Good Things: March 2014

It is inky-dark outside and the hail is lashing the windows. It’s not late, but it feels like the middle of the night. Suddenly, a quarter of 2014 has disappeared already. I feel like it won’t be long before I’m panicking about the approach of Christmas. Is this happening to you too?

Organic Camomile Flowers Photo Credit: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

If you feel stressed by the pace of life, then you need to sit down with a calming cup of camomile tea. In fact, you need to sit in the sun for an hour and harvest some camomile for best results. This is a very relaxing task, even if you spend it in the company of a child who thinks it gives her carte blanche to decapitate every flower in the garden.

Then (if you’re me) you need to come inside and admire your lovely new Owen Bartlett bowl. Isn’t it lovely?

I found it at the Martinborough Fair, along with a vintage duvet and various other gems. It was a biting cold day and I had an appalling head cold, which was improved greatly by a hot cup of this cider vinegar and honey concoction (nicer than it sounds) and a steaming plate of masala dosa, eaten sitting in the gutter outside a pub (also nicer than it sounds).

When I wasn’t in the garden, snipping at camomile or treasure hunting, I spent a lot of time with my nose in a series of books. One was The Luminaries, the other was Fuchsia Dunlop’s Every Grain Of Rice, which is a no-less brilliant exploration of Chinese home cooking. It’s not particularly new, but it’s brilliant. The day I carried it home from the library I made this very elegant spinach in a soy-ginger sauce and made a mental note of about 20 other recipes (including chao fan, a sort of fried rice that was my number one favourite when I was a child). I’m dreading having to return it to the library.

Spinach With Soy And Ginger Sauce Photo Credit: Lucy Corry

I’ve also spent a lot of time eagerly awaiting Emma Galloway’s first book – My Darling Lemon Thyme: Recipes From My Real Food Kitchen – which is officially released on April 1 (no joke!). I’ve been a fan of Emma’s for ages and her book is completely gorgeous. All but a tiny handful of the recipes are brand-new (so I still have to keep that bookmark to her excellent sushi instructions) and they look amazing. A lot of so-called ‘wholesome’ cookbooks (and food, for that matter) are so preachy and disconnected from real life – this one is totally on the money. Even if you don’t have food intolerance issues, you should get this book, it’s a game-changer.

I must have achieved other things this month, but I can’t recall them for the life of me. But a little gardening, a little cooking and a lot of reading isn’t a bad way to pass the time, is it?
What have you been up to?

Good things: February 2014

Ice creams. Fish and chips. Sand castles. Sand in everything. February has turned out to be the month that January should have been. And boy, am I glad about it.

Fish And Chips From The Waimarama Store, Hawkes Bay

Very early readers of this blog might recall the summer holiday we took three (THREE!) years ago. We had such rose-tinted memories of that stay (despite the fact that it rained a lot) that we went back for a few days at the beginning of the month.

Waimarama Beach Hawkes Bay

We shopped at New Zealand’s best Farmer’s Market, ate New Zealand’s best fish and chips, went for swims and made a lot of sandcastles. It was a proper, old-fashioned summer holiday.

Even better, my sister came to stay and brought with her a shiny new ice cream machine and a batch of this ice cream. I’ve thought about it often ever since.

Emma Galloway's Dairy Free Chocolate Ice Cream

Back home, we harvested our own tomatoes, which have thrived despite inclement weather and neglect. I listened to this completely charming interview with Wellington’s best French patissier and made a mental note to visit his little shop more often.

Homegrown Tomatoes

The pantry is in – and filled – but I’ve decided to wait for the big reveal until the painters have finished, because the rest of the kitchen is such a tip I can’t bear to show it. I’m sure you can wait a little longer.
In the meantime I have more cupboards to clean, more dust to vacuum, and an urgent appointment with a glass of wine in my garden while the cicadas chorus around me.

What have you been up to this month?

Good things – January 2014

I’m not sure how it happened, but someone has stolen my January. I can’t believe the first month of 2014 has disappeared so fast. This afternoon, as I rushed to the hardware store to buy window hinges (don’t ask), I tried to recall what we have done and drew a complete blank.

From looking at my diary I can work out there was one bout of tonsilitis, 10 flights up and down the country and one funeral. I have met approximately a dozen tradesmen, one of whom I have seen more of in the last two weeks than my husband. In fact, one of the other tradies thought he WAS my husband. I have spent more time in hardware stores than I have in food shops. I’ve only read two books (this one and this one) and become hooked on this show. I have worried about paint and carpet and too many other things to mention.

It is mid-summer and I have still not eaten an ice cream.

Miso Caramel Sauce

But I have become absolutely addicted to this insanely good and easy to make miso caramel sauce, which goes with absolutely everything.

I loved listening to this podcast with Colonel Chris Hadfield about eating in space. Surely he must be a contender for Person Of The Year?

I have made quite a few things from this book, aided by vegetables I’ve been growing in my own garden (please note high levels of SPF – Smug Person Factor – in that statement).

Yellow Zucchini With Blossoms Picture Credit: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

And I was utterly transfixed by this video – though I can see the point in this argument against it (it’s still mesmerising though, don’t you think?

So maybe January wasn’t all bad after all. What have you been up to?

Treat me: Rhubarb Coconut Fool

They say there’s no fool like an old fool – but in this case, they’re wrong. Because this new too cool for school fool is something else. I’d planned to make a classic rhubarb fool with the first stalks I’d harvested from my garden, but didn’t feel like ordinary cream and Greek yoghurt seemed too tart. Then I remembered this coconut cream ice cream and a new plan was born…

Rhubarb Coconut Fool

Rhubarb Coconut Fool
The hype over coconut water and coconut oil drives me to distraction, but I am a bit of a sucker for coconut cream. Here it’s chilled and whipped into fluffy clouds before being folded though honey-sweetened rhubarb for a new take on the classic fool. If you’ve got a dairy-free diner coming for dinner, this is what you should make them for pudding. It’s also a sumptuous breakfast, whether you’re dairy-free or not. The rhubarb can be made well in advance and kept, covered, in the fridge
One tip: Make sure you buy coconut cream rather than coconut milk (in New Zealand, the Samoan brand Fia Fia is good) and remember to chill it thoroughly by leaving it in the fridge for at least five hours before you whip it. Longer doesn’t hurt.

400g rhubarb, washed, trimmed and cut into 2.5cm pieces
1 generous tablespoon of honey
2 tablespoons water
1 400ml can of coconut cream, well chilled
more honey, to taste
toasted nuts – hazelnuts, almonds – to sprinkle on top

Put the rhubarb, tablespoon of honey and water in a small saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, until the rhubarb is soft but still holds its shape. Scrape into a bowl and let cool before covering and putting in the fridge.
Open the coconut cream and scoop out the thick, almost solid material from the tin (if you’ve got good coconut cream, this will be nearly all of it). Put into a bowl, add a teaspoon or two of honey and beat until fluffy with electric beaters (or rotary beaters and a lot of muscle).
To serve, put a dollop of coconut cream and a scoop of rhubarb in each bowl. Either leave as is, in a yin and yang sort of style, or gently stir through to get a marbled effect. Some chopped, toasted nuts on the top are good for crunch. Serves four, with leftovers for breakfast.

Because the rhubarb came from my own garden – and was grown from a cutting donated from a garden three streets away – and you can’t get much more local than that, I think it’s a good fit for Shop Local – a blogging event run by the lovely Elizabeth of Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary. Even if you’re not into shopping
(or growing) local, you should check out her lovely blog header.

Have a great weekend, everyone! x

Kitchen DIY: Homemade capers

Do you want your neighbours to think you have gone mad? Here’s how.

1. Venture out to the council-managed garden areas (that is to say, those that are overgrown with weeds) on your street, preferably while wearing your gardening hat, gumboots and various other items of misshapen, mismatching clothing.

2. For best results, do this when your neighbours are walking up the street, preferably with their most glamorous friends and perfectly behaved children, in their best clothes.

3. Climb into one of the gardens and start pinching off nasturtium buds and flowers, putting them in the small bowl you have brought with you for this purpose.

4. Wave cheerily as the neighbours pass by. Tell them, when they enquire as to what you are doing, that you are picking the nasturtium buds to make into homemade capers and the flowers are going in tonight’s salad. Watch as the smiles become a bit more fixed and the stares become more glassy.

5. Scramble out of the garden and go to your house, while the net curtains across the street twitch frantically.

Well, that’s not completely accurate – our neighbours are all lovely and very few of them have net curtains. Actually, only the really weird ones have net curtains and we think it’s because they are Up To No Good In There. I do feel a bit of a dork to be sprung essentially harvesting weeds in front of them, but they should be used to it by now. In any case, I love nasturtiums and a bit of embarrassment is worth it.

Homemade Capers

Pickled Nasturtium Buds – aka Homemade Capers
Nasturtium flowers are great in salads and the leaves add a peppery bite to cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches – just pick the smaller ones as the big ones are really fiery. When the flowers have wilted (or been picked by someone like me), pick the little brain-like growths at the base of the flowers and use them in this homegrown version of capers.

At least 1/2 a cup of nasturtium buds, washed and dried
250ml rice wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 clove garlic
10 peppercorns

Put the vinegar, salt, garlic and peppercorns into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for two minutes, then remove from the heat and let cool. Pour into a small sterilised jar, then add the nasturtium buds. Put a lid on the jar and leave for a couple of weeks in a cool place. The buds will be ready to eat when they have sunk to the bottom of the jar. You can keep adding new buds to the liquid.

Are you a forager? What’s your best tip?