Category Archives: Cooking

Kitchen Compromise and Mysteries of the Universe

I’m a compromiser. In day-to-day life I am a rule keeper, goodie-good type but when it comes to creative endeavour the rule-keeper in me keeps quiet and the rebel comes out to play.

I often find mid-recipe that in fact I don’t have all the required elements.

So I throw in something else or several something elses and ‘make it work’. This is probably why one infamous family member coined the innocent sounding enquiry ‘did you use a recipe for this?’

I do have certain friends who will leave the kitchen mid-recipe to buy the thyme or rosemary as I throw in some mixed herbs or some other herb that ‘might be similar’.

It is not superior food knowledge or a well-developed palate that gives me such abandon with carefully written and tasted recipes – no. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly why I do this – laziness, over-confidence,  lack of organisation, not caring, being prepared to eat most things, cooking for boys who are prone to add lemon-pepper or tomato sauce to everything….

Whatever it is I am sure it is why I am limited to what I shall affectionately call – ‘low-brow’ cooking. It’s hard to throw in a compromise when the recipe has ingredients you’ve never heard of and you aren’t sure if they are a herb and liqueur or some fancy Italian sausage.

It’s the same kind of thing that holds me back from making jam and bottling fruit – if I can’t even be exact about following a recipe can I really trust my ability to sterilise the jars correctly. And what about pectin????

As you can see I have my quirks. So what about you will you get into a compromising situation in the kitchen or do your morals and ethics ensure a perfectly executed dish with a proper balance of flavours every time?

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In My Kitchen

There have been some occasions lately

Naturally these things call for baking – yes?

Here are some of the things emerging from the kitchen.

I’ve also tried some new recipes. My first time cooking with polenta too.

Done some old favourites – Pad Thai for dinner? Sure way to The Atlas’ heart.

Everyone should have a cake on their birthday I think don’t you Maddie and Alex? Or maybe 2 perhaps Alex??

I love my kitchen. It’s probably the room of the house that is most complete in terms of decorating and accessorizing. Although I do have a new lampshade in mind and there’s a wall we are planning to remove…but for now I love it and I especially love that it is the nourishment centre of our home.

What’s new in your kitchen? What’s your favourite room in your home?

The Family Table

When we first got married we were both working.

We used to get home with no desire to muck about creating gourmet dishes in the kitchen. Pretty much I think we ate stir fry for a good portion of those first 7 years. (When we weren’t eating out!)

Then little Flip came along and the season changed for us.

For the last 5 years part of my job has been ‘playing house’.

I can’t say I’d call myself a gourmet cook but I think there’s certainly a lot more variety than there was in the ‘stir fry years’.

For a while I’ve been menu planning and last year when I cooked my way through Sophie Gray’s first book I suddenly realised that new recipes weren’t anywhere near the work I thought they were.

One of the things I adore about menu planning is the fact I never have to feel  frustrated when someone asks ‘what are we having for tea?’ and I don’t have to open the fridge 20 times in a day wondering what I should make for tea.

I still get into ruts every now and again where I cook the same thing for a few weeks in a  row but I am much more inclined to actually use and look through my books.

This weekend we enjoyed some Moroccan Honey Spiced Lamb. So good and so pleasing because we have a whole ‘sheep’ in the freezer from a friend’s farmlet.

Not that it’s ‘proper’ recipes all the time, we have our fair share of homemade pizza and the other night we had fish burgers. But we made them special by using home-made buns and the new coriander I bought at the Lyttleton Farmer’s Market the other day.

Once a week a friend and I get together and make our dinners at my place for that night – that way we get to hang out and we try new recipes. Nothing like having some fun with something you have to do anyway.

I still get a lot more use out of my baking recipe books – really cupcakes and brownies are always going to win in my books – so much more calories, ahem, glamour involved!

What’s your latest recipe love? Whose book should I look through next for inspiration?

Remembering simple, achievable, cheap, tasty – these are my criteria.

Hola

72/100 complete

Today I have made tortillas

For Dipping with Salsa

Put together Mexican spice sachets for our guests to take home

'Party Favours'

Washed dainty glasses, actually my Turkish Teacups – all the way from Turkey and their first use!

Lovely Teacups

And made an amazing Chilli Spiced Hot Chocolate that has more calories than a fast food restaurant and more kick than a donkey with PMS! Seriously spicy, I am going to serve it with cream on the side. Currently keeping warm in the croc pot – who would have thought!??

Spicy!

I’m not really decorating but I am looking forward to an evening of eating Mexican food and laughing with friends.

Spice Mix

The house is clean and 2 sets of guests are bringing their own chairs! It’s a good thing that my aesthetic is mix-y match-y. It makes big dinner parties easier – no pressure for everything to look perfect or even match.

What Would You Choose?

68/100 complete

Tonight I completed Challenge 95 – I let Master 4 choose the dinner and the table setting. If it was down to Master 1 it would be ‘locolate’ (chocolate)!

I usually plan my menu in advance with my boys and they all have a chance to tell me what they want.

Master 4 chose Chicken Laksa and a plain blue table-cloth – bless him – and no dessert. Let’s hope things stay that simple for a long time!

A Global Palate

56/100 complete

I’m a bit of a menu planner. Each week I write-up what will be for dinner each night and then we use the list to shop with. It is a very ‘Sophie Gray’ kind of concept but the biggest payback for me is that I don’t face very morning with the dreaded question – What will I make for tea tonight? and if anyone wants to ask it I have an answer without feeling like shouting at them.

Today I was looking at our plan for the week and I realised we’re being very global this week. Last night: Risotto – Italy, Tonight: Butter Chicken Soup – India, Weds: Tortillas – Mexican, Thurs: Roasted Vegetables and Couscous – Mediterranean, Friday: Meatloaf – English I guess, Sat: Stirfry – Asian and Sunday: Sushi – Japanese. Quite balanced don’t you think?

Food is a big topic in our house. We like food and we have pretty varied tastes from all cultures and all levels of the food snobbery ladder (even right at the bottom I have to confess!)

Still Learning

54/100 complete

We love entertaining and we do a bit of it but I’m still perfecting the art of doing it sensibly. Today we completed Challenge 32 to have a family over for homemade soup and bread. Instead of picking a soup I know well and making scones I decided to use Sophie’s second and third books and make ‘Butter Chicken Soup’ and ‘Naan Bread’. An excellent combination I reasoned. I didn’t stop to think I hadn’t made either of these before. However, they were ok. My naan bread resembled large crackers and the soup was a bit spicy for some of the smaller members. (Luckily Masters 4 and 1 think spaghetti on toast is a treat!)

Naan Bread Crackers!

Husband loved the soup though and is taking the leftovers to work for lunch which is the ultimate compliment from him. There is something supremely satisfying (and incredibly simple) about producing something like a Butter Chicken Soup from spices not a packet.

Butter Chicken Soup

On Friday night I also did Challenge 56 – music and candles. We had our dinner with lovely music and tealight candles all over the table  – they had to be lit a couple of times. Master 1 is a dab hand at blowing candles out, much to his delight.

The weather is freezing, literally. Master 4 and Daddy have a shallow tray of water outside to see what Jack Frost does to it over night. I am snuggling in front of a movie with my new pjs on. Winter is a time to savour too but I will savour it more when the shower is fixed and isn’t cold!

Day 128

35/100 complete

Aoraki, Mt Cook

Tonight we had ‘Plymouth Pie’ which is another one from Sophie but from her 3rd book. It makes a big pie – too big for us in one setting, but I like that. It is nice to make a pie including the pastry it feels like something rustic and special even though it is really very simple. I like the way it looks. I like its depth.

Plymouth Pie

Today I went shopping to get the fabric to make Master 1’s quilt. I may have also found myself a couple of Mother’s Day treats! I finally went into the store ‘Bolt of Cloth’. Ohhh, it’s nice. I could see myself parting with a lot of money there. For today I picked up a couple of little snippets of loveliness which will one day be a quilt for our grown up bed.

Unfortunately it means I have to wash the fabric. I hate pre-washing it is SO boring…. Actually I confess I hardly ever do it but with very lovely, 100% cotton it really would be foolish not to.

I also saw a new and VERY exciting idea which I plan to carry out imminently. I will not spoil it by telling you before it happens but it is, hopefully, going to be awesome! Interested????

I leave tonight as I started with a photograph my lovely husband took from the plane on the way home last week. NZ’s beautiful Aoraki, Mt Cook. Sometimes it is important to remember that when we are faced with a mountain the view from the top may well be breath-taking when we arrive.

From the Air

Day 125 & 126

34/100 complete

Today I had the urge to bake. I get these urges from time to time. I never feel the urge to clean or garden but there is something supremely satisfying about baking.

I baked all morning while Masters 3 and 1 played outside, played inside the pantry and examined its mechanisms, ‘washed dishes’, chased bubbles, Master 3 bumped his ‘noggin’ and prescribed himself a cooling eye mask to soothe it… Happy little men.

Resting

Master 1 decided towards the end of the morning – while I was feeling just a little smug about how lovely my children were and what a lot I had achieved – to crush and empty half a packet of Weetbix all over the lounge floor. This mama was too ungracious to take a photo at the time!

'Just Healing Up'

Tonight I said I would make a meal for one of husband’s work colleagues who has just had a baby. Meals for new families are the best thing ever in my experience. I have gone all out and done 3 courses – it is always nice to exceed expectations. So it is miniature chicken pies for a starter, beef and courgette lasagne and decadent chocolate cake for dessert.

The Meal

My kitchen today has been about kiwi icons – The Edmonds Cookbook, The lovely Sophie Gray, Alison Holst and Jo Seagar. These are all well-loved kiwi cooks or cookbooks.

The Chicken Pies

So I made ‘Orange Slice’ – ala – Alison Holst. Except mine is mandarin and lemon curd slice. I love, love this slice and I can’t believe I’ve never made it before. It’s always the first thing I eat at a morning tea spread, followed closely by anything that looks gooey and chocolatey – never the cheese and crackers! I had some lemon curd in the fridge I needed to use up and this seemed like the right place to use it.

‘Chocolate Cake’ care of Sophie Gray

The Cake

‘Coconut Rough’ from Jo Seagar’s Everyday Cookbook.

Coconut Rough and Pre-Cooked Cookies

And finally ‘Chocolate Chip Cookies’ from the Edmonds cookbook.

The Cookies

So the baking tins are well and truly STOCKED. Hopefully I will find some willing eaters to help me empty them again. Project Runway tonight and maybe a little felting, or maybe not.

One Of Everything

Day 104

27/100 complete

Last night I finished the scarf. I like it. The wool went a bit random halfway through so once again imperfection.

Finished Scarf

Today I treasured these views. A little boy ‘reading’.

Shhh - I'm reading

A little boy reading with his daddy.

The truck book and Daddy

And a little boy ready for bed.

Ready for Bed

Master 3 gave me moments to treasure when he performed like an absolute angel at a pixi photo shoot. (Master 1 not so much). He also painted a gorgeous canvas this afternoon, and turned his little brother into a dirt monster.

Today I made crackers. I think my rolling-pin skills let me down as they are mostly more like very miniature breads or pitas. However it’s another recipe down and they taste good.

We had Aromatic Rice for dinner – also care of Sophie but not the first time I’ve made it this year.

Aromatic Rice

Tonight I am out to see a wonderful woman who inspires and encourages me. Yay.