Friday, October 31, 2008
What more can I say? Once again, the fine folk at Wai-Ora have outdone themselves. These are no ordinary bangers. I love it when you can have something like a sausage and really taste what you're eating. For the price-tag of $5.00 for 6 sausages, they were expensive in comparison to the ones you might find at the supermarket, other than the very high end ones, but the difference here is simply the quality of the product, the way it tastes, and knowledge that the meat isn't processed all to hell before it gets to you. It's the taste of honesty.
I cooked ours up with vege hash, preboiling the sausages slightly before grilling them.
Dished up with peas and veges fresh from the market, these were really superb. Not even any need for gravy, as the sausages are just so flavourful on their own they just don't need it.
My next Wai-Ora review will be of the Forequarter Rolled Roast, which we had on Labour Weekend. Watch this space!
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Not so much a dessert or a pudding as a sweet treat, these lemon muffins are straight from Kiwi legend cook Alison Holst's repertoire. They're sweet yet tart, and soft on the inside but crunchy on the outside. They're more than just a dessert. They're an artform.
Crunchy Lemon Muffins
(Makes 6 large muffins and 12 mini Muffins - so probably makes 12 normal-sized muffins - that's my inexpert guess, based on what I have to move out of the way in the oven drawer when I'm trying to get a roast ready...)
Sift the following into a bowl:
2 Cups of Flour
4 t Baking Powder
3/4 Cup of Sugar
Melt 75g of butter in a bowl and add 1 Cup of milk, 1 egg, and the grated rind of 1 large lemon (or 2 small lemons) and combine well with a fork. Combine wet and dry ingredients until the dry ingredients have been lightly dampened but not thoroughly mixed. Divide the mixture into greased muffin trays and bake at 200C for 10 mins.
Stir together 1/4 cup of lemon juice and 1/4 cup of sugar, without dissolving the sugar. Brush this over the muffins as soon as they are removed from the oven. Remove the muffins from the trays as quickly as possible so that the sugar doesn't set and stick to the tray. Brush any excess mixture over the underside of the muffins.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
It contains the following mind-blowing revelation: Asparagus is delicious.
I'm not talking about the chewy muck that comes in cans, or even the finger-thick monstrosities that you can buy at the supermarket when it's in season, which requires more energy to chew and digest than you'll ever get out of it in the process (yes, that's a completely unscientific exaggeration which I won't even try to back up - it's just an ingrained prejudice). The good stuff - which you can currently find at farmers' markets for anywhere from $1.50 to $2.00 a bunch - is the crisp new baby tips. These are so sweet and crunchy they deserve to be gobbled up by anyone who has the good sense to lay their hands on them.
As to how to cook them, it couldn't be easier. The truth is that you pretty much only want to get them warm. Any more than that and they'll just go soggy and chewy like their bigger brothers and sisters.
Most nights we cook up a little steamer of carrots and broccoli. I steam the carrot for 10 minutes, adding the broccoli after 5 minutes. For the asparagus, just break off the bottom 1/4 of the stalks and pop them in the steamer when you take it off the heat, and let the steamer sit while you dish your plates. After that 2-3 minutes, the asparagus will be warm and moist and still crunchy and sweet. I drizzle a teeny bit of extra virgin olive oil on them too, and eat it all up straight away before it gets cold.
I can't believe I just did a plug for asparagus. Is that a sign of some degenerative disease? Seriously, this is lovely stuff, just coming into season, cheap and plentiful at the markets right now, and you would be doing yourself a big favour by getting it into you (without even starting on all the good stuff that must be in it - it's green all over, for goodness' sake!).
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Meanwhile, the interview can be listened to here, until they take it down.
Lyn Craig, Social Researcher with University of NSW Social Policy Research Centre: Interview with Noelle McCarthy, Radio New Zealand, Wednesday 22 October 2008, 2.10pm (approx 17 minutes)
The headline grabber is that: "Australian Fathers spend 6-7 minutes a day with their Kids." OK, I'm not Australian, and the research doesn't cover New Zealand, and Craig is not even trying to present a picture of a regressive chauvinistic male population who leave the childcare to the Mums of the world. But what I protest is that a Dad who spends time "reading, talking and playing" with his kids, in her opinion, is not spending time caring for his children. Craig defines "childcare" as sole care and the work of cooking, tidying, changing nappies, bathing, dressing, picking up and dropping off from school etc.
What's a guy supposed to do? Get home and send the wife down the pub until after bedtime, in order to qualify as "caring for" his children?
Men also get no credit for spending time together with the family on the weekend, according to Lyn Craig. Oh, this is all good and well for the family, she says, but it's not childcare as long as the father isn't doing it on his own.
Give us a break!
At the risk of sounding like a backward male, I get up at 6am to go to work and get home around 4.45pm. I know that during that time Dessert Chef has the hard work of getting Isaac up, dressed, fed, entertained, fed again, entertained, changed, fed again, into bed, up, dressed, fed again, entertained, watered, etc etc etc until 4.45 when I get home. I know that this is hard work, that it is sole care, and that it is a completely different dynamic to working together as a family on the weekend or in the evenings.
From the time I get home until Isaac goes to bed, he's my responsibility. I entertain him, we play, I cook the family dinner (with everybody's help, usually), I give Isaac his bath while Dessert Chef does the dishes, I get him into his pyjamas and we read books for anywhere from 10 minutes to half an hour, before I give him some pudding, brush his teeth, give him a bottle, and get him into bed. This is usually about three hours, but according to Lyn Craig, the only time that I would be able to count as "caring" for my son would be the 20 minutes of giving him a bath and getting him dressed. Sure enough, according to Craig, this gives me three times the effort that the average Australian Dad can lay claim to, but for three hours work I feel a bit cheated.
As a family, I know that we are very, very lucky. We can afford to have Mum at home looking after our son, and I have negotiated hours that allow me to have quality time at home in the evenings and weekends to do my bit towards being a Dad and raising my boy. (Sidebar - I put aside a career in a highly lucrative but terribly demanding part of my industry to be able to work those family-friendly hours. We may be a little worse off financially for it, but I have never regretted making that choice.)
Those three hours are what I look forward to all day at work, and so does Dessert Chef, because she knows that when I get home she gets to relax. That's what teamwork is all about. I take offence at the idea that my contribution is nothing more than a hobby.
I'm sure Lyn Craig didn't set out to engage in a campaign of reverse sexism, or to deride the efforts and advances made by progressive members of both genders over the past fifty years. It's not what she has witnessed and reported on that I take issue with. It's how she chooses to define what parenting is. I get the feeling that in her estimation dual-income households where both parents share the duties of child-rearing in combination with outside childcare would be an ideal.
We eschew this concept, for two reasons. For one, the decision to strive for two incomes, however necessary it may be, is all part of the problem that we are facing today with the global economic collapse. There is a line between staying out of poverty and simply being greedy. We choose to place our family above all else and keep our heads above water, rather than pursue the almighty dollar with our every energy. It's tough at times, but it's worthwhile. Secondly, what is the point of working and paying someone else to raise your children if you can possibly afford not to? I know that I'm likely to draw a string of invective about this, because it's one of those hot issues that everyone has a deeply held opinion about, but our feelings are pretty straightforward: the best people who can raise our children are us.
I'd love to hear what others out there think, and how people in circumstances different to ours cope.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Tuna & Corn Fritters
In a bowl, mix up the following:
1 can of whole kernel corn, drained (reserve the fluid);
1 large egg;
1 tin of flaked tuna, drained;
1 onion, finely chopped;
1 cup of flour;
2 tsp baking powder;
Add 1/4 Cup of the corn liquid to the mixture and stir gently, adding more if necessary to reach a smooth consistency. Fry the batter in batches in hot oil and drain on a paper towel.
Delicious with sweet thai chilli sauce, plum sauce, and garlic aioli.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Last weekend we went to Staglands with Aunty L, Uncle B and their kids. Being spring, the place was alive with chicks, ducklings, goslings, kids and lambs.
When Isaac got to this pen, and we told him that this was a lamb, this was his reaction:
I guess he must know at least that much, then.
Monday, October 20, 2008
That, of course, never happened.
I remember talking to this flatmate, let's call him Oz, over a cold beer on a hot afternoon, and being awed by his world-weary wisdom. He mused that it would not be nuclear war that would bring an end to the granduer of the 20th Century, but that the demise of Western Civilisation, not just in the moral sense that the conservative right have been lamenting for sixty years now, would come about when the whole grand illusion of the world economy caved in on itself. America, he predicted, would bring about its own undoing when all the false realities of its financial system were laid bare, and everything would fall from there.
I'm sure that I don't need to summarise for anyone reading this just what has happened to the world markets in recent weeks and months. But here are a few things to consider, thinking about what Oz said to me that day 9 years ago:
- Last week, Wall St crashed further than it did in 1987, despite an injection by the US Govt of about 1 trillion dollars, suggesting that, like most things that are fundamntally flawed, simply throwing more money at the problem will not fix it.
- Iceland is bankrupt. This is a country we're talking about. An entire country. Bankrupt.
- Inflation in Zimbabwe is running at 1,000,000% per day. When faced with numbers like that, how can money mean anything at all?
- The Large Hadron Collider cost around 5 billion pounds over the past ten or so years, making it the most expensive science project ever. Yet the US Govt spends 1 billion dollars a day on its military activities in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world. After 7 years of this, how many worthwhile science projects that might have helped avert the global climate and food crises we're facing now might have been funded instead?
I would hazard a guess that the answer is that they always knew, but because the illusion is so deeply entrenched in the financial practices and the psyches of pretty much everyone on the planet (apart from those lucky subsistence hunters of the deep Amazon or nomadic herders of Inner Mongolia or Patagonia), there really was nothing they could do but wait for the dream to shatter. To try to fix it would have been to perpetuate the very fallout that we are now witnessing, and no-one wants to be remembered for unleashing such a thing on the world.
As someone said, to believe in the American Dream, it's best if you're asleep.
For another very lucid opinion on what has transpired and what is yet to come, check out this interview with Charles Hugh Smith.
And to bring it back down to earth, for those of us who can never pull the great puppet strings that rule the world, it's just another reminder that every day we should be striving for self-reliance, instead of depending on the world out there to provide for us. If you were in Iceland right now, you'd be wishing you didn't have to wait for the next boat to come in bringing your winter food supplies, because that boat isn't coming. And that is a very harsh reality to be facing, when it is not your doing that has brought this about.
I'm constantly inspired by the people I see making inroads into self-sustainability. Apart from the obvious examples like the Dervaes and Gallimaufree, Patrice Farmer is a single mother who is managing to raise not only her daughter but also several chickens and a garden that puts mine to shame, all the while doing so with a crippling bone disorder (arthritis I think - correct me if I'm wrong, Patrice). As I read her blog, I'm reminded that I have no excuse not to do more to break away from the grand illusion before my family and I become victims of its collapse.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
It seems that between work and family and building playhouses I have had no time at all for keeping this site up-to-date. Considering that the recipe I have here was something I made about 3 weeks ago, that might give you an idea of just how busy I've been. Last weekend DadDad John helped Uncle B and I assemble the frames for the two playhouses, and chopped us up a carload of firewood. I never thought I'd see the day when I was putting my Dad to work for the weekend, instead of the other way round. Such a curious universe.
I also started a Facebook Group called Fans of Urban Driftwood. Inside of a week, this group already has almost 60 members, which is amazing since we've only sold one copy. There are a total of nine copies in existence at time of publishing this post, and since I possess four of those, that's an awful lot of Fans for the remaining five copies. Go Facebook! I'll be registering the newly minted copies with the ISBN to the National Library Archives this week.
We have officially moved Isaac out of his cot and into his big bed. He thinks this is great. I can tell by the way he's banging on the walls in sheer delight. It's going to be a long night.
I rushed around the Hutt River Market today, keenly anticipating swinging by the Lamb Van, only to find that they had sold clean out for the day. Big Ups, Wai-Ora Farm. Stink for us, though. Anyway, since Dessert Chef C had a long night last night and we've got to go out doing family stuff tomorrow for Pretty Penny's birthday, I'd better divulge my top secret Orange-Stuffed Chicken Recipe. It's time like this that I'm glad I make notes!
Orange-Stuffed Chicken (Slow-Cooker Recipe)
In a bowl, mix up the following:
4 sprigs of oregano, leaves washed and roughly chopped;
1/4 kumera, chopped small (into 1/4" cubes);
1/2 onion, finely chopped;
Zest from 1/4 of an orange;
Freshly Ground Salt and Pepper to season;
Olive oil to adjust consistency.
Mix until the ingredients hold together. Stuff the cavity of a whole chicken with the mixture. Truss.
Toss the chicken in Salt and Pepper and the zest from 1/4 of the orange (or more if you want an intense orangey flavour).
In the bottom of your Slow Cooker, pour the juice from the orange, the other half of your onion, chopped, another 1/4 of a chopped kumera, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and just a light splash of water.
Place the chicken in the slow cooker and turn on High for 5 hours.
Prepare some roast veges to go with the chicken. When the bird is done, remove for carving (this is hardly necessary as the bones will just fall apart anyway). Strain the fat from the liquid in the bottom of the cooker and blend up what's left, adding chicken stock if necessary, to make a sweet and tangy gravy.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Frogblog has revealed yet another example of the New Zealand Food Safety Authority's failure to protect the public from toxic imported foods, this time from American agri-giant Monsanto.
The most concerning thing about it is that this is not a standalone product that we can choose to avoid by shopping wisely.
MON863 [is] one of Monsanto’s genetically modified varieties of maize. It struck controversy last year when an independent French study showed that, despite it being approved for human consumption in 2006, it caused signs of liver and kidney toxicity as well as hormonal changes in rats.The Food Safety Authority of New Zealand had approved the corn for use in Australia and New Zealand, in October 2003, based on evidence from Monsanto. FSANZ reports that MON863 is in used in high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, and corn flour. Such products are processed into breakfast cereals, baking products, extruded confectionery and corn chips. If you look on the back of most processed foods you will find high fructose corn syrup or corn starch. It’s a fairly common flavour enhancer. However, our labelling laws make it impossible to be certain which foods contain it and which don’t.
Once again, the Government's unwillingness to implement mandatory Country of Origin labelling on imported foods or foods prepared with imported ingredients means that we risk consuming potentialy harmful substances, usually without even knowing.
It gets worse:
Then today the Sustainability Council said of FSANZ:
New Zealand’s food safety regulator ’shopped’ for alternative advice when a report it had commissioned from ESR questioned the safety of a GM food.
The second report it got replaced an earlier commissioned one which said there were concerns about consumer safety from MON863:
The new document was produced by a different ESR division to the group Gallagher belonged to. However, instead of an “updated” report, NZFSA accepted a letter that carried no clear reference to the Gallagher Report or its scientific conclusions. In place of a formal peer-reviewed report that had answered NZFSA’s brief and was prepared by a scientist with the appropriate expertise, NZFSA accepted a letter that carried just four sentences in response to the original brief, and was signed off by a group that NZFSA knew had originally passed on the work after stating they lacked the appropriate expertise. The letter indicated there was no scientific evidence that MON863 is unsafe to eat.
(Also courtesy of Frogblog)
So, not only are they remiss in their duty, but they are engaged in an active campaign of misinformation. And we are supposed to trust these people with our safety and the health of our children? I am quite frankly appalled.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Daylight Savings didn't help. It took more like two weeks rather than the usual one to get over the inevitable jetlag, but now that it's normal we're loving the extra sunshiney hour. It means that Isaac is staying up later too, just enough to chew into our sanity time in the evening and deny us time to get important things - like blogging - done. Mind you, I seem to have had an awful lot of television to catch up on lately, mainly because I was ignoring it all while I completed the third draft of my novel. Now I'm at a bit of a loose end in that regard. I have this hankering to start on my next one, but Dessert Chef has rapped me over the knuckles and told me to bl*@dy well DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT first. For that I must turn to my good friend Morgue, he of the sly wit and the golden wink, who knows all about this getting-a-book-published business. So alas, there will be no mad launch into a wild new adventure with all my favourite characters just yet. Patience, my friends.
I spent all day today out in the sun. Went to the Hutt Riverbank Market this morning, and it was packed. Heaps of people out in the gorgeous spring air hunting for new season asparagus and other delicious goodies among the cacophony of greengrocers and fishmongers. I doled out my coins very carefully, and was rewarded with enough change at the end of the circuit to afford some more of my favourite lamb. I got the sausages this time, and I'll be sure to let you know how that goes. Then I went up to Aunty L's where I spent another afternoon with Uncle B building playhouses for their kids and Isaac. What amazed us was that when we came to put all the bits together, it actually looked like a little house. There's something to be said for measuring before you cut, then. Who would've guessed?
Tomorrow we have to bring the frames we built at Aunty L's for Isaac's one home and assemble them into his playhouse. Going to be another long day in the sun. So much for getting any gardening done. Oh well, it's Labour Weekend next weekend, so we can do it all then. Fingers crossed for sunshine.
And I hear that people come here because I write about food sometimes. OK, lets see what I can pull out of my chef's hat today.
Cheese Hash (with Leftover Roast Veges)
This is a great way to use up those pesky leftover veges that seem to hang around the kitchen after a big roast dinner, and aren't quite enough to make into soup.
Grate up as many leftover veges as you need to feed the hungry mouths present. I used potato and kumera, about 8 pieces in total. If you have a some roast onion, chop that up raggedly and add all this to a bowl. Grate in a hunk of Cheddar cheese and a generous shaving of parmesan cheese, add freshly ground salt and pepper, and break in 2-3 eggs, or as many as you need to avoid open revolution.
Fry in hot ricebran oil (no cholesterol!) turning once or twice to prevent burning. Slice up a tomato or two and fry at the same time. When the hash is cooked, serve with sour cream and a sprinkle of paprika, along with the obligatory hot coffee.
Not only is that a brilliant way to start a weekend morning, its also making the most of the food in your pantry and therefore the money in your wallet. Nyummy.
Friday, October 10, 2008
I won't bore you with the details, but here's what I think I did:
I sliced several cloves of garlic and started frying them in hot oil. I placed the chicken in this garlic, drizzled liberally with balsamic vinegar, and proceeded to cook, quite hot, turning every 15 minutes or so. I seem to recall adding a chopped onion and a diced tomato to the pan, which shuffled to the bottom under the chicken and pretty much turned to something black and inedible. I left those bits in the pan before I served the chicken. Right at the end I wilted some chopped silverbeet and heaped it on top of the chicken to serve.
I remember that this was good, but thought that the same thing done in a casserole dish would probably have been much nicer, without all the burnt bits.
I also thought it was important to point out that I don't get it right every time, and that I'm OK with that.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Anyway, we're willing to take any hint of spring as an excuse to get back into summery food. Dessert Chef made fresh bread rolls using our standard pizza dough recipe, rising them in Texas muffin tins so they kept their shape, and we had Bacon and Egg burgers to welcome burger season to our house for the year.
I'm sure I don't need to pretend this is a recipe. Fry the bacon. Fry the eggs until the the whites are set and the yolks are still running. Dress with garlic aioli and pile on top of shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, beetroot, cucumber, pineapple and cheese.
Welcome back to summer! (Let's keep up the illusion, anyway, shall we?)
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Anyway, now that I've finished the third draft, I'd like to get onto creating the covers. I say covers because this book is too long to publish as one volume, so I need two covers. Brilliant landscape photographer Off-Black is going to collaborate on this project, which is very exciting, but as he and wife Fish have just had a beautiful baby girl (three weeks early!) I'm guessing that his time will not be his own for a little while yet. It's been almost 2 years since we had a baby anywhere near that small in our house, and I seem to recall that when they're that little, time is not a luxury you can afford to spend on much other than making it through the days and nights.
So, you might ask, with Urban Driftwood complete and no more redrafting to do on my novel at this stage, and with spring in the air and stuff to be planted in the garden, and lawns to mow and hedges to trim and all that, what have I done this weekend to make sure that I'm being as productive as I try to encourage other people to be? Well, to be honest, I played X-Box. Only for a couple of hours this afternoon, while the weeds are rushing up to swallow the onions. Oh well, sometimes it's what you have to do.
It might have had something to do with Gray's 33rd birthday party that I managed to make it to last night. I'm not used to going out on a Saturday night and not getting home until - *gasp* - after midnight. Add to that not just Singstar but a dozen Singstar discs of songs and I had a ball. Not sure that anyone having to listen to me murder Johnny Cash and Freddie Mercury would have had as good a night, but I had fun. Nothing quite like pseudo-karaoke on one cocktail and a couple of beers to liven up a party.
Meanwhile, I'm waiting for the rest of the second episode of The Pretender to stream down so I can watch it. Absolutely brilliant political satire and free to watch thanks to TVNZ coming to the party and NOT CHARGING for their on-demand service. That's progressive (No, nothing to do with Jim Anderton).
Right, well I've watched that now and it was fantastic. And somehow the weekend has disappeared.
Friday, October 3, 2008
Now, onto less political and more tasty things: BaconChicken. We had a discussion about whether or not if you took away the bacon, these would be Vegetarian Chicken. Yes, there is oftentimes silliness in the Freshly Ground Kitchen. But seriously, we have soy-based tofu dogs (not us personally, but they're out there), so how come we can't get tofu drumsticks? Dessert Chef says I can't use tofu until I can prove that she won't be able to taste it. And if you look closely, you'll see that by weight it's not actually cheaper than meat (last time I checked anyway - things may have changed by now). So no tofu for us. No, we'll have our BaconChicken meaty, please! (Apologies to any vego readers out there...)
OK, its not exactly the quickest and easiest, but these chicken drumsticks came out beautifully. The secret ingredient is jellied cranberry.
(Servings: Allow 1 rasher of bacon per 2 Drumsticks, and 2-3 Drumsticks per person.)
Spread the cranberry over the chicken and then wrap a couple of long strips of bacon around each. Season with freshly ground salt and black pepper.
Trim the fat off the bacon and lay it on an oven rack, then place the baconchicken on top of it. I cooked ours on my favourite Pizza setting for about 40 minutes, turning every ten minutes or so.
Serve with steamed greens and roasted veges (cook these in the bottom of the oven, starting about 20 minutes before the chicken).
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
After nine long years of inception, drafting, redrafting, shelving, redrafting, and finally publishing, I'm very happy to say that our collection of poetry and short stories is available to the world for purchase.
We're using Lulu.com's Publish-On-Demand technology, so copies of the book are printed and shipped as they're ordered. This is good for the trees of the world, and I've been very impressed with the production values of the draft copies that Lulu have sent through to me.
Thanks to Morgue, Jane and Steve for all their patience (it has to be noted here that said patience stretches back to 1999. That's patience!).
And thanks to everyone who buys a copy. You're putting your hands on a piece of Wellington's history.