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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Best EVER Mashed Potato

Back in the day I used to work on film sets. No, not nearly as much fun as it might sound. No, I can't get a job with Peter Jackson, so don't ask.

Getting back to the topic, there is one thing that I will always remember fondly about working in film, and that is the catering. Well, not always. Certain jobs spring to mind and make me shudder, but for the most part, I remember being pretty well fed on most jobs.

The thing that amazed me most, however, was how excited people got when there was mashed potato on the menu.

People! I would say. It's mashed potato, for crying out loud! I would say.

It was only then that I realised how lucky I had been to have a mum who dished us up mashed potato on a fairly regular basis. As it turns out, a good old ladelful of mashed spud was a right royal treat for most people who weren't me.

Of course, as you can imagine, there are varying degrees of deliciousness to mashed spud. And over the years I've picked up a few little extras that tip the humble mashed spud over into the divine.

What a few film techs wouldn't give to eat dinner at my house one night!

World's Best Ever Mashed Potato

(Serves 4)200g Boiling Potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
1 large Kumera, peeled and diced as above
1/2 an onion, chopped
1/4 C Colby Cheese, grated
Freshly Ground Pepper and Salt

Rinse the potatoes and kumera, then add fresh water and salt and place on a high heat to boil. Meanwhile, fry up your onion and set aside (I did this first, as I then used the pan to cook some lovely lamb sausages - but I digress).
When the potatoes are cooked, and simply fall apart when you poke them with a fork, remove from the heat and drain the water off. If you want to keep a gluten-free thickener on hand, I recommend reserving this water and freezing it to add to soups or stocks later.
Add a knob of butter and a dash of milk to the potato, about 3T. Mix in.
Add the cooked onion and go wild with the fork. No flash equipment is required here, not even a potato masher. A humble old fork and a speedy wrist are all that's required to whip your spuds up to a creamy lather.
If it seems a bit dry, add a bit more milk until it flows freely through the tines.
Add the grated cheese and a little seasoning of pepper, and whip the cheese in.
Dish up in a ragged swirl in the centre of the plate. You will find there is no better accompaniment for gravy in the whole wide world.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Jamie Oliver's Ball Thingy (Or, Honey-Spice Crusted Lamb Roast)

Those Celebrity Chefs, sometimes I love them, sometimes I...don't love them.

But I'm always willing to cut them some slack. So when my lovely Dessert Chef presented me with this contraption:
...I had to give it a go. It's a Jamie Oliver thing, apparently, and it's sort of like a mortar and pestle, but in a jar. Sort of. That's a plastic two-part screw shaker, and the little white ball is ceramic. The theory goes that you can use it to whip up rubs, sauces, and suchlike with hard and wet ingredients in a jiffy, using less energy than it takes to drive a mortar and pestle.

I guess.

Thus presented, I decided to give it a whirl.

I had a lovely little roast of lamb, and I decided to coat it with a glaze of honey, paprika, almonds and some other stuff. So here goes.

Honey-Spice Crusted Lamb Roast

(Serves 4)

350-400g Rolled Lamb Forequarter Roast
Whole Peppercorns and Rock Salt to taste
Freshly Grated Nutmeg
1t Slivered Almonds
1t Paprika
1t Avocado Vinaigrette
1t Honey
1 Onion, cut into 1/8ths
Roasting Veges, peeled and seasoned and tossed in oil

Start with your hardest ingredients, in this case, rock salt, peppercorns, nutmeg, and almonds. Put these in the bottom section, add the wee ball, screw the top on and shake vigorously.
Hand off the hard work to a keen young helper.
Unscrew the cap and add the rest of the ingredients; the vinaigrette, honey, and paprika.
When it looks something like this, scoop it out with the little rubber spoon (Yeah, there's also a little rubber spoon, for just this purpose. Here's a photo of it).
Spread it over the roast.
Ooh, look, veges! See that pumpkin up there? I grew that.
Place the lamb on top of the sliced onion and arrange the veges around it.

Cover in foil and roast for 1 hour at 190C, or shorter if you prefer a rare cut.

Remove the foil for the last 15 minutes of cooking to brown.
Remove from the heat and allow to rest for 8-10 minutes before carving.
Slice and serve.
What do I reckon? Well, it worked for me. Easy to use, easy to clean, easy to store. I'll be interested to see how well the rubber seals last, and of course keeping the neat little ball away from the 2-year-old is a challenge too.

So I wouldn't write it off as a waste of money and drawer space yet. I've used it again since and it has served its purpose well.

So good on you Jamie. This one's a winner.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Love this Country

If I'm going to drive up the length of the North Island, I only usually do so in the summer.

A couple of weeks ago I drove a truck to Cambridge, and had the good fortune to remember the camera. I got these shots of Mt Ruapehu, first from Waiouru...
...and then from the road around National Park. I haven't seen mountains drenched in snow like that since the first time we were in Canada, back in 2003. It sure is pretty.

That's all.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Fruit Crumbly Umbly

As promised, there was dessert at Jarratt & Evies. What's more, I made it.

Yes, you heard right. I made dessert. If you'll remember from my last post, Dessert Chef was feeling under the weather, but since we had already said we would bring dessert, my hand was all but forced.

I know I've already posted a crumble recipe this year, but most of that was shot by torchlight, and it was all about living off the land and wotnot. This is exciting because, as I might have already mentioned, I made dessert.

Did I mention that I made this dessert myself? Well, I did.
So I mixed up some stewed rhubarb, blackberries and apple,
made up a crumble from butter, flour and sugar, and took it all with me to assemble and cook after dinner. If you're not going to cook them straight away and you don't keep the two separate, you see, the flour goes soggy and then you have more of a stewed fruit mush than a crumble.
So the crumble goes over the fruit, like so, and it goes in the oven for about 20 minutes at 180c, maybe with a little bit of a grill/broil at the end.
So there you have it. If even a pudding-lummox like me can do it, it must be pretty easy.

(For the record, before you start pointing out continuity errors, the picture above is the little one I cooked at home for Dessert Chef and the little guy. I might have gone out and left them at home to be sick together, but at least I was good enough to make dessert before I went).
Jarratt's oven was a teensy bit more powerful than ours. But I have a good nose, so disaster was averted. Certainly nothing that ice cream couldn't save.
I had a little bit of leftover crumble, so the next day I stewed up some overripe pears we had sitting in the fruit bowl and made a pear crumble.

Two desserts in one weekend! That's like two eclipses in one year!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Other Side of the Table

It wouldn't exactly be untrue to say that we don't get out much. (Did I obfuscate sufficiently there?)

So when, after six months of personal disasters and last-minute rescheduling, we finally managed to align all the stars together and take up the opportunity to drop the little guy off with the baby-sitters and go to a good friends' place for dinner, I would not be daunted.

Then aforementioned little guy got sick, and Dessert Chef wasn't feeling too well either. However, at risk of being branded a cad, I took up the torch and went out anyway.

I'm not used to being the guest, but it sure is nice once in a while. It was great to share dinner and a bottle of wine with Jarratt and Evie, and the Chicken Breast with olives and all those little baby veges (cherry tomatoes, baby beetroot, gourmet potatoes) all dressed up in mustard and maple (I think) were delicious.

Jarratt had had plenty of practice at this dish, of course. For every planned dinner that got scuppered, he still had all the ingredients on hand to make the meal. By the time I got to enjoy it, I'm pretty sure that they were well sick of it! How you could get sick of such a delicious dish, I don't know.

Thanks, guys. Sorry it took me so long to get to posting. Photos of the crumbly dessert action will follow shortly. Let me know if you post the recipe, so I can link to it.

I'm still trying to figure out how we didn't get onto Singstar that night. Ah, yes, the driving-therefore-not-drinking thing. It takes a certain minimum amount of wine before Singstar is really an option.

Maybe next time!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What the H@!! is this?

I have so much cool stuff to blog about, but this week is getting away from me and right now it's just gathering speed as it careens down a hillside.

So rather than burn the candle at both ends, I'm going to give you this simple question:
What the heck is this?

Please direct all guesses to the comments department. There will be a prize, perhaps an imaginary starship journey with an already maxed-out Starlight Express Credit Card to beguile and amuse your friends.

(No, seriously, I took this photo in my own kitchen and have no idea what it is. So, there is no wrong answer, unless it involves tofu. Tofu lovers: I've tried, I really have. But it just doesn't work for me.)

Enough. Must get to the sleeping.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Don't Call Me Pastie

I'll be the first to admit that I'm struggling with the witty, pithy Blog Titles right now. Please refrain from filling the comments section with this observation. I got there first.

Today I'd just like to write a post about why I love my Dessert Chef so very much. As far as this particular post goes, it's because even though she hates cooking, she still pulls things like this out of her hat:
Mince (Ground Beef) with carrot, tomato, onion,and fresh spinach.
Savoury pastry, rolled out and cut into circles... so.
Mince layered with three cheeses and sealed off with a little milk.
Baked for about 20 minutes at 200C.
Served up with sour cream, and not a naughty vegetable in sight.

Who wouldn't love coming home to a treat like that?

Thanks, my lovely Dessert Chef. Now, what's for pudding?