The lantern fairy lights from Thailand are up, and there's fresh pink gerberas in my vodka-bottle turned vase. The fridge is overflowing with fresh green vegetables and M.Ward is on the stereo. My bedroom is in a state of chaos (I've never been very good at unpacking. Or laundry, for that matter) but I'm back in the kitchen and I love it. I was like an over-excited little kid at the vege market this morning, and it's been a delightfully lazy Sunday back in town.
Yesterday I declared the First Day of the Rest of My Life (also close in name to a gorgeous french film). Back in town, wind in hair, food in belly, I was high on life . (To be fair, I may have been still drunk from a big Friday night catching up with friends, and yet another kebab in bed at 4am, but I digress). I went out to Maranui for the exceptional Victory Breakfast (toast, poached eggs, roast mushrooms, wilted spinach, avocado, pesto and roast potatoes), and indulged in a banana milkshake, a flat white and a freshly squeezed orange juice.
We gossiped and ate in the sunshine, and I animatedly told the girls about all the cute foreigners I met in Asia (details to follow in blog posts of the near future). If my breakfast wasn't so good I would have been jealous of Pippa's baked beans and bacon. The weather worsened, but we continued our yarns inside, then took photos on the beach before heading up to the Brooklyn wind turbine, jumping around being silly, hair flying around wildly. Once home I spent two and a half hours on the phone to the now Auckland-residing Olivia. It was awesome.
I'm excited, I'm inspired and I'm deliriously happy. This is due to a number of factors (again, I could be still drunk from catching up with other friends on Saturday night), but one reason is the fact I made aioli the other night, and it was so easy and so delicious! Edward and Edward and I enjoyed it with home made potato wedges and pretty much the best chicken salad ever.
My trick to perfect roast potatoes is three-fold.
1. Preheat the oil.
2. Fluff them!
3. Bring to the boil before roasting.
Here's the method:
*Heat some olive oil in your oven tray, in a 200*C oven.
*Chop potatoes (into chips, or halves, or however you fancy) and put in a pot with cold water. Add a little salt.
*Bring to the boil. Remove from the element once boiling, and drain out the water. Keep the potatoes in the pot and put back onto the element for a few seconds, then shake the pot, with the lid on. This is something Jamie Oliver calls "fluffing". It dries them out, and helps with achieving the crispy-outer-soft-inner required of a perfectly roasted potato. You only need to shake the pot a couple of times, then pour the potatoes carefully into the oven tray of hot oil. Season well with salt and freshly cracked pepper.
*Roast. Depending on how you cut them, and how many you have will alter the cooking time. I'd say check and shake and flip after about 20 minutes. Usually 30-40mins is enough, but I like mine crispy, so see how you go.
A twist on my deal of baking for gifts, for Christmas I received a jar of secret spice mix, from my day-job boss's husband, who writes the NZ beer blog. Apparently it's so secret he doesn't even know what's in it, but I know it includes smoked paprika, chilli, bay leaves and mixed herbs. I was told it was good with fish and chicken, so I marinated some chunks of free range chicken breasts with the mix and some olive oil. I also fried off some strips of bacon, because as we all know, chicken and bacon belong together. I roasted some small broccoli florets with a little paprika, salt and olive oil. I then assembled as follows.
Summer Chicken Salad, with homemade Aioli
In a large (preferably stainless steel) bowl, place one egg yolk and a teaspoon of dijon mustard. Whisk well. Add 2 crushed garlic cloves (I used the end of a rolling pin to crush it, and damn it was satisfying) and a pinch of salt. Continue to whisk, and add the juice of one fresh lime. Slowly add about 250mls of olive oil, little by little. We did a taste test half way through, and decided whilst the consistency was excellent, it needed more lime and more mustard. So taste accordingly, and continue adding oil and whisking hard until you've got the right mix.
*Take one big, fresh cos lettuce. Cut into strips of about 2cm. Place in a big bowl.
*Add some chunks of ripe avocado, chopped tomato, the roasted broccoli, the chicken and bacon. Add a little aioli, and mix together. Serve in big bowls, with a little more aioli on top. And some on the side for the wedges.
I was pleasantly surprised that such a great meal was borne out of jet-lag and a few brandys "to help me sleep". The dog days are over, the jet-lag has disappeared. High on life and happy, I have lots to look forward too and the kitchen inspiration is running high. Stay tuned!