Tag Archives: recipes

Ratatouille in the oven

I doubt that the imagination can be suppressed. If you truly eradicated it in a child, he would grow up to be an eggplant.
~ Ursula K. LeGuin

    1 red onion
    3 garlic cloves, peeled
    1 eggplant
    2 vine-ripened tomatoes
    1 zucchini
    3/4 red capsicum
    olive oil
    2 sprigs fresh rosemary
    1 tsp dried thyme
    1 tsp dried marjoram
    Preheat oven to 180°C.
    Slice the onion, garlic and vegetables. Put them all into a medium-sized baking dish (I used a 13″ oval one). Add in the herbs, some salt and pepper, drizzle olive oil over it and toss to combine. Cover the dish and bake it for 40 minutes.
    Take the lid off the dish and bake it for another 25 minutes, until the cooking juices have evaporated and the vegetables are nicely roasted.
    Cooking times may vary depending on your oven, the size of your baking dish and the amount of vegetables you use – so keep an eye on it!
    Remove the sprigs of herbs, and serve. I like mine with a poached egg on top!
    Yields 2 servings.

Mmmmmmm crumble

I have an enormous fondness for delicious food. It’s very comforting.
~ Teri Garr

I turned 24 this week, and friends, family and circumstances have all contributed towards making it a truly splendid birthday. It does makes me laugh, though, to think about the fact that each year I get an extra number awarded to me; a number to stick on my age and recite with pride. To be able to say “Hey, I’m 24, no longer 23!” feels like a prize I don’t deserve, for each year, I am more humbled by people, by life, by myself; I am more conscious of just how much I don’t know.

I wonder if I’ll ever really grow up. There’s just so much to learn and explore.

About love and family, for instance. Recently, I spent an entire morning with my Dad. I didn’t realise how much I didn’t know about him as a man, a person. I didn’t realise just how much he loved me. I didn’t realise how he has grown so much in humility. We talked in the sunshine, sharing stories and secrets. We admitted our faults. We talked about dreams.

There were points at which I could not hold back tiny streams of tears; but they fell in the midst of such happiness.

It is a mistake to underestimate the ones we love, or to think we couldn’t know them better. It is a mistake to think that secrets protect us; the opposite is true. There is a powerful, magnificent freedom in truth – a glorious thing to really know and be known.

Recently, I also came to realise a few things about myself. The last few months have been hectic with lots of things happening – challenges in every area – country relocation, job uncertainty, relationships… I had wonderful moments in the midst of things, of course, but I also experienced despair, anger and other indescribable feelings.

I came face to face with some things I’ve never resolved. It was scary and tough, but it felt good to face them and deal with them.

A few nights ago, I cried heavily, only this time – the tears felt hopeful, and I did not feel crushed. After the tears, I saw only clarity.

It’s great getting to know myself. To explore. To know others. To seek. To find. To touch and wallow in life – thrills, horrors and all.

I do hope this journey never ends.

Before I sign off, I’d like to share a recipe for some delicious crumble (too good not to share – and thanks Matt, what a treat tonight)!

As always, recipe writing doesn’t come naturally to me – but there is great fun to be had in experimenting, so take the recipe as a guide and make your own yummy version!

    Sweet and spicy crumble
    3 cans of fruit (we used apricots, mangoes, pears)
    Light brown sugar
    Muscovado sugar
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1 tsp chinese five spice powder
    1.5 tbsp amaretto
    50g fresh ginger, grated
    Crumble topping:
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    2 cups rolled oats
    100ml olive oil
    3/4 cup light brown sugar
    1 tsp chinese five spice powder
    Preheat the oven to 180°C.
    Slice the canned fruit, and arrange the fruit slices in a flat layer on the base of an oven-proof baking dish. Sprinkle cinnamon, grated ginger, amaretto and sugars evenly across the fruit.
    In a separate bowl, mix together the ingredients for the crumble topping until well combined, adjusting the quantity of oil if needed. Spread this evenly across the fruit mixture.
    Bake the crumble for approximately 45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and it is bubbling inside. Your house should also be smelling wonderful!
    Serve with a generous scoop of French Vanilla ice cream. If you can, pour yourself a glass of sweet late harvest too – perfection!
    Yields approximately 5 servings.

Thank goodness for hungry boys

A full belly makes a dull brain.
~ Benjamin Franklin

I met Annisha in my first few weeks at university, and somehow we stayed friends despite our awkward first conversation in class (I was shy and not so good at reading faces; she was having a “don’t talk to me!” day). 6 years later, I am sooooo glad we can roll off the couch in laughter, cook together in the kitchen, attempt singing French songs while in our pyjamas… you know those people with whom you can sit at a bus stop waiting for a late bus, and have fun the whole time? She is like that for me.

Wellington was blessed with warm sunny skies today and we made the most of it! We had coffee with Haidee at Espressoholic, then spent the afternoon strolling past the buskers on colourful Cuba Street, eating a late lunch, traipsing in and out of shops…… ahh, perfect! No urge to buy much however, except a very CUTE secondhand book “Accommodating Brocolli in the Cemetery – or why can’t anybody spell?” by Vivian Cook :-) On the back of this book is printed: “It is a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word.” (US President Andrew Jackson). Ahhhh, language, words, English, I love you, even though you are one of the craziest languages in the world.

Passed this cute wall and window by Swonderful (a funky Wellington shop) and couldn’t resist snapping a photo of it:

Nish and I made dinner tonight for 3 boys (2 of them my flatties) and ourselves.

The cookbook project continues… from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”:
#26 Greek-Cypriot Salad – Page 188
#27 Moist Chocolate Cake – Page 374

From the talented cook Nish:
Baked chicken with lemon, chilli and herbs

Salad: ‘generous’ is the way I would describe it – feta, tomatoes, cucumber, celery, oregano, onion, garlic, red wine and vinegar (the recipe had called for red wine vinegar which I didn’t have… oops)… for some reason I could imagine a large Greek family huddled around a table eating this.

Chicken: wonderful, fresh and flavourful with the lemon and chilli, browned and just yummy.

Potatoes: always the perfect complement to food, spuds. These were salted and herbed… heartiness.

Cake: butter, sugar, eggs, chocolate, flour, rum (used in place of brandy, which the recipe called for)… and a thickened sugar syrup poured on the top of it when it was cooled, to moisten it. I found this ok, but certainly not the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had ;-)

Sure glad the boys were here to help eat everything. Nish and I were way full from our 3pm lunch and could hardly stomach our food – and the glorious 3 boys sat eating, even saying the food was delicious, while it all disappeared into their skinny selves.

‘Death medicine’ (or green soup)

I do not like broccoli. And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.
~ George Bush, U.S. President (1990)

What you see here, my dears, is version #16 (or so) of a concoction with humble, accidental (?) beginnings.

One memorable day last year, I found to my horror that my flatmate Matt had made us green soup for dinner. GREEN SOUP. I’ve had tasty colourful soups (like a blood-red champagne & watermelon soup in a vineyard once) before, but the sight of this gloopy, mossy, duck-poo coloured green gloop did not appeal to me at all… at first, anyway…

I remained doubtful even though Matt attributed this magic potion in part to a marvellous cauliflower amuse bouche we once had in a restaurant (flavourful and poignant, a bouquet of garlic and wonder which truly paved the way to an enjoyable dinner).

When I finally closed my eyes and lifted the glass to my lips… I found myself surprised to the point of glee… which just goes to show you should NEVER, EVER judge a book by its cover. Or a soup by its look. Whatever.

“Try everything at least once”, my mom always encouraged, and except for the odd occasion (eg. turtle soup, sea urchin and ostrich eggs), I have mostly emerged the better for it. Sometimes, especially when you least expect it, food can reach past your senses and surprise you with something akin to a happy dream.

Anyway, I had 2 little shot-glasses of it tonight when Matt made this particular version of what he has named ‘death medicine’… and I include the recipe below with his permission. He did not measure these exactly, but they should be pretty accurate.

    1/2 broccoli
    1 courgette
    1/2 cup sango sprouts (I hate this in salads but it is not bad in soup)
    1/3 cup unsweetened yoghurt
    1 tbsp cream cheese
    tuscan seasoning
    cajun spice
    black pepper
    truffle oil
    Method to Matt’s madness:
    Steam broccoli and courgette.
    When they are soft, pulse and blend them with any excess water (approximately 1/3 cup), sprouts, yoghurt, cream cheese, seasoning and spice until it becomes a nice creamy soup. Adjust ingredient quantities till you reach desired taste and consistency.
    Pour it into a glass and pour a tiny bit of truffle oil on the top before adding a small sprinkle of dill.
    Yields 2 servings.

Honey-sweet, chocolate-deep

Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.
~ Lewis Carroll

I had a brief affair with cereal last year, when the Vanilla Cluster Cereal boxes at New World used to charm me with their glossy white fronts, delicious pictures splashed across them… promises of good mornings conveyed silently through something mysterious. Something in between attractive packaging and sweet crunchy clusters.

When I moved to Singapore last year for awhile, I spent $14 on a box of muesli at an expat supermarkets and never got through even half of it in a month. It didn’t ‘hit the spot’, and I either had pau (buns) or noodles and soy milk for breakfast, or nothing at all when I was rushing out the door to spend 1.5 hours in the bus and train to get to work.

Back in New Zealand, cereal and milk in a bowl seems like a good idea again.

It seemed appropriate to begin this gusty, grey Saturday with granola making…

The most time-consuming part of this was chopping the almonds; besides this, the recipe was a breeze to replicate. Even though I underestimated the time the cereal would take to cool down, and the chocolate bits are melting amidst the oats and almonds as a result…

Anyway, I have a bowl of sweet, crunchy, lovely lovely granola sitting on my kitchen bench.

The grey skies aren’t as dismal now.

Welcome to a beautiful day in Wellington!

    French chocolate granola
    Recipe adapted from Orangette
    3 cups rolled oats
    1/2 cup dessert almonds, chopped
    1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
    2 tbsp granulated sugar
    pinch of salt
    6 tbsp mild honey
    2 tbsp vegetable oil
    3/4 cup chocolate drops
    Preheat the oven to 150°C.

    In a large bowl, combine the oats, almonds, coconut, sugar, and salt. Stir well to blend.

    In a small saucepan, warm the honey and oil over low heat, whisking occasionally until the honey is loose. Pour over the dry ingredients, and stir to combine well.

    Spread the mixture evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for around 10 minutes, give it a good stir (to help it cook evenly) and put it back in the oven for a further 10 minutes, or until golden. When it’s ready, remove the pan from the oven, stir well – this will keep it from cooling into a hard, solid sheet – and cool completely.

    When cool, transfer the granola to a large bowl, storage jar, or zip-loc plastic bag. Add the chocolate, and stir (or shake, if using a jar or bag) to mix.

    Store in an airtight container. Serve with plain milk; soy milk and plain yogurt overwhelm the chocolate flavour.

    Yields around 5 cups.

I’m typing this in the dark, while watching cricket

After eating chocolate you feel godlike, as though you can conquer enemies, lead armies, entice lovers.
~ Emily Luchetti

At this hour, I can’t remember why I am doing a cook-through-a-cookbook project and worse, blogging about it now, at midnight when the lights are off and I am touch-typing while John and Jono are sensibly sleeping and Matt is sleepily watching cricket here.

On account of my current sleepy brain, swiftly curtaining eyelids and strange inclination to blog anyway, I can’t come up with a smart sassy title or promise a coherent post.

Twas a busy day at work – and I was well ready to start cooking in the kitchen by the time I came home! I invited Jian & Nish round, and Char came too – so we bustled around in the kitchen and Jian helped me to take photos before we all sat ourselves down for dinner with my flatties and the things you talk and laugh about while eating fish, then chocolate. Tonight’s attempts from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”:

#24 Triglie Al Pomodoro (Red Mullet with Tomatoes) – Page 312
#25 Baked Chocolate Puddings – Page 370

Made the puddings first. Dessert first is just a novel way to go about things… especially when there are chocolates and ramekins involved…

I still struggle to know when beaten egg whites have reached the stage of being “soft peaks”? Mine emerged frothier than my last bubble bath and as they folded in to the chocolate mixture like ugly rubble I was disheartened. Spooned the mix into ramekins anyway and popped them into the oven, toes and fingers crossed…

(Oh, and with no caster sugar at home, I used a little muscavado sugar and normal white sugar instead.)

40 minutes later, they emerged a little like chocolate-flavoured creme brulee, soft, mellow and slightly custardy within with a very slight crust on top. Sweet. A good conclusion to dinner. Nearly perfect… I think I would make these again.

(And yes, we were good kids and ate them after dinner)

Icing sugar carpets do make all things better too.

As for the fish, it ended up looking nothing like the picture, of course. I had to substitute red mullet (which New World had none of) for monkfish. And besides the capers, olives, tinned tomatoes and garlic the recipe called for, I added some sugar, basil, oregano, more salt & pepper – resulting in nicely flavoured monkfish with a good sauce that could coat pasta or bread nicely.

Dinner was served with pesto-ed pasta and a side salad of mesclun, spinach, orange + red capsicum, red onion, orange zest, orange cubes and kiwifruit slices.

Fun times… always so, with cooking and friends and sun streaming through the windows. And now it really is time for bed, since I am getting up early for a nice Saturday day-trip… good night!

Can’t stop cookin’

I could give up chocolate but I’m not a quitter.
~ Author Unknown

It’s so difficult to stop cooking!!!

Made a modified version of spiced brownie this morning – recipe courtesy Smitten Kitchen.

This one has a lethal amount of chocolate (partially hidden in the photo), butter, paprika, cardamom, cinnamon, cocoa. Sweet and moist…

It’s still a little difficult to think about what to cook without a recipe to guide me, but I feel myself getting a little more comfortable slowly with cooking – able to modify recipes and substitute things to avoid massive grocery bills – able to judge better when a cake is done – always having fun in the kitchen, amidst a few inevitable frustrating moments.

I think I’m coming to trust myself a little more now with recipes too, with folding and whisking, letting things work themselves out – and I find that this attitude extends a little more into life sometimes… sometimes I catch myself being so calm that I wonder where the old jumpy impatient me has gone. I still explode in accordance with my natural crazy passionate self – but at least I have a little more calm in my heart, too.

Cooking then, I think, is so good like that – like dancing. It’s art and expression, learning, exercising freedom, tripping over, getting up again – and just laughing throughout the process. Sometimes alone, sometimes with others. But you practise more with yourself and once you’re ok with laughing and crying comfortably alone, you have alot more fun. Both cooking and dancing do so much for my soul and teach me valuable lessons on how to live.

Here’s to a good week.