Monday, October 29, 2012
I was accused on the weekend of hating men. It was after a drunken rant in a taxi to a friend's PTL about the lack of effective communication I'd encountered from a few of them, as romantic liaisons of my past had fizzed and crumbled (other drunken rants include The impact of technology on the development of relationships and Modern Self Esteem: We are babes and we are awesome).
The opposite is in fact is true. I love men. That's probably my problem. There's one in particular I love at the moment though, and that dear readers, is Nigel Slater. My wonderful friend Olivia gave me his book Tender Volume 2 for my birthday back in August, and I adore it, and him, immensely. He writes about food, and seasons, and cooking, and fresh produce, in ways I only dream of, and I fully intend on making one of his numerous and beautiful cheesecakes from it very soon (friends for dinner asap, hopefully). He writes recipes through the seasons, and with the new strawberry plants I have growing in my new adorable flat for the summer in Kingsland, I have high hopes (but in reality very low expectations) that one day soon I'll be able to use my own-grown produce to cook my way through this gorgeous ode to fruit (Tender volume one is dedicated to vegetables).
Tonight though, being one of those post-weekend-filled-with-drunken-rants Mondays, I had little energy for anything other than throwing together some veges and some salad. I went with a variation on Slater's gorgeous sounding courgetti, although I did my wafer thin ribbons of courgette in a frying pan, with simply salt and pepper, olive oil, lemon zest, dried chilli and some fresh parsley and mint. Add some parmesan and some pasta, a couch and a cute cat, and a gorgeous book, and you have yourself a perfect Monday night dinner indeed.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
I was, about a year ago, converted to Nigella's ricotta hotcakes, but this morning the recipe used was adapted from the buttermilk pancake recipe off the Tararua buttermilk carton. I was nominated as the one who should cook, and one friend (still drunk?) made me briefly pretend I was cooking on TV. The pancakes were big and fluffy, and blueberry filled, and we discovered that slices of banana dipped in a bit of pancake batter and fried, make for a great pre-brunch entree.
600g (1 carton) buttermilk
A sprinkle of sugar (roughly 2 tbsp)
2 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 cups flour
Put everything in a bowl, and mix together with a whisk until you have a smooth batter. Heat a knob of butter in a frying pan on a medium heat, and pour batter in. Sprinkle over some blueberries, and sliced bananas if you're interested. Flip when bubbling slightly. The first one is always a dud! Continue cooking, adding more butter as required (hungover pancake flipping during a long weekend is not the time to count calories) until all the batter is gone.
For a quick and easy blueberry sauce heat some frozen blueberries with a little vanilla and a little sugar. Pour it over the pancakes, after dollopping them with softly whipped cream. We also drizzled over some Equagold tahitian vanilla syrup (a goody bag leftover from the food blogger's conference) and we yarned and laughed and wolfed them down while admiring the view. As one friend described the situation: "heaven."
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
By the time I hit 6th form, I had a bitch of a drama teacher and was just a bit over it all, really. After a year gap-studenting at a performing arts school in England, my goals shifted to wanting to do something really challenging at University. Really push myself, or something. For better or worse, I went to law school, and all I can say is it's just as well I didn't have a blog back then.
Both as a child, and at university, I liked to bake. Whether it was because of the simple list of ingredients, or maybe, subconsciously because of the name, hollywood slice has always been one of my signature baking dishes. It's a very sweet and very simple slice, and I believe that it was these buttery sugary foundations that have got me to where I am today. Cooking on TV, a dayjob as a lawyer, writing about food, and sitting at home, single, housesitting for my parents, surrounded by cats on a weeknight crying into my laptop watching Oscar acceptance speeches on YouTube.
My workmate the other day said if I was looking for a life insurance broker, he knew a good one. I asked him if he thought I was really in the market for life insurance, as someone without dependants, or assets? He said no. "Oh, and you don't have a partner" he added. Whilst the 'woe is me' gag is entertaining (my workmate squirmed and apologised when I pulled a 'thanks for reminding me' face), having no dependants and no assets and no partner is actually awesome.
It gives me the ability to spend an hour and a half on a weeknight watching aforementioned YouTube speeches unashamedly, without any demands on my attention (by kids or boyfriends or books to balance). It gives me the ability to go on dates at the drop of a hat (
It also gives me the shameless ability to console myself from workmates' life-insurance and cute-baby bragging, with $40 afternoon tea lipstick purchases, and virtually no guilt at buying a $17 bag of cocoa. It sounds outlandish. And it is. Growing up, and at uni, I never would have dreamed of it. And I'm sure my expensive baking ingredients days are numbered, which makes them all the sweeter.
For old times sake, and because it dragged me away from Colin, and Dame Julie, and Julia, and Robin, and Ben, and because baking seriously helps whenever I'm a bit mopey or a bit down, I made hollywood slice this week. I used my fancy-pants cocoa, and my fancy-pants vanilla paste, and it was nostalgic but relevant, and sweet and just really great. A blast from the past but full of promise for the future. All wrapped up in a biscuit filled chocolate slice. Who would have thought?
The original, and not-quite-as-glamourous sounding "Unbaked Hollywood Cake" can be found in the Gwen Rogers Kindergarten cookbook; my Mum's copy I would estimate as being from around 1989. It's always just been hollywood slice to us.
1/2 cup sugar (brown or white)
vanilla (the recipe doesn't stipulate, but I would use 1 teaspoon of the best you have. Most recently I used 1 teaspoon of Heilala vanilla paste)
1 tbsp cocoa (because I could, I used Sabato's valhrona cocoa powder, from Nosh)
1 packet wine biscuits (vanilla, round, or super wine all do the trick)
1 egg (fresh and free range, always)
Crush the wine biscuits in a food processor (at times of food-processor-less-ness, a plastic bag and a heavy object works a treat).
Melt butter, sugar, cocoa, and vanilla, together in a saucepan. Beat the egg, add to the mixture, and stir for three minutes (I did this off the element so as not to have the egg scramble).
Add the pulverised biscuits to the mixture and mix well. Press into tin (I used a greased and lined brownie pan). Leave to set in the fridge. The recipe says you can leave it uniced, but don't be silly.
Before the days of fondant and ganache and buttercream, there was only one way to make chocolate icing in my book, and it was like this. Quantities are very approximate.
Icing sugar - about a cup and a half
1 tblsp cocoa
1knob of butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 tblsp boiling water
Put all ingredients in a bowl, then add the water. Stir like crazy. Like a crazy person who is possessed. If it's too runny, sprinkle over more sugar. If it's too much like paste, the teenciest bit of water should be added. You can lose whole bags of icing sugar this way though, so proceed with caution! You should get a glossy paste of thick pouring consistency, which will set on the slice, in the fridge.
Sunday, October 7, 2012
It's reasonably well accepted amongst most people I know that Sunday afternoons can be a depressing time of the week. The melancholy can be exacerbated by relationship status, how hungover you are, and whatever happens to be playing on your stereo.
They can be great. A good old fashioned Sunday session, or maybe pancakes for dinner? A Sunday night roast with a bunch of mates, or dinner with your family, or some solid couch time with friends and snacks and duvets.
I learnt long ago that moping is no good, but that baking and exercise can do wonders. Bon Iver came on this afternoon as a lull was setting in. I knew though in my heart of hearts that exercise was the only answer (baking wasn't, because I thought the oven was broken. The timer was just on a funny setting though, thank goodness) so for the first time in ages, I donned my un-matching, un-fluro, raggy exercise gear and sorted myself out with endorphins, in probably one of Auckland's prettiest places to be in Spring.
Sundays can be a bit shit. But with a run and some head-clearing and some Rihanna, I realised that actually, Sunday, and this weekend just gone, was totally sweet.
A brief Sunday night list of awesome things:
Cornwall Park in Spring (see especially: adorable lambs).
South Indian food from Satya on K Rd.
Hangover free weekend!
Friends doing marathons for charity, and fundraising with baked goods.
Running unexpectedly into someone you like.
Afternooon naps in the sun.
Stand up comedy (Ben Hurley last night. Hilarious, partly because the couple in the front row who arrived late were on their first date, and he was her personal trainer. Comedy gold).
Perfect poached eggs.
Dim Sum Plum on your fingers and toes.
As always at this time of year, asparagus. So much asparagus. Cooked like this, or like this, or especially like this. My little sis and I had it for dinner with a squeeze of lemon and a slither of parmesan, alongside steak and kumara chips. There was no time for moping; getting moving and getting in the kitchen gets me every time.
Friday, October 5, 2012
This Friday could not have come around quickly enough, and today mine began with failing to get out of bed in time to make it to only my third bootcamp session. Failing during week one did not make for the greatest start to the day. It's been a busy couple of weeks, my solo house-sitting failures turned to success when the elderly cat showed up again, and I've had friends for dinner, had some awesome movie outings (Ruby Sparks, Moonrise Kingdom, and Pitch Perfect - all highly recommended), and I've caught up with family members ranging in age from 6 months to 93 years. Last night was a delicious dinner at Coco's Cantina with a couple of Lauras, and the weekend ahead involves sleep and running and laying off the tanqueray.
The Friday work morning tea is a phenomenon gracing workplaces across the land, and there's a vast range of quality which can present itself on the communal table. They are not often bootcamp-regime friendly, although a couple of weeks ago we had Vietamese Spring Rolls (same same but different to those I made on my very first Good Morning slot), which were enjoyed with green tea as a nice change to chocolate cake and coffee. Although I still maintain one of the best things about adulthood is chocolate cake for breakfast whenever you please.
Last week our former workmate brought in these lemon muffins, alongside her very adorable baby, for morning tea. Both were well received, and if there is another thing I love it is yoghurt in baking (see my banana cake here and my plum and yoghurt cake here). One of my favourite things to do is bake for people (it'll cure your bad mood or your post daylight-saving lull, I promise) and there is citrus a-plenty around at the moment. So as a sunny Saturday morning treat for your family or flatmates or the lucky lad or lass you fancy, or just to brighten up your workmates morning tea, welcome in Spring with an easy and cheap batch of '90s nostalgia.
Lemon and Yoghurt Muffins
(thanks to Emma for the recipe)
1 and 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp oil (use a neutral cooking oil like rice bran)
1 cup natural yoghurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
Mix all dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, mix all wet ingredients together.
Combine the wet ingredients with the dry, and mix until just combined, being careful not to overbeat.
Place in muffin tins (using paper patty cases to ensure they come out of the tins with ease) and bake at 180*C for 15-20minutes.
While they're cooking, mix together the juice of a lemon, some white sugar and a little hot water, to make a syrup.
Cool in muffin tins for 5 minutes, then poke holes in the top. Pour over the syrup and enjoy.
Happy Friday everyone!
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
I've never really considered myself an overly competitive person. My netball team took out Auckland's Senior E Grade in fifth form which was satisfying, and in seventh form I was forced to be in the debating team, where I got a bit of a taste for rebutting people into losing. We were undefeated until we lost to Kings College though, which was a bit like going up against lawyers. I sometimes get this sort of I don't even care attitude if losing seems inevitable, but upon reflection, I really like winning. One winter during my uni days I spent hours and hours on end playing an extremely nerdy German board game with my then-boyfriend and his cousin, and I won that too, a lot. I love a good game of scrabble, and I dominated beer pong on Saturday night. And by dominate, I mean I shot the winning shot to send our opponents into beer-sculling loserdom (before things descended into an 8-person dance party and power ballad sing-along, complete with dressing up in a dinosaur onesie).
So, I was at the food bloggers conference in Wellington a few weeks back, and I admit I wasn't that fussed on the few competitions floating around on offer. But! Over a delicious afternoon tea put on by the conference hosts Le Cordon Bleu, I decided that I would put my newfound and probably highly irritating instagram skills to use (you can follow me at delaneymes, just, by the way). I made Mika of milliemirepoix a cream filled scone sandwich (delicious) and snapped her pretty face doing so. I tagged it as a requisite #holymoly moment and proceeded to win myself four tubs of ice cream.
Holy Moly were one of the conference sponsors, and are on a mission to put some fun into your tubs. It is truly delicious ice cream, and it's only until you try it that you realise just how mediocre other ice creams are in comparison. Rebecca and her brother run Holy Moly out of Penrose here in Auckland, and they're lovely people on a simple mission. You can get their ice cream here.
Four tubs showed up in a cowhide covered box to my desk a few weeks ago, and although not ideal for my new bootcampy-gym-detox regime, in the interests of research I tasted them all and shared them with the then-flatties for dessert. Two empty tubs were found on the kitchen bench the next morning after a certain someone had a munch (along with toast and sour cream, judging by the evidence left on the kitchen bench) when they got home from work drinks.
Mellow pops was my favourite, what with it's caramel swirl and chocolate ice cream, and biscuit bits and marshmallow. Doh-nuts, choc-out, and waffle-on though, were also very well received.
It reminded me a bit of Ben & Jerry's but with that creaminess you only get from full fat New Zealand dairy products. It's creamy and fun and just really really good. And I'm not just saying that because I won. Thanks Holy Moly! And now, to the gym.