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February 26, 2013

it undulates on the waves and crushes the water | aubergine pickle

Sometimes, the universe dictates exactly when you will make a new recipe. Ever since reading the lovely Jay's recipe for aubergine pickle, it's been on the to do list in the back of my mind. At the time, it was spring, heading into early summer, and aubergines weren't available in our part of the country. More recently: late summer, early autumn, I remembered the pickle recipe when I saw Taste Nature had aubergine on special. Thanks to the small amount of data I have on my phone, I located the recipe and purchased all the necessary ingredients, planning to make aubergine pickle in the next day or two.

It wasn't meant to be. The aubergine and capsicum sat in the fridge over the weekend. That weekend was a particularly full one, involving a full day in the lab as well as enjoying the sun (and helping make some earth bricks) out in Osbourne. I cycled home from the lab on Saturday to find J wrapping hot dishes in towels for the 20 minute drive out of the city. We arrived at T and L's lovely nearly-completed abode overlooking the inlet just as the sky was beginning to turn pink. We ate dinner as the sun set. To see pictures of the amazing view and also of the house in progress, have a look at T and L's awesome blog and housebuilding diary

Eventually, it got dark enough for the lantern to be switched on and L taught J and I some of her pilates moves to stretch our muscles before the lantern was switched off and all was quiet and dark. I slept under the window on the mezzanine floor and could see the stars outside. I felt overwhelmingly grateful to live in a city in which a short drive from the CBD takes you to a place as beautiful as Purakānui, where the stars are bright and so much more visible than from Maitland, and where the night is so silent, save for the occasional "baaa" of sheep.

As I was drifting off to sleep, I realised that a year ago, I didn't know J or T or L or Maitland St. I was newly back in Aotearoa, 7kg below my normal weight, and with about 20% of my usual energy levels. And while 2012 was a difficult year for me in many ways, I realised then that I do quite enjoy where it led me, because right now, life is pretty wonderful. I'm grateful for our Maitland St home and for being lucky enough to meet inspiring individuals such as T, L and J; who've given me experiences that enabled me to fall back in love with this city I live in, this city that is home. As 2012 drew to a close, I often thought of a wise woman's words: "bloom where you are planted". I'm not sure if I'm "blooming" just yet, but I'm well on the way. I also know that happiness and contentment can change like seasons do, but that's all the more reason to continue to take pleasure in the moments right now. I went to sleep smiling, and slept better than I had in a while.

When we returned to the city and reality on Sunday night, the aubergine and capsicum were redirected into the best gourmet vegetarian burgers, and I put aubergine pickle out of my mind. As it happened, L returned home about a week later with five large gifted aubergine going wrinkly, requiring immediate use. How could I not make aubergine pickle?

aubergine pickle

I modified the recipe both to increase the amount and to compensate for some ingredients I was missing. Jay's version, the original, looks much darker than what I ended up with. If you've only got one aubergine to use, you can scale down this recipe, or use the original. I have modified the spices slightly, added lemon juice, and I didn't add any rapadura/sugar. If you scale this recipe down and plan to eat it straight away, you can just keep the pickle in a jar/container in the fridge - in which case, ignore the instructions for bottling.

3 large aubergine
2 red capsicums
2 onions
3 cloves garlic
2cm ginger root
1 red chili (fresh; optional)
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp dried chili flakes
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp coriander root (chopped)
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup coriander leaves
500mL apple cider vinegar
sea salt and cracked pepper
1 tbsp olive oil (or more)

Cut the prickly tops off the aubergine, and slice in half. Cut the seeds out of the capsicum and cut into thirds. Place on a roasting tray and roast for 20-40 minutes at ~200ºC or until soft. Let cool, then peel off the skin - try and retain as much of the aubergine flesh as possible. 

Whizz the roasted capsicum and aubergine together in batches in a blender so they are roughly combined but not as smooth as a paste. In the meantime, chop the onions finely, heat some olive oil and cook on medium heat until the onions are very soft. Don't be tempted, as I was, to only chop the onions into chunks - large pieces will remain in your pickle at the end. 

Grate the ginger and garlic and add to the onions with the ground spices, coriander seeds and root, and chopped, deseeded fresh chili. Add the aubergine and capsicum flesh, and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring continuously. 

Add the apple cider vinegar and stir through, then simmer on a medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes. While this is cooking, thoroughly wash some glass jars and their lids. At Maitland we re-use any glass jars, but are particularly fond of ones with screw top lids that have a poppable button in the middle. Bake the jars for 20 minutes at a low heat (around 125-150ºC) - ensure you are using good quality glass. If any glass goes cloudy or browny or cracks in the oven, do not use that jar and put it in your recycling.

Add the coriander and mint leaves to the pickle, and some sea salt and pepper to taste. You can adjust the consistency with olive oil, and add more mint or coriander leaves once its cooled. If you're bottling some for long term storage, it is important that the glass jar, the pickle and the lid are all hot when sealed. I keep the pickle on a medium heat, and keep the jars in the oven and take them out one at a time to fill. Right before I do this, I boil the jug and put the lids in a stainless steel bowl and cover them with just boiled water to sterilise them. 

Carefully remove the jar from the oven, trying to avoid touching the top or neck of the bottle. Instead, hold jars from the base with a tea towel or, preferably, an oven mitt. Spoon pickle into hot jar, squashing it down to remove any bubbles. Fill to the neck of the jar. Use a clean fork to fish the lid out of the boiled water and use the tea towel to tightly screw the lid on whilst still hot. Repeat this process until all the pickle is used. 

As the pickle and the jar cools, you'll know that a seal has been formed if and when the lid button pops down. Any jars that don't pop down haven't correctly sealed and you'll need to keep them in the fridge and consume immediately. Sealed jars will keep for ages - the vinegar is a preservative - and sometimes, the flavour is much better after 3 months of standing at room temperature. 

Luckily, I had two large jars and one small jar successfully seal, one jar didn't pop down and the left overs went into half a jar that also didn't seal. The two large jars will rest in the pantry until winter, and the small jar was given to a preserve-making colleage L. One of the jars that didn't pop down has formed the basis of my work lunches for this week, and the half jar is in the process of being consumed at Maitland.

This pickle is delicious. It's good as it is, and I can believe that three months of resting will make it even more incredible. In addition, eating aubergine pickle in June will be extra pleasurable for the luxury that is summer vegetables in winter. Everyone who's tried this pickle so far has enjoyed it, even a couple of workmates who don't eat much aubergine. My favourite way to eat it? On top of a cheese toastie at lunch or with cheese and spring onion on top of a corn cracker, as pictured.


In other news, which is unrelated to aubergine pickle, but may be of interest to food-interested readers, one of my bestest friends, and lovely person Ayla, has just launched her food and wine blog, Taste Flutter, today. She's extremely knowledgeable about food and wine and always feeds me well when I visit her, and she's also hilariously funny when she writes. Have a look!


day 11/365
today I'm grateful for endorphins - getting me up in the morning and into the pool before 7:30am. Those who know how much of a morning person I'm not will understand how big that is for me! Now, it's late in the day and I've just cycled home via the climbing gym. My muscles are tired - I will sleep well tonight!

title from kings of convenience - my ship isn't pretty

February 24, 2013

you have the sun, I have the moon | life and a playlist

Hello there, it's been a while! In between a misplaced camera cord, cut off internet, and a full schedule something's got to give and as it turns out, blogging here has taken a turn on the back burner. That's ok, because I uploaded my pictures and was reminded of all the delicious things we've consumed over the past weeks, things to share.

1. When I'm feeling overwhelmed with work I turn to pictures that include the moon: this was the moon rising on Christmas day, in the Wairarapa.
2. I also turn to the piano when I feel overwhelmed. This was a recent opshop sheet music purchase.
3. The last of the experimental redcurrant and raspberry jelly with raw yoghurt. Delicious. As T said "It's like a fruit corner but you control how much of the best fruit bit you get!"
4. People who know me in real life know I'm not much of a morning person: but this Monday morning found me cycling around St Clair at 6:45am, and in the salt water pool by 7am. I'm planning to repeat this tomorrow.
5. Redcurrant and raspberry jam drops, a recipe sent to me by Mum.

Joining in with Em here.


Before it's too late, a February playlist:

1. love to a monster - okkervil river
2. frou-frou foxes in midsummer fires - cocteau twins
3. i have the moon - the magnetic fields
4. little river - tallest man on earth
5. do you remember - the horrors
6. starry eyes - white birds & lemons
7. road, river and rail - cocteau twins
8. human qualities - explosions in the sky
9. true to myself - ziggy marley
10. in time - zero 7
11. diamond ring - pedro the lion
12. cecilia ann - the pixies
13. waltz in a flat (brahms) - piano: ivor kureschy
14. blue monday - nouvelle vague
15. push the sky away - nick cave & the bad seeds
16. sing me spanish techno - the new pornographers
17. magpie to the morning - neko case
18. half dead - the mountain goats
19. hanging high - lykke li
20. set me free - the kinks
21. regrets a paradise - japanese motors
22. i don't know what i can save you from - kings of convenience


And now, dinner has been consumed and I'm making the lovely jay's eggplant pickle, and some more roast apricot jam. All the jars with screw top lids have been utilised, thanks to another batch of jam, some plum chutney made by L and some kasundi made by J earlier in the week. It's that time of year - the end of summer, where evenings are spent stirring summer flavours together to store in jars for the winter. This past week, I've felt autumn on the way. Slightly cooler temperatures at night and in the morning, slightly shorter evenings. Soon all the leaves will turn red and yellow .. soon, and then it'll be winter.


title from the magnetic fields - i have the moon

February 15, 2013

and we breathe it in | broad bean dip

For three weeks over the Christmas period, nobody tended the Maitland St garden. The beans grew tall in our absence and we came back to a jungle, and a lot of broad beans to eat. Last year, when the lovely neighbours C and E moved out of Maitland St, we inherited their blender which we had previously borrowed often. Suddenly, a whole new range of recipes were possible: spice pastes, hummus, smoothies .. I'm not sure you'll ever see a smoothie recipe on here - does anyone ever measure things for smoothies?

However, for those of you lucky enough to have a blender, or a neighbour willing to loan you one, this broad bean dip is easy and delicious. It's a little spicy but tastes a bit like guacamole. I even brought some in for my workmates who said they didn't like broad beans but would try it anyway. They declared it delicious: "It doesn't even really taste of broad beans!"

broad bean dip

2 cups broad beans
juice of 2 lemons
1 clove garlic
1 small onion
1 tsp cumin
1/2 cup plain, unsweetened yoghurt
chilli flakes
sea salt
olive oil (optional)

If your broad beans are fresh, take them out of their pods. If their husks are leathery/grey, pop them out of those too. Put them in a bowl, and blanch them by pouring boiling water over them and leave for 2 minutes before draining. While the beans are cooking, chop the onion and garlic. Blend everything together. Usually I put the beans in first and add the lemon juice or yoghurt and spices second. If it's too thick, you can add a little olive oil or more lemon juice. I've never needed to because the yoghurt we use is quite liquid. If you use something thicker, like a greek-style yoghurt, you might find the oil is necessary.


Maitland St. is a little cut off at the moment - we're without internet! Equal parts frustrating and liberating .. regular posting will return soon! In the meantime, if you're into bread baking, Amber's having a giveaway over at her blog that's worth checking out.


title from nick cave - we no who u r. Terrible title but it's the beautiful first track of his most recent album "Push the Sky Away". I cannot stop listening to it. You can listen here if you like.

February 10, 2013

if you'll be my bodyguard, i can be your long lost pal | lately


This week .. a bit of a whirlwind! The weather has been beautiful, the work has been plentiful, and the food has been summery and delicious. L has loaned me her excellent mountain bike, and I've been biking out to the salt water pool at the beach every day for the past five days. I don't (slash, can't) drive so a bike means freedom, being able to get a little further a little faster. I had forgotten how much I love swimming: meditative and peaceful.

It does help that the pool is outdoor, and the water is pumped in from the sea each season and only very lightly chlorinated. The saltiness makes it easier to float.. it's so dreamy that the other day I looked at the clock whilst in the pool (sans glasses, so I couldn't see too well) and thought I'd had a good swim as I'd been in for 40 minutes. It wasn't until I got changed and checked my phone that I realised that had actually been an hour and 40 minutes!

1. Rain clouds at sunset and the one tall tree in our back garden.
2. Tarting it up - this is Hugh's tomato, goat's cheese and thyme tart, made by L. We had friends over for dinner on Waitangi day (Wednesday) and made a feast involving two tarts. You'll see more soon!
3. Not taken this week - but topical: the wharenui (meeting house) at the treaty grounds in Waitangi. I visited on one of the last days of 2012.
4. Simple bulghur wheat salad to use up the last of the haloumi and other bits and pieces from the fridge.

Joining in here


title from paul simon - you can call me al (on high rotation at the moment)

February 5, 2013

a little river to the golden ground | dal makhani

It's cold here. I know, I was just talking about the heat. Last week was a heat wave, and now we are plunged back into winter - it's currently 9ºC. I'm wearing woolen socks and slippers, a coat over my legs, two layers of merino, and a silk/wool blend scarf. And I'm only just not cold. Would you believe it, I'm sitting inside. The weather forecast says it'll be warm again soon, possibly even tomorrow. In the meantime, I'm putting the kettle on for hot water bottles. Coincidentally, the cold is the perfect time to share this curry recipe: dal makhani (pronounced mahk-ni)

"My wife makes the best dal makhani," says the Indian man who runs the spice shop on Hanover St. Since visiting India I like going there. Even though the aroma is a very dilute version of Delhi's spice markets, and the pre-weighed and priced bags a far cry from the newspaper parcels - I always think of India. The man thinks it's funny when I try and remember bits and pieces of Hindi. His shop is the only place I know that stocks urad dal - whole black lentils traditionally used in dal makhani. If you can't find them, you could use puy lentils (also called french green lentils), as I did when I made this for my family back in Wellington.

dal makhani

1 cup urad dal/puy lentils/brown lentils
1 cup rajma (red kidney beans)
2 tsp cumin seeds
8 garlic cloves
2 medium onions (red or brown)
thumb-sized piece of ginger root
2 tsp garam masala
2 small red chilli peppers
30g butter
1/2 cup/100mL cream
2 tomatoes (optional)
420g can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tbsp high heat oil (I use coconut, but canola or rice bran could be substituted)
fresh coriander for serving

1. You could use canned kidney beans instead of dried ones. This will reduce the cooking time significantly. You could also use canned lentils but I think it's nicer to use dried ones for their better texture. 
2. Instead of cream, you could use a can of coconut milk. It doesn't taste of coconut!
3. The garam masala can be substituted for 1/2 tsp curry powder, 1/2 tsp ground chilli, 1 tsp ground cumin.
4. The chilli peppers can be substituted for ground red chilli - add this to your desired spice level. 
5. Coconut or sesame oil can be substituted for the butter to make this recipe vegan. 
6. I love rajma so I make this with a half:half dal:rajma ratio. If you like you can decrease the amount of rajma, just increase the dal by the same amount. 

If you're using dried dal and rajma you will need to soak them first. I soak them in separate bowls, with at least 4x as much water. You want them well and truly covered because they will swell up! Soak for 8-12 hours. Usually, I put them onto soak one night ahead, and then when I get home around 6pm, they're ready to be cooked.

Rinse the dal and rajma and boil in fresh water. Add some of the ginger, in large pieces so you can easily remove it and 1 chopped red chilli (no seeds)/a pinch of chilli flakes/1 tsp ground chilli. Simmer for 40 minutes - 1 hour, or until the rajma are soft. If you're using canned rajma, just boil the dal and spices together. They will only take 30 minutes maximum.

Prepare the vegetables: dice the ginger and garlic, chop the onions and tomatoes finely. Heat the butter and oil in a heavy fry pan - using both helps to stop the dal catching on the pan. Add the cumin seeds. When the pan starts to crackle - it will also smell amazing - add the onions and fry until they're browned. Add the tomatoes (canned and/or fresh), garlic, ginger, and spices. Sauté until they meld together into a sauce.

When the dal/rajma are done, drain and keep the water aside. Add the boiled rajma and dal to the tomatoes. Mash the dal with a potato masher/bottom of a ladle. This gives the dal its charateristic thickness.

If your dal is looking bit thick, add a little of the water the dal/rajma were boiled in. It probably won't be clear anymore, but that's ok! Let simmer on a low heat for 10-20 minutes - the longer the better. Add the cream/coconut milk and stir whilst heating for another five minutes.

Serve with some fresh coriander on top and some roti; or if you like, rice. I don't overwhelmingly love rice so I like to serve this by itself with roti, just like the norm in Rajasthan (north-west state of India). To be truly authentic you'd eat this without a spoon, using only your right hand. As we learned, you tear the roti with your right hand and fold it into a sort of scoop, then scoop up some dal and consume. In the beginning, we asked for spoons, but after seeing someone search through dirty dishes, then polish them "clean" on their dirty apron we learned to fit in and eat sans spoon pretty fast. I tried to find a picture of one of the many dal makhani I ate in India - but I barely took any pictures of food.

Instead I'll show you where I purchased spices in Delhi. I'd asked one of the lovely Kashmiri brothers who sold me almost my entire Indian scarf collection if he knew a good place to purchase spices. "Yes," he said, "I'll show you. It's hidden one, they have another place on Pahar Ganj, but it's more expensive. For tourists. But you're my friend, I'll show you. Come," he said, and I followed him in the slightly dubious way that's normal for foreign single women in India. My maharani/travel partner C was elsewhere. He lead me through extremely narrow spaces between buildings, and just when I was beginning to wonder when we were ever going to find this spice place, or if it even existed, we came around the corner to this. 

The woman whose hand you see is mixing masala spice mix - a fiery mixture of red chilli, cumin, garam masala and tumeric. When she realised just how much I intended to purchase, she made me chai and onion pakora. "Sit here," she said, "You sit. You hungry. Good." On my last day in Delhi I was quite seriously sick and largely unaware of the extent of my illness. I felt very faint and cloudy at times, and sweet spicy chai handed to me was just what I needed. 

I sat and observed this view while she served other customers, blended my spices, and hand ground masala chai for me to take back to New Zealand. Somehow she knew I needed a seat, and she gave me hers for a while. Sometimes language is unnecessary.


"winter meals & spring tunes" was only ever meant to be an interim title - and when I started this blog we were eating winter meals and listening to spring tunes. But seasons change and names don't - so I finally got around to designing a proper header, and giving this space a bit of a spruce. What do you think?

day 10/365
grateful (strangely) for the iciness of Southern air and that I beat the urge to turn on the heating with multiple merino layers, a spot of baking, and a hot water bottle for my lap.


title from the tallest man on earth - little river

February 3, 2013

set your intentions, dream with care | summer and a playlist

Oh, what a week it's been. We've been so lucky with the weather, sunny days everyday. That's unheard of around these parts where January is usually a month of cold snaps and frequent rain. "We've really had a summer this year," says Karen from Mazagran as she weighs and grinds beans for me. She's right, we really truly have.

This weekend L and I made hay while the sun shined! Well, not really, but we did help a friend of L's move and stack some bales, which involved an adrenaline-inducing ride over bumpy farm land on a ute piled high with hay bales. I finally got a tour of T and L's beautiful future abode. L and I stood at the Mapoutahi pa site and looked out over the cliffs to the deep green ocean. On the way home, we stopped at Merrell's for raw milk, yoghurt and his homemade mango lassi, not knowing that T did the same on his way home. I think we will be making another batch of haloumi this week..

1. New onions, garlic and fresh ginger - the beginning of a dal.
2. Coagulating milk to make haloumi and ricotta.
3. Homemade haloumi, sourdough toast, tomatoes and mint: pretty delicious lunch.
4. Boysenberries and chocolate ice cream - a sundae in a tea cup.
5. Part of the homemade card printing process
8. An opshop mission yielded a work top, and magazines from the 80's as a gift to a friend M who had an epic 80's party on Saturday night, involving the limbo, dance-offs, multiple leotards and pretty outrageous hair. This was one of the ads from a 1983 woman's weekly. Times change!


day 9/365
today I'm grateful for osbourne and the mapoutahi pa site - beautiful, hidden places that I've just discovered. I'm grateful to live in a city I'm still discovering, seven years after moving here .. 


title from xavier rudd - follow the sun. 
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