Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Antonio Carluccio

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

© Antonio Carluccio

Just turned to the Food Channel on the TV and caught an episode of ‘Southern Italian Feast’ presented by my all-time favourite foodie Antonio Carluccio.   It’s hard to believe that I first watched this show on the BBC ten years ago back in England.

After picking up some marvelous ingredients in Palermo’s Vucceri Market, Carluccio cooks a simple Tonno al Forno con Salmoriglio (Baked Pasta with Herbs) which he served with Zucchini al Pomodoro e Basilico (Courgettes with Tomato and Basil).  While samoriglio (a mortar-and-pestled mxture of herbs, garlic and oil) is usually used to dress steamed or grilled fish, Carluccio dressed the tuna steaks before baking, adding a few pine nuts and breadcrumbs for added texture.

We have friends coming over at the weekend and, for once, I know exactly what I’m going to cook ahead of time!

Big Boy’s Brunch

Sunday, May 6th, 2007

One of the reasons things have gone quiet here is because I have finally got around to doing something I have wanted to do for a while; blog about food.

Big Boy’s Brunch is a joint venture with my good friend and pizzeria owner Kevin – a place to share recipes of our own, comment on dishes we have found elsewhere on the web and report on cookbook meals we have tried.

If you like food, pop over and have a look.

You can’t have your kayak and eat it

Sunday, February 11th, 2007


That’ll teach me to be less than specific when asking for a birthday present. Having said that, SWMBO’s brilliant cake was a great consolation prize, as was the slap up dinner we had with our new friends at the restaurant at the end of our road.

Christmas Day snapshots

Monday, December 25th, 2006

 Early morning baking: ciabatte for Christmas lunch bruschetta.

My best present: the bowling set, not the hair bands.

Our four plus friend from UK: the obligatory Christmas Day walk.

Fat, dumb & happy: the post-BBQ carnage.


Saturday, December 16th, 2006

The wonderful illustrator and writer Debbie Ohi, whose myriad projects I enjoy immensely via the wonders of RSS, has discovered a taste combination I have been enjoying for forty years or so.  I have only met one other who liked this combination and we both thought we were alone in that regard. Now, in the space of one post to Flickr, I have discovered at least another two aficionados of the peanut butter and Marmite sandwich.

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.

Lunch with cicadas

Wednesday, January 25th, 2006

Today’s LDL cholesterol-avoidance lunch

Following the sad and untimely death of an employee last year, my employer has recently taken a number of steps to support employees more in terms of lifestyle, health care and insurance provision. The onsite caterers provide a good variety of meal choices (though they still cater for those Kiwis who love their stodge and cakes), the company has introduced death/disablement in service cover and now are providing wellness clinic health checks. At 0800hrs last Monday and having fasted since 0400hrs (not including the obligatory morning cup of tea), I went before the ‘company nurse’. After a chat to see if I was telling porkies in my health questionnaire, she measured and tested and prodded and drew blood.

The results are interesting and not unrelated to our emigration, hence baring my soul here. Whilst lugging 22 suitcases half way round the world might have stretched my arms and played havoc with my RSI, it didn’t compact my vertebrae because I remain 184cms tall. Sadly, the same cannot be said of my weight which has crept up by 2kgs to 87kgs since we left the UK in September of last year. The lack of routine, the increase in take-away food and the generally unsettled life of living in temporary accomodation and travelling for interviews certainly took it’s toll on my diet and the amount of exercise. These two measurements were used to calculate my Body Mass Index (BMI) by squaring my height then dividing my weight by the height squared or, for those that want the lowdown, 87 / 3.38 = 25.73. In general terms and ignoring the all-important family health history and lifestyle considerations that should always be taken into account, most folk’s BMI should be between 20-25. By exercising less (laziness through lack of routine) and eating more (easy to do in New Zealand), I have let a two kilogram increase in my weight nudge my BMI from just inside (24.81) to a little too far (25.73) outside the healthy range.

My resting pulse rate, at 64 beats/min, is well within the ideal band for my age and indicates that running at lunchtimes and in the forest at weekends over the last month or so has helped me regain some aerobic fitness. Furthermore, I can use this information to better inform myself as to how hard to push myself when out training by calculating . Using my resting pulse rate, I have calculated my minimum and maximum training heart rates (i.e. 60-90% of my maximum heart rate) as 106 and 142 beats/min respectively, which will help me train more effectively. Likewise, my blood pressure is pretty good at 125/80mmHg against the quoted national ideal of 130/80mmHg though, with 1 in 5 Kiwis suffering some form of hypertension, I’m aiming for an optimal of 120/80mmHg.

With a low ‘estimated heart event risk’ score (a murmur-inducing phrase if ever there was one), my main target is getting my LDL cholesterol down. Like my Dad, I like a bit of cheese with brown bread and butter most days but I suspect that my main downfall has been a few too many take-aways and lack of portion control with my own home cooking. My alcohol consumption is pretty fair considering our home is amongst vineyards and wineries, not to mention the boutique brewery down the road. I think, all in all, I am very happy with my wellness check. Already being aware that I’m still getting back into my regular routine and that I have some way to go yet, the ‘no worries but keep a watching brief’ result from the nurse is as good as I could hope for I think. All the above is a very long-winded explanation for the low cholesterol lunch you see above, which I have been munching whilst writing and listening to the sound of the chirruping cicadas in the grass and trees beyond my window. These noisy creatures seem to be celebrating an all too brief gap in the rainclouds now sweeping in from the West after two days of stormy North Easterlies.

Christmas in Kumeu: a day in pictures

Sunday, December 25th, 2005


One adult, two kids and just three hours to assemble


The Chef’s Salad and the salad chefs


No turkey here


The family and the neighbours lunching


Cap from Maryland, USA: US$40
Daughter’s RipCurl shades: NZ$20
Shirt from Rarotonga, Cook Islands: NZ$35
Chef’s apron from London, UK: £20
Feelings of happiness and contentment: Priceless