Sunday, December 4, 2011

Things I Love

Peonies - my favourite flower.

A big bowl of fresh fruit salad - mango, strawberries, apple, nectarine, pineapple and mint, marinated in coconut water.

New shoes!

Treasured gifts from special friends.

Vintage skirts.

A ridiculous, water-loving puppy.

(please excuse the photos, I am stuck using my point-and-shoot until I can find the cable for our dslr camera...)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

New house!

I've been making a bit of a habit of these monthly posts lately, but life has been in a bit of disarray, making it hard to find the time and equipment to actually post anything! Since I last posted, a few things have happened. We have bid our first house farewell, and are now living with a VERY generous friend, who has taken Paddy and myself, Max the dog, Fang the rabbit AND the entire contents of our house on as guests. Unfortunately, many of the things I wish I had access to, became packed e.g my camera cable... This makes it tricky to share photos of the lovely bunch of peonies I have sitting in a new hurricane vase in the lounge (one of my favourite flowers) and a perfect Crown Lynn swan, rescued by my dear friend from life as a drip-catcher for an overflowing gutter.

But, what I can share is a picture of our new house!!

Isn't she cute? Settlement day has not yet been decided but I can't wait to get in there and get stuck into the garden! With a massive (for us) 678 square metre section, the possibilities for my vege garden, dwarf orchard, bees, chicken house, cut flower garden and compost heap are endless! Not to mention all the lovely things we can do inside the house too. So, watch this space for lots of exciting developments (just as soon as I've tracked my camera cable down...).

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Life Update

Well, it's been over a month since my last post, in which I filled you all in on the many exciting things that were happening in my life at the moment. I do have somewhat of a tendency to over-commit myself, and this have been another example if this...

But, I've had a few successes, despite my over enthusiasm:

1. I sold my house, all by myself, last Sunday. We don't go unconditional until this Friday, but as it's only conditional on insurance getting approved, and that is just about sorted, it looks like we will be all good to go! This also means we have to move out of our house, in three weeks time... Luckily it's a long weekend in Christchurch next weekend, so we will aim to get a large chunk of it done then. As of yet, we have not found anywhere to buy yet, so at this stage, are moving in with a friend until the right house comes along. House hunting is a tiring hobby, and I can't wait till we find the right one!

2. I have been approved, and officially started my PhD on November 1st. No news on scholarships yet, so fingers are still crossed, but the study is all go! I am going to work and study for a while, until things get too busy, and then I'll cave, and go back to being a student again. I may wonder what the heck I was thinking in a few months time, but oh well, too late now!

3. Paddy and I celebrated our six year anniversary last week. Well actually, we both forgot about it as things have been soooooooo busy. However, a delayed celebration will occur next weekend. I can't believe I've been with this lovely man for six whole years! He still makes me warm and fuzzy inside and I can't wait to start our next adventure together.

4. We had a lovely trip to Melbourne, in which lots of delicious vintage goodies were purchased. And an iPad, which I am quite smitten with. I'm typing this very post on it actually! Speaking of which, if anyone knows of any nice covers, please point me in the right direction. I will share my goodies in a post with more photos in the near future.

5. Earlier this week, 15 litres of elderflower champagne was bottled and is carbonating away in the garage. If you have elderflowers in your area I can't recommend enough to make this incredible elixir. In a glass with some ice and mint, over gin or feijoa vodka or by itself, it is the ultimate summer drink. I posted a recipe here, last year.

Apart from sulking about not getting to do any gardening at the moment, that's pretty much my life in a nutshell! I'll be back again once the packing is done, hopefully with a new home announcement!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Long Time, No Post

Well, I've been a little MIA for a while. I've still been around, just not so much on here... Things have been crazy busy, as I've taken on 3 MASSIVE projects, all at the same time. Probably not the best idea, but it's how it's worked out...
Project Number 1: PhD, kick-off, hopefully 1st November (applying for study and scholarships takes a lot of time!).
Project Number 2: Sell our house... A bit of work needs to be done before this is possible, and we are going to have a go at the private sale thing too. So... wish me luck!
Project Number 3: As a result of selling the house we live in, we also need to buy a new one. And we want a project. So, again, wish me luck!

I'm still planning on blogging, of course. But I just need to get through the next few weeks which will see me a) complete applications, b) have the house listed, and c) take a week's holiday in Melbourne (unrelated, but well deserved).

As the weather warms up, the number of fabulous things to be done outside greatly increases! It's elderflower season very, very soon, so elderflower champagne and hopefully elderflower vinegar are definitely on the to-do list. And of course, many hours spent in the garden. Spring is so refreshing, after a long, cold winter. Max and I are very much enjoying our night time walks, and I love coming home when it is still light outside!

So, I'll be back soon, with hopefully some exciting news and lots of fabulous spring/summer projects.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mung Bean Salad in Wholemeal Tortillas

Yum yum yum, I am still licking my lips after tonight's delicious dinner. Inspired by a recipe I found here, I was very excited to try out something new with mung beans. Usually I only sprout them, but now I have found out they are delicious and easy to cook, and make a fabulous base for salads. The recipe called for a vinaigrette, but I decided to use a lemon tahini dressing, as I had some tahini in the fridge that needed using up. Any dressing would be great on this salad though, so use whatever takes your fancy! I wrapped my salad in wholemeal tortillas, with homemade tomato chutney and some salad leaves. Delish!

I have had a busy afternoon, visiting the garden plot I have a share in for the first time. We will be documenting our adventures on a communal blog called Tenderfoot, so be sure to have a look see to keep up to date on what we are doing. I was pleased to come home to an easy and relatively quick dinner, and now I am cooking up a storm, making five seed sourdough, homemade cream cheese, homemade muesli and roasted pumpkin hummus. Now, who is on the dishes...

Mung Bean Salad in Wholemeal Tortillas
1 cup dried mung beans, soaked overnight and cooked until soft (about 15 minutes)
3 spring onions, diced
2 carrots, diced
10 black olives, diced
Large handful of greens, chopped (I used pea shoots, but anything would do)
Handful of fresh mint, chopped

Lemon Tahini Dressing
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp rock salt
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp olive oil

Wholemeal Tortillas
2 cups wholemeal flour
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
About 1 cup warm water

Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl. For the dressing, mash garlic cloves with salt in a mortar and pestle to form a paste. Add the remaining dressing ingredients and mix until combined. Toss warm salad in dressing and leave to marinate while you make the tortillas.

For the tortillas, place the flour, salt and oil in a bowl and slowly add the water and mix to form a soft dough. Place dough on a floured surface and knead until smooth. You can leave to sit for a while at this point, or just forge ahead with making your tortillas. Split the dough into eight pieces, and roll into balls. Flatten into circles with a rolling pin. Cook in a very hot pan until brown and bubbling on both sides.

To compose, place a tortilla on a plate, smear with a spoonful of tomato (or other) chutney, add some lettuce leaves and a good spoonful of mung bean salad mix. Wrap and devour.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Coconut Curry Soup with Pumpkin, Peas and Brown Rice

It's rainy here tonight and I was very glad to come home to a delicious bowl of soup that I has pre-made last night, all ready for my late return home. I based it on a yummy soup my mum has made a few times, with my own additions of course, and it was delicious! I highly recommend you give this one a try for a quick dinner idea.

I used pumpkin and peas but it could easily be made with any veges, or chicken or fish. I was originally going to use the very first of the new season's asparagus, but decided to instead save it for a special dish, all of it's own! I love asparagus, and am very excited that the season is almost here, even if it does mean farewelling by beloved brussel sprout until next winter.

This is coming straight out of my brain from last night, so if the seasoning is a bit light, add more... :)

Coconut Curry Soup with Pumpkin, Peas and Brown Rice

1 tin coconut cream
1 1/2 tins chicken or vege stock (I used my empty coconut cream tin to measure this)
3 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
2 cm fresh ginger, grated
2 Tbsp green curry paste
3 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp lemon juice
3-5 kaffir lime leaves
2 cups diced pumpkin
1/2 cup peas
1 1/2 cups brown rice, cooked 
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh chopped coriander

In a medium sized pot, bring to a gentle boil the coconut cream, chicken stock, ginger, garlic, curry paste, lemon juice, lime juice and kaffir lime leaves. Simmer gently for 10 minutes, then add the diced pumpkin and simmer until pumpkin is cooked (about 5 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces). To the soup add peas, salt, pepper and about half of your fresh coriander. Stir until peas are warmed through. To serve, place warm brown rice in the bottom of your bowl, ladle over soup and sprinkle with chopped coriander to garnish. I also added a handful of greens to mine before I ate it, since I can't get enough of them!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

From My Kitchen - Sunday 11th September

I haven't done a meal plan for a few weeks and it throws me all out of routine when I don't! My time has been taken up with mountains of paperwork that needs to be completed in order to apply for my PhD, and luckily Paddy has been home more this past week and able to contribute to cooking, which has been lovely!

We are still getting most of our veges from the market (having eaten the garden empty) but I am very much looking forward to the contribution the plot will make to our food stores! I adore summer food and can't wait to be eating fresh from my garden once again. Until then, here's what's on the menu this week...

Sunday - mac n' cheese at the neighbours, BYO green salad
Monday - coconut curry soup with pumpkin, asparagus and brown rice
Tuesday - mung bean salad in homemade wholemeal tortillas
Wednesday - creamy lemon spaghetti with roast brussel sprouts
Thursday - vegetarian sushi with miso and edamame

- homemade muesli bars
- lemon curd
- five seed sourdough

To Do
- soak brown rice
- soak mung beans
- make tortillas

Birthday Loveliness

I turned 25 on Friday. Gosh, I feel like I was only 18 just a few years ago! I have had a lovely 3-day birthday weekend, including Electric Wire Hustle, dinner out, breakfast out and spending time with lots of my most favourite people.

Only five years till I'm 30 and lots to get done, including my PhD, which I am hoping to start in just a few short weeks! Things will be very busy around here, as I endeavour to work full time and study part time... Phew. Life is short though and opportunities must be seized. Wish me luck!

Some of my birthday treats...

 And more to come... I have been very spoilt.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Spinach, Feta and Pesto Fritters

Wow what a busy week I am having! We had a lovely weekend away in Auckland, visiting friends and watching this extravaganza of awesomeness, and this week is full to the brim with work and evening activities. Last night I went out to a potluck to meet the families we are going to be sharing a vege plot with this Summer! I don't know all the details of this amazing project yet but Paddy and I and the three other families in our group have access to 100 square metres of land to grow organic vegetables on, all the free, organic seedlings we need to fill this plot, organic sprays (i.e seaweed) and compost and gardening advice and guidance from the full time staff who manage the plot! All in exchange for a minimum of an hour a week of work. I am unbelievably excited about the prospect of an entire Summer of free, organic produce, and an opportunity to meet like-minded people. The project is aimed at a very diverse group of people and includes immigrants, recovering addicts and low-income groups such as beneficiaries. The aim is to promote and support healthy eating and self-sustainability. How amazing does this sound!? And even better, the whole thing is funded in full by the Ministry of Health. As the weather continues to improve, I am even more excited about what this Summer has to bring.

So, I pottered along last night to met my gardening group and took these delicious fritters with me. I was feeling very pleased with myself after creating these, as they include spinach from my garden, homemade feta and homemade pesto from last year's basil, that I liberated from the freezer. And, they turned out delicious! Served with homemade tomato chutney, they were the perfect addition to the potluck.

The gardening group decided last night that we will set up a blog to document our journey, so watch this space, as I will link up once it is underway. In other news, I have made a very big decision this week, which I am looking forward to sharing once I have told the special people in my life. Things will be different around my place for a while!

Spinach, Feta and Pesto Fritters
2-3 cups fresh spinach, washed well
1/2 block feta (about 1/2 cup?)
2 generous Tbsp pesto
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 - 1/2 cup water

Place spinach, feta, pesto, lemon juice and the egg in a food processor and blitz until blended (but don't worry about getting it smooth, as the chunks are nice). Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl and add the spinach mixture; season to taste. Begin to fold together and add water as necessary to make a thick batter (think corn fritter mixture). Fry blobs in olive oil, turning once brown and flattening on the cooked side to make fritters. Serve with tomato chutney or more pesto and salad greens.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Homemade Halloumi

Halloumi is a delicious, squeaky cheese that is super easy to make at home. Halloumi has a very high melting point, so unlike most cheese, it holds it's shape when you cook it. Traditionally made with a mixture of goat's and sheep milk, most of the stuff you buy from the supermarket will be made with cow's milk. Unlike most cheeses, halloumi only uses rennet as it's setting agent, and has no added bacteria or culture. I love halloumi as a component in various salads; it is also great as a protein option in pita pockets and some fancy-pants people serve it on teeny tiny skewers with watermelon.

Go out and find your self some rennet - mine is from Mad Millie, and dabble in cheesemaking at home. It really isn't as scary or difficult as you might think! I'm obsessed, and saving my pennies for a Mad Millie blue cheeses kit. Oh my goodness, can you just imagine homemade blue cheese? It must be epic...

This process looks quite long and involved, and while there are a lot of different steps to complete, the overall time required to actually do stuff is very little.

2 litres un-homogenised milk (I used raw milk, which is also unpasteurised)
1.5 mls rennet diluted in 5 mils cooled, boiled water

Step One
Set up a bain marie. I used a large pot, with a preserving ring inside, and a smaller pot (which lost it's handle a while ago) inside it. Then, I poured boiling water in the big pot. Add your milk to the smaller pot and stir until milk is at around 45 degrees Celsius. I don't actually have a thermometer so I just heat it until it feels quite hot to my finger. Alternatively, you could warm the milk in the microwave until it reaches temperature, and then add it to the smaller pot.


Step Two
Once the milk is at temperature, add the diluted rennet and stir thoroughly. Allow the milk to set at 45 degrees (I put the lid on to keep it warm) for 45 minutes, or until a clean break is achieved.


Step Three
After the curd is set firm, you will need to cut it into 1cm cubes vertically, horizontally and at 45 degree angles along both of these sets of lines. Have a look here for a picture tutorial. Then, gently stir curds for about 10 minutes, until they are much smaller and slightly springy.

Step Four
Once the curds are ready, scoop them into a colander lined with cheesecloth or muslin. Wrap the muslin over the curds and place a weight on top to press them down. I used a bowl of water. Once the curds are firm enough (about 5 hours for me), remove from muslin and cut into blocks.



Step Five
Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Place the blocks of halloumi into boiling water and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the curds rise to the surface. Drain on a rack to cool. While draining, sprinkle with salt to preserve them and give the distinct salty taste.


The cheese will last for two weeks in the fridge in an airtight container. To serve, grill both sides of the halloumi until browned and slightly soft.

I served my most recent batch as part of a noodle salad with spinach, carrot, spring onion and a lemon pesto dressing. Yum!

I shared this post on Real Food Wednesday and Simple Lives Thursday.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Self-Saucing Chocolate Mug Puddings

Apparently I am a bit behind the eight ball in the world of chocolate mug puddings...
I discovered this treasure of a recipe concept on Pinterest a few weeks ago and couldn't help but give them a try. The recipe I found had an egg in it, and as we always seem to run out of eggs, I was keen to try making one without. I found a few different recipes and tested them - they were all yummy but I am a long-time fan of self-saucing puddings, and decided this was exactly what they needed. I also wanted to tone the sugar levels down a bit, as I don't really have that much of a sweet tooth and the recipes I tried kind of made my teeth quiver. So, here is my version of the chocolate mug cakes (not that unlike the hundreds of other recipes around), with the added delicious addition of sauce and half the sugar.
Yum yum yum...

Self-Saucing Chocolate Mug Puddings
Per serve:
2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp cocoa
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp chocolate chips
Dash of vanilla essence
3 Tbsp milk or water
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp cocoa
3 Tbsp boiling water

Using one large coffee cup per person, add the dry ingredients first and stir to combine. Then, add the coconut oil, chocolate chips, vanilla essence and milk or water and stir very well until all mixed together. Make sure you get right to the bottom of the cup or you will end up with lumps of flour in your cooked pudding. Smooth the top of the pudding out and sprinkle the second measure of cocoa and brown sugar on top. Pour the boiling water, over the back of a spoon, into the cup. Microwave each pudding in 30 second bursts until puffed up and springy. Mine took one minute each but be sure to do it in bursts because an over-cooked pudding is dry and yuck. Serve with cream, milk or yoghurt on top.

Add dry ingredients to your mug and stir to combine.

Add wet to dry, stir very well.
Smooth down the top of your batter...
... and sprinkle over the sugar and cocoa
and pour over hot water.
Cook until moist and springy. Consume.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

From My Kitchen - Sunday 21st August

It has been such a lovely weekend in Christchurch. After our second snow storm in three weeks, it has been such a treat to see the sun! I was very inspired yesterday to get out in the garden and started to feel positive about the space again. I had been feeling very unmotivated about the whole thing ever since the earthquake, but now I feel revived and ready to get stuck in again. I planted some new fruit trees, tidied up my herbal/medicinal garden and gave my strawberry bed a bit of VIP treatment. My plants had been furiously making babies and I managed to get 20 free plants from the runners! These are a wonderful variety of strawberries, which fruit continuously from about December till April/May. I managed to squeeze nine more plants into my patch and gifted the rest to my neighbour, Sharon.

The only thing left to tackle in my garden is the vege plot. As I have a small patch, I don't have the luxury of any kind of crop rotation, and I tend to be always planting, which means my poor soil never gets a rest. I have decided this week to try and empty whats left in my plot, and then give it a hefty fertilise/compost, so it is happy and ready to go when Spring planting starts. I might end up being a few weeks behind but it will be worth it in the long run.

So, this weeks meals are all planned around my vege plot. It currently contains: spinach, beetroot, carrots, kale, red onions, spring onions, broccoli and brussel sprouts and my goal this week is to eat it empty! I am also drawing on inspiration from a few different recipes I have tagged on Pinterest lately. I love trying new things, especially when it relates to food!

Sunday: noodle salad with spinach, carrot, spring onion, homemade grilled halloumi and a pesto dressing
Monday: broccoli and homemade feta pasta sauce on wholemeal penne
Tuesday: raw tuscan kale salad with roasted brussel sprouts and quinoa risotto
Wednesday: upside down potato and onion tart with grated beetroot and carrot salad
Thursday: spinach souffle with roasted vege and quinoa salad

- wholemeal sourdough
- muesli bars

Coming up this week:
- halloumi tutorial
- homemade natural toilet cleaner
- my experiences with ditching shampoo...


Yesterday I...

Bought a fancy fork for $1.
Decided to paint it.
Made feta.
Planted an apple tree...
... and an apricot tree.
Pampered my strawberry bed.

Enjoyed the smells of almost Spring.
Made a delicious loaf of rosemary and lemon ciabatta.
And laughed at my hilarious dog.
 All in all, a successful day.