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January 28, 2013

in a boat we'll sail away | weeknight stirfry

Do you ever have too much to blog about, so you blog about nothing? This space has been quiet recently - but that's not for the lack of cooking or baking or preserving, but because every time I sit down to blog I lose myself in the countless pictures of recipes I have, some now embarrassingly out of season.

Despite holidays only being a short two weeks ago, they feel so distant that I look through pictures I took while I was away, reminding myself of the sunsets and skies I saw. The picture above is the view from the Waihi beach kitchen one night. It's best to cook simple food when you're getting back into the everyday routine - on high rotation at Maitland recently have been simple stirfrys and salads - quick to cook, easy to eat, and good for lunch the next day too. Think of this not as a recipe but more as a gentle guide, a suggestion .. 

You might remember last year we had a huge harvest of coriander, and with some of that harvest I made kratiem prik thai - a simple spice paste with red chilli, garlic, ginger, black pepper and lemon juice. These were frozen in small tablespoonful amounts. I used this for a thai-inspired stirfry the other week - but in the place of the spice paste you could use some or all of the individual ingredients. You can't go wrong with garlic, ginger and red chilli!

weeknight stirfry

green capsicum
broad beans (about 2 cups)
cavolo nero/kale/spinach
rice noodles/udon/pasta/couscous/quinoa
frozen spice paste OR 2 cloves garlic, chopped ginger, red chilli and tamari
olive oil
coconut oil (or another high heat oil like peanut)
juice of 1 lemon
sea salt
black pepper
optional: avocado; 1 egg

Chop the kale, shell the broad beans, cut the capsicum into thick pieces. Heat the coconut oil in a heavy pan, add the spice paste or spice ingredients. When it's sizzling, add the beans and the capsicum. Sauté briefly. Set aside (or turn the heat very low to just keep them warm).

Cook the noodles - we have been using lots of rice noodles recently as they are very easy to cook - simply boil in water for 2-5 minutes until completely soft. You could substitute any noodle or pasta or rice carbohydrate in here - just use whatever you have.

If you're using kale, it's quite nice to massage it with olive oil and salt until it goes dark green and shiny - I didn't cook this but alternatively you could pop it in the pan with the capsicum/beans. If you're using spinach I'd just put that in raw. Assemble all the ingredients either in a bowl or directly on the plate (this is a weeknight meal after all, why not save on the dishes?)

Mix some olive oil with the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Drizzle this over. The first night we made this we ate it with the Waihi beach avocado, ripened at Maitland. The next night, I whisked an egg with a fork and quickly fried it in a hot pan to make an omelette to chop on top. An easy way to reinvent a meal so you don't feel like you're eating exactly the same thing.

The picture below shows a different version of the same kind of dinner - with couscous, asparagus, miner's lettuce, flat leaf parsley, mushrooms and walnuts. We ate this in late spring, when the first asparagus made it into the shops. Simple dinners with whatever you have to hand in the garden or in the pantry. For those in the northern hemisphere, a nice winter version would be with roast beetroot, pumpkin and garlic, perhaps with some sunflower seeds and maybe some feta. 

The past two weeks have been full - in many ways. Many ways that are good. One of the highlights was my first piece of writing published in a newspaper, about an issue I feel passionate about. It's amazing, the doors that can open up if you look out for them. 

I feel as though I am always promising more here - but truly, I do have so many recipes up my sleeves, ready to show you. Broad bean dip, an invention of J's, that tastes like guacamole, a soup made with lentils and lemon, dal makhani . . and a January playlist to share, too. See you soon! 


day 8/365
today I'm grateful for Monday after work swims in the ocean, South island sea salt through my hair. It's been hot here, with the hot weather expected to last. Our department at work does not have air conditioning, and today all the doors, fire exits and windows were opened to the sun. Still, the best remedy for the departmental humidity is the cold room - at 4ºC it's truly a walk in fridge. Awful in winter, excellent in summer..


title from elle graham - wild things & lost boys

January 22, 2013

out of feathers, out of bones | redcurrant tea cake

How could I resist these beauties at the farmers market this weekend? Redcurrants are not too commonly seen these days - something to do with being difficult to pick and not as popular to eat as other berries. At least, that's what the grower told me when I purchased them. They are quite delicious although I can see why they are not so popular - they are not very sweet and contain quite a few seeds. But gosh, they're gorgeous. 

I made a simple tea cake with these, taking a recipe for a plain cake and altering it a little, reducing the sugar and butter. 

redcurrant & lemon tea cake

120g butter
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar - I used rapadura but any sugar would be good. This recipe is one where it is worth using an unrefined sugar for a more complex flavour if you have it, but if you don't the outcome will still be delicious!
200g redcurrants, picked from the stems. I tried to choose less squishy ones. This is quite time consuming as they usually come in bunches, but it's worth it. If you don't have redcurrants, any other summer berry would do - but especially blueberries or blackcurrants. 
2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
150 mL milk (about 2/3 cup)

juice of two lemons
demerara sugar (or just plain crystally sugar) for sprinkling

Preheat your oven to 170ºC/350ºF. Gently soften the butter (I usually do this in the oven as it's heating up but you must keep a close eye on it!). Add the sugar and beat with a wooden spoon or electric beater until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each one. Sprinkle some of the flour over the redcurrants and shake so that the redcurrants get coated in a fine layer of flour. This is supposed to help prevent them from sinking to the bottom during cooking. Add the rest of the flour and milk, alternating between each, to the butter/sugar/egg mixture. It will be a wet mixture but not runny - adjust the amounts accordingly. Lastly, add the redcurrants and gently fold them through, trying not to squish them too much. 

Put mixture in either a lined, greased ring tin or two small loaf tins. I made two small ones as they are more easily given away like that! Bake for 30 minutes for the two small tins, or 40 minutes for a ring tin. Depending on your oven it may take a bit more/less time. If they look like they are getting brown on top but still appear liquidy, your oven is too hot. They will crack a little on top and a skewer pushed into them will be clean when they are ready.

As soon as they come out of the oven, pour the lemon juice over them. It might seem like a lot of liquid but this will prevent the cakes from drying out too much. Sprinkle the sugar over the top too. Eat warm, if you can, but it keeps reasonably well too. I guarantee it won't last long though! 

If you like, you could add a small amount of icing sugar to the lemon juice and drizzle this over the top instead of sprinkling sugar - I think both ways would be delicious! 

I still had enough redcurrants left over for a redcurrant and raspberry jam which is currently halfway through production.. stay tuned! 


I know that I said it'd be broad bean recipes next time and instead, we have redcurrants .. but J made a delicious broad bean dip over the weekend so you might see some of that next time as we still have an abundance in the garden. 


title from of monsters and men - your bones


January 16, 2013

and it feels like rain | eggs and toast

To write here feels like a luxury - and in many ways I guess it is. The transition from holidays to work has been a bit of a shock to the system. My feet are feeling it the worst - swapping jandals for lab-appropriate footwear (no sandals, no ballet It has also been excellent and full. Thinking to myself "are you being effective?" whilst in the lab has upped my productivity immensely. I've got a (self imposed) deadline in six weeks that I'm working towards - and other interesting things going on too. This weekend I am spending Friday night and Saturday (just) out of the city - I have my fingers crossed for good weather, unlike tonight when, walking up the hill, I got caught in an unexpected summer downpour.

If you've arrived here from oscarlucinda, welcome! I'd like to tell you that usually I do try and post recipes - but this week dinners have been some variation of egg, chilli, onion, (new season!) garlic, kale on toast, loosely inspired by kate's baked eggs recipe. Our garden is mass producing broad beans at the moment so expect something broad beans focussed soon ..


title from it feels like rain - aaron neville


photo - waihi beach rainbow before the end of a cyclone came and made the sea surge and winds blow (so strong that, with a huge cracking, large tree in the garden fell over)

January 12, 2013

the waves clap goodbye to sorrow | keeping cool

It has been a hot summer here in the Southern Hemisphere. On Christmas day it was 34ºC where we celebrated, and mid-30's heat has become somewhat usual for me. I know those reading in Australia are suffering through weather a good 10ºC warmer than us here, and those around the other side of the world are most likely cold. 

I returned to Maitland St with sand in my pockets and ears, the salty water curling my hair into ringlets, with a suitcase full of unnecessary clothing and also blueberries, avocados, and some rhubarb from my grandparents garden. I have been spring cleaning the past few days (I know, it's not seasonally accurate to call it spring cleaning) which has meant, mainly, clearing out my wardrobe, many loads of washing, and decluttering. Just before you think I'm completely boring I should probably mention this was punctuated by a evening with two beautiful ladies, H and S, watching some Black Books and Becoming Jane, drinking merlot and limeade. S picked us up and dropped us off in her red refurbished mini - think Mr. Bean's car. Such a treat to ride in! 

For the past six years summer has been a time of change - I have moved every summer to a different abode. This summer I'm not moving anywhere and I'm so grateful to be staying still, putting down roots (literally, in the garden), focussing my energies for the year ahead. 

1. Saying goodbye to the family was made better by this welcome back to Dunedin - in the past I've written about how it often rains upon returning to Dunedin - but this was a very beautiful exception.
2. Hanging washing by the light of the setting sun.
3. A grapefruit from my Grandad's tree was a bit too old to eat, so I squeezed the juice and added it to my ginger beer - delicious.
4. Another gingerbeer addition - the last of the Waihi beach blueberries frozen into iceblocks, inspired by L.


day 7/365
today I'm grateful for holidays with family, with friends, time away from usual daily routines. Oh, it's so refreshing! 


title from come in please - edward sharpe & the magnetic zeros


January 4, 2013

i don't know what is real | summer; unbelievably so

Some summers you can't help but think: I am so lucky. This is one such summer. As I write, I am sipping a ginger beer and looking at clean waves break on the beach beneath the norfolk pine. My family are swimming a bit further down the beach and I am enjoying some solitude. Since I last posted here, so much has happened and I'm looking forward to sharing bits and pieces with you. For now, I'll toast you all a happy new year with my ginger beer and hope that wherever you are, you're enjoying time with your loved ones .. 

1. Waihi Beach, 4.01.2013. This is a significant date and the sky was absolutely beautiful as I walked the beach alone at sunset.
2. Paihia, 01.01.2013, around 5am. Dawn on the first day of 2013: I shared a New Year holiday with an incredible group of people, some I've known for a long time, some I'd just met. We stayed up until the sun drifted up across the hills and went to bed at 7am after spending close to an hour scrubbing silly string off the wooden floor to The National.. special times. 
3. Long Beach, Russell, 31.12.2012. The last day of 2012 was spent in the first capital of New Zealand. We walked up and over the hill to this beautiful beach, where the water was blue and clear.


title from simon & garfunkel - flowers never bend with the rainfall