Thursday, December 16, 2010

Best Hamburgers in the World

Tonight for dinner, Paddy and I made the most epic hamburgers in the world, and I couldn't resist sharing them with you!!

They had:
- homemade ciabatta buns
- homemade beef patties
- cheese
- beetroot
- pineapple
- homemade pickled onions
- gherkins (not my own unfortunately, as we just ate them all last week!)
- red onion
- market tomatoes
- lettuce from the garden
- fried onion, mushroom and bacon
- sauces (BBQ, mustard, homemade mayo)

Oh. My. Goodness. Seriously, delicious!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

From My Kitchen - Sunday 12th December

While we buy fresh produce on a weekly basis, and have a constant supply from our vege garden, our supermarket shop only happens once a fortnight. This means that on the week of the shop, things are looking a bit light in the pantry! However, a well-stoked freezer and a good stock of dried beans and lentils, means there is always another meal to be cooked; it may just take a little imagination.
So, what's from my kitchen this week...

- none to do this week, as the freezer is well-stoked and Paddy has finished work for the year as well.

- Sunday: corn fritters, wedges and coleslaw (cabbage, kohlrabi, carrot, sorrel, red onion, radish) with homemade mayo.
- Monday: chickpea, cous cous and roast vege salad (broccoli, asparagus, zucchini and red onion), with stirfried chilli kale.
- Tuesday: sushi with honey soy chicken, avocado, carrot and wasabi mayo filling.
- Wednesday: curried pork sausages on rice.
- Thursday: hamburgers (beef patties, lettuce, tomato, beetroot, onion, pineapple and sauces on homemade buns).

To Do:
- soak and cook chickpeas
- soak sushi rice
- make hamburger buns
- brew kombucha
- write grocery shopping list

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Elderflower Champagne

It's elderflower season in New Zealand, and the perfect time to utilise this beautiful flower by making it into a delicious, light, elderflower champagne! Paddy and I have just bottled 15 litres of it, and can't wait to crack a bottle open for our Christmas Eve dinner. Hopefully we have the willpower to save a few bottles, to let the taste mature. This is very mildly alcoholic, maybe around 0.4 %, if that.

There are many, many elderflower bushes growing wild, on sides of roads and in fields. We found our bush (only a few kms from our house) through the Otautahi Foraging website.

Elderflower Champagne (from NZ Gardener, Homegrown 2)

10 litres water (boiled then cooled)
Juice and rind of two lemons
1kg white sugar
4 Tbls white wine vinegar
10-50 heads of elderflowers

First, forage for your flowers.

Wash them in a bucket of water, but don't get too worried about any bits and pieces, as the mixture gets strained later anyway. Boil the water and allow it to cool and add to a clean bucket with a lid.

Zest your lemons, and add the lemon juice and rind, sugar and vinegar to the cooled water and stir with a clean wooden spoon. Add the elderflower heads and push them down gently until they are submerged.



Put the lid on the bucket and let it sit in a warm room for a day stirring every six hours.

Strain through a sieve lined with muslin and bottle in vessels that are airtight and can handle a bit of fizz! Plastic soft drink bottles or glass bottles with clasps would work fine.


The taste improves with time (about six months is good apparently) but it’s ready to go in two weeks.

I shared this post on Sustainable Eats' Simple Lives Thursday.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Oaty Apricot and Choc Chip Biscuits

Baking biscuits is such a pleasure for me, and something I do regularly for our lunches. Homemade biscuits always taste eons better than the ones you buy from the shop, you know what is going into them, and you get to eat the dough as you go! I have a few favourite biscuit recipes that I cycle through, and here is one of them.

Oaty Apricot and Choc Chip Biscuits

150 grams butter, softened
1/3 cup white sugar cup
1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 tsp vanilla essence 
1 egg
1 cup white flour (or, half white, half wholemeal)1 tsp baking soda  
1cup rolled oats
1 cup dark choc chips
12 ish dried apricots, chopped

1. Cream butter and sugars together until smooth. Add vanilla and egg and beat again until combined.
2. Fold in remaining ingredients and mix until combined.
3. Roll in balls, place on greased baking tray and flatten with a fork.
4. Bake at 180 for around 10 minutes.

Makes around 24 biscuits.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

From My Kitchen - Weekly Meal Planning

Every Sunday I spend a few hours getting myself sorted for the week. This often includes baking for lunches, bread for the week, maybe yoghurt or mayonnaise if we need any, soaking and cooking any beans or legumes we may need during the week, and planning our week's meals. As we eat only seasonal and local produce, that comes from either the farmer's market (fresh each week), or our own garden, being organised helps ensure we use what we have, and that the produce is at it's best. This also makes cooking dinner after a long day at work easy, as all the thinking is already done, in a relaxed setting with a clear head! Spending time baking for our work lunches means we save money on buying something, which is often unhealthy and always overpriced, to feed a hungry tummy. Since I am already doing all of this planning, I have decided to start a weekly post to outline what is coming from my kitchen this week. I will also use it as an opportunity to share recipes and ideas for using local, seasonal produce from my area. If I don't publish a recipe you want to try, just ask, I am happy to share it.
Please feel free to share your own weekly meal planning, and if you don't do it already, I suggest you give it a try!

- blue cheese and homemade spicy pear chutney scones
- oaty apricot and chocolate chip biscuits

- Sunday: sausages on the BBQ, salt n' vinegar wedges, garden salad (lettuce, baby silverbeet, radishes, carrots, avocado, red onion, fresh peas, herbs) with homemade balsamic dressing
- Monday: chickpea and lentil patties, coleslaw with homemade mayo, grilled asparagus
- Tuesday: chilli bean burritos, guacamole, garden salad (lettuce, baby silverbeet, radishes, carrots, avocado, red onion, fresh peas, herbs) with homemade mayo dressing
- Wednesday: Mediterranean brown rice salad
- Thursday: Paddy is cooking. He is not a huge planner, so it will be a surprise!

To Do:
- soak and cook chickpeas and kidney beans (for burritos)
- soak lentils and brown rice
- make mayonnaise
- make wholemeal rolls for the freezer
- grate and freeze cheese

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Homemade Butter

I've been on a dairy products kick this week, busying myself making mayonnaise, cream cheese and butter. Now I just have to do yoghurt and I'll be complete! The price of butter recently ($5.09 for 500 grams, and rising, at Pac n Save) has had me outraged. We use a lot of butter in our house as we don't eat marg or any alternative and I do a lot of baking. However, with butter at that price, it's becoming an expensive habit to keep! It makes me so mad that it is cheaper to buy some artificial, chemical-laden pseudo-food, than the real thing. So the price, along with an overwhelming desire to make everything myself, I decided to give butter a go. With 500mls of cream being around $3.30 a bottle, I was curious to see how much butter I would get, and also, if it would work out cheaper. I had hoped to use organic cream, but this appears to be very hard to source. After trying and failing to track some down, I thought it was probably best to have a trial run with some regular cream anyway.

A few searches on the internet tells me that the best way to make butter is with a stand mixer. I don't yet own one of these (although I yearn daily for a KitchenAid), so decided to give it a go with my trusty hand mixer.
500mls of cream went into a bowl, and I started mixing. Now, when you make butter (since I'm such an expert now), the cream goes through a lot of different stages.

First, it turns into whipped cream. I added about 1 tsp of salt at this point.

Then, it gets a bit lumpier.

And a bit more lumpier.

Then, just when you think you've wasted a perfectly good bottle of cream and your hand mixer is beginning to smoke, the buttermilk begins to separate and you have a bowlful of something that slightly resembles butter! Decrease the speed at this point, and keep an eye on it.

Keep beating until the butter begins to clump together, Then, drain through a sieve, and put the buttermilk aside for other baking projects.

Now, rinse your butter under cold water, and begin to squeeze it with your hand. This ensures all the buttermilk is washed out, and forms your butter into a gorgeous, yellow lump of deliciousness! Don't be ashamed to lick some of the butter remnants off your fingers, I wasn't.

Be sure to wrap the butter in clingfilm or greaseproof paper, and store in the fridge.

The verdict? Delicious, sweet, silky, creamy butter, that I can't wait to slather on some homemade bread for today's lunch, and fresh bagels in the weekend. All up, this took me about 1/2 an hour, and it would be a much less tedious task if I had the luxury of a stand mixer I could walk away from. Although, in saying that, I really enjoyed watching the cream change into butter, and feel I have a fairly good idea of the process now.

So, did I save any money? Well.... not really. From my 500mls of cream (less a splash on my porridge this morning), I ended up with 200 grams of butter. If I presume 1 litre of cream at around $6.50 (and that's not even organic) is going to give me about 500 grams of butter, I am spending an extra $1.40 to make my own. Still, I am glad I gave it a go, and even if it costs more, it sure is yummy! I think homemade butter would be a great luxury if I could afford it, and a great treat to make for special breakfast, with fresh, homemade bread.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Books Galore!

Paddy and I are eagerly awaiting the arrival of a recent order from this fantastic site. We ordered up large this time, including a few books for Christmas presents (for ourselves and others). But, even with a substantial order, it was surprising how little it cost! There is free shipping ALL OVER THE WORLD from The Book Depository, which means mega savings! I have ordered books from Amazon for quite a while, and have always been alarmed at a) how much shipping costs, and b) how long they take to get to arrive! We ordered our books on Sunday, so I will let you know when they arrive...

Here's what we ordered:
- Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon- finally! I've been wanting this book for the longest time!
- 1984 by George Orwell
- Animal Farm by George Orwell
- The Play of Animal Farm by Peter Hall
- Inferno: the Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri by Danta Alighieri
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
- The Big Fat Duck Cookbook by Heston Blumenthal

Most of these books are for Paddy, with the exception of the Fat Duck Cookbook. My little brother is a chef and this is quite a splurgy but special present for him; he adores cookbooks. 

We are lucky enough to live across the road from a secondhand bookshop, from which we buy most of our books. But, all the ones we ordered have not been able to be found, despite many, many visits to secondhand bookshops around Christchurch.

Having been on holiday I have been absorbing books at quite a rate. Here are some of my current favourites:
- Real Fresh Food by Anna and Roger Wilde
- The Home Companion by Wendyl Nissen
- The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson (and the sequels)
- Any 'Good' magazine I can get my hands on!
- The latest NZ Gardener publication - Homegrown 7: Fresh Veges
- NZ Lifestyle Block's How to Care for Your Poulty (not that I have poultry, but you know, I'm just planning)
- The Good Life by Francesca Price

Ahh the luxury of guilt-less, Uni-free reading is divine! What books are you currently enjoying?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Spring Garden Update

Unfortunately, it's a bit overcast today so these photos are looking a bit drearier than I would like! But, as you can see, things are thriving in my wee suburban patch. We are awaiting the first ripe cherry with bated breath, and I am excited about the progress my peach and nectarine are making! I have a shrub of coriander which I am hoping to harvest seeds from. I only hope it's sooner rather than later, as it sure is taking up a lot of room in my small garden!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Broad Bean, Pea, Orzo and Mint Salad with Avocado Mayonnaise

Oh boy. This salad is amazing! Just like every Sunday, I sat down to plan my meals for the week, based on what I have in the fridge and the garden. Following a delivery of a very large bag of fresh peas from my parents, some organic broad beans from the farmer's market, and a recent binge on mayonnaise making, this salad was born.

- 1 cup broad beans, podded and peeled (if you have the patience!)
- 1 cup freshly podded peas
- 1/2 cup dried orzo pasta
- 4 rashers of bacon, fried until crispy
- crumbled blue cheese, to taste (I used a beautiful, raw New Zealand blue from our cheesemonger- divine!)
- handful of fresh mint, finely diced
- 3-4 slices of fresh, grainy bread
- olive oil to toss
- salt and pepper to taste
Avocado Mayonnaise
- 2 whole, fresh, free range eggs
- 1 Tbsp vinegar (I used 1/2 balsamic, 1/2 white)
- 1 tsp whole grain mustard
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup oil (I used 1/2 EVOO, 1/2 canola)
- 1 past-it's-best avocado
- squeeze of lemon juice
- grind of black pepper

1. Boil the jug, and pour boiling water over the beans and peas to blanch. After they turn bright green, drain and run under cold water. Fry in a pan with some butter until they start to brown ever so slightly.
2. Cook orzo as per packet instructions. I boil mine like pasta, and keep a close eye on it, as it goes from cooked to soggy quite quickly! Drain and run under cold water.
3. Dice cooked bacon into small pieces.
4. Chop bread into pieces, toss in oil and seasonings, and fry in a dry pan until crispy. Set aside.
5. For the mayonnaise, place eggs, vinegar, mustard and salt into a blender and blend until foamy. Add 1/4 cup oil and blend until combined. Continue to add the oil in batches, blending until combined after each addition. At this point I took half of the batch out to have as plain mayonnaise for later. Then, to the remaining mayo I added the avocado, lemon juice and pepper, and blended again until well combined.
6. To assemble the salad, place peas and beans, mint, orzo, blue cheese and bacon into a bowl, and toss with the avocado mayonnaise. Serve with a side or crispy croutons and enjoy!

This salad was delicious! If you were vegetarian, it would be easy to exclude the bacon. This was filling enough for us as a light dinner, but some grilled chicken or BBQ-ed zucchini would also make a delicious addition. The avocado mayonnaise is a divine treat, and I bet would taste amazing on a BLT. Mmmm, lunch today, I think!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Homemade Crackers

For ages now I have had homemade crackers filed away in my mental list of things to make. My new-found free time (when I'm not writing this darn Honours thesis) and delicious inspiration from this talented lady, saw me finally crossing this off my list this afternoon.

I used the recipe from Sunday Hotpants, adding my own flavours as suited. I didn't have any black sesame seeds, so only used white seeds in my main dough.

Homemade Crackers
  • 3 cups of plain flour
  • 1/2 cup of wholemeal/wholewheat flour
  • 75 g cold butter
  • large pinch of salt
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1/4 cup of white sesame seeds
1. Place the flours, butter and salt in a food processor, and blend until crumbed. Add the sesame seeds and give a quick blitz to combine.
2. Slowly add the milk to the flour mixture, with the motor running, until a soft dough is formed. If you have a crappy food processor like me, your motor will start to smell funny from overuse and you will end up finishing the dough up by hand.
3. Gently knead until soft and combined, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. It's actually a very similar process to making pasta.
4. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcious.
5. I then separated my dough into four portions, to trial four different flavours! To add the flavours, I cut my herbs up finely, and kneaded them into the dough. For the sweet chilli crackers, I left the dough plain and brushed sweet chilli sauce on just before baking.
6. Start rolling the dough out thinly, get tired arms, and change to the pasta machine (I went to number 5 thinness). Then, cut your crackers up into whatever shape you wish! Now, time for a funny story: the only cookie cutters I happen to own are x-rated, thanks to a prize I won at Paddy's staff mid-winter Christmas dinner. Consequently, I did produce at least 100 tiny, penis-shaped crackers. I then trialled circles, using a glass, and squares, using the ravioli cutter from my pasta maker.
7. Lay close together on an oven tray (they don't expand), and poke with a fork.
8. Bake for around 10 minutes, until lightly speckled with brown. Watch carefully, as it happens quickly! I managed to get 8 trays through, until I got distracted, and burnt my last batch!

The flavours I tried were: thyme and lemon zest, rosemary and sea salt, salt and pepper, and sweet chilli. They are all so yummy, I can't decided which one I like best! I've been eating them alllll afternoon, slathered in butter, but I would love to try them with some homemade cream cheese. I absolutely believe that things you make yourself always taste better than something you have bought from the shop, and these delicious morsels are no exception!

I have been playing with Paddy's fancy camera this afternoon, so, now it's time for some photos!

Inspiring Distractions

I am desperately trying to finish my Honours thesis before I start my new job (in 12 days!). This means lots of agonising hours spent at my laptop, along with scheduled breaks, for my sanity. In my last break I came across this wonderful website, full to the brim with delicious recipes and inspiring information. One particular post really spoke to me and I felt compelled to bring it to your attention.

I am a huge advocate of real, local, fresh, seasonal, organic (when possible) food. Paddy and I try our best to eat this way as much as possible, and feel so much better for it. It has taken me many years to figure out what I really think and feel about food, after many tumultuous years of negative relationships with it. The Nourished Kitchen article on Real Food really sums up how I feel now, and I plan to continue with this ethos for the rest of my life.

What do you guys think? I would love to hear about your food philosophies (if you have one).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wardrobe Wednesday

Since my 7th form ball wasn't actually THAT long ago, the photos are not really worth a mention. However, I did dress up this past week to celebrate me finishing Uni forever!! Yes that's right, I am no longer a student!! After six years, and two degrees, this is a HUGE achievement, made even more glorious by the fact that I have a job to go to. Double win!
This photo features my gorgeous man too, looking rather solemn may I add. We had several out-takes with the good ol' timer. Many funny faces ensued but this was the most normal of the bunch.

My dress was a bargain, $15 from a little shop in Dunedin called Nooz. Shoes were another bargain, end of season at Wild Pair a few years ago. (I'm very short so high heels are a fav of mine when I'm trying to pretend I'm a grown up!). My necklace is from an amazing costume jewellery shop in Christchurch called Mask. I bought it when I was a teenage and still love it. Paddy's shirt is from yd, jeans from Meccano and his shoes are No 1 Shoe Warehouse.  Wearing a dress without stockings is a huge deal for me as I'm extremely self conscious of my pale skin. I'm very proud of myself for making this public!

Check out more gorgeous gals here.

Two things to mention:
1) Be sure to check out the gorgeous giveaway at willow + moxie. Devon Smith is divine!
2) This blog has a link to an amazing, FREE sourdough ebook.  You must, must, must check it out!