicker to cook and easier to digest. Overnight they will at least double in size. The picture below shows the beans after they have been soaking for 48 hours. I apologise for the picture, my camera does not have very good capabilities in low, grey light.

navy beans

The next day, drain and rinse your soaked beans. Put them in a pan with fresh water and bring to the boil. Boil hard for 30 minutes. If foam forms on the top of the water, scoop it off and throw it away. After 30 minutes (they won't be fully cooked yet), take them off the heat, drain and set aside.

While the beans are boiling, heat the butter in a heavy bottomed pan (we use a cast iron fry pan).  Add  the cumin to the butter. Gently sweat the finely chopped onions, leek and shallots in the cumin/butter mixture. This will take around 10 minutes.

Take a deep, oven proof dish, and add the cooked beans to it. Add the cooked onions/leeks/shallots, and the remaining ingredients. Roughly chop/smush the tomatoes. Bruise/crush the bay leaves a little if they are fresh from the bush. Do not add salt at this stage, but you can add cracked pepper. Adding salt will make the beans harder and more difficult to cook. Add as much water as the container will fit (up to 400mL) and bake for at least 2 hours at 200ºC. Check the beans as they cook and add more water if they need it. Ideally, you won't add any more liquid in the last 45 minutes of cooking.

If you're pushed for time, the beans can be finished off in a large pot on the stove. I did this because it was getting on to 9pm and, despite 3 hours in the oven, the beans still weren't done. I didn't get a final picture as my camera is no good for photographing food once it's dark; but the final product was definitely more reduced than the picture above.

We ate the beans with toasted dark rye bread - made by a local guy who makes his own stone ground flour - and some simple greens from the garden. You could also have them with a poached/fried egg on top, or with homemade corn bread.

They are filling, and warming, and perfect for a pre-daylight saving's September Sunday night.


title from the bats - spill the beans

October 1, 2012

happiness is on this hill | welcome to maitland st

Hello and welcome to Maitland St. kitchen, the spacious centre of our flat in Dunedin, Aotearoa. We are two women in our 20's, G and J, who live together on the upper level of a 1930's complex that looks a bit like a castle from the street, and has a beautiful view of the harbour. Our lounge sometimes functions as a lounge and sometimes as a third bedroom to a variety of friends who visit the city, and also occasionally houses our favourite house-builders and lovely people, T and L. 

Our kitchen is the heart and lungs of our abode, where tea is poured, dinner is prepared, jam is bottled, cakes are baked, food is enjoyed. Over the past winter we've made many a delicious vegetarian feast, and I decided to start this blog as a catalogue of our culinary successes (and failures, though they are fewer!) so that our recipes are easily returned to in subsequent winters. 

We are committed to eating locally, organically and as ethically as possible. We do most of our food shopping at our local organic shop at the bottom of our hill, Taste Nature. Our milk and cream comes from a local farm and is unpasteurised and non-homogenised. Our toothbrushes are biodegradable and we reuse packaging as much as possible. We eat a predominantly vegetarian diet, and grow what we can in our garden.

Make a cup of bowerbird love tea and have a peruse - if you try any of the recipes or have any suggestions, you're welcome to leave us a comment..


title from sarah humphreys - happiness is on this hill