Monday, August 29

Don't Worry My Little Dumpling, Daddy's Gonna Make It Alright

Ohhh, there seems to have been quite some time between posts. Let’s blame a technical hitch, shall we? It’s not like one spent the past two dark and frozen months lying inert by the fire snivelling into a tankard of shiraz and mumbling incoherently at the television, the horrors of which only Seasonal Affective Disorder can bring. Not like that at all.
Dumplings though! Dumplings could warm the heart of Otzi the Iceman. And I’m talking the Chinese variety. Those slippery, wrinkly, salty, slightly rubbery little pouches of delight that can be savoured in the mouth one or two at a time.

Chinese dumplings (jiaozi) may be divided into various types depending on how they are cooked: boiled, steamed or shallow fried. In China, jiaozi are eaten all year round and at any time of the day – breakfast, lunch or dinner. They can constitute one course, starter or side dish, or the main meal. Every family has its own preferred method of making them, with favourite fillings, and of course, jiaozi types and preparation vary widely according to region. According to folk tales, jiaozi were invented by Zhang Zhongjing, one of the greatest practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine in history. They were originally called "tender ears" because they were used to treat frostbitten ears. (Which is very handy to know in this climate).

A prosthetic frostbitten ear.  Image courtesy of Bodytech Emporium.

To save leaving the house, one recently whipped up some jiaozi. Two kinds – steamed and shallow-fried. The steamed contained a fine filling of mashed firm tofu, finely chopped oyster and shitake mushrooms (lightly sauteed first), finely chopped coriander, about a centimetre of freshly minced ginger, not much minced red chilli, a splash of sesame oil and a glug of kecap manis. I love Kecap Manis. And I believe he loves me.

Using store purchased dumpling wrappers I shaped these ones into round ‘twist-top’ dumplings, making sure to apply some water around the edges to ensure they stayed together and being careful not to over-stuff them. These were then steamed in a two-tiered bamboo steamer for about fifteen minutes. You can tell they’re ready when they go slightly transparent and wrinkly.

For the shallow-fried variety, I mashed up a large orange kumara (sweet potato) which I had baked in the microwave, some finely chopped red chilli and some salt and pepper to taste. Easy as that. These ones I shaped into what the Chinese probably don’t call ‘quarter moons’ and shallow fried them in grapeseed oil and a little sesame oil for about 10 to 15 minutes until the skins were golden and bubbly.

One has been growing one’s own greens over the winter which when sauteed in plenty of garlic, yet more sesame oil, a drop or two of tabasco, some teriyaki sauce and finished with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds, make a delightful accompaniment to the jiaozi.
Jiaozi Two Ways

Look at moi!  Look at moi!  Tending to ma greens...
This month I shall be endeavouring to update my musical tastes.  But until then, here's a little something from the vault...

Wednesday, June 15

The McBenry Cabbage Butterfly Defence Method

One’s vegie patch is teeming with brassicas. Though some have been ravaged by the dreaded Large White, early on I adopted the McBenry Cabbage Butterfly Defence Method with stunning results. For those unfamiliar with the McBCBDM, it is an organic, high-tech system of pest control invented by My Grandparents. “Grandmother McBenry, what do you use to deter cabbage butterflies?” “Well dear, your Grandfather McBenry sits in the garden wearing a hat-deterrent and wielding a tennis racket. And, should they dare to land, he swipes furiously at the winged creatures shredding their tiny paper wings to confetti! Battering their young into caterpillar pulp and mashing their eggs betwixt his gnarled old fingers!”

And so I found myself on Saturday with broccoli to spare. Broccoli evolved from a wild cabbage plant on the continent of Europe. Indications point to the vegetable having been around for some 2,000 years. It is high in vitamin C, as well as dietary fibre, and it also contains multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties, such as diindolylmethane and small amounts of selenium. Because of these special properties, broccoli can sometimes get ideas above its station. Nevin and Patricia here are a case in point…
Nevin & Patricia appear courtesy of SMN/flickr

I also found myself with a recipe for Paneer with Broccoli and Sesame which I had the good fortune to have cut out from the Australian Good Food magazine earlier in the week…

Into a pan of boiling water for two minutes I put 200 grams of broccoli florets, before submerging them in icy water and draining thoroughly. Next, I heated a tablespoon of vegetable oil in the wok and stir-fried a tablespoon of sesame seeds, a teaspoon of brown mustard seeds and a teaspoon of cumin seeds until fragrant. (Beware, the mustard and cumin seeds are prone to popping in your eyeballs). Having regained my sight, I added one thinly sliced onion, a 140g packet of paneer (cubed), a tablespoon of freshly grated ginger and two crushed garlic cloves. The recipe suggests that it should take four to five minutes for the paneer to become golden but mine took a little longer to change hue (about 10). Almost last but not least, comes the par-cooked broccoli and once heated through a teaspoon of lemon juice and half a teaspoon of mace finishes it off nicely. A quick and tasty dish which The Robertsons teamed with Curried Yoghurt Chickpeas, Cumin & Lime Rice, Naan Bread, Mango Chutney and Eggplant Pickle. No wonder one’s trewsers were tight!

The Leftovers

Whatever happened to Macy Gray?

Tuesday, June 7

Go the Pies!

Winter has come to The Ranges. And with it the urge to do nothing but position one’s pasty loins beside the fire, devour bottles of red wine, watch marathon sessions of ‘Don’t Tell the Bride’ and eat. Pasta with gloopy, creamy sauces. Potatoes smashed with butter and shitloads of salt. Pizza drooping under the weight of quattro formaggio. Pies. Hot puffy pies!

If the producers of "Julie and Julia" don't call soon, I'll eat my pie hat!
The first pies appeared around 9500 BC, in the Egyptian Neolithic period. Early pies were known as galettes, wrapping honey as a treat inside a cover of ground oats, wheat, rye or barley. These galettes developed into a form of early sweet pastry or desserts, evidence of which can be found on the tomb walls of the Pharaoh Ramesses II, who ruled from 1304 to 1237 BC.
Yesterday, having very little experience in the world of pie-making, I bravely attempted some of the mushroom variety. And lo and behold they were pretty, pretty good. Certainly Mr R had a hard time resisting Mrs R’s Flakey Fungus Pie. Herewith the recipe…

I began by roasting a handful of peeled shallots with some seasoning, a little olive oil and a splash of water until they were pearly and tender. Meanwhile, atop the stove, I sautéed four finely chopped cloves of garlic, one finely chopped red onion and three sticks of sliced celery (with plenty of leafage). Once tender I added lots of roughly chopped mushrooms! There were oyster ones, shitake ones, button ones and dried porcini ones (that had been soaking in about half a cup of boiling water). Then in went a large knob of butter and plenty of S&P. Once the mushrooms had cooked down a little, I added a couple of decent glugs of red wine, a ‘chicken’ stock cube, about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, a generous tablespoon each of finely chopped fresh thyme and tomato paste and finally the porcini liquid until all was a bubbling, fragrant stew. (You may need some extra liquid to achieve the stew-like consistency – I added a couple of tablespoons of water at this point). Having left the mixture to simmer for approximately ten to fifteen minutes, I then mixed in a tablespoon of cornflour and about 100ml of thickened cream and stirred until the liquid became a thick gravy. At this point I added the roasted shallots, seasoned to taste, and left the filling to cool…

Once cooled it was time to assemble the pies. Still not being the owner of a functioning food processor I went the way of supermarket puff pastry squares which I thawed for about ten minutes until pliable. Using a suitably sized saucer I cut out six large rounds for the pie bases and six smaller ones for the lids. Having already greased six large muffin cases, I lined each with pastry and filled them with the mushroom mixture which was now quite meaty and thick. On went the lids into which I sliced several air holes. Master R then decorated them with an odd assortment of shapes and brushed the tops with beaten egg yolk. Into the oven (at 180) they went for about 25 minutes, until golden. They were then allowed to stand for 10 minutes before being demolished alongside beetroot roasted with orange and thyme, and a feta and walnut salad. Hot puffy pies!
Master R applies the egg wash

Pie Fight!

Sunday, May 15

Unleavened Bread, Just Blows Me Away

The East–West Schism of 1054, sometimes known as the Great Schism, formally divided the State church of the Roman Empire into Eastern (Greek) and Western (Latin) branches, which later became known as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, respectively. Relations between East and West had long been embittered by political and ecclesiastical differences and theological disputes. Prominent among these was the issue of "filioque", meaning whether leavened or unleavened bread should be used in the Eucharist.

Jamie Oliver to the rescue! Those eyes! That hair! And his favourite “Anytime Garlic Flatbreads” could undoubtedly seal the Greatest of Schisms. One look, one taste and those hairy old Greek dudes would surely renege. My Hairy Old Scots Dude was putty in my hands come Good Friday when we demolished a job lot in record time. A bit of yoghurt dip here, some eggplant relish there…!

Big JO says to make the dough in a food processor. But if like me you don’t happen to own one that works, I can confirm that a good old fashioned wooden spoon and some elbow grease perform just as well. So, place 500grams of self-raising flour, one tablespoon of baking powder, 500grams of natural yoghurt (I used Greek!), and one tablespoon of sea salt in a large bowl and mix until dough-like. Then turn out onto a lightly-floured surface and knead for about a minute. Don’t be alarmed by it’s very soft and sticky texture, it’ll be all right in the end. Now leave it to rest in a floured bowl covered in a tea towel for at least 20 minutes. (Big JO doesn’t actually specify a time but having made it again since and charged ahead without letting it relax at all, I can confirm that this is of paramount importance).

Meanwhile you can make the garlic butter simply by melting 150grams of butter and stirring in two finely chopped garlic cloves (or more if you’re a real fan-o-garlic) and a small bunch of chopped flat-leaf parsley. Then it’s time for the cooking…

Pop a griddle pan over a high heat to warm up whilst you’re preparing the dough. Which you do by dividing it into 12 equal-sized pieces and rolling them into side-plate-sized rounds. Then make six or so incisions with a sharp knife in the centre of each round (leaving about five cm at each end). Cook each one on the hot, dry (no butter or oil required) griddle for about two minutes each side or until puffy and golden. Keep them warm in the oven and then just before serving brush them on both sides with the garlic butter. Lovely jubbly!
My Finished Platter

Monday, April 11

Introducing the Pear of Anguish

To be honest one would have expected the producers of ‘Julie and Julia’ to have been knocking down the door by now. But not a snifter. Not a sodding snifter.

However, I’m not the type to let down The Lucky 36! So this week’s offerings come to you courtesy of the humble pear…

The Pear of Anguish was used during the Middle Ages as a way to torture women who conducted a miscarriage, liars, blasphemers and homosexuals.
A pear-shaped instrument was inserted into one of the victim's orifices and consisted of four leaves that slowly separated from each other as the torturer turned the screw at the top. It was the torturer's decision to simply tear the skin or expand the "pear" to its maximum and mutilate the victim. Tough choice.

There’s a lovely organic pear stall at our local Farmer’s Market and feeling all autumny I purchased several with the intention of turning them into a comforting dessert. Which I managed rather ably, if I do say so myself (with a more than a little help from

Firstly, I preheated the oven to 180 and greased and lined a 22cm cake tin. Then I chopped up 150g of dried pitted dates and soaked them in one cup, that’s one cup of boiling water and a teaspoon of baking soda. Using an electric beater I mixed 215g of caster sugar and 125g of butter until pale and creamy then added one egg. Next came 225g of self-raising flour and one teaspoon of cinnamon. To this I added the by now mushy date mixture and three peeled, cored and cubed pears and folded it all together with a big metal spoon before pouring into the tin. The recipe recommended baking for one hour and ten minutes but my splendid creation took about 55 minutes. Also, I covered it up with foil after 20 minutes because she went mighty brown, mighty quick.

The sauce is as easy as it is sinful. Simply place 185ml of cream, 50g of butter and 200g of brown sugar in a pan on a low heat and stir away for a few minutes until golden and slightly thick. Pour on top of the hot cake and serve with vanilla ice-cream. Like this…

By God, Mrs Robertson, You Should Have Been a Photographer!

Monday, March 28

It's Enough to Make You Sick!

Spent most of Saturday cooking up a subcontinental storm for some Newfound Friends. The sun beaming through the kitchen window, Neil Young shining from the stereo, you know the drill. “This is what it’s all about”, I said to Mr R. “This, Mr R, is the life!”

And then I threw-up. And Mr R had to call our Newfound Friends and tell them not to bother coming. And then there was the problem of what to do with the mountain of curry and the sea of samosa. Thinking they may be contaminated by my mystery bug, I thought them best disposed of. Thinking of his tastebuds, Mr R thought them best scoffed immediately and gallantly proceeded to do so. Thus far, no ill-effects have been reported.

The meal was to have started with Pumpkin and Ricotta Samosas and a Spicy Tomato Sauce, recipe courtesy of Maria Elia’s The Modern Vegetarian. I’m a big fan of Maria’s. She’s vegetarian and she’s modern.

As one of the most popular crops in the United States, 1.5 billion pounds (680,000,000 kilograms) of pumpkins are produced each year. The top pumpkin-producing states in the U.S. include Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California. According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, 95% of the U.S. crop intended for processing is grown in Illinois. Nestle produces 85% of the processed pumpkin in the U.S. In the fall of 2009, rain in Illinois devastated the Nestle crop, resulting in a shortage affecting the entire country during the Thanksgiving holiday season.
Given that I’d gone to the trouble of making them before the Heaving Happened, I may as well give you the lowdown…

I gently heated a good glug of olive oil in a large frypan then added 12 fresh curry leaves, one generous teaspoon of yellow mustard seeds and a pinch of dried fenugreek seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds began to fizzle I added a finely chopped onion, three teaspoons of cumin seeds, three cloves crushed garlic, a four centimetre piece of fresh ginger (grated), a pinch of chilli flakes and two decent teaspoons of ground cinnamon then left them to sizzle until the onion had softened. O the aroma!

Meanwhile, in another good glug of olive oil, I sauteed about 750grams of chopped butternut squash until tender. This took quite awhile and when it was done I combined the pumpkin with the onion mixture, seasoned to taste, and left to cool. Then it was time to add approximately 375 grams of fresh ricotta. When making the ricotta purchase at my local supermarket, the delicatessen assistant sneered “haven’t I served you 375 grams of ricotta before? What’s with the 375 grams of ricotta?” “Lady!” said I, “nevermind the cheese, what’s with your 'tude?”

Then came the tricky bit. I have trouble working with pastry. Do Not Fear the Filo! Keep it covered with a damp teatowel, be self-assured yet gentle and you shouldn’t go far wrong. I laid out one sheet on a large tray, brushed it with melted butter, then placed another sheet on top and cut it into three even strips, lengthways. Then I put a heaped tablespoon of the pumpkin mix on the top right-hand corner of each strip, folded it over to form a triangle shape, then flipped the triangle over to encase the filling and kept on going over and over until the whole strip was used up and formed a bulging parcel. I sealed the edges with more butter (and in some cases had to give them a wee trim), placed them on a non-stick baking tray and brushed with MORE butter. Cook for 20 – 25 minutes until crisp and golden, Maria says. She also says the filling is enough for twelve but I made fifteen and even then they were a tad over-stuffed. A couple of them spewed forth in the oven.  Bon Appetit!

Friday, March 18

The One-Hour Chickpea Challenge

My blog-o-rhythms are all over the show. Having lost the interweb for 10 days due to ‘human error’ at HQ, I appear also to have misplaced my self-discipline. Or perhaps it is spent? Perhaps one gets a limited supply at birth rather like one’s lady eggs? Perhaps those two years I spent as a teenager avoiding anything but lettuce accelerated the process and thus I am experiencing something of a motivational menopause? So I have set myself a challenge! Laid down a gauntlet! I have one hour and one hour only to write. This is what it’s all about! Welcome, Dear Reader to the world of Extreme Blogging!

Speaking of ova, earlier in the week I rustled up some tasty Chickpea Patties. I could tell from the get-go that The Boys were far from excited about eating them but in the interests of not having to endure an impassioned monologue about the perils of modern housewifery they managed to devour one each.

Not to be confused with Chickling pea, the chickpea (Cicer arietinum) (also garbanzo bean, Indian pea, ceci bean, Bengal gram) is an edible legume of the family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae. Chickpeas are high in protein and one of the earliest cultivated vegetables; 7,500-year-old remains have been found in the Middle East.

The kind of contentment only crouching in a field of chickpeas can bring.
Thirty-six minutes to go! To make, I squashed one can of drained chickpeas in a large bowl with a potato masher. In went a large grated carrot and two of the freshest, prettiest zucchini you’ve ever laid eyes on (also grated). A handful of coarsely chopped parsley (Italian, Darling!), about half a cup of wholemeal flour, a sprinkling of chilli flakes, one beaten egg, a liberal quantity of black pepper and a whole lot of love. Remarkably, this formed a perfect stodgy mix, easily shaped into six fat little fritters which I popped in the fridge for fifteen before pan-frying in a little olive oil until golden. To complete, I smothered the suckers in natural yoghurt and sweet chilli sauce and served them with broccoli (stir-fried in a little sesame oil) and fresh corn cobs. Next time a drop of cumin in the mixture wouldn’t go amiss. Sixteen minutes to go and I still have to find a song!

Tuesday, February 22

We Rule the Old Skool

And so the country adventures continue! Last week I attended my first CWA meeting and I tell you, it won’t be my last. We spoke of slices and jams, of knitting and sewing, of gardening and grandchildren, of sandwiches and savoury scones. We giggled about drug busts, saggy breasts and silly husbands and promised to “put away all pretence and meet each other face to face without self-pity or prejudice, to never be hasty in judgement and to always be generous”. Take note crafty-hipster-indie-peoples (CHIPS), these ladies have been doing it forever!

Problem is, one is going to balloon. It’s near impossible to turn down Jean’s Lemon Slice or June’s Date Scones or Jane’s Strawberry Sponge. Having never made a slice in my life, I was somewhat alarmed when asked which variety I’d be bringing to the next meeting. But now I have the answer - Slicus Passiflora Edulis.

Passiflora edulis is a vine species of passion flower that is native to Paraguay, Brazil and northeastern Argentina. Common names include Passion Fruit (UK and US) and Passionfruit (Australia and New Zealand). The passionfruit has had a religious association as reflected by the name "passion" given to it by Catholic missionaries who thought that certain parts of the fruit bore some religious connections. For example, the three stigmas reflect the three nails in Jesus's hands and feet and the ten petals and sepals resemble the Apostles (excluding Judas and Peter). Indeed.

To make I preheated the oven to 180 and greased and lined a slab pan. Then I combined one cup of self-raising flour, one cup of dessicated coconut, half a cup of caster sugar and 100g of melted butter until they formed a dough (of sorts). I pressed this mixture into the pan with the back of a big metal spoon and popped it in the oven for about 12 minutes, until just golden. Meanwhile, I whisked together a can of condensed milk (leaving ample behind to savour and lick like a woman possessed), half a cup of lemon juice and the pulp of three passionfruit. Once the base had cooled down a little I spread the sweet, seedy mixture on top and returned to the oven (temperature now at 150), for about 15 minutes. The topping sets almost like a cheesecake and can be cut into squares when cool. Mr R thought it had a very rural flavour which must have been a good thing because he polished off four pieces in one sitting. One can only hope the ladies like it!
And here it is...

Monday, February 14

Still No Luck on the Job Front. If Only I Had a Brother-in-Law in Publishing.

So as I was saying, The Girls came to visit a couple of weekends ago and boy were they in for a treat! Following the obligatory G&T’s we tucked into some fresh asparagus that I’d roasted for a very short time with only a smidge of olive oil, pepper and sea-salt for company. I served it topped with toasted flaked almonds, basil straight from the garden and a lemony wee aioli in which to dip the spears. Britney Spears.
Asparagus on an Odd Angle
After quite some time and quite some champagne, I managed to produce a main course. Which consisted of cardamom flatbread, a lentil, parsley & tomato salad, panfried haloumi with preserved lemon and Harissa Eggplant with Coriander Yoghurt Sauce. I’m rather proud to report that I sort of made that up (mostly due to the fact that I couldn’t find any smoked paprika in this godforsakenhellhole).

An Immodest Aubergine

The eggplant, aubergine, melongene, brinjal, or guinea squash (Solanum melongena) is a plant of the family Solanaceae (also known as the nightshades) and genus Solanum. The fruit is botanically classified as a berry, and contains numerous small, soft seeds, which are edible, but are bitter because they contain nicotinoid alkaloids, unsurprising as it is a close relative of tobacco. (I never knew! But it does go some way to explaining why eggplant is my very favourite vegetable/berry).

To prepare the dish I cut two large eggplants in half lengthways then cut each half into thick wedges. Having scored each wedge in a criss-cross fashion I rubbed them all over with a marinade made from about two generous tablespoons of harissa paste, 60 mls of olive oil and two cloves of garlic. Easy as that, and into the fridge they went for the night allowing the flavours to develop and the lazy cook to snooze. (Make sure you leave them in a crockery or ceramic dish rather than a metallic one otherwise they’ll taste all tinny). At cooking time the theory was to dry fry them over a medium-hot griddle for about 15 minutes until smokey and melty, charred and caramelly. In practice they took about three times as long and I ended up finishing them off in the oven because there is nothing worse than an uncooked aubergine. I then piled a sticky sauce of greek yoghurt, lemon juice, mint and coriander on top and finished it off with a smattering of pomegranate seeds for colour, texture and the sheer joy of popping the balls between one’s teeth.
The Finished Feast
We finished off the evening with Karen Martini’s wickedly rich Chocolate Cherry Brownie Mousse Cake and a repeat screening of the best film ever made. Here’s a little something from the soundtrack…

Wednesday, February 2

A Lazy Filler

It is 39 degrees and we have just been chased out of Best and Less by a plague of baby locusts. Then to my astonishment I heard my own voice bellowing ‘G’day!’ to a man resplendent in khaki who was bailing straw on the back of a truck. Add to this my horror, sheer horror when last weekend’s hipster city guests (HCG’s) turned up asking for soy milk (“yes one moment whilst I go out and milk the soy cow”) and I think one can safely say I’ve gone all country! It’s hardly surprising really given my chameleon-like ability to adapt to new landscapes – it only took me three weeks to acquire a Scottish accent back in ’92 when My Life Changed Forever.

More about last weekend later as the photographic documentation comes to hand, but in the meantime Dear Reader, might I recommend this pesto recipe?  It is one of the few I have come across which has I think, a lovely balance of flavours and quite a substantial consistency . Previously I’ve ended up with too much oil or not enough cheese or god forbid, I’ve gone a pine nut too far.

It’s taken from The Silver Spoon for Children which recommends whipping up your own linguine to serve it with, but I found opening a pack of Ikea’s reindeer pasta rather faster. It also advocates the use of a mortar and pestle which whilst undoubtedly giving a more rustic result, wasn’t within my wilting capabilities. So into a food processor I popped the following – 40g grated parmesan cheese, a clove of garlic, a pinch of salt, about 40g pine nuts, about 30 basil leaves (basil is originally native to Iran, India and other tropical regions of Asia, having been cultivated there for more than 5,000 years) and four tablespoons of olive oil. I also snuck in some black pepper. Master R who proclaims only to tolerate factory pesto, said it was “okay”.  Oh it's so worth it, just to see their little faces light up!

Wednesday, January 26

Bon Anniversaire Peter Peril!

Mr R has high-tailed it to Berlin for a week. But not before a huge feast was given in honour of our dear friend Peter Peril's* anniversaire. If I’m honest Dear Reader, we were quite unaware of Peter’s special status prior to the poor bloke turning up with his own champagne and cigars. Facebook soon confirmed that he had it right, it was his birthday! And so the celebrations began…

I Forgot To Take Photos But This Captures The General Vibe
The theme was ‘modern barbecue’ and commenced with a yoghurt and chickpea dip accompanied by grissini. It was supposed to be a cannellini bean and artichoke dip but in my haste I picked up the wrong tin at the supermarket and for once instead of flinging the impostor ingredient across the kitchen and sobbing until Mr R offered to go and find a replacement, I made do and mended. A bit of lemon juice, some cumin and fresh coriander soon perked it up and no-one was any the wiser.

The main course consisted of several salads including a cos lettuce, cucumber and feta number and an heirloom tomato and basil mix. The unexpected victor though was a cheeky little beetroot salsa which I prepared by roasting some fresh beetroot then mixing it with mint, coriander, grated red onion and olive oil. Just before serving I added a couple of capfuls of precious rosewater. Sounds like it wouldn’t work, but it did. It did! The carnivores amongst us ate fancy red wine sausages, the herbivores vegetarian sausage delights, and the hypocrites chomped on ocean trout fillets that I had marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, capers and dill. There were chunks of award-winning sour dough with which to mop up the juices and an array of pickles and sauces with which to disguise the taste of anything one didn’t fancy.

The triumph though, the piece de resistance was dessert. Chocolate meringues straight from Annabel Langein’s book Eat Fresh are indeed quite delicious, (and that’s coming from someone who pretends not to like puddings). Chocolate is a raw or processed food produced from the seed of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree. Cacao has been cultivated for at least three millennia in Mexico, Central and South America, with its earliest documented use around 1100 BC. The presence of theobromine renders chocolate toxic to some animals, especially dogs and cats. Not to these cool cats though, one guest had three (3) helpings!

Chocolate Cats On Sticks
To whip them up I preheated the oven to 160 and lined two baking trays with paper. Then using an electric mixer I beat six egg whites to soft peaks before slowly adding one and a quarter cups of caster sugar. I continued mixing for another ten minutes (until thick and glossy) and then whisked in two teaspoons of cornflour and one teaspoon of white vinegar. Into this I folded 130 grams of melted and cooled dark chocolate (I used the 85% cocoa version) and carefully swirled it through for a marbled effect. Then it was simply a matter of dolloping the mixture onto the trays in even amounts and tidying up any particularly unruly mounds. Into the oven they went for three minutes before it was turned down to 120. They cooked for one hour before I turned the oven off leaving the meringues in there to cool completely, after which time they can be stored in an airtight container for several days. I served them with whipped cream and mixed berries. I think. It was almost midnight by then.

The Closest Resemblence To My Meringues The Interweb Can Come Up With

Back in the day my Dad loved Berlin.  And Mr R is in Berlin.  See they do have something in common!
*Names have been changed to protect the innocent

Tuesday, January 18

Slice Slice Baby

Too busy gardening to cook. Who would have thought! And who would have thought it such a dangerous pastime. Yesterday one was rather absentmindedly rooting about amongst the courgettes, hummin’ a happy tune, when a squadron of apple-wielding cockatoos descended and attempted to fruit bomb me from on high! Luckily no one was hurt but from now on I shall have to add a bicycle helmet to my already quite unwieldy snake-proof suit.

Speaking of being busy, and of courgettes, or zucchini as they are called in this neck of the woods, in times of acute activity the Robertson boys are always treated to several nights in a row of the old Kiwi Favourite, Zucchini Slice. Or Cheese and Egg Slice as I have renamed it (on account of the fact they both claim to loathe zucchini).

Zucchinis in Space

The zucchini or courgette is a popularly cultivated summer squash which often grows to nearly a metre in length, but which are usually harvested at half that size or less. In a culinary context, zucchini is treated as a vegetable, which means it is usually cooked and presented as a savory dish or accompaniment. Botanically, however, the zucchini is an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower. (A fact I was previously unaware of. And that’s coming from someone who came second in a recent game of Trivial Pursuit!)

Having long since lost the recipe, and unable to remove all the soil from under my nails I set about grating two rather generously sized zucchini. I always do this over a clean teatowel so that one can wring out the excessive juice. Then I grated a large carrot, half a huge kumara and a big cup of tasty cheese. Also into the bowl I added a chopped red pepper and a finely chopped red onion. (Usually I pop in some sliced vegie bacon but on this occasion I was fresh out.)  Next I mixed through a cup of self-raising flour to which I added six beaten eggs, quarter of a cup of vegetable oil and some salt and pepper. Combine well, then it’s straight into a greased dish and into the oven for about 30 – 35 minutes (or until set and Golden-Of-Top). Very tasty both hot and cold, (great for picnics!) accompanied by a dollop of spicy homemade relish and lashings of ginger beer. Or every night until they’ve bloody well finished it accompanied by tinned beetroot and lashings of Heinz Big Red.

The tune I was happily hummin' (because it's how we live now). 

Friday, January 14

Get Ready For This!

Mr R announced last night that he "felt more warmth" toward me when I was a-blogging and revelling in the glory that only 31 followers can bring. So for the sake of getting some and because we are back from our adventures abroad and sort of settled in to country life, I shall resume. Pretty, pretty soon.

I have been toying with the idea of jazzing things up a bit but have decided to leave the watermelons firmly in place and continue with the crap photography and choice tunes. What may change though is that Mrs R will henceforth present other titbits from country life. Adventures at the CWA, fungal infections in poultry, battling blue-fly on my beans, that sort of thing. But mostly it will still be me cooking vegetables and pretending that I do it like that all the time…