An email to my sister…

I just spent an hour writing an email to my sister – she’s going flatting for the first time and was in need of some recipe inspiration. It occurred to me that we all need some inspiration now and again, so I thought I’d put it here. Maybe it’ll be helpful for others too.
Hey Gabe,

Ok, so, here’s my advice: the best thing you can do is make twice as much dinner and then take it for lunch.

– Baked potatoes (like, stuffed ones) are great. You can make a bunch and take them to uni to eat (I assume they have microwaves around campus?) You could even make broccoli and tomato sauce to go with them. You can put all sorts of yummy things in there – cheese, onion, peas, bacon, spinach, etc.
– This looks super yummy! I’m not sure that you’ll have a fancy blender that will help you with that, but you’ll pick up speed on chopping and grating 🙂 I reckon it would last overnight ok, but not much longer than that.
– One-pot meals are also wonderful. Do you have the kind of pot that goes in the oven and on the stovetop? They’re kind of hard to come by, but SO worth it. But even if you don’t, you can still make things like this, which are super yummy and will last you a few days. You just have to use an oven dish instead, and if it doesn’t have a top, then make one with tin foil so it can be lovely and moist inside. This is along the same lines, but you don’t have to use crab. You could use egg or whatever you like!
– Frittatas are also excellent. So many different options for flavours. Add potato for some carbs. Great with a simple green salad. Or peas.
– I know how you love pasta, so maybe try something like this, which has lovely greens in there with it. Arugula is rocket/roquette. You can also use spinach or broccoli, or whatever you have around. This also looks yummy, and good for make-ahead lunches.
– I love fish cakes, because it makes tinned salmon seem waaay more fancy and delicious than it actually is. I can’t seem to find a blog that shares my love for them though. You basically drain and take the big bones out of a tin of salmon, and mash it together with an egg and a bit of (rice) flour. Then you fry them for 1-2 mins each side in a little bit of oil. You can add delicious things like paprika, spring onion, peas, corn and whatnot to make them a bit more exciting. Great with salad, or in a sandwich or something.
– Other things also make great fritters – quick to make too. Broccoliquinoazucchinicauliflower (though you can leave out the pomegranate), and so on. I had a loaf of bread that turned into crumbs once, and I turned that into fritters. Just add egg.
– Soup! Soup is great. So cheap, and it freezes or keeps well in the fridge. This lentil soup recipe conveniently has a list of other delicious sounding soups on it, so be sure to check those out too 🙂 This is freakin’ amazing. Just try it .
Speaking of lentils, they’re great. So cheap. And yummy. And filling. Make dhal! Or dal or dahl, (everyone spells it differently). That last recipe is a good one to play with. Lentil shepherd’s pie is also great, just remember that recipes are guidelines – Rick Stein says, ‘a recipe should be a tune to which you can sing your own song’, which is a bit cute. But also useful to remember – put in what you feel like eating!
– I love this blog for some good comfort food, usually feeds a crowd well, or you can chuck it in the freezer for a busy week.
– Rice noodles are gold. So quick to make, and dirt cheap. They’re actually faster to cook than 2 minute noodles, and rather than adding a flavour sachet full of.. who knows what.. I recommend sweet chilli sauce and peanut butter melted for 30 seconds in the microwave. You can add a bit of yoghurt if you’re feeling fancy. Also veggies if it’s a proper meal. In fact, you can add cooked chicken or a bit of omelette, or tofu.
Ok, so I could go one forever, but I am pretty exhausted at this point. Hopefully that’s helpful for now – let me know if you need anything else.
Love,
Zoë xo
p.s. I have a truly exceptional cookie recipe to share with you, just not tonight. Soon though.

Hey there blog/world/the three friends that read this!

I have been remiss in my blog writing, not only for most of the time that I have attempted to have a blog, but more so in the time since I started cooking school. Yup, it’s real life now. I wake up about three days a week, terrified that I’m doing the wrong thing and that I can’t work in this industry, and that the whole thing is a crazy money-wasting idea. But I read somewhere that if your dreams don’t scare you, then they’re not big enough. So let’s go with that.

And don’t fear, I do wake up the other four days of the week – I go to school and I go to work. I try to keep up to date with the goings-on in the world, and see my friends, and feed myself, and get exercise and call my Mum and my sister. There’s always a lot to do. Sometimes there’s too much to do, and I freak out a little. But somehow, it’s always ok. And then I get in the kitchen.

I mean, I get in the kitchen at school, and at work, and I love that. But there’s something different about getting inspired about a recipe, collecting the ingredients and equipment, and making it. Slowly. While listening to music. Or audiobooks. Turns out this is the same way my classmates find solace. It’s good to find like-minded folk.

I’m in sunny Alexandra this summer. Living with my family and working at a cafe. It’s grand. I made them seafood for dinner the other night.

 

Recipe:

Chop up some potatoes and a little bit of red onion and a lemon (preserved if you’ve got it). And roast for about an hour.

 

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When they’re cooked and roasty and gorgeous, you slosh in a bit of white wine, and some salt and pepper, then top it with seafood – mussels/squid/cockles/crayfish/prawns/etc., cover with some tin foil or baking paper and pop back in the oven for 15-20 mins. The trick with seafood is to not overcook it. Watch it! (As you can see I added cherry tomatoes to mine)

 

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And then it’s done! It’s so easy. Put the cooking juices into a jug to go with it. They’re so yum. We had it with green beans, and some capsicum. Note: Fresh herbs are essential at this point. Especially parsley.

 

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Here’s a picture of the table, just because I feel like the other photos are really close up!

 

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Here’s to truly excellent seafood, and summery days.

xx

Humble Pie

I love to bake.

I love to turn on some music, claim the kitchen as mine for an hour or two, and cook up a storm until the world melts away into a haze of flour and sugar and other such wonders.

At the moment in Wellington, we are in the middle of ‘Wellington on a Plate’ – a food festival that highlights the amazing culinary experiences to be had in our capital city. One of the events that is being held is ‘Bake Club’, that has the aim of crowning Wellington’s ‘best’ baker.

Now I have absolutely no expectation that I am Wellington’s best baker. Sure, I have a good reputation in relation to my cooking abilities among my friends. And maybe some others thanks to my job. But I am quite sure that there are many a better baker than me. I entered anyway, because some friends I spoke to about it seemed so keen and enthusiastic! I thought, why not? I have nothing to lose. I’ll even get to see my friends a bit more…

Each week we’ve been issued a challenge, and we compete in our little ‘bake club’, and then at the end the winner from each separate bake club will go to the Wellington final. This week the challenge was pie.

I thought hard about what kind of pie I was going to make. In the end, I was seriously considering 3 different options – lemon meringue pie, pumpkin pie, or peanut butter and dark chocolate pie. I asked a few people, and they all agreed that peanut butter and dark chocolate pie was the best for this competition, and so I set about gathering my ingredients.

Then I came down with a cold. Baking pie was about the last thing I wanted to do. I couldn’t let my friends down though, so I went ahead with it. I made the pastry and the filling with the greatest efficiency and energy that I could muster from my worn out body. The next day was judging day.

Unfortunately my rushed and careless job on the pastry showed, I used a recipe I’m not familiar with, and made it in the blender. The result was tough pastry that shrunk in the cases, and didn’t serve as a worthy support to the amazingly gooey and delicious filling. And while I was keen to honour this food writer and her tribute to her much loved and sadly lost husband, I feel would have done better to have taken more time about it, relaxed, and enjoyed the experience.

So my point, finally. Baking should be something done to show people love. That’s why i bake. It’s my motivation, and it’s why I love it so much. All of my love and good wishes go in to the food I make for people. I lost the competition, and had to handle the humbling pie experience in admitting defeat to my friends. Their pies were amazing, and deserved the praise they received. Lesson duly learned.

Enjoy the amazing photos taken by my friend, Rose, and dream of what kind of pie you’d make if you were competing for best baker – then go make it for someone you love! Challenge.

The original recipe for these pies uses biscuits for the base – this should definitely be paid attention to.

The winner.

What I do.

This is the kind of post that’s written at 3am, because I just got home from work, and the neighbours are having a loud party. Not the ideal situation after working for 12 hours on a Saturday.

Let me back up a little, because it’s probably normal for some people to work long/late night shifts at the weekend. We need to get some things straight. I want to write about my job a little, not because I think I’m a superhero – far from it – there are just a few things I’m still trying to figure out.

I work at a youth development organisation – 30 hours a week I’m an EA, run off my feet keeping the office ship-shape and the boss happy. The other 10 are my cooking hours. This is when I get to do what I love, and what I genuinely think is important. Over the past 10 months, I’ve been building a space where young people can come and grab some food after school, somewhere that there’s always decent food for all of the different people that come through our doors.

So far, I’ve turned our small, relatively unused kitchen into a place of great production, that each week is filled with fruit and vegetables, and bread that have seen better days – they’ve been donated by local food rescue organisation Kaibosh.

Sometimes I feel like all I do is make a mess in the kitchen, and offer to cook for programmes that used to do perfectly well with frozen pizza and filled rolls. But my colleagues are learning about the difference it makes to not only feed people, but to feed them well. We want to build relationships with the people we work with, and show them that they’re cared for. This helps them to care about themselves and the choices they make.
So far, I’ve made cooking from scratch seem more reachable for people. I’ve helped some people to learn a bit about food, and I’d like to do this a lot more. I’ve learned a great deal about what I can do, and how much this can impact on others. I have been blown away by the amazing work that I see done by my colleagues every day, and the importance of community in our topsy turvy world.

Tonight we were thanking a group of people that have been on a mentoring programme, each paired up with a young person that has been struggling for some reason or other. Rather than us getting the event catered, or buying food, I cooked. For 50 people, in our tiny kitchen with one oven. Now this was a crazy idea. Crazy. But I thought it was important, not because I wanted to show off my cooking skills, but because, for whatever reason, I find it wrong that we as a culture are so disconnected from the natural progression of food from farm to plate. My philosophy around this isn’t fully formed yet, but my boss and colleagues have got behind this food thing 100% (it took a little bit of coaxing..) and I’m willing to see it through.

This shy kid is learning how to be outgoing, so that I can get in the kitchen with some young people and give them the skills to cook for their families, and their futures.

Breakfast for Dinner!

It’s winter break time. Time to sleep in, knit by the fire, and hunker down with a good book. 

It’s also a good time to have breakfast for dinner. Well, sort of breakfast. Tonight we had bacon and eggs with roast vegetables, celery and walnut salad, and green tomato chutney. I actually didn’t have bacon, I had halloumi made from sheep’s milk. The others had bacon (from free range piggies, yes).

I’m quite obsessed with the combination of celery and walnuts at the moment. It was beautiful with the halloumi. Try it! Easy meal.

 

Now, apparently, tomorrow is time for skiing. We’ll see about that… I’ll tell you all about my gluten free ginger, walnut and dark chocolate brownie if I survive.

 

 

Summer Christmas

I think everyone in the Wellington region woke up shocked at the amazing weather on Christmas day. We were given glassy waters, sunshine, and a gently warm day. I am glad that, in my family, we embrace the summer season that Christmas falls in, and no one insists on heavy traditional food.

This Christmas is going in to my top ten days of all time list.

Sitting between my Mum and Dad at church.

Inviting a stray German to join us for our celebrations.

Seafood! So much seafood. So good.

Kayaking around the coast and diving for paua.

Sparkling Shiraz, smashed paprika potatoes, pea mash with goat’s cheese, and escabeche. Delish.

Sitting around singing Christmas carols until Dad fell asleep.

We’re going to back up to diving for paua though. That was probably my favourite part. Paua are tricky creatures. You have to catch them unaware, or you have no hope of prizing them off their chosen rock. Fishing laws also mean that they have to be over a particular size too, so it’s quite a game to get the good ones out of the water and in to the pan.

Once you’ve got them caught, you have to shuck them.

Once you’ve got them out of there, you cook them! Most kiwis are familiar with the paua fritter, but my Dad isn’t a fan. He claims to have invented this way of cooking them. Very simple.

Slice them up. Nice and thin.

Fry them with a little tomato.
Add some fried onion and garlic. (As you can see, this is a team effort)

 

Voila! Delish.

I have to admit that we literally stood around this plate and ate it with our fingers/forks. Amazing.

 

For an appetiser using 6 paua,

1 onion, diced and fried

3 cloves garlic, minced and fried

1 tomato, diced

salt and pepper

parsley to garnish

You can proabably follow what to do from the photos, just make sure you have the pan on a medium-high heat, and don’t cook them for very long. At all. 1 minute tops.

Beautiful.

 

 

 

Curry night!

Ingredients:

Chaotic spice drawer.

Coriander.

Team work!

For… Rice paper rolls… (Which aren’t technically curry, but make a great appetiser)

You get a bunch of sprouty type things, grated carrot, spring onions, chopped nuts, a few prawns if you’re keen, coriander, mung beans, snow peas, whatever… and wrap them up in rounds of rice paper! Yum. The secret to these is getting your dinner guests in on the action. They’re a lot of trouble to put together on your own, but it’s a fairly good bonding experience for a dinner party.

You can make a dipping sauce for these by mixing sweet chilli sauce and lemon or lime juice. Easy.

Now, for curry.

I have this curry book. It’s amazing. My Mum got it in 1984, and for a long time I was worried, because I thought I’d never be able to find a curry book this useful and authentic. BUT. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I’ve got my hands on a copy!

My two favourite curries at the moment are Fish Ball Curry, and Bengal Eggplant Curry.

I added some kumara to ours, because there was more than a few mouths to feed. Just make sure you add it before the eggplant so that the eggplant doesn’t get overcooked.

Now for the main event. Fish Ball Curry. We’re doing this real. No store-bought “fish balls” filled with who knows what. Get out your blender and put a little time into it. It will change your life.

I am going to shamelessly type up the instructions from The Curry Cookbook, because no one can beat Charmaine and Reuben’s instructions.

Fish Balls:

1kg white fish (they say jewfish or cod, but I just use whatever looks fresh and not stringy.)

2 1/2 tsp salt

1//2 tsp pepper

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic

1 1/2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 slices white bread, soaked in hot water and squeezed dry

1 tbsp fish sauce or 1 tsp anchovy sauce/paste

With a sharp knife remove skin from fish. Finely mince fish, taking care to remove bones. Put minced fish in a large bowl, add remaining ingredients. Mix thoroughly with the hands. Shape mixture into walnut-size balls. Makes about 24 balls.

Curry:

1/4 cup light sesame oil or corn oil

3 medium onions, finely chopped

3 tsps finely chopped garlic

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger

1 tsp ground turmeric

1-2 tsps chilli powder , optional

1 tsp paprika, optional

2 tomaotes, peeled and chopped (or a tin of tomatoes!)

1 1/2 tsps salt

1 tsp dried shrimp paste

1 1/2 cups hot water

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

2 tbsp tbsp lemon juice

Heal oil in large saucepan and fry onion, garlic and ginger until soft and golden. Add turmeric, remove from heat and add chilli powder and paprika (if used), tomato and salt.

Cook gravy until tomatoes are soft. If the sauce gets too reduced, add a little hot water.

Gently put the fish balls in the gravy and simmer over a moderate heat until they are cooked, about 20 minutes. Shake pan gently from time to time. Do not stir until fish is cooked and firm. Stir in the chopped coriander and lemon juice and cook 5 minutes longer. Serve with white rice.

Yum! I like to fry half an onion and stir the rice through it before I cook the rice. Also add star anise – makes all the difference to the flavours of the night.

Living Below the Line

It has been quite a week so far.

My friends and I have been ‘living below the line’, spending only $2.25 on food and drink, for five days. We’re doing this to raise money and awareness for those who live below the line every day. The thing is, they have only $2.25 a day for food, water, shelter, clothing, medicine and so on. We got to spend that on food, and get water out of the tap from our sturdy homes, we got to dress for fashion and not just for comfort, we could still take medicine for our minor ailments. We have it so easy.

Eating less than usual, and more bland food, has been interesting. We have midnight tonight to look forward to, and yes, we’re planning a feast! Apart from a glimpse into the lives of those living in poverty, we have had the importance of community highlighted for us.

We bought food as a group, and much of it took a great deal of preparation – a giant pumpkin had to be cut up, split peas and chick peas soaked and cooked, fresh pasta prepared, bread made and rice cooked. We all had to contribute to the cooking of the meals, some lunches were delivered all over town, we looked after one another. We made it work, together, and that has been a true blessing this week.

http://fundraise.livebelowtheline.co.nz/stjohnsinthecity

Sweet, Sweet Potato.

Ok. Here we are. It’s been a while. But, I’m going to do it. I’m moving to WordPress and I’m going to cook and tell you all about it. What fun it will be. Let’s go!

I made some kumara flatbread. It goes really well with soup. The wonderful kind of soup where you roast garlic and onions and chickpeas and add them to tomato, and get some spices all up in there too.

This bread rises quite quickly, so it’s not out of reach to make for dinner once you return home from your day’s activities.

 

1 1/2 cups warm water

1/12 tsp dry yeast

1 cup cooked mashed kumara

All ready to be made into bread.

1/4 cup olive oil

4 1/2 cups flour

2 tsp salt

 

Sprinkle yeast on warm water. Let stand for 2 mins or so for the yeast to froth up. If it doesn’t, abort mission! No froth means that the yeast is dead. Get some new yeast and try again. Once you have nicely frothy yeasty water, add the mashed kumara and olive oil. Combine this with the flour and salt in a bowl until the dough just starts to come away from the sides of the bowl.

Now it’s time to knead the dough. This particular dough can be a little on the sticky side. Try not to add too much flour, this tends to create a dry bread. Not so great. Add enough that you can knead, but keep it a little sticky. Knead your dough for 3-4 minutes, until it takes on a smoother, more silky texture.

Place in a clean bowl and leave in a warm place for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, or until it doubles in size. Overnight is fine too.

When it’s time to bake, preheat your oven to 220° Celcius. Shape your dough into two loaves, top with any herbs you fancy (rosemary, thyme, etc.) and sea salt. If you are super chef and have a baking stone, place your loaves onto your preheated stone. Otherwise, stick them on a tray and get that in your oven for 20-25 mins until golden and lovely.

You don’t have to cook both at once, you can save the other dough for another time if you wish. Gladwrap it.

I put poppy seeds on it.

Delish.

 

Well, hello there.

So here I am at wordpress. I think I’m going to like it here. I hope you will be inspired by what goes on. It will be cooking mostly, but not today. Today I’ll post some photos of my favourite place in the world.

This is the view. My best friend is in there too.