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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bean Wrappin'

This week is slipping me by, and it's like I've forgotten that I've got a blog to write. D'oh! I'll make my excuses later. Right now, I want to remind you that we do make an effort to cook vegetarian meals, just like I promised I would some time ago.

The fact is, the vego meals I've been cooking don't tend to be very interesting. This, I'm sure, is my fault, not the fault of the food. I was raised eating meat.

I'm not trying to break that habit. We're just trying to do different things.

Eating less meat is better for the environment and our health no matter how you look at it, so the vegetarian options really do matter. They haven't seen their fair share of airtime on this blog however, so today I will remedy that.

Beans are a brilliant substitute for meat. Packed with protein, fibre, and all sorts of vitamins and minerals, they're a one-stop shop for kicking off a vegetarian meal.
Just swap out a serving of Beef Mince (Ground Beef) for mild chilli beans, heated and spread over a third of a tortilla wrap. Season liberally with salsa and chopped salad - tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, cheese, capsicum, grated carrot, whatever - and dress the wrap with sour cream and your sauce of choice.
Just like that, Bean Wraps. Quick, easy, healthy, all those buzz words that make you feel righteous in your eating choices.

Not recommended if you work in confined spaces with other people, mind you.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Podcast Review: "Eden" by Phil Rossi

A few weeks ago I wrote what I have decided, in hindsight, was an unnecessarily harsh review of the Sci-Fi/Horror epic podcast novel Crescent, by Phil Rossi. As I've said before, there is a huge difference between highly engineered audiobooks and works of individual labour, and having now thoroughly doused myself in hours of both, I can say with confidence that Crescent is a standout of the latter species.

On that note, anyone who has gone on to listen to Crescent, or anyone who may not be into audiobooks but loves to read a good bit of sci-fi, the book version of Crescent is going to be available on Amazon soon. Phil would like his fans who plan on buying a copy of the book to hold back until July 9th, and then to descend on Amazon like a swarm of angry hornets, pushing the book up the charts. I'll remind you all again closer to the time.

What I like about Rossi is how he has clung tight to everything about the internet that says "you can do it, if you stick with it." He's put everything out there for free, he's made himself accessible to his ever-growing fanbase, and he deserves to reap the rewards. It also proves that the cream really can rise to the top, and that there is no better weapon at a writer's disposal (good writing aside) than the art of self-promotion.
So, moving on. Eden is complete at 8 episodes and available free either on Rossi's website, or through iTunes, or at It's free in all of these places, and provides a donation service, from which the majority of the money goes direct to the author.

I'm not sure what I was expecting when I started listening to Eden, but I figured out pretty much straight away that this was not going to be a rehash of Crescent, despite my initial impressions. Eden is also set on a space station, but there the similarities with Crescent begin and end. I was expecting another action story, but Eden with its dark mystery delivered a much richer experience, which had me hanging out for each new episode.

Where Crescent is visually evocative and a tour-de-force of action and horror, Eden advances at a more cerebral pace. From the outset, Rossi's writing has improved by several degrees, so much so that I felt like I was listening to a different writer. As the writing has matured, so too has the story. Focused intently on the first-person narrator, Malcolm, who is dispatched to a tiny space station near the planet Uranus, Eden is as much about the enormous, mysterious tree that has been found growing in the void of space as it is about Malcolm, his failings, his self-doubt, and his weaknesses.

Woven into this is Rossi's blend of science fiction and Lovecraftian horror, as the station spirals further from safety and sanity and into the consuming madness of Eden. The first-person perspective also keeps you relentlessly close to the action, which makes listening to this story a painfully emotional journey, in a way that all but the best sci-fi and fantasy fails to do.

Eden doesn't drag you through the chapters with blood pumping in your ears and air rasping in your throat like Crescent. Rather, you find yourself being led, trying to turn away, your stomach a hollow pit, afraid of where the next turn is going to lead you, and cursing Malcolm for his crippling self-pity.

I score Eden 4 1/2 stars out of 5, and I seriously rate the quality of Rossi's writing on this novella. It is a good length; any longer and it would have needed a faster pace, any shorter and it would have felt rushed. Overall, and given that it is not a studio production but an individual effort, Eden is a stunner. Give it a listen.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Gluten-Free Roast Chook with Apple Gravy

It's been a little while since I actually posted a recipe here. I have a dozen food posts drafted, but more interesting stuff seems to keep coming up that I feel the need to blog about.

But since I'm also dealing with a serious case of writer's block right now, I figure it's time to get back to what I do best: making your tummy rumble.

It was Nan's birthday, and I hadn't shoved my fingers inside a dead chicken for some time, so I decided to do a special birthday roast chook. This recipe is based on a Jamie Oliver classic, but it incorporates my trademark apple gravy, and is Gluten-Free. (JO's is also GF, but he doesn't have the added bonus of apple gravy).

Gluten-Free Roast Chicken with Apple Gravy

(Serves 6)

1 Large Whole Chicken, (size 20) fresh or thawed
50g Butter, softened
3 Cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
3 Stalks of Rosemary, leaves roughly chopped
Zest of 1/2 a Lemon (Keep the lemon to stuff the cavity)
Freshly Ground Salt and Pepper

For the Gravy:
1 Apple, cut into eighths
1 Onion, sliced
Pulverise together all ingredients except the chicken, apple and onion. Preheat the oven to 220C.
Take a small sharp knife and slit the skin away from the breast above the neck. Carefully prise the skin away, being careful not to let it split. Stuff the butter into the space between, pressing it as far as you can over the breast and into the thighs and legs. Spread any leftover butter over the skin.
Season the skin. Slice the lemon in half and squeeze into the cavity (the lemon that is, not you).
Place the segments of apple in the centre of a roasting dish and layer the onion rings over the top of this. Place the chicken on top, breasts up.
Roast at 220C until cooked, about 2 1/2 hours. Turn and baste after 40 mins and again after 80 mins.
And now for a picture of a posh-looking beer, cos we haven't done that for a while. Not necessarily recommended as an accompaniment to this dish, but certainly recommended. (Thanks Uncle I!)
When the chicken is done, remove it to a cutting board to stand for about 10 minutes. What you have left should look like this. To make the gravy, simply blitz everything in the roasting dish, either using a hand-held blender, or by straining it into a blender, or even by mashing it all through a sieve. It will self thicken without you needing to add anything or heat it again.
Serve with roast veges, fresh garden veges, and a nice crisp Pinot Gris. Then get out of the kitchen before they make you do the dishes.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What I've Been Listening To

I'll be getting back to the food very shortly, I promise.

I'm being a bit of a net audio junkie right now, and I want to share around a bit of the love. Everything I've been listening to is free, just like the podcasts I've reviewed over the past months, so if any of it sounds like it might appeal, dive right in.

Top of the list right now is John Lithgow reading a big swag of previously unreleased Mark Twain. Witty, satirical, and thought-provoking, these unpublished letters and essays by one of literature's finest is brilliant stuff. Lithgow's reading is also a joy to listen to. I find myself alternately laughing and lost in thought as the talents of these two fine men blend together. Well worth the time.

I've just finished Derek Gilbert's Iron Dragons, a fantasy sci-fi book that kept me entertained from start to finish. From the immortal first line "Dragon pee really stinks", Iron Dragons promises to be full of dry wit and action, and it delivers well. Gilbert reads his own writing at an easy pace with little embellishment, so it feels like someone is really just reading you a good story. He drops his voice for some characters and plays with accents here and there, but only enough to get across the point of the different people in his world. Short and satisfying.

Also in the humour stakes (see, it's not all just horror and violence that I listen to!) is the laugh-out-loud audio-show "Lost Bearings", by Mr Jeb. This one is stream-only, but it is uproarious. Teddy Bears have come to life, and while most of them just want to fit in and drink beer and eat sandwiches, there are always a few who want to cause trouble and, you know, rule the world. Only four 15-min episodes at this stage, but if we flood Mr Jeb with hits, he might be more encouraged to record a few more. Top notch British humour.

And finally, I've moved on in the audiobook department to Nocturnal, by the original master of the podcast novel, Scott Sigler. Nocturnal is a horror story set in San Francisco. Since starting it two days ago, I can't stop listening. So far, so good. Cracking good humour, a scary-as-hell storyline, very competent performance, and impressive production values for a book that was a pioneer in its time. No star rating yet, but if you like horror, my impression thus far is that listening to this will be a stonking good time. My poor ipod is getting a hammering right now. I reckon it's shaking in its boots, now that I've left it alone in the dark.

I've also found myself reading again, more than I have in ages. Currently on a Dean Koontz novel, oddly, which as it turns out is a laugh-a-minute too, which I was not quite prepared for. While remaining dark and scary as one would expect from horror master Koontz, Life Expectancy is written with the author's tongue quite firmly in his cheek. (Sorry, that one's not free, unless you'd like to get it off me when I'm done.)

That's about all. Back into the foody goodness very shortly. Happy listening!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

AudioBook Review - "DarkAge" by Kirk Warrington

After finishing Phil Rossi's Crescent and waiting in eager anticipation for the final chapters of Jack Kincaid's Hoad's Grim, my hunger for more good storytelling was ravenous. I took Phil Rossi's advice and headed to Podiobooks to hunt down another great listen, and found a huge list of books that sounded like they might appeal to me.

I spent some time downloading first chapters and loading them into a playlist on my Ipod, then listened to them in the car on the way home. The ones that grabbed me made it as far as being downloaded in full, and one of those was DarkAge by Kirk Warrington.

I would love to rave about how good this was. I'd love to say that it was hilarious and satisfying and well worth the listen, just because I don't really like to sound critical. Unfortunately, for all its good points, DarkAge ultimately let me down as a listener, and I would be hesitant to recommend it.

First and foremost, let me say again that I have a tremendous amount of respect for the amount of work that goes into not only writing a book (I've done that myself - phew!) but also into doing an audio production of any scale, much less the recording of a whole book. I've made short films and worked in the film industry for years, so I know there's no such thing as a "small project". So to Kirk W and Phil R and Jack K (and Derek Gilbert, whose book Iron Dragons I'm currently listening to, and Christoph Laputka, who produces the astounding Leviathan Chronicles) who go to all this effort, and do it all for free, I tip my hat. Sometimes, however, the mark is missed.

DarkAge reeled me in from the first chords of the crunching heavy metal guitar riff that frames each episode. The basic premise is that a group of people - in this case fantasy role-players - are magically swept away into another world where they find they have come to inhabit their characters from the game they were just playing. Suddenly, the risks they were so happy for their paper-based characters to face are more than just a game; they're deadly reality. As the story progresses, the characters realise that in order to survive in this harsh world, they must become their DarkAge characters. If they don't, they won't have those characters' skills that allow them to prosper as they would in the game. The option is penury and shame at best, and death at the worst.

In terms of theme, DarkAge seems to be about the struggle for integrity of one's own self when faced with the challenges of emerging into a world that is more brutal and real than you were ever prepared for. As a teen coming-of-age metaphor, DarkAge bundles up the fears and hopes that we all had and throws them at us in a bloody, bruising haze; responsibilities can be as much a burden as a blessing, and making the wrong choices has real consequences. Sometimes making those choices, even standing up for what you believe in, can be fatal.

The narrative was linear and uncomplicated, which sadly also left the character development sorely lacking. While we knew all the characters and understood their individual motives and desires reasonably well, the need to abandon their old selves to survive tended to force them all in a single direction, even those who resisted that change.

Where this really fell down for me, however, was that the hook in a story of this nature is that you want to know: How do they get home? Without wanting to spoil the book, suffice to say that this question is never answered in a manner that satisfied me, given the hours I spent listening to DarkAge. In fact, there were far too many questions of that nature, questions that are really the guts of a story of this kind, that were never answered. Instead, the story focused on the conflicts between the characters themselves and the people they meet in the world of Merinia, and we never get to really learn about what makes this world tick. Conflict and story are all good of course, but it came at the cost of world-building and character arcs.

While this left the story open to a lot of action and adventure, of which there is plenty, and a good dose of humour, much of it fairly ribald, DarkAge ultimately feels shallow and under-developed, like watching someone else play a hack-and-slash computer game.

Warrington uses the idea that this is not a parallel world but a game world to lampoon many of the ridiculous rules that abound in roleplaying, and in that he well and truly hits the mark. (I think I'm bleeding to death! / You Idiot! Just drink a healing potion!) [Not an actual quote, but you get the idea.]

The other three key elements of the podcast - namely performance, writing, and production - also need work.

Performance-wise, while Warrington's theatrical skills leave much to be desired, he was by no means the worst I've heard. His reading of the script was deliberate and came across as forced, but he was nothing if not clear. He also handled the large cast of characters well, creating unique and distinctive, if not necessarily brilliant, voices for all of them. Some were harder to pick than others, but Warrington's insistence on writing dense lines of verbiage to follow almost every mouthful of speech ensured that we always know who's talking.

Yet it was this verbosity which also made me grit my teeth while listening. I would think to myself, I don't need you to tell me that he said that with annoyance, I can tell from the dialogue and the tone. This over-writing slowed the story down and seldom added any illumination. I think it may have improved towards the end, however. With the help of a brutal editor this book could be tightened up tremendously and be a snappier, more captivating piece of sword-and-sorcery than it currently is.

The sound effects were the real low point. Like I said, good on you Kirk for even getting this far. I've been spoiled by podcasts like Leviathan, Hoad's Grim and Eden, which all have stunning audio production. But the cries of the demons in the last chapters just made me laugh, or at least groan. Any tension that had been built in any scene that those demons squealed in just went down the drain as soon as that noise came through the speakers. Surely there must be better Creative Commons 'Demon Screams' out there for people to use. Kincaid, any suggestions?

Overall, I'll say that I'm glad I stuck with it to the end, but it was getting to be a struggle, and I really wanted to see them get home. Given the ending, however, I guess there is a sequel in the wind. This had the potential to be a good read, but ultimately it failed to convince me. Unless you really love the "whisked away into a parallel/divergent universe" concept, I wouldn't recommend DarkAge. The high point is Warrington's ability to satirise the genre and the RPG world, and worth a listen if you like that sort of thing. I know I laughed more than I usually do reading fantasy or sci-fi, and for that I'm grateful. And while I'd like to know what happens to Kev and Vaughn and Sake and Jer, and James and Hades, I don't think I'll be rushing out to listen to the sequel.

2 1/2 Stars.

Holiday Kai: Blackberry Crumble

You've gotta love wild blackberries. Of course, the Thames-Coromandel District Council regards them as a noxious weed, due to the thorny plant's invasive nature, but it seems a bit ridiculous to make them illegal.

"That plant produces vast amounts of edible berries that people can gather and eat for free. Ban them!"

Ah, but enough with the cynicism. Let's just bear in mind that if bureaucracy has its way, the simple pleasure of ripping your hands and legs to shreds as you tread gingerly through wiry patches of sprawling blackberries may be drawing to a close, so get out there and make the most of it.

Well, maybe next season.
I'm very lucky, in that there is a huge blackberry patch on my Dad's farm, which he is making an effort to look after and keep harvestable (read: careful pruning to leave paths through the creepers that won't leave you in need of a transfusion by the time you've filled your ice-cream container). When we were up there last month, we made the most of the end of the season, by stocking up on lovely, sweet berries to use in a crumble.
Ice-cream containers full of blackberries remind me of being a kid. Nomnomnom.
Anyway, my Nana made the crumble using her old recipe that never fails. Start with your blackberries, about a litre (for want of a better measure),
and one apple, stewed down to sauce.
Mix the apple, berries and 1/2 - 1 Cup of sugar, to taste.
Make sure your little campfire is hot, and burning down to lovely embers.
Add the crumble, which is a mixture of butter, self-raising flour and more sugar. (I wish I could be more accurate, but whatever I made my notes on about this at the time is nowhere to be found now)
Carefully place the pie dish in a Camp Oven, and make sure it's tight.
Spread out a nice bed of coals, put the Camp Oven in the centre of the embers, and pile them up around the base of the oven.
Shovel hot coals over the top of the Oven, covering the lid completely. Leave to cook for about 20 minutes.
Dust off the ashes and remove from the fire. Carefully remove the lid and extract the pie dish.
With the help of a torch, dish up the crumble and try to get photos. Indulge while it's hot, then stoke up the fire and enjoy the bush in the cool of the evening.

(It's OK Dan, you'll be on holiday again one day.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Kaimoana Part 3: Te Kai

So I know you've been asking yourself: "How on earth is he going to cook those chips?" and you're expecting something absolutely profound and unpredictable.

The short answer is "Not Very Well."

That's not to say "Badly", but when your only task on the day (apart from barbequing all that fish, so painstakingly caught and crumbed) is to cook the chips, and the nearest deep fryer is an hour's drive away along with the nearest conventional oven, you might understand how I was wondering how on earth I was going to pull it off.

Bring on the Dutch Oven. (No, not that kind. That's just gross.)
With a generous quantity of oil in the bottom of a couple of these wonders of aluminium technology (not recommended for long-term applications, mind you) a kilogram of chips can be convinced to fit nicely, ready for cooking.
Light a good old campfire in the brick fireplace outside under the old Puriri tree, and let it burn down to hot embers. Place the Camp Ovens into the embers and shovel coals over the top.

The trick after that is getting the lids off without spilling ash into the Camp Oven, in order to stir the chips up, so that they don't burn on the bottom. Let's just say that I managed this with varying degrees of success, but decided not waste memory stick proving it.

And they all got eaten, so they must've been OK.

Or at least edible.

Or everyone was just being very polite.
And here it is, Te Kai. Crumbed fish, fresh from the bay behind the camera. The dark shape resting on top of the fish is paua, taken fresh from the rocks the same day (abalone, to my northern readers), bashed tender, floured and fried in oil. Behind them, the cockles (clams) gathered off the tidal flats down the coast a short distance that afternoon, and on the right, the famous Flame-Fried Chips.

That was such a good feed it's almost sad to have put so much time into writing about it, knowing that I'm hundreds of kilometres and several months from the possibility of having a meal like that again.

Yum Yum *sigh*

Coming up, the last installment in the Holiday Kai Series (It's good how I come up with these names at the end of the series, isn't it?): Blackberry Crumble made with foraged blackberries and cooked bush style.

Cripes, I'm hungry now.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Kaimoana Part 2: The Gatherers

We've talked about the hunters; now, it's time to talk about the gatherers. Before we became part of this economic machine that processes all of our food into one convenient location, conveniently stripped of the bulk of its nutritional value in the name of - ironically - adding value, our ancestors used to raise crops, and hunt, and gather their food.
Every couple of years, when we're up in that part of the country, we like to carry on the traditions that our hapu have maintained for generations, and we trudge along the tidal flats with our buckets and our sunnies to gather kaimoana.
I'm not even going to raise the question of whether anyone thinks that digging shellfish from the sand is any less humane than stalking and shooting a wild deer (see my previous post), or if the ethics of farming mussels might impinge on the quality of the ones you can pull of the rocks in the wild.

Dang, I just raised it, didn't I? Strangely, I doubt that people feel anywhere near as strongly about something that can't actually run away...

Moving on, then. Everyone gets their feet wet. Everyone gets their hands dirty. Jandals float away and are chased after. Little kids sit in warm pools in the sun, which get inexplicably warmer...
A healthy haul of cockles makes its way into a bucket, and the weary gatherers slop back through the returning tide towards cars parked on the beach, while the kids run back and forth, gathering seashells.
Rule One when cooking up a big load of shellfish: Have a really good fire going, and make sure your water is really boiling and will keep boiling. Then the cockles will pop open, ready for eating, in just a few short minutes.
Serve up with garlic mayonnaise and a nice crisp white wine. We had ours with our big meal of fish and chips (campfire styles). It's pretty hard to beat shellfish taken straight from the sea the very same day.

Stay Tuned for Part 3; where I wrap it all together with salad and wine, and deal with the impossible task of cooking chips (fries) with neither a deep fryer nor a proper oven.

(And then, there will even be dessert)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Kaimoana Part 1: The Hunters

We take a break from my usual schedule (What? I have schedule? Lies, I say, all lies!) to get y'all up-to-date with my holiday photos.

From a purely foody perspective, of course. I have my standards, too.

Firstly, however, a brief discussion, which I would love to hear a few more opinions on (go nuts in the comments). I'll point out here that just as I'm not a farmer but hold views on farming, I'm also not a fisher or a hunter, but I have views on both of those past-times.

For a long time, I thought that the idea of stalking and shooting animals or hanging on the end of a rod-and-reel to bring in a meal was not only cruel and inhumane, it was also a phenomenal waste of energy in a world where you can just go to the shop to buy meat. I still doubt that I would have it in me to pull the trigger for the sake of a meal unless it was a last resort to save myself and my family from starvation, but on the other hand, knowing what I know now about the rearing and processing of much of our meat (particularly pork and chicken), I am much more accepting of the fact and philosophy of hunting now than I used to be. While I believe there is a face of hunting which is represented by those who stalk and bring down animals for their value as trophies rather than as food, which is a practice I find abhorrent and always will, the hunters that I know are all well-adjusted and environmentally-aware individuals.

When there is more at stake when you go to collect your winter's supply of meat than how close you can find a park to the front of the supermarket, you learn a respect for both the animal being hunted and the world that has raised it. If the meat that has been brought down in a hunt is not wasted, and if a family can be fed without recourse to pen-raised bacon and battery chicken, then there has to be some value in that.

As I said, I'm not a hunter, so my perspective is purely a contemplative, philosophical one. I like the taste of game meat, which is so much more intense than most farm-reared beef and lamb.

When we were in Canada I was lucky enough to try moose which Uncle C had shot, and I really enjoyed it. He treated us to the photos of the hunt too, so there was a certain grisly, primal reality to the meal, facing the unavoidable truth that here was an animal that had been killed, skinned, gutted, and butchered, before being frozen and eventually making it onto the table for us to eat. That's a reality that the eating public are encouraged to forget about when they buy their bulk family packs of beef mince and BBQ steaks from the supermarket.

On the topic of fishing then, let me produce Exhibit A:
Somewhere in the far reaches of the Coromandel Peninsula there lies a beautiful bay, where the bellbirds greet the morning and the population of Kereru and Kiwi are both in an upward climb.

In a place like this, the idea of sitting on a rock in the failing sun and feeling for the tug of a fish on a line doesn't seem so inane, it seems like a bleeding good idea. I still didn't go fishing, mind you, but I had two brothers-in-law to do so instead.

One of them must have thought about this quandary in some depth, because it was no longer enough for Uncle B to wait at the end of a fishing line for the fish to come to him. Uncle B decided that it was time to level the playing field and give the fish (and the sea) as much of a chance of having a go at him as he was going to have at them. Either that, or he just decided he could handle the cold of the Pacific, and was sick of not being able to see what he was doing.

Unfortunately, within a day or two of arriving, the fancy rubber bungies for his speargun snapped, so he was forced to improvise.
Meet the Iron Eel, MK 1. One sharpened nail tied onto a stripped Nikau stalk, with a bent barb at the back. Look out, fish, we're going Robinson Crusoe on yer... fins.
Nature won that round. Iron Eel, Meet Rock.
Thus, the Iron Eel MK 2. Yes, that's a steak knife attached with copper line to a piece of hardwood harvested from the bush the same day. And yes, that's a beautiful clear Coromandel sky in the background.
Sadly, the MK 2 never had a chance to fly (or swim?) because replacement bungies arrived for the speargun.
Uncle B also had a rather macabre device known as a Hawaiian Sling (or something), which was surprisingly effective.
The fish might not have won that particular round, but Uncle B sure did spend a few cold hours under the waves trying to bring home dinner. It didn't help that, when planning out our menu for the week, we decided to end our stay on a night of fish and chips for dinner, which meant that Uncle B was burdened with the responsibility of bringing in enough fish to feed fifteen people (we had freezers, which made life easier. But that's still a lot of time in the water).
Suffice to say that he managed it, as well as a couple that Uncle C brought in on his fishing line, and on the day we had just enough to feed everyone, with a couple of fillets to go back and have for seconds. Uncle C and LBS crumbed the fillets the old-fashioned way.
I was in charge of cooking them on the BBQ. After Uncle B spent all that time freezing his b*tt off bringing it in, you can imagine how nervous I was. That's not a meal you want to mess up.

So where does that leave me as far as fishing goes? Well, like hunting, I think it's time well spent if it's done for the right reasons, especially if I'm not the one doing it, and I get to enjoy the bounty of the hunt. I'd love to hear how other people feel about this topic too.

Stay tuned for Part 2: The Gatherers, and Part 3: Te Kai, where I get the challenge (not being a fisherman, after all) of cooking chips, using no more than a campfire. Ah, the challenges of life.

(Translation: Kaimoana is the Maori word for Seafood; literally, Food of the Sea)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Truth About Spaghetti

Just when you thought you knew all about where pasta comes from:

From the Ethicurean:

Over half a century ago on April 1, the BBC played a trick on a Britain still hungry from wartime rationing when its program “Panorama” featured a Swiss family carrying out their annual spaghetti harvest. Thousands were fooled, and some viewers were so intrigued they wanted to find out where they could purchase their very own spaghetti bush, the BBC reported.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Autumn Harvest

The time has come to dig up the garden, and see if all that neglect that I poured upon it resulted in any rewards worth reaping.

That's the good thing about potatoes; so long as you keep them watered, but not too watered, it's pretty hard to get it wrong.

Of course, a bit of care and attention can mean that you get it really right, and you find yourself almost drowning in the things, but if you just give it a go, like I did, and you get a lovely haul like this, then you'd have to be happy. I was.One big bowl of potatoes that we didn't have to buy. Woo!Boiled up with fresh mint straight from the garden... ...and tossed with butter. Delicious, and satisfying, in so many ways.
And we got our first pumpkins. The week I picked these, and dug the potatoes, we didn't have to get potatoes, pumpkin or tomatoes from the market. Ka-Ching!
We're still eating the tomatoes we grew on the front deck, and still picking the wild ones from the back garden. Gotta love this pretending-to-be-a-gardener thing.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Dinner Party

A few weeks ago my uncle arrived out of the blue wanting to take us all out to dinner. Since my sister and I both have children, this wasn't going to happen, so instead he decided to take over Aunty L's kitchen and make us all dinner. I threatened to blog it, and so here it is.

The main course was fish parcels, meticulously prepared by hand with fresh New Zealand fish.
Terakihi fillets...
...with salmon fillets......layered on baking paper with peeled deveined shrimps, spring onions, sprigs of fresh tarragon, freshly ground pepper and salt and a little wine and olive oil......wrapped up nicely, with the fold to the top, ready to go in the oven.
Meanwhile, some organic potatoes were put on to boil with heaps of rosemary...
...and a fresh garden salad full of cherry tomatoes was tossed together...
... as was the fruit salad for afters.
When the fish was done in the oven (I think it was about 15 minutes at 200C), it was served up with the salad, potatoes and fresh focaccia bread.
Did I mention that my uncle was a chef in a former life? He's not anymore, but he sure does do a good impression of one. It was quite superb, and I had almost forgotten how much I love fish.

Thanks Uncle M. It was very much enjoyed and appreciated by all. Hope we can do it again soon.