Saturday, May 29, 2010

Thai green curry with Monkfish

The wind has turned southerly, and it's chilly outside. So Thai green curry will go down very well. Here's the thing. I cheat. I know that it's just not de rigeur to use a shop-bought paste, and I'm happy to doctor the flavour with fresh ingredients, but the base is a paste made by a person I've never met. Sometimes I'm just crazy, me.

So. I added kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, fish sauce, tamarind, and coconut cream, and eventually something I was looking for came out of the pan. I've added peas (not trad) and onions (who knows?) and Monkfish (who cares?). It's now just stewing on the range, as is the sticky coconut rice, and there's some butternut squash roasting in the oven.

home: home, and the range

The result took a lot less time to eat than it did to prepare, it's always like that unless you eat nothing but very sticky toffee.

But it was good:

(Laura held a torch whilst I took the photo, hence the praeternaturally lit squash.)

Food photography eludes me, despite being a keen photographer since I was a young child. It might have something to do with the fact that, once I've just spent an hour or 2 cooking, the last thing I want to do is to spend ages watching the food cool down whilst I try for the perfect appetising shot. Sorry.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pasta & Passata

We had many tomatoes this year, tiny ones, yellow ones, huge beef ones. I think LW grew about a tonne.

Last year, we thought we'd grown enough to make passata to last us the winter. In practice, we ate it all in about 2 weeks, so LW's enthusiasm for tomato production scaled new heights this year, with the specific intention to make enough for a whole winter. I think we've succeeded, and LW reached her limit when it came to the picking of them.

They are a brilliant base for all sorts of tomato-based fun. Here's the easiest of them all: Pasta with a tomato sauce: The sauce is simply softened onion and garlic, deglazed with some sherry and then passata and (in this case) creme fraiche and parmesan added, with a handful of shredded rocket at the last moment.

It looks like this:

(or at least it will when blogger lets me upload the image. Oh the tension.)


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

soup and sandwiches

It's winter, it's Sunday, it's a tradition...

It didn't take us long to develop some ritualistic eating habits when we arrived in NZ 5 years ago. One that has developed a life of it's own is the Sunday evening winter soup and sandwiches tradition. We are very fond of a couple of friends who live on the other side of Kerikeri. Every other Sunday we alternate venues for the meal, and the scope is huge enough for there to be little repetition of menus. The wine is always in good supply, the fire lit, and the food inevitably hearty, delicious and eventually soporific.

Last Sunday was no exception; our friends made stilton and broccoli soup, and the sandwiches were split baguette filled with rocket and freshly roast chicken. The chicken was a delight as our friends have no oven. They just banked up the wood-burner, and put the chicken into a disposable foil tray, covered it with tinfoil and away it went. Superb! Moist and everything!

We had some very good wines with which to toast the feast; our friends are just back from Waiheke Island, and had brought back some lovely wine from there; the Man O'War Claret-style wine was particularly amazing!

Next Sunday is our turn, and I've some freshly-made snapper fish stock sitting in the freezer; I'm thinking fragrant hot and spicy fish soup (Tom Yum-ish?) and some sort of spring roll... suggestions are always welcome!

Also of note, last Sunday, in the search for culinary heaven, was a demonstration of the legendary Tim-Tam shot! It goes like this:

Make a cup of tea. Take a Tim-Tam biscuit, (I suspect a Penguin in the UK would also work) preferably one of the double choc or the caramel-filled ones, and nibble 2 opposing corners of chocolate coating off. Place one corner in the tea and suck up the tea through the other corner. When tea starts to filter all the way through - double quick!- pop the whole biscuit (which will now be melting and disintegrating) into your mouth in one deft move. You now have a mouthful of molten chocolate, biscuitty goodness and tea. It's surprisingly good, and entertaining, too!

I'm going to try it with warmed Brandy. And then Whisky, and then...

Pork fillet, coriander, cider, creme fraiche...

The rain finally arrived, and almost all at once. The grass is growing fast, the ducks are quacking loudly and now the sun's come out again, it feels like spring!

In fact, the Metservice had suggested we would get a very wet Monday, but by the evening it was calming down. That didn't stop me planning another comfort food favourite: Eye fillet of pork.

Usually I'd sear then roast the pork whole with Chinese spices, and then slice it to serve, probably with rice. But I'd vaguely remembered a Greek recipe called "Afelia" in which cubes of pork are cooked with coriander, lemon juice, cider and oil. Rather than head for the recipe books, I improvised. (I rarely follow recipes). So it wasn't true to the Greek original.

I sweated onion & garlic in olive oil, added about 2tsp of crushed coriander seeds, and softened the whole lot before removing them from the pan. I then hot-fried the cubed pork fillet and deglazed with cider. I then added the onions etc and cooked & reduced the panful until sticky, before adding creme fraiche and apple slices, and cooked until the apple was soft.

Served with broccoli and mash. Aaah!

Now we're in the comfort zone.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

experimental chilli sauce

I've had an excellent crop of chillis this year, thanks to a long dry summer and an excellent and diligent LW who does the bulk of the gardening.

Thai Chillis in profusion

Hungarian Bananas

The peppers ready for the pot.

The chillis we've harvested have been Cayenne, earlier on, and now, Habaneros, Thai bird's-eye, and Hungarian bananas. Each of them has their own wonderful attributes; I'm particularly fond of the Habaneros; they are fiery hot, but with a sweet tropical fruit base that makes them quite addictive.

Because the crop has been so prolific this year, I've been able to experiment a little with different sauces. Some have been a disaster; I made one sauce that combined chillis and tomatoes, but exploded out of the bottles despite rigorous sterilisation of the glass and the sauce. Some have been superb (even though I say it myself), my criteria being taste (of course) heat, and the propensity for the sauce to NOT create the classic "ring of fire" the next day. I've never been a fan of sauces with intimidating and "humourous" names and a reputation for indigestibility.

So, today I wanted to create a sauce with a bit of a twist; and it's sitting, stewing in it's own juices as I write this. Time will tell if it's a success, but I fear it won't be. I've tried to go for a more South-East Asian taste, using Belacan (dried shrimp paste), and Tamarind for sourness, but I also went all fusion mad, and infused the chillis in Gin, Mirin and cider vinegar. There's mustard seeds, for a different kind of heat, and anchovy paste (I really wanted to add Ikan Bilis, but couldn't find any- Kerikeri had a very short-lived Asian supermarket, now it's gone!) for a sambal sort of slant.

So, the starting ingredients may well have been wasted which is a shame, but I will let you know how it comes out. Even if it's a total disaster, I'll have had fun concocting it; it reminds me of my nerdy childhood with a chemistry set in the garage at home (do they still sell those?).

When I do get some dried anchovies, I think I'll stick to a well-tried sambal recipe.

So. The sauce tasted odd, but not irredeemable; it just lacked a certain something. Could it be sharpness? I added some lime juice and it was much more pleasant. So I bottled it. Look how much I made:


Missing Snapper Shock Revelation!

In an unexpected twist yesterday, a generous gift of snapper fillets went completely unused, sources say.

At approximately 5.15pm, with a car full of occupants threading their weary way south from Kaitaia, the missing snapper was first noted. The fillets had been placed in the fridge, and it was only as the car approached the Mangamuka pass that LW realized that the fishy treat had been accidentally abandoned.

A planned supper of fish and chips had to be entirely re-thought, and it was only thanks to the quick witted, eleventh-hour decision-making process that we still feasted last night.

The farmers' market in Kerikeri has a new stall; an expert in cured meats of the porky variety, and we've tried a few of his products; the streaky bacon is very good, but quite salty; and last night we tried the cured pork sausages.

The sausages are very firm, almost like a salami, very high in meat content, in the traditional continental European style, and mildly spiced. The skins were strangely "baggy" on the sausages, so I suspect they had, despite shrink wrapping, lost a little moisture content since they were made, but they fried very well, and had an excellent taste. We will definitely have them again! I think they'd be lovely fried, cold in a sandwich, with some Dijon mustard.

Chips. Everyone likes to cook theirs their own way; here's mine: Use a floury spud; (we love Agria or Victoria) soak the uncooked chips (LW likes them skinny french-fry style) in water & drain off any excess starch, then fry once at 130 deg for 7-8 min until they are pale but floppy. Heat the oil to 180 deg and re-fry for 3-4 min until golden & crispy on the outside, but still soft in the middle. Serve immediately, with Fried Sausages and 2 eggs, for a comfort food, after a 10 hour day feast!

Yum. (I do hope the snapper is OK till Monday)

and before you ask,the sausages aren't burnt, it's just the odd exposure of the pic, and, yes, I did overcook the eggs. Damn.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Roast Chicken

This is one of LW's favourites. In fact, if I had cooked it with Skirlie, it would have been THE favourite. But I did roast veggies, gravy & mash. I'm contrary like that.

Roast chicken is an art. I'm constantly varying the way I do it, using slightly different ingredients, and aiming for that pinnacle of the roast; savoury, crisp salty skin, with gentle, soft, and moist flesh. Sometimes I get close. This time I did the following:

-Washed & dried the bird.
-Carefully separated the skin from the legs & breast without tearing or removing it.
-Placed butter under the skin.
-Oiled the bird lightly and then coated the skin with lots of salt and crushed green & red peppercorns.
-Roast at 200 deg (centigrade) for 30 min then 160 for another 75 min, removing the juices that develop to separate them to make a gravy.

I'm writing this as the chook is cooking. So who knows how this will work out? I should, I've done a variation on this theme 100s of times!

Here's how it started out:

In case anyone was wondering, this is a free-range chook (on special at New World for $8.99!) Note the huge chunks of butter under the skin; these will be poured off at the draining of the juices, separated and used to make a roue with some flour for the gravy. By then the chicken should be buttery and moist.

Oh, the tension: here's the roasted bird:

hers, and...


Though I say it myself, the gravy was a treat!

One more thing: I'm still getting used to taking photos of the food; Getting anything looking appetizing is proving tricky. Bear with me; I'll get there!

Sushi for lunch

Kerikeri has a new sushi cafe. It did have one before, but, for reasons I can't explain, it always seemed "invisible" to the townsfolk. This new one, "The Sushi Gallery" is much easier to see.

It's a popular place for lunch, especially for a quick self-service takeaway. And whilst it's not the last word in Japanese culinary artistry, the food is very fresh, the selection varied, and the prices very reasonable.

I should mention that I do intend to blog about food I've eaten in and out, and, if I come across experiences that are amazing, or amazingly awful, I'll mention them. But I'm keen not to fall into the trap of becoming a critic. Food is a matter of taste (really?) and taste is a matter of appetite, mood, company, and a whole lot more. It's really sad to see a place that tries really hard being damaged by a scathing review just because that critic was in the wrong mood at the time.

So. Lovely Wife (that's LW to you) tends towards the avocado/surimi/tamago type of sushi (and will pick off the nori seaweed if decorum allows), and in truth, is happier with cooked Japanese food than raw. I'm a fan of the fishy. My favourite is the smoked eel, but any raw fish, when fresh enough, is a delight. The Sushi Gallery caters for all of the above. So we like it. The staff are lovely, helpful and smiley. They even bring us the odd freebie if we look really hungry.

LW's plate (note additional freebie in between plates)

my plate (OK, more fried food than usual, oh, and the Miso soup was very good today, thanks!)

ah, yes. Replete.

For lunch, it's ideal. The whole meal can be eaten really quickly if time dictates, and there's still (in my mind) some kind of vaguely virtuous notion of healthy eating wrapped up in those bejewelled rolls.

Oh, my. It's quarter past four, and we're having Roast Chicken and winter veggies tonight...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

chicken livers. creamy sauce. crusty bread. Done!

It's raining, the grass has all gone green again, and the garden is thriving. For the first time this year, we've lit the woodburner, and the range, the radiators and the hot water tank are all ticking and clicking from unexpected warmth.

The menu for tonight? Chicken livers fried with onion, port and cream, served with crusty bread and some fresh rocket - my idea of a hearty, quick, autumnal feast. It's a real shame that the chicken livers aren't free range, I try and insist on it for chicken meat, but there doesn't seem to be a supplier of free range livers up north. Maybe I'm mistaken; and if I am, I'd love to know a supplier of the good stuff,  because that whole battery/intensive chicken industry is plain wrong. And I don't want to support it. But I want my lovely, rich, tasty dinner!

So. Controversy and hypocrisy from the first morsel. Excellent!

Here's a pic:


This is the very first post in what I hope will be a blog. Either that, or I'm accidentally adding this to a wikipedia entry. I'm sure they'll tell me.

I had a really good search for food blogs in New Zealand, and my exhaustive research (I looked for over 3 minutes) didn't put me off. I mean, there are many people out there writing blogs about food and cooking, but none of them seem to be me.

My plan is to write about eating and cooking, and even about ingredients. With any luck, it will be made into a film. I hope to be played by Meryl Streep. (It will be her most challenging role yet.)

So. Welcome to my food blog. I hope you enjoy it; that it doesn't give you indigestion, and that you remember to brush your teeth aftewards.

lots of love,