SPRING!

The birds have known it for weeks. Spring is coming, the earth is warming up and everything is getting ready for the long, lush days ahead.

There’s not the same incredible feeling of rebirth as in the northern hemisphere – particularly not in this corner of the world, where evergreen trees light up the dull winter landscape – but it’s exciting all the same.

This will be another big time of change for us and the lengthening days make me feel like I might just have enough energy. In the meantime, there’s always tea and cake. I really wanted to post the recipe for Great Aunty Shirley’s Madeira Cake (as pictured above, made into butterfly cakes), but I’m not confident that I’ve got it right. Yet. But I’ll let you know when I have!

Window dressing

Cat at Raspberry Rainbow wants to know what’s on your windowsill. Here’s what’s on mine…


The blue ceramic dish used to hold a trio of tiny ballet dancers, white china with pale pink tutus. I’m not sure what happened to them, but now it’s become a repository for kitchen odds and ends. The pound coins and Euro probably came out of my pocket the day we moved in. After five years of living abroad I found it really hard to let go and embrace the thought that we were in New Zealand to stay. I think I keep the coins there as a reminder that there is more to the world than just the view out my kitchen window. Not that it’s a bad view, even though you can’t see it from this angle. If I crane my neck past the grey building in front of us I can see down to a small crater lake fringed with reeds, and across to Mt Pirongia. Another reminder, perhaps, to enjoy what’s right in front of you!


Further down is a bunch of borage I plucked from the roadside on my way back from a run. The stems are prickly but the blueness of the flowers is so intense that it was worth it. Next, an empty French chesnut puree tin, which I am going to turn into a tealight candleholder. Then a tiny blue ceramic bowl, provenance unknown, but it’s the same blue as the borage flowers so it was obviously meant to sit there.

The last two items are also related – one is a bunch of native flowers left on the doorstep by kind Jeanine, who dispenses wisdom, honey and flowers in equal measures – and the other is a Cath Kidston card from Jeanine’s daughter Ann, who is back in our old neighbourhood in London. To complete the circle I should send her the pound coins from the blue dish!

What’s on your windowsill?

Musical Monday: The Dog Days Are Over

Just the thing after a wet weekend – oh if only we could all frolic like this!(I wonder what Florence likes to eat?)

Love is…

… putting the baby to bed on a wet, windy Saturday night and discovering that your Beloved has made you a heart-shaped potato cake to eat with rare Scotch fillet, a tumble of greens and a glass of pinot noir.

The heart shaped cake won points for cuteness but the round ones tasted just as good, thanks to their crispy exterior and soft, fluffy centres. The Boy Wonder loves potatoes and discovering new ways to cook them. Here’s how he did it this time:

POTATO CAKES

Preheat the oven to 200C. Peel a heap of floury potatoes (Agria if you’re in the southern hemisphere, King Edward or Maris Piper in the northern one) and boil until soft. Drain, then add a finely chopped onion, a couple of tablespoons of butter and a slosh of olive oil. Mash until soft and fluffy. Shape into cakes using a heart-shaped mould, a china ramekin or your hands, then place on a greased oven tray. Bake for 45-60 minutes until golden. Serve with love.

Backstage drama

Recipe testing last night for an upcoming issue of Frankie magazine – testing in more ways than one. I thought I had it all sorted – then remembered I’d forgotten to buy watercress. Then when I was foraging in the garden (in the dark) for rocket I remembered we didn’t have any soy sauce. Then I couldn’t get the skin off the salmon fillets. Then I overcooked the soba noodles and undercooked the fish. A mini-meltdown ensued.

Then I took a deep breath, plated it up and we ate. And life suddenly seemed much better. But it didn’t stop me from thinking that if all the world’s greatest chefs are men, it’s because they probably don’t have to deal with domestic dramas in the course of their work.

Anyway, the good news is that having my very own kitchen sink drama means I now know how to translate the chaos into a workable recipe for Frankie readers. That makes it all worth it, because you have to break a few eggs if you want to make an omelette, as someone in a similar position once said.

The recipe will be in the November/December issue of Frankie (on news stands from late October).