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December 23, 2013

I'm sittin' in the railway station, got a ticket for my destination | panforte for christmas

I'm not sitting in a railway station, but I am sitting in an airport with a ticket to my destination. It almost didn't happen - when you wake up, disoriented and groggy and look at your phone to see it showing 5.45am - the same time the shuttle is supposed to pick you up: well, let's just say I'm thankful I didn't decide to "finish packing in the morning" at 3.30am. Everyone in the shuttle says 'congratulations, you made it!' and it's a bit much when you've (literally) woken up 10 minutes before. As fate would have it, my flight ended up being delayed by a couple of hours so the airline gave us vouchers for breakfast and happily, Dunedin airport recently (finally) joined the 21st century and got itself a bit of free wifi, so this long overdue blog post might actually make it to the blog!

December has been a social month - I think it always is. Everyone wants to catch up before the end of the year - and while it can make you a little weary, it's also really lovely to catch up with everyone, all happy with summer holiday anticipation. December has seen some epic Maitland dinners, celebrations involving decorated cakes "for no reason in particular", farewelling H's seven years living in Dunedin with a pretty epic return to late night dancing of more youthful days, countless beers at Albar or at the beach, ciders in the Maitland courtyard to make the most of the long evenings...

We ended this December social season with a "festive cheers" last night. L, J and I teamed up again to create a pretty colourful array; complemented by broken heart gin and empire tonic - with a slice of cucumber and a wedge of lime, we decided this is the classiest g & t - and all NZ-made ingredients! Despite J and my best efforts to be organised, we neglected to get the sourdough underway in time for it to rise, and so in lieu of a loaf of sourdough, we made flat bread instead. S called it pain perdu which traditionally refers to French toast made from the forgotten end of a baguette; but seems appropriate in this situation also.

But it isn't the festive season without something delicious and rich, involving dried fruit and nuts. I remember spending this time of year travelling around India a couple of years ago, eating dal and chappati, Christmas spent in the desert with three camels and our guide for company. Just before the end of the year, in a different city, we came across a German cake shop. Devouring plate after plate of dark, alcoholic plum cake (it is amazing how much you can eat when you've been living off curried vegetables) - then it truly felt like Christmas.

This year we made panforte, and raspberry and ginger beer cake for our 'festive cheers'. The panforte was a last minute decision when we were trying to think of something sweet, gluten free, and delicious. Panforte is an ideal cake to make gluten free because it isn't meant to rise very much anyway.


1 cup almonds
1 cup hazelnuts
150 g flour - to make this gluten free, we used 75 g brown rice flour and 75 g buckwheat flour plus 1 tsp guar gum. 
100 g dried cranberries
50 g dried figs
50 g dried apple
50 g dried apricots
50 g dates
3/4 cup liquid honey
200 g dark chocolate
1/2 cup brown sugar

Roast the almonds and hazelnuts in a 200ºC oven. They will take 10-15 minutes. When they're done, vaguely bash them up or 'gently' blitz them in a food processor. I like them to be very roughly chopped, not too small.

Chop all the dried fruit. This is a somewhat arduous task but, bear with me, it's completely worth it. The fruit you use is also interchangeable - our recipe called for mixed peel but we decided to use apple instead. Raisins would be a good addition, as would prunes.. You can't go wrong with all these delicious ingredients. J also suggested a small amount of chilli which I think would be completely amazing but have not tried first hand.

Mix the nuts, flour, and fruit together in a large bowl. Melt the chocolate, honey and sugar over a gentle heat - you don't want the chocolate to seize up. When all the chocolate is melted, pour over the fruit and stir. Don't wait around too much, the warmer the chocolate/honey mix is, the easier it is to stir. Your arm might feel like it will fall off but it should come together in a really thick, sticky dough consistency. If not, add a very small amount of hot water.

Press into a round cake tin. The recipe called for one that had a 30cm diameter, but we used a 20cm one and it was thicker than usual but wonderful just the same. Bake at 180ºC for 40 - 60 minutes. It should be firm to press the top, and darker around the edges. Remove from tin and if you lined the tin with baking paper, remove as soon as possible - if it cools in the paper you will never get it off prettily. Try (but not too hard) to not eat all of it at once, although it's pretty amazing to eat warm. It's dairy free, gluten free (if you choose), and vegan (apart from the honey) so it's able to be enjoyed by people of all different dietary persuasions, and it's also quite good for you. Personally, I am taking panforte next time I go on a climbing/tramping weekend.

And now it's three days later since I sat in the airport and wrote the above in a sleep deprived state. It's good to be home, very very good as it always is to spend time at Mum and Dad's, spend time with my siblings, missing the other brother S who won't make it home this year (hi, love you!), spend time with Wellington-based friends, and being thankful for all the good surrounding us all. Hope you and yours have a merry and bright festive season. Thank you for reading these somewhat sporadic posts, and see you in 2014!


title from simon & garfunkel - homeward bound

November 10, 2013

restlessness is me | part 1 - paris

A few of my favourites from September in Paris:

1. A well-known intersection close to the Sorbonne in central Paris.
2. Central Eaubonne, one of Paris' northern suburbs.
3. Gargoyles from the top of Notre Dame.
4. Parisien school children on their lunch break, wearing high-vis while playing by the Canal Saint-Martin.
5. Travelling upwards by canal, making rainbows.
6. Bassin de la Villette.
7. The amazing roof of a ridiculously expensive department store.
8. "Gepetto et velos" - a shop in Jussieu.
9. A stormy, thundery morning under la tour Eiffel.
10. A boy enjoying the view.
11. Late summer berries - a treat to see redcurrants in September!

I'm sorry for the lack of recipes - later this week I'll be writing about an easy Sunday night dinner involving three of my favourite things - haloumi, mint, and almonds.

linking here

title from ane brun - changing of the seasons (worth a listen)

November 4, 2013

as still as a river can be | coriander pesto

Sometimes, I like to think of months as people. To me, November is a tall, slender male, with long fingers and a pointy nose. When you're least expecting it, he creeps up behind you, and suddenly it's November and that's the second to last month of the year. I've been calling Maitland home for almost two years, I've become used to the warmer weather, the kōwhai bloomed and dropped its leaves all over the street, and then the yellow rotted into gold and blew away down the drains at the bottom of our street. The salt water pool's opened up again, I'm back from travels and back into the real world, with goals and lists of 'things to do before Christmas'.

Despite the somewhat inevitable frantic nature of this time of year, I'm really loving November at the moment. Cycling home from the pool last night, I came around a corner to see another cyclist passing the other way. He gave me a big smile and lifted his head to say 'sup, and then I realised I too had a big silly smile on my face, for no particular reason. I just felt happy - the simple kind of happy that doesn't require a reason.

At Maitland, the garden is also very happy. This time of year I am always amazed by the speed at which things grow out there - all the salad greens say 'hello', and 'eat me!', the coriander grows tall and sometimes sprouts tiny flowers, the carrots have had enough of growing roots and put all their energy into their green tops. Our neighbour has seedlings she's been nurturing in wooden crates outside our front door, and seemingly overnight they've turned into bright green lettuces.

We had so much coriander we didn't know what to do with it all. I remember this time last year (although a bit later) I nearly wore out our blender making spice paste out of the coriander roots. This time we've had two big harvests already, with more just sprouting out of the ground, and we've been mass producing pesto.

Pesto is one of those delicious but luxurious food items. Also on the list would be avocados, organic balsamic vinegar (quite expensive), hummus unless you make it yourself, good cheese.. Can you tell I'm hungry writing this? We rarely, if ever, purchase pesto at Maitland, as the stuff you can buy can be so expensive. However, one of our local pasta making places sell their pasta, and also pesto, at the Farmer's market. They have several different types, one being coriander pesto. It's a bit different, fresh but a little spicy. So when we had lots of coriander, pesto inspired by the pasta d'oro one was the first thing that came to mind. And the great thing about making your own pesto is it's much cheaper, especially if your garden produces the greens, and so you can stop feeling guilty about piling it on bread or crackers, or making a pasta sauce by just warming up some pesto ..

coriander pesto

2-3 cups coriander leaves and stems, chopped roughly
1 cup nuts and seeds - we use a mixture of almonds and sunflower seeds
2 garlic cloves
juice of one lemon
a good pinch of salt
300-400mL olive oil
optional - 1 tsp cumin seeds

This is really a very simple recipe. Roast the nuts and seeds in a hot oven, 200ºC, for about 10-15 minutes. You might hear a couple crackle or pop, that's when they're ready. They shouldn't look browned. We usually use almonds and sunflower seeds, but you could use cashew nuts, or macadamia nuts if you're feeling fancy and are blessed with a suitable nut cracker. I usually use 3 times as many sunflower seeds as almonds, because they're cheaper and they're also pretty delicious.

Roast the garlic cloves too - I usually do this separately because they only need five minutes. They just need to be soft. Blitz the nuts and seeds first. If you happen to put the lid on your food processor the wrong way, some very hot water run over it, and 20 minutes of frustration, will help to remove it! Add the coriander leaves a small amount at a time, alternating with the oil. Add the lemon juice and salt to taste. If you want to use cumin seeds for a slightly different flavour, add them at the beginning. Keep adding oil until your pesto is the consistency you want it. If it's too sticky, you need more coriander leaves. I found that I used more salt and more oil than I was expecting to.

Et voilà! Pesto for crackers, on toast, over pasta, in just about anything you make in a frypan... Enjoy! You can freeze it in plastic containers, or store it more short term in the fridge, in glass.

We've been busy around these parts - although it's the time of year where everyone's busy in their own way. Maitland's lounge has hosted a range of visitors, all of them lovely. H baked often, and filled our freezer with soups we're still enjoying, and D & L made the most delicious tarte tatin, and I learned the word for nasturtium en français, which is the lovely sounding word capucine, in case you were wondering. 

Speaking of Europe, there are still travelling stories to tell, and many photos to sort through and perhaps share. I think they'll come, eventually...! I had to end this blogging hiatus with a recipe and real life - travelling seems like a different time now. I found a recipe over the weekend for borscht, I think I feel cooking inspiration returning, just like the garden's growing. 


title from bill callahan - rococo zephyr. I think I'm addicted to Bill Callahan's voice at the moment. 

September 15, 2013

a song for someone who needs somewhere to long for

It was going to happen sooner or later - all the moving around, all the seeing new things, the wanting to have only the best time - it always catches you in the end. For me, it came after a slightly weird unpleasant experience trying to find my train to Vienna, and the subsequent night of broken sleep on an overbooked sleeper train: there were people everywhere and at 4am in the morning, when we were woken by what felt like the fifteenth passenger having an argument with the conductor about how unfair it was there were no seats, I thought by comparison Indian overnight trains seemed rather pleasant.

Since I last wrote, I've spent time in Rome and Vienna, and tomorrow I head to Croatia for just over a week of basking on the beach with a dear friend I haven't seen for a few years. I've had fun travelling by myself, but it's a different kind of fun, one where you're more often checking where your stuff is, checking what time your train is, watching all of your bags, keeping a tight hold on your camera (mine would've been stolen today if I hadn't had such a tight grip on it). Over the past week, I've spent time in three different countries that speak three different languages.. I can handle a (small) bit of French, but German and Italian are pretty impossible. Today, I spent time wandering around and realised I hadn't eaten lunch at 6pm - it's just that when you're so unfamiliar with a language, and by yourself, it becomes much more of an ordeal to purchase something.

I hope this post doesn't seem too negative - although I am missing my people a bit and missing cooking (I had a dream about cooking Hugh's roast parsnip salad the other night..) I'm also enjoying the time to reflect and think, time to sit in strange street cafés and write, wandering around streets and finding myself in an interesting modern art museum here in Vienna - mumok. I am lucky, I just keep reminding myself.

The next time I write here it'll be in retrospect, I think. I am purposefully stepping away from the computer until I'm back in New Zealand - I need a holiday from the internet. Hope you are all well and happy, and to Anna: see you soon!!


title from kings of convenience - homesick
photo from rome - the only place where you can say 'so there's the colosseum down the end of that street'.

September 13, 2013

make a new cult every day to suit your affairs | lausanne, switzerland

It feels like a long time since I last wrote from Paris - so much has happened since then. I attended my first ever international conference, held in Lausanne, Switzerland. It's a small city about 40 minutes by train from Genève. It has a fantastic public transport system, so it's very easy to get around, and many central city pedestrian zones - inspiring for Dunedin! 

The conference itself was both fantastic and intense - I am still processing all that I learnt two days later! We had very long days of interesting presentations, lots of strong coffee, many discussions about science with potential future collaborators and other like-minded individuals. I met the two other people in the world working on similar things to me, one of whom we may end up collaborating with for future publications. She is based in Spain and the Netherlands, so there may be options over there for future work - we'll see... I am feeling a renewed inspiration for research upon returning to New Zealand, and it was rewarding to meet, and talk to many other people like me: struggling PhD students. I feel extremely lucky to have had this opportunity. 

As part of the conference, we had a formal dinner, which was a cruise on Lac Léman (also called Lake Geneva, but not by those who live in Lausanne!) It was a still evening, and very beautiful to watch the sun set from a boat on the lake. 

Currently, I'm in Rome, and tonight I am catching the train to Vienna for the weekend. I'll write more about Rome next time - it's a crazy place. Never before have I been so often complimented on the colour of my eyes! I am hoping Vienna will be a little quieter... As of today, I'm travelling by myself for a few days. It takes some getting used to, but it's rather pleasant (and indulgent) to be able to follow any particular whim I may have. I am enjoying having lots of time to reflect. 


title from belle & sebastian - the stars of track and field. 

September 5, 2013

fin de l'été à Paris | late summer in Paris

Many times, wandering with Mum around parts of Paris, I find myself thinking "I could live here." I really could - as much as Paris is busy and unexpectedly dirty if you have romantic visions of the place - it's also so beautiful. There are many things to look at, many baguette to eat, many hours to spend wandering, looking at whose planter boxes are the most colourful. It's been wonderful, spending time here with my Mum, spending time staying in the suburbs with our lovely family friends, hearing French spoken around me. 

The last time I was in France, I was much younger. Despite that, I remember many things - the strange escalators at Charles de Gaulle, taking the Metro, the crazy fountains at the Pompidou Centre. I am also finding bits and pieces of French coming back to me, albeit slowly. I think that I'll try and keep learning (somehow) when I am back in Dunedin. Many people here have good English, which makes me feel embarrassed that my French is so bad! 

It's warm here, very warm. It feels somewhat strange to be plunged into summery temperatures without the build-up of spring, but I am revelling in it nonetheless. In amongst all the feelings I have, there's still a part of me that misses home: Dunedin. I am obsessed with pedestrianised streets over here, and learning how the velo-hire and electric car hire systems work - I can have big dreams for Dunedin right? 

I hope you are all well, wherever you are in the world. 

August 27, 2013

dark green enough to be blue | welcoming spring

When you start to get emails from strangers asking if everything is all right with you - it's a good indication that perhaps it would be a good time to write another update. The truth of the matter is, I haven't been cooking all that much recently, and when I have, it's either been simple things (nobody needs to be told how to boil an egg), or things I've already written about here, or I haven't had my camera around or the inclination to take pictures.

And if you're expecting recipes, don't hold your breath - I am currently ticking off lists and packing up my pack to head over to Europe for the next month. I leave in just a few days, and as there always is right before a trip, there's so much to do. I keep reminding myself that it's a privilege to be in the position I'm in, and that helps in those moments when certain computer programs suddenly decide to crash, or you spend 45 minutes figuring out how to add a greek letter into a scientific poster using said program. It's certainly satisfying when you finally figure it out!

I've also managed to acquire a new bike to replace the one that was stolen. I guess karma has a way of working these things because although I loved my previous bike for different reasons, the new addition is a sexy old school road bike, much like a bike I used to ride at home that really belonged to my mum, and which she rode through parts of Europe many years ago. So I'm taking pleasure in zipping around town and down the hill to work and out to the beach whenever I like again - bikes are really quite wonderful.

I'll probably update here a bit while I'm away, for the benefit of my family back here who might be interested in what I'm up to and where I am. Maybe you'll be interested too - but if not I'll hopefully be back with renewed inspiration for spring recipes at the beginning of October. Thank you for the kind emails to those who sent them - hope everything is well in your lives too.

PS. A few songs on high rotation here lately below..

July 20, 2013

but I still say we're too old for clichés | chocolate guinness cake

It's always difficult to get back to blogging after an unexpected hiatus. It seems like my 'voice' fades away amidst the other things that can fill up a life, and I come back here and realise it's been a whole month since I've shared a recipe here.

Cake is one of those excellent things in life that are always unfailingly good. Many of my favourite memories centre around cake - of course, birthday cakes, and my grandma's famous pumpkin cake, my Dad's favourite - pink lady cake, the time me and my brother flooded the bathroom and we ate his birthday cake surrounded by shampoo bottles and wet cabinetry, apology cakes and numerous other cakes made at the infamous Flat F ..

This weekend has been an unexpectedly eventful one. I awoke to discover that my trusty bike had been stolen, but my luck turned when I just happened to meet a guy going to a sold out gig with an extra ticket, so I got to see the phoenix foundation. And such is the nature of Dunedin, I ended up in the front row dancing between two friends anyway.

So, whatever the reason: a "sorry your bike was stolen cake", an apology cake, a celebratory cake, this recipe fits the bill. It's a classy cake - not too sweet, and an interesting bitter chocolate flavour. An added bonus - your house will smell amazing as its baking. It's originally a Nigella recipe, so of course it's a classy cake. She's a classy lady.

chocolate guinness cake

250g butter
250mL dark beer - guinness if you like, or an interesting stout. The darker the better!
75g cocoa (preferably fair trade)
200g dark muscovado sugar
150g demerara sugar (or just white sugar if that's what you've got)
2 eggs
1 cup plain, unsweetened yoghurt or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I always forget this, and it's still delicious).
275g plain flour
2.5 teaspoons baking soda

250g cream cheese

1-2 cups icing sugar
lemon juice

Melt the butter and the beer in a saucepan on a gentle heat. Add the cocoa and both sugars - you could use 350g of plain white sugar but I like the taste of a really dark muscovado sugar better. Whisk the eggs with the sour cream/yoghurt and vanilla extract. If the butter is not too hot, mix in the eggs/yoghurt. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and baking soda. Make a well in the middle and gently mix the liquid a little at a time. Don't be tempted to save on dishes and add the flour to the saucepan. You will end up with lumps that are impossible to remove - I speak from experience.

Bake at 180ºC (350ºF) for between 40 minutes - 1 hour. The top will look a bit shiny but when it's done, you'll be able to prick the cake with a skewer and remove it clean. Let it cool before icing.

The icing is really just mixing the three ingredients together until you have a good consistency. The sweetness is the perfect match to the cake - but equally it's a delicious cake uniced. This cake freezes well, should you ever need to freeze it. I've taken it to potlucks before and I'm yet to find someone who dislikes it. 


title from wilco - open mind

June 24, 2013

but without songs we're lost | beetroot and balsamic tart

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Where did June go? It seems like those weeks before the solstice dragged, and just when I thought the middle of winter was never going to come, it disappeared into days with familiar routines and rhythms. There's not much to report - it's been cold, days have passed, and cooking at Maitland has been feeling a little uninspired - at least, from my perspective it has. We've been eating lots of soup: spiced carrot, jerusalem artichoke, french onion, potato, leek and kale..

Sometimes at this time of year, I find myself getting a bit sick of soups. Most of the time, though, I'm a soup fan - I spent a good amount of time in a previous flat making soup for flat dinners despite 3/6 of my flatmates not believing soup to be a 'proper meal'. Speaking of 'proper meals', I recently invited a friend over for dinner with this text: "I'm making porridge for dinner, do you want some?". He arrived at Maitland about 45 minutes later and the first thing he said was "Are you actually making porridge?" I  was.

Beetroot is one of those polarising vegetables - people seem to either love it or hate it. Growing up, we didn't eat much beetroot and so it wasn't until a friend cooked beetroot soup for me one night - made simply with beetroot, red wine and onions, and eaten with feta cheese, I realised how much I'd underrated it as a vegetable. Beetroot is now an autumn and winter staple in our kitchen. We make soup with it, roast it, or use it in risottos. There's something about the purple colour that I find myself craving. I've also made roast beetroot hummus (delicious), and beetroot bread (a hot pink mess) and I'm yet to try making beetroot brownies (a Hugh recipe, of course) ... but one day soon!

However, one of the nicest ways to enjoy beetroot is to make a simple tart - this would be the perfect dish to take to a fancy pot luck, or if you want to have a slightly more special dinner with minimal extra effort. It's also based on a Hugh recipe - the man is a genius, after all.

beetroot & balsamic tart

beetroot - either 3 large ones or a bunch of baby ones
3-5 cloves of garlic
about 20g butter
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
pastry - you can either make this yourself (not as hard as it seems), or if you're pushed for time, use pre-made puff pastry. We've made this both ways - either way tastes delicious. 
2 shallots
a few parsley leaves
lemon juice
olive oil
1 tsp mustard - preferably the seedy kind.

Halve the beetroot, or cut into small-ish pieces if you're using big beetroot. Heat the butter in a pan, and add the beetroot. Let the pan get quite hot before you add the balsamic vinegar. Cook on a medium heat for about 30 minutes, covered. It will smell delicious. When it's ready, the beetroot will be softer and shiny, and there will be a small amount of dark purple, syrupy liquid.

While the beetroot is cooking, roll out your pastry until it's the size of the oven proof container you'll cook this in. You want to have enough beetroot and pastry to cover the bottom of this container in a single layer of beetroot - not too crowded, but not too spread out.

When the beetroot is ready, place them cut side up (if you've halved baby beetroot) in the dish. Pour the syrup over them too. Lay the pastry over the beetroot - tuck this in at the sides. Bake for about 20 minutes at 200ºC, until the pastry is golden and puffy.

While the tart is cooking, make the dressing. It's not strictly necessary, but if you've got the ingredients you won't regret making it. Chop up the shallots and parsley leaves, and mix these with the lemon juice, olive oil and mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, invert the tart onto a plate (be careful doing this, I nearly dropped a whole one onto the floor once!). Pour over any remaining beetroot juice, and serve with the dressing and some feta cheese if you like.

This would make a good lunch by itself - we've eaten this with salads from the garden, left over risotto, and on one memorable occasion, multiple other tarts including one with tomato, goats cheese, and thyme - back when tomatoes were in season.

Stay tuned - our fridge is currently stocked with several bottles of unpasteurised milk (Hi, Dad!), soon to be made into haloumi.. so next time you might hear some cheesemaking stories..

  title from irresponsible tune - the dirty projectors

May 30, 2013

let's not try to figure out everything at once | baked polenta with tomato

There are many things in life you can't control. Sometimes I find it best to deal with these things by distracting myself - with work and cooking and people and food. This works for a while, and then there's a week where everything catches up with you.... I had that week last week. But even though there were many moments when I questioned my sanity or purpose - it all worked out in the end.

Now I'm feeling a little burned out, but looking forward to less chaotic June filled with winter dinners and lab work. As it would happen, the other morning we woke up to silence - true silence.. and a blanket of snow covering our hill and city. It's an unusual enough occurrence to spell a snow day for us - so we made porridge this morning and ate that in our pyjamas, before venturing the long way into town to look at the snow.

After a few slips and slides down the hill, I purchased a few more onions and made french onion soup to warm us up - I used red wine this time, as it was all we had, and it made a hearty, salty broth. It warmed us up - especially needed as that day the temperature didn't get over four degrees!

This time of year can be hard - it's dark when you have to get up, dark when you come home from work, difficult to get out of bed in the mornings, and there's still another month of the days getting shorter to get through before the solstice. Also, it can be cold - the kind of cold that settles in your bones and stays there all day; the kind of cold that requires thermals underneath your pyjamas and at least two hot water bottles ... the kind of cold that requires a hot, warm, easy to eat dinner.

This dish is perfect for those times where you feel a bit unnecessarily irritable, or flighty, or unsettled. When all of a sudden there's a wind through the house, slamming doors and making maracas out of the leaves. When there's so much to do you don't really want to spend time cooking but you don't have the money or inclination to go out. When it has been cold for a while and, despite loving soup, you're a bit tired of it. You can make it any time of year, it's gluten free, and you could easily make it to be dairy free too. It's hearty, filling, and simple to make.

baked polenta with tomato

You won't believe how little this recipe requires in terms of effort. It's inspired by this recipe with just a few changes.

2 cups coarse polenta/cornmeal
1.5 L water
1 tsp salt
50g butter
1 tsp chili flakes
1/2 cup grated, or about 50g cheese - any kind, the stronger the better! 

2 onions
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin
1 can tomatoes (or fresh, if you've got them)
1 tsp chili flakes

bay leaf
optional - other grilled vegetables like aubergine, olives, mushrooms, courgette.. 

Pour the polenta into a large, oven-proof dish, large enough to contain 1.5 litres of water. Add the salt, and water, and stir until the water goes a bit cloudy. Bake at 180ºC for 45 minutes.

While the polenta is cooking, make the sauce. Lightly cook the onions, add the tomatoes and chopped garlic and spices, and let reduce for a while. If you have some red wine handy, you could add this in for a heartier flavour. Keep warm until the polenta is ready.

After 45 minutes, take the polenta out of the oven and stir through the butter, cheese and chilli flakes, and cracked pepper if you like. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes. It will be done when the top is dry, and the polenta doesn't wiggle too much. The polenta will hopefully be the consistency of a thick porridge, creamy and delicious.

To serve, spoon the sauce over the polenta. Eat with grilled vegetables if you like, and you can add extra cheese to the top if you so desire as well. Enjoy!


I've been finding myself thinking lots of India recently - perhaps because I am in the process of finalising a different trip overseas - this one is a lot more unexpected and I am feeling very lucky to have the privilege of travel.

When I think of India at the moment, I think of sounds - a camel braying at a camel farm just outside of Bikaner. The hauntingly beautiful Muslim prayers broadcast into the desert air five times a day - the first thing I'd hear in the morning and the last thing I'd hear at night. The soft whumpf-whumpf of the pigeons that nested under the windows in the guest house we stayed at in Pushkar. The deep and sustained snoring of one of the most obnoxious men I've ever had the (questionable) privilege of sharing a sleeper car with. The chai-wallah's particularly unique way of offering their wares. The cracking sound of a stick on a dog's back. Horns, of all different timbres, usually all at once. The loveliest Japanese man playing ravanahatha so beautifully on the first morning of the New Year... so many sounds I'll always remember.


title from the national - fake empire