Cheers to 2012

The end of 2012 hasn’t so much crept up on me as snuck in, wearing a balaclava, to bash me over the head with a baseball bat. Or a rolling pin. Or both. This year has been the best of times and the worst of times in all sorts of ways; most of the time it was about putting one foot in front of the other and keeping going.
So I don’t have a triumphant list of achievements to tick off – I didn’t climb a mountain or win a race (though I did run two half-marathons). I didn’t write a book or learn a language. I haven’t grown anything spectacular in the garden, unless you count letting all the silverbeet go to seed (it does look pretty impressive when it’s 6ft tall). I had lots of good ideas and acted on very few of them.

I was beginning to feel the year had been a complete write-off when I remembered my list of  culinary resolutions for 2012. Let’s see how they went…

The Nibbly Tea – one of 2012’s greatest hits

1. I will learn to sharpen knives…. Well, my brother did give me a lesson and I did try, but I’m still not very confident about doing it. More importantly, I have found a man with a little knife-sharpening shop and I think it will do us all good if I support him in 2013.

2. I will learn to carve a
turkey/chicken/poussin/quail properly… Done. We haven’t eaten any turkeys, poussins or quail, but I can carve a chicken like a pro now, despite my lack of razor-sharp knives.

3. I will buy a
slotted spoon… Done. Thanks to my lovely cousin Rebecca, who bought me one. It’s a thing of beauty and I think of her every time I use it.

4. I will wear gloves to do the
washing up and remember that wet teatowels are of no use whatsoever when
handling hot oven trays…. Needs work.

5. I will delve into the piles of
recipe cuttings and cull them ruthlessly… Needs work.

6. I will buy a tart
tin with a removeable base so we can eat more pies…. Done! And I have an amazing book, Pie, to help me make more of them.

7. I will sit down to
eat… I am trying, honest.

8. I will not sit down to eat at my desk, if I can help it. Fail. Epic Fail. But there is no time at work to do anything else.
9. I
will just say no to the enormous glace cherry-topped macaroons sold at the
supermarket… Done! I bought one in the middle of the year, ate it in about two bites and realised the spell was broken.
10. I will remember how lucky I am to be able to have food in my fridge
and family and friends to share it with. Done. Often.

The best sponge in the world – see Frankie issue 50 for the secret recipe!

On that note, tonight we’re having six people for dinner, plus two excitable children. I’m going to see out 2012 in the way I spent most of it – apron on, oven whirring, dishwasher loaded, holding two conversations at once, glass in hand.

Thanks for your support this year. I’m looking forward to more fun and games in 2013.

One-pot smoky fish and rice

In my next life I am going to eschew academia and pursue a trade. Specifically, I am going to be a dishwasher repairwoman. You will know me by my extremely high hourly rate, my inability to keep appointments and my total disregard for the chaos my laissez-faire attitude brings to other peoples’ lives.
Our dishwasher has been on the blink for two weeks and the strain is beginning to show. The frustrating thing is that it still works, but a tiny catch in the door has broken and so we can’t get it open without jamming a screwdriver in one side. This method is having grave repercussions on the structure of the door itself and so I am reluctant to continue with it. However I am also getting very tired of doing the dishes while I wait for Mr Unreliable Dishwasher Fixit Man to come back with the minute part needed to solve the problem.

One-Pan Smoked Fish And Rice

One-pot smoky fish and rice
This is hardly a recipe, but it is an extremely handy method of cooking dinner without making any dishes. I’ve only tried it with smoked fish so far, but I daresay you could give it a whirl with very thin fillets of fish as the heat from the rice should be enough to cook it through.

300g jasmine rice, well washed in cold running water
500ml cold water
1 lemon, washed and cut into slices
smoked fish of your choice – it’s smoked trevally in the photo above, but smoked eel or hot smoked salmon are also good done this way

Put the washed rice and water in a large pot. Cover tightly and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and let simmer for 12 minutes. Turn the heat off, then quickly lift the lid and put the lemon slices on top of the rice, followed by the fish. Put the lid back on as quickly as possible and let the rice stand for 10 minutes.
While you’re waiting, blanch some Chinese greens in boiling water and drain. Lift the fish out from the rice and onto a clean board. Fluff the rice up with a fork and divide between four bowls. Put the greens, fish and lemons on top. Dress with soy sauce or rice vinegar as you see fit.

What kitchen gadget would you miss the most if it suddenly went out of action? Do you know any good dishwasher repairers?

Presents for you as The KM turns 2

The other day a post popped up in the little ‘You might also like’ box and I thought, ‘crumbs, I don’t remember doing that one’. So I clicked on it and realised with shock that it was my first post, from TWO years ago.
I can’t believe I just about forgot The Kitchenmaid’s second birthday altogether. Bad me. But good on you for sticking with me through what has been a fairly fraught year. Thank you for your support and your suggestions, they all mean a lot.
Various factors have meant I haven’t had nearly as much time to devote to my favourite vanity project in 2012, nor spend as much time luxuriating in reading other blogs or just playing about in my kitchen. I often try not to think about what I could be doing with the time I do spend on it – but I do think two years’ worth of posts is worth celebrating, don’t you?

I think it’s so worth celebrating that I have a whole swag of lovely things – which are all related to major topics covered on this blog, namely chocolate, whitebait, kitchenalia and tea – to give away. Hurrah!

First up – and this is for New Zealand readers only, due to postage problems – I have a collection of gorgeous Equagold goodies, including some Cocoa Nibs with Cinnamon, two bottles of certified organic Pure Vanilla Extract (one of which has the added bonus of star anise), some gold-strength leaf Gelatine and a gorgeous big bottle of Tahitian Vanilla Syrup. Just think of the fun you could have with that!

Next – and this is for overseas readers only – a limited edition West Coast whitebait tea towel, direct from the wild West Coast itself.

Overseas readers are also in with a chance on this one – I’ve just discovered the Pratty’s Tea range and I am absolutely hooked. It’s made in Auckland by a naturopath and tea expert and every single one is delicious. I have one tin to give away (even though I am tempted just to drink it all myself).

Last, but by no means least, I have this to give away:

This is Theo, mascot of the New Zealand Chocolate Festival. You might get to meet him – or at least get to see lots more photos of him – if you win the TWO tickets I have to give away to New Zealand’s most choc-tastic event on Friday August 24. Anyone can enter this one, but obviously it will significantly improve your chances of being able to use the tickets if you can be in Wellington on that particular day.

All you have to do to be in to win is:

1. Leave a
comment below – or on The Kitchenmaid’s Facebook page, telling me what you’d like to see more (or less) of on this blog
– baking? cooking advice? book reviews? family friendly food? lunchbox ideas? pictures of animals? a tour of my apron and tablecloth collection? I would really love your feedback. Let me know which prize you most fancy.
2. You can enter more than once – eg via leaving a comment below AND on Facebook, or by mentioning the giveaway on Twitter. You don’t have to leave your phone number with your comment but it would be helpful to have some way of contacting you.
3. Entries close at 12 noon (NZ time) next Sunday. Winners will be drawn at random and no correspondance will be entered unto (unless you want to tell me how pleased you are that you won).

Don’t forget to tell me what you’d like to see more of
on The Kitchenmaid, because cooking for one just isn’t fun. Good luck!

Mother’s little helpers

While unloading the dishwasher yesterday morning (surely the best sound in the world is the steady whirr of the dishwasher working away when you go to bed at night) I suddenly realised my most-used kitchen tools are all under-sized.

The little egg flipper thing (at least, that’s what we call it) is brilliant for lifting biscuits off trays, flipping fritters, fried eggs or fishcakes, the miniature whisk is useful for one-egg wonders or making small batches of mayo, the hot pink spatula is useful for everything, particularly porridge making and the tongs are so well-used that we’ve gone through two sets in the last year (though they are not so good if you’re using them near hot oil, as my burned hands can attest).

I do have some normal-sized tools, of course, but these little guys are my closest companions in most tasks.

Do you go in for mini-me kitchenalia? Does size matter at your place?

Time for a cuppa?

How incredibly cute is this?

Tea Cup Charm Necklace With Lace Doily "La Petite", White, Pink or Peach, Miniature Food Jewelry

And this?

Tea Cup Statement Ring With Shabby Lace Doily and Cookies "Léonie", Miniature Food Jewelry - made to order


And this?

Tea Cup Bobby Pin With Shabby Lace Doily "La Petite" White, Pink or Peach, Miniature Food Jewelry

You can find all of these here. I stumbled upon them while looking for something completely different and thought they were adorable, even though I’m unlikely to take to wearing teacup hairclips any time soon.

Have a great day, everyone. I can nearly see the weekend coming over the horizon…