Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy birthday to us!

It's two years since our first post! And to mark the occasion we have a little something for you... a copy of The Australian Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake Book.

Weeks before our birthdays we'd start choosing a cake from the book for mum to spend hours making the night before our birthday. Flicking through this copy there are so many familiar cakes but the highlight for me is the train from the cover which Mum made at least twice, even going so far as to make the candy popcorn herself on one of those occasions.

There were only two cakes we were steered away from: the "Candy Castle" probably because of the vast quantities of sugary egg white icing it involved and the "Swimming Pool" possibly because of the practicalities of slicing and serving a cake filled with jelly.

This is the "vintage edition" of the book - printed this year but almost unchanged from the original we grew up with in the 1980s. Four cakes have been swapped for more politically correct masterpieces but the font, layout and copious use of "butter cake mix" remain.

If you'd like to win this copy of the book just leave us a comment telling us about the best birthday cake you've ever had - from the AWW book or not, it doesn't matter.

a few of our favourite things

Miriam: I love this cake stand from Texan Art Schools that Mike gave me for my birthday. On Saturday friends brought around some treats from Pandoro, so I was able to supplement my Sticky Lemon Slice on the bottom and fill the cake stand up with a selection of other treats for dessert.

Libby: I spent the weekend in Hawke's Bay so made a quick visit to the Hawkes Bay Farmers Market on Sunday morning. The market is held at the Hastings A &P showgrounds and attracts a huge crowd. But the stalls are well laid out so even though there are hundreds of people at the market it doesn't feel crowded. There was so much variety - produce, cured meats, fresh and smoked fish, breads, sauces, jams & chutneys - and all so beautifully fresh. I picked up a huge bunch of asparagus for only $4 and some lovely Hohepa cumin gouda. Unfortunately I put the asparagus in the fridge and forgot about it until well on the way back to Wellington - hopefully it travelled back to Christchurch with the rest of the family later in the day.

It was only the briefest of visits to the farmers' market - just enough time for one lap but you could easily spend an hour or two wandering around. We had lots more to fit in including a visiting a favourite place from childhood... Waimarama beach.

Becs: I feel like a born-again gardener at the moment, but Spring does that to you so please forgive the horticultural enthusiasm! Check out my rocket patch above; I was a little heavy-handed with the seed scattering a few weeks ago and now have an enormous supply to cut when needed, so no more bags in the fridge turning to mulch. Even if you aren't into gardening, I recommend getting a pack of rocket to sow, it will grow so easily in a pot or seed tray (I love these beautiful cedar ones from Mapua Country Trading). I sowed a mix of Kings Organic Rocket and their Arugula Wild Italian Rustic. The store bought variety doesn't come close to the taste of homegrown stuff that has a proper peppery bite to it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

a few of our favourite things

Miriam: I came across this wee rhubarb stall on Kensington Ave in Mt Eden. I rummaged through my handbag and managed to scrounge together $2 so as to pluck off one of the bags hooked to the tree (leaving the sole bag pictured here). I roasted my rhubarb with some brown sugar and the juice of an orange. The plan was to have it as a topping for my morning cereal, however it was just so delicious I kept sneaking pieces from the fridge, so it didn't last long!

Libby: For the last couple of months we've been buying "homemade" eggs from someone we know in Featherston whose chickens have been laying like mad. The eggs have been a real treat - beautifully fresh and with the brightest yellow yolks I've ever seen - but our supply may be coming to an end. It seems the chickens are slowing down and it's taking longer to put together a dozen eggs so there was a marked difference in freshness between eggs in the last carton. The difference became very apparent when I poached a few eggs on Sunday and found some held together firmly and others, disappointingly, disintegrated into wispy threads.

Becs: I have just returned from a visit to Southland, where my dear friend Rachel was married. What a perfect time of year for a wedding, coinciding with when paeonies pay their short seasonal visit.  They featured abundantly in the table settings tucked into candelabra, in the bridal  party flowers, and vasefuls of lush bunches like those above.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Spiced eggplant & peanut salad

I was lucky enough to be given the Ripe cookbook from Becky recently. Having tried this eggplant and peanut salad at a friends place, I was keen to give it a go myself. I love eggplant and I think the combination of spice, eggplant, yoghurt, coriander and peanuts works really well. It was lovely served with lamb and slow roasted tomatoes, or as the recipe recommend a BBQ. It just as nice for lunch the next day too. Be warned though, the process of making this does permeate a curry smell throughout the house... I forgot to close the bedroom doors when making it, so then spent some time airing the house in an attempt to dissipate the smell!

Spiced eggplant & peanut salad
1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp dried chili flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium sized eggplants, cut in cubes
salt & pepper
2 handfuls of baby spinach
1 cup fresh coriander leaves
3/4 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped
juice of 1 lemon

Yoghurt dressing
1 1/2 cups plain yoghurt
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp sweet chili sauce
1/2 cup fresh coriander, finely chopped
1 tbsp curry powder
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 200C. With a mortar and pestle, crust together the toasted seeds, smoked paprika, curry powder, chili flakes, ground cumin and salt. Tip into a large bowl. Add the crushed garlic, oil and eggplant pieces. Mix well to coat.

Place the seasoned eggplant on an oven tray lined with baking paper and roast for approx 30 mins, until tender. Allow to cool. Season with salt and pepper.

For the yoghurt dressing combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix and season to taste.

To assemble the salad: On a large platter layer half the spiced eggplant, spinach leaves, a drizzle of yoghurt dressing, fresh coriander leaves and some peanuts. Repeat the sequence with the remaining ingredients and finish with coriander leaves. Finally add a good squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of the remaining dressing.

Monday, November 14, 2011

a few of our favourite things

Becs: I planted a $4 punnet of poppy seedlings into a pot during winter and then did absolutely nothing; over the last month they have rewarded me with a constant supply of cheerful blooms. Everyday a few more poppies open up their buds, ready to be picked. Such a good return on investment!

Miriam: On Sunday, Mike and I went to The Auckland Retro Fair. The quantity of both goods and people was slightly overwhelming. However it was a great treasure-trove of blast-from-the-past bric-a-brac. We came away with this retro coffee table, which matches Mike's 70's lounge suite perfectly.

Libby: Food-wise (and otherwise) it was a very good weekend for me. I'll just give you the highlights. On Friday I scored a free whole blue cod at work. On Saturday I had a lovely lunch at Nikau - terakihi with beetroot and skordalia - which just got better when I managed to snaffle the last rhubarb and rosewater doughnut for afterwards. Yes, it was every bit as delicious as it sounds. SO delicious it disappeared before having its picture taken. And on Sunday I had a lovely morning learning all about eggs from someone who knows a lot about cooking them. You can read more about that here. The picture above is my attempt at recreating the beetroot from Saturday's lunch. I gently simmered the beetroot whole until tender, peeled and sliced it, poured over a little olive oil and red wine vinegar and sprinkled with chopped capers and Italian parsley.

Daisy just loves her Dorothy the Dinosour costume, which arrived in a parcel from Wiggles Corporation in Australia, courtesy of Aunty Sarah. Dorothy/Daisy can be seen above enjoying suitably green coloured food on an (unintentionally) Dorothy coordinated plate.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The perfect egg

I spent this morning at a cooking class Wellington's City Market learning about "The Perfect Egg" with Kelda from Nikau Cafe. It truly was a fabulous way to spend a Sunday morning.

Kelda started off by discussing the importance of fresh eggs and demonstrating the difference between fresh and older eggs comparing an egg she'd had in her fridge for a couple of weeks and one laid two hours earlier (!) by Nikau co-owner Paul's chickens. The egg from Paul's chicken had a firm jelly-like white that held together beautifully.

For me, this confirmed that I want my own chickens! I would feed them up on all sorts of delicious scraps so they would lay me amazing fresh eggs. But until I have a backyard (rather than a handkerchief-sized courtyard) this will remain a dream.

Anyway, more about the class... Kelda talked about the temperature different parts of the egg firm up at - nothing too scientific and all stuff that made good sense - but it made me realise I have done some terrible things to eggs in the past.

First up was scrambled eggs: gently-cooked and custard-y. It might seem incredibly basic to start by demonstrating scrambled eggs but I doubt there would have been a single person in the class who didn't learn a thing or two. From now on, my scrambled eggs are going to be gently-cooked and custard-y too. We were each served a spoonful of the eggs in a little pastry tart case topped with broad beans and smoked salmon... up was Nikau's famed sage eggs. Sage was gently fried in a generous amount of butter, then a couple of eggs were slid into the pan to "poached" in the butter. After a little oven time to firm up they were served on one of Spring's greatest pleasures... asparagus and a little shaving of pecorino. This was one of those dishes that make you want to lick the plate... of course you don't because you're in the company of a dozen or so strangers. Luckily, there were generous slices of Moulin Bakery's delicious baguette to soak up the last of the egg and butter in a slightly more lady-like manner.

The last dish of the morning was floating islands: softly poached meringue in creme anglaise with the most amazing strawberry, rhubarb and rosewater compote. Beautiful and delicious.

The City Market classes have been popular and there are still a few to run before Christmas though most have sold out. You can read more about what you're missing out on here. After this morning's class, I can completely understand why they're so popular.

The "tastes" of each dish were generous as was Kelda in the knowledge she imparted throughout the 90 minute class. Extras touches like Supreme Chemex-extracted coffee at the start of the class, and sparkling water and lovely Mahi gewurztraminer on the tables (nevermind it was only 10am) made it feel like excellent value. The best $50 I've spent in a long time.

Monday, November 7, 2011

a few of our favourite things...

Becs: The perfect Spring meal? Dinner one night last week consisted of 2 slices of buttered white bread, a fat whitebait fritter made with West Coast whitebait simply mixed through a couple of beaten free range eggs from a friend's chickens, and steamed asparagus with plenty of salt and pepper and a good squeeze of lemon juice.

 Miriam: While in Tauranga for Nat and Rowan's wedding in the weekend I had a trip to the Tauranga Farmers Market. We brought some of this apple and feijoa juice. It was delicious; so fresh with perfectly balanced flavours, and not too sweet. I was grateful to have some of this on Sunday to quench my thirst after a night of celebrating, drinking bubbles and dancing.

Libby: I've been eating strawberries by the punnet over the last week and the ratio of sweet little berries to insipid, watery ones is improving with each punnet! A sure sign that Summer is well and truly on it's way. They're good straight from the punnet but I also I love them mixed through bircher muesli, with a little softly-whipped cream with lemon curd folded through, or in this case... piled atop a beautiful strawberry tart.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...