Archive for September, 2006

Our very own Swan

Monday, September 18th, 2006

No.3 took part in her first ever soccer tournament last week in the annual competition between the primary schools of Huapai and Taupaki. The fact that we live in Huapai and stood amongst neighbours cheering for Taupaki school made for tense moments on the touch line. Coming off the bench in the first half, No.3 played a crucial pivotal role midfield, tackling the opposition and playing the ball forward, playing her part in the eventual 5 – 3 win that saw her team take home the trophy for another year. Quite what the dance examiner who invigilated No.3’s ballet exam today will have made of the bruised and stud-marked legs I’m not sure but we’re proud to have a kid who is equally happy on the pitch or in the dance studio.

*The Swanz are the New Zealand women’s soccer team

View from the sofa on a wet Saturday

Saturday, September 9th, 2006
The rich, warm, orchestral tones of Joni Mitchell plays while the day-long rain turns the water pooled on the deck effervescent and bubbling like a dull sparkling wine. The mild regret of a day’s chores hijacked by rain is balanced by the peace of mind that the rising water in our tank brings.

The damp of the day is kept at bay by the burnt ochre glow of the gas fire and the smell of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies hanging in the air.

On the sofa, the sections of the weekend paper are jumbled up with remote controls and cushions. Those cushions not on the sofa are on the floor, where they support the dozing forms of a black cat and a mood-drained teenager.

Behind the music, differing rhythms are played out by the raindrops; the constant gravel-crunch on the flat roof above versus the bigger irregular splashes on the bay window in the kitchen.

As the rain eases for the first time since dawn, the strings of Barber’s Adagio swell to mirror the sombre greyness of the sky, causing the teenager to stir and the cat to curl tighter.

Savouring the comfort and warmth of being submerged in the sofa is slowly giving way to the desire for tea and a cookie – but not just yet.

However, as soon as a hopeful thought of prolonging the moment occurs, the wail of the fire service siren calls the volunteers from their homes and the moment slowly dissolves. The teenager awakes and, inevitably, asks: are the cookies ready?

Father's Day

Sunday, September 3rd, 2006
It is Father’s Day today and, as tradition demands, I was served breakfast in bed. Consuming cereal, toast and tea in a semi-horizontal position is not good preparation for exercise so, after several seconds indecision, I abandoned the idea of a staggering outside for a run and settled in for a lazy day.

I recently caught a re-run of an episode of Rick Stein’s fabulous show, Food Heroes, where he visits a delightfully barking Irish hotelier who makes really good soda bread. Having the house to myself in the morning and knowing that we had buttermilk in the fridge, I thought I’d make some either for lunch or to go with the roast chicken dinner later this afternoon. As it requires no proving, soda bread is just the bread for those seeking near-instant home baked gratification. I whipped up a double batch of the moist, sticky dough and baked two gorgeous loaves of bread, one for us and another for our neighbour, who has been busy painting her cottage over the last few days.

Food is a central to Kiwi life with many cuisines from around the world represented in both the home and restaurant cooking here. From the national fixation with meat pies (the village pie vendor is called ‘Hua-pie’) and the baked goods of workplace morning teas to the ready availability of cheap sushi almost everywear, New Zealand is a nation that enjoys its food, a fact that is borne out in the worsening obesity statistics published each year.

Our local area, the fruit basket and vineyard of Auckland, is renowned for its fresh market garden produce and large number of eateries; indeed, the availability of take-way food in New Zealand must rival that of the USA. We can indulge in wood-fired Italian pizzas, charcoal-grilled Turkish kebabs, Kiwi roast dinners, Thai satays, Chinese noodles, English fish and chips to name just a few, washed down with numberless wines and beers, without ever touching the stove or the fridge and by walking no more than a few hundred metres.

That said, we enjoy cooking old favourites and new discoveries at home and sitting down to a meal with friends is always a great way to spend an evening. As a reward for those who still drop by and read this blog, here’s a couple of recent recipes that I have come up – enjoy!

Huapai Open Sandwich

I had a hankering for a deli style open sandwich and came up with this combination. We are lucky enough to have Greg Flutey, a great Kiwi specialist baker, at the bottom of our road so we can get superb bread locally (even when I’m not in the mood for baking!). The taste and texture of the haloumi balances nicely with the peppery salad and the herby dressing and the chilis tickle the tastebuds, cutting through the flavoursome sausage slices. Perhaps it is just as well that I’m training for the Auckland half marathon, as this substantial lunch went down all too easily.

Serves one

Five grain sourdough bread
Mesclun leaf salad
Salad dressing (Cotterill & Rouse’s Garden Fresh Herb Dressing is great)
Pickled piri-piri chilis
Left-over home-kill beef sausages

Heat slices of haloumi and sausages under a grill or on a ribbed skillet until heated through and browned at the edges. Meanwhile, toast two slices of the bread and then spread with mayonnaise. Pile with dressed mesclun or other small leaf salad and scatter with finely chopped pickled piri-piri. Slice the still-warm hamouli into chopstick-sized sticks and scatter with the sausage pieces over the salad. Salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy immediately.

Fridge d’Or Ravioli Sauce

After a twelve hour plus day at work, I’m rarely in a creative mood. However, a few nights ago, with the family elsewhere and a sparsely populated fridge staring me in the face, the desire for a quick tasty meal provided inspiration. I grabbed the contents of the fridge door and came up with a sauce that took 5 minutes to make and, thanks to the chili bean sauce, tasted more complex and sophisticated than my usual quick tomato sauce.

Serves two

½ large tomato
¼ onion
½ stick of celery
4 or 5 sun dried tomatoes
1 tbsp chili bean sauce (toban djan – paste of fermented broad beans and chili)
dried basil and thyme
Beef ravioli or pasta of choice

Chop tomato, onion and celery into small pieces. Place in lidded plastic container, vent and microwave on high for 1 minute. Shake and repeat. Add sun dried tomatoes and chili bean sauce to container and reduce to a chunky puree with a hand mixer or similar. Stir in a couple of pinches of the herbs, a little salt and black pepper. Spoon the sauce over the freshly cooked pasta on warm plates and serve with freshly grated pecorino or pasmesan.