Tag Archives: la cigale

See how they last

When I was in kindergarten, I had one line in a little play. I said, I am Patrick Potato and this is my cousin, Mrs. Tomato, and I heard laughter. I wanted to be an actress from that moment on.
~ Doris Roberts

Remember that Thanksgiving dinner, more than a week ago? And those tomatoes and various green things that made their way to the table for my Thanksgiving dinner friends? Well, there were a few luscious veges left over – which I crammed into the fridge amidst cheesecake*, pumpkin pie* and half-full bottles of wine* and promptly forgot about in the course of this busy week.

It was with a slight jolt that I suddenly thought of them yesterday.

I slowly approached the fridge, rubbish bag in hand, ready to collect brown wrinkled vegetables…

And… I was (nicely) surprised to see that the vegetables weren’t quite on the verge of death. The tomatoes were just beginning to feel a little softer, maybe, but they were still so good! The green things were still green too, but I have now popped the herbs into ziploc bags and into the freezer just to be safe.

Long live farmers’ markets and fresh produce!

Tonight, I preheated the oven to 180˚C and set two skillets on the stove. Into one pan went olive oil, chopped onions, garlic, rosemary, white wine, paprika and skinless chicken thighs. Into the other went more olive oil and some bright vermillion tomatoes.

Once the chicken looked more cooked than raw (really should’ve browned the chicken a little more, but never mind!), I poured everything from both skillets into a foil-lined oven-proof dish and baked it all for around 15 minutes. I then added in half a can of cannellini beans and popped it back into the oven for a few more minutes.

And that, with a loose handful of parsley, was dinner, which I started to eat, until a particular rendition of a Christmas carol made my feet itchy to dance. So dance I did, till a human and I locked eyes through the window… and I hastily sat down again to resume my dinner.

And on that note, here are some photos from last week’s trip to La Cigale, a picture of Saturday’s omelette and right near the bottom of this post are two photos of roses swaying in the sun. If only one could upload fragrances on blogs – I would post the smells from the market and the rose gardens… wouldn’t that be sweet!

* Some I ate, some I shared, some I regrettably had to bin.

La Cigale – 69 St Georges Bay Road, Parnell, Auckland – open Saturday and Sunday mornings [delicious bistro open Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays]

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My idea of a productive shopping session

Eating is really one of your indoor sports. You play three times a day, and it’s well worth while to make the game as pleasant as possible.
~ Dorothy Draper

When you eventually find a park and make your way across the carpark in response to your nose’s instructions, you will find:

People who truly love food and people, who are generous and lively even on the rainiest of weekends as they offer the work of their hands to us.

Non-uniform, healthy vegetables and herbs which all but scream “I am fresh and free of bad stuff!” That bunch of basil pictured above took my breath away with its scent… dare I say I’d much rather a boy give me a bouquet of basil than flowers! ;-)

Amazing baked goods – whoopie pies, almond croissants dusted with fairy magic (icing sugar), good sourdough, pull-apart bread which you can’t wait to get into your mouth.

An array of options for the hungry breakfast lover (everything from savoury tarts to French crepes and Spanish paella).

Fresh juice. ‘Nuff said.

Good cheese. See above.

Smiling shoppers. VERY telling… especially when you consider the number of miserable-looking people I have to squeeze with at a certain supermarket that I hate on many weekdays after work.

What can I say? We are tremendously fortunate in New Zealand to have the people, produce and markets that we do. One place I like in Auckland is La Cigale.

La Cigale – 69 St Georges Bay Road, Parnell, Auckland – open Saturday and Sunday mornings [delicious bistro open Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays]

Dinner party

Well let’s face it, who on earth besides antique dealers and gay couples actually still give dinner parties?
~ Nigel Slater

Nigel, I adore every piece of writing I’ve read by you save one (see above) – on this front, I hope you stay wrong for a long time to come!

May I be so bold as to say that everyone should host at least one dinner party in their lifetime? It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated… all you need to do is gather friends, cook something and share your food. There’s just some kind of magic about taking the time to cook for others and filling your home (or your friend’s home in my case this time ;-) with cooking smells and friends/friends-of-friends…

We hosted a dinner party for 10 on Saturday night, at Kath’s place. Between Kath’s efficiency and preparedness and my groggy state of existence after a rather busy week, we launched our informal dinner club!

Most people knew just Kath or myself, and it really didn’t matter. Midway through the evening, it seemed that we didn’t need the background music; everyone was chatting, laughing… and Katherine and I looked on from the kitchen feeling pretty good indeed!

We had gone shopping in the rain on Saturday morning, at La Cigale and at a supermarket, before meeting up again in the afternoon to prepare dinner for our guests.

Before dinner, we served slices of fresh French batard from the market, dukkah from Zarbo, fresh tomatoes and Kath’s homemade basil & balsamic pesto. Guests contributed a very generous amount of wine too.

Dinner was chicken, ricotta and spinach cannelloni swathed in a bubbling sauce of tomato puree, spices, and a light sprinkling of grated cheese – and an impromptu green salad with olives, capsicum and whatever else we could find. I had never attempted to make cannelloni before, and it was an exercise in patience stuffing those tiny tubes! All worthwhile in the end :-)

Dessert was Bosc pears poached in spicy syrah, cinnamon, star anise, lemon juice and sugar, served in ramekins with a melting scoop of maple walnut ice cream… and the requisite tea and coffee.

Altogether a great evening, I hope we hold our next dinner soon!

On dining at La Cigale

Food was a constant topic of conversation in our household.
~ Paul Lynde

Are you a leftovers sort of person? I know people who love the joy of going to bed after a good meal, knowing there is more of the same to come the next morning. I am, however, seldom the person who asks the waiter to pack the rest of my food in a takeaway container. Probably because there is usually no remainder on my plate, save garnishings and bones. At any rate, any food that remains forlorn on my plate is probably food I have not enjoyed, and would therefore not enjoy even with microwave magic applied to it at home. I am also just loathe to consider cold soggy food waiting in the fridge for me to heat up.

I can’t remember the last time I got leftovers at a meal out to be packed.

So… don’t ask me why, but last night, I did it – I guess I just enjoyed dinner and when the waiter came towards us for our dishes, I blurted it out before I could think about where I was. “Would you mind packing these for us to take away?” I mean, I chose an unthinkable (?) place to ask for my food to be packed – it was a French bistro. But… it wasn’t a stiff and formal place, the red wine had me all relaxed – and – if you met waiters as friendly and forgiving as the ones I encountered last night, I am guessing you would forget your manners too :-)

We got a lovely table at the back, airy and quiet and just warm enough – I really loved the atmosphere of this place, it’s the kind of feeling I’d love to have in my own restaurant, if I ever owned one. Rustic and comfortable and roomy and fun – the sort where you can wear a beautiful dress and heels, or jeans, and feel 100% at ease with yourself. The kind where you want to be elegant, but won’t panic if you drop your fork or napkin. The kind where – even with a migraine plaguing your brain, all you want to (and can) do is laugh merrily.

We enjoyed a very delicious dinner. The meal just seemed to go on forever (in a good way). First – starters. The charcuterie platter came, adorned with silky chicken liver, tasty olives, stubby pickled gherkins and all – so yummy with the basket of bread! I frankly had to make myself stop, knowing we had more to eat after! The waiters came at just the right time, when we’d had enough time to taste all this at a leisurely pace… and just when I felt like we’d already had our dinner… there was more!

The mains – beef bourguignon and chicken tarragon, I had ordered two of each – arrived in generous bowls of warm deliciousness. Both beef and chicken were impossibly tender and flavourful; the beef was rich and strong, the chicken creamy and gently sweet with the dreamlike quality of tarragon – something in the sauce rounded it off perfectly, my guess is coconut milk but I can’t be sure. We were pleasantly surprised when a large bowl of fresh salad and an equally substantial bowl of crispy roast potatoes also made their way to our table. All in good time, while our stomachs began to feel rather heavy. Oh, and we got a bottle of Domaine Grand Veneur Côtes du Rhône les Champauvins to share too – this was listed as having “notes of kirsch and dark cherry” – it was a nice complement to the meal, thank you kind Waiter for your recommendation!

There was a bit of a mix-up with dessert at the end, and the yummy prune (I think) dessert which should’ve found its way to another table found us instead, with four sparkling forks to boot – and my brain did not wake up to the fact that it was a mistake until we’d all taken our first sweet bite (and horror and joy at once leaped into my heart). Despite my attempts to protest at the counter, they did not charge me for it.

I intend to visit them again. And not just because of the kindness with dessert.

PS. Re the leftovers. I KNEW it just wouldn’t taste as fantastic – but you know what, after a rather crazy day, this was JUST what I needed. I was so glad to have this waiting patiently for me when I got home tonight! Maybe there’s more to Leftover Logic than I thought.

PPS. Photos are of my leftovers (still looking rather edible, I must say!)

La Cigale – 69 St Georges Bay Road, Parnell, Auckland – Phone: 09 366 9361