Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

A Gorm weekend

November 10, 2016

Many, many years ago, when we all lived in the big city of Auckland,  a group offriends  all of whom had a keen interest in good food, excellent wine and having a good time, formed a group which we called The Gourmet Society. Every month each of the four couples put money into a dedicated bank account for which there was a cheque book for the ‘Gourmet Society’.  For those of you young things who have no idea what a cheque book is, talk to your parents or grandparents and ask them!  Suffice to say that paying our bill at the end of a night out with that cheque book raised a few eyebrows.   After a while the name was shortened until we became known as the Gorms, a much more appropriate title.  The group consists of Roy & I, Jacky & Chris, Anne & Greg and Colin & Edwina, most of whom we see on  a reasonably regular basis. 

Over the years we; went out for dinners, had weekends away, did everything from camping to 5 star, involved our children in some of our weekends of fun, had themed parties – who could forget the garlic themed night?, did all sorts of crazy things like rock climbing, abseiling, and other nerve wracking events,  but we always had lots of laughs.   

Recently, some members of the Gorms were celebrating significant birthdays so we thought it was time for a get together.  It was to be held at Jacky & Chris place at Whakapirau on the Kaipara harbour, regular readers will know that we have  housesat for them over the past  few winters and spent a bit of time there.  Somewhere along the line, probably over a red wine or two, it was decided that we would have a Hangi (NZ underground oven cooked meal) with local man Grant offering to set it all in place and be in charge of proceedings.

First the hole had to be dug and the fire started.

Grant digging the hole, the fire started in the pit, then as the fire  gets hot more wood is added before adding the rocks to heat up.  All this takes time and patience, and is of course thirsty and hungry work.

Colin and the left, Roy on the right and Chris in the foreground, digging in to some ceviche and some smoked fish
Meanwhile, we girls lined the hangi basket with cabbage leaves, peeled lots of potatoes, kumara, pumpkin and carrots which once seasoned are tied into muslin bags and placed in the basket.  Chickens and a large piece of pork are then placed over the vegetables which are then all covered with more cabbage leaves before finally topped with well soaked towels and sheets before being lowered onto the hot rocks.  Then it all gets covered with topsoil to steambake for the next few hours. 

Top photo Chris, Colin and Greg look on as Roy helps remove the ash and unburned charcoal just before the food goes in.lower photo is Grant checking all is well – or is he doing pressups?  

There is of course a lot of skill involved with getting the fire right, using the right stones, using the best wood to provide the heat and getting everything to the correct temperature  but we were assured all was in hand and under control.

There was as well all the fish we had caught; some to be eaten as fish fillets, the big fish was being smoked and the rest was made into ceviche.

The smoked snapper.

A whole scotch fillet was prepared with a tasty rub and cooked on the barbecue, nicely rare of course and there were plenty of salads too.  From here on in, I neglected to take any more pictures, so there is none of the hangi being lifted or any of the food ladened tables laid out for all to help themselves, nor any of the subsequent party as neighbours and others from the local community had been invited to come and share in the feasting.  The hangi food was fantastic, and later in the evening the desserts came out for all to share.  It was lovely to meet lots of new people and enjoy a great night together over fabulous food and wine.

All in all a great weekend and fantastic  to catch up with the Gorms.  Till next time. 

Tauranga and escapees

May 26, 2016

We seem to be becoming creatures of habit by revisiting places we have been many times before. To back track a little,  we left Matata Friday morning and headed to Tauranga and straight to the dump station at the airport before parking up at the Marine Reserve at Sulphur Point, I think we may have done this before, many, many, times before in fact.  We decided that this short visit to Tauranga was going to be catch up time with people we haven’t seen for a while, and as it turns out fellow escapees from Oamaru! 

First, we met up with Dave & Di whom we knew from our Oamaru days when they had the wonderful restaurant Casa Nova House.  David is one fantastically innovative chef and Di ran an amazing front of house.  Their restaurant was well known throughout the country as a place to go to for good food, service and ambience.  We had previously met up with them when they were in Whangarei but we knew they had recently built in Papamoa.  We gave them a call and yes, they were home so come on round they said.  And what do we find?  that they have in fact sold their stunning modern house and were in the midst of packing up ready to move out this week.  It was fantastic to catch up with them and their son Hadley and all their exciting news and plans.  We spent all afternoon talking and laughing and sharing ideas.  We ended up going back to the van late afternoon but with the promise of them coming round for a combined effort dinner in our humble abode later that evening.  

On our way back to the van we thought we would call in on one of those semi retirement style village places, one that is touted for the 50+ age group and seems particularly popular amongst fellow motorhomers as they have parking and garaging for motorhomes.  We have had lots of comments made to us recently about the fact that we do not have a ‘base’ and what if…..well, you get the drift.  Not that we are into peer pressure or are into keeping up with the Joneses but sometimes you get a bit of a niggle in the back of your mind that maybe, just maybe…………….We did call in for a very quick look but we have to say that for many reasons it’s definitely not something that appeals to us at all so we can put that niggle to rest.

Dave, Di and Hadley came for the impromptu dinner which, between us,  I have to say was a pretty amazing but simple meal which is what happens when avid foodies get together.  We talked and talked  well into the evening about lifestyles, life, what we wanted or didn’t want or need, and came to the conclusion that we have an awful lot in common and share many, many values & ethos.  And of course we were talking so much that we all forgot to take any photos.  However, we really look forward to meeting up with them again once they return from their annual trip to the UK.

Saturday we caught up with my niece Jenna and baby Isla and enjoyed our morning spent with them.  Then it was off to lunch and to meet up with more fellow ex-Oamaruvians, this time Susan and Dave – I know, another Dave!   Sue owned a hydroponic lettuce growing business which supplied us at the Lodge (as well as David & Di’s restaurant).  It was another fabulous meal, this time at the Elizabeth Street Pantry in Tauranga, and again we talked and laughed the afternoon away before they too came back to the van for a look and a chat before we bade them farewell, until next time. 

Little did we know then that next time we would meet would be sooner than any of us thought.  Sunday morning Roy & I thought we would go back to the Elizabeth St Pantry for breakfast, and who should we meet up with there again? None other than Susan and David! A totally unscheduled coincidence to meet up again as it was a spur of the moment decision for us to go out for breakfast and not something we would normally do on moving day.   Over a lovely long breakfast we talked, laughed and schemed and again came to the same conclusion we had with Dave & Di – that we have a lot in common with many shared values.  Thanks for the laughs you two, we look forward to meeting up again soon at “Porpoise Spit”!

All in all a great weekend spent with those of us who can call ourselves ex-Oamaruvians/escapees and with all of whom we share a similar Joie de Vivre. 

We left Tauranga on Sunday to arrive in Kopu near Thames where the van is being repaired  after the hiccup when the German tourist backed into us.  

The van in the repair shop

We are in a motel until repairs are completed which will hopefully be completed by the end of the week.  

Seen around and about in Thames this  brightly coloured staircase

We did endeavour to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow but I think someone else got there first.

We will be heading north again soon with our next scheduled stop to be at Whakaiprau where we will be housesitting again for Jacky & Chris until mid July, then the winterless north beckons.

Markets, pickling and foraging

April 29, 2016

The Farmers Markets in both Napier and Hastings beckoned and with lots of autumnal fare available, we enjoyed wandering around all the stalls and sampling the various treats on offer.

The Napier market is a smaller affair, set up in the street next to the memorial square.   But the best market is the Hastings Farmers Market which set in the lovely surrounds of the A&P Showgrounds, with lovely mature trees and grass underfoot, it really is very picturesque and a pleasant venue to wander around. 

Napier Market
Hastings Market


The first weekend we bought a load of fresh veggies and fruits as well as cheeses, breads and other goodies.  But it was the plentiful fresh vegetables I was particularly keen to  get my hands on as I wanted to make Giadiniera – pickled vegetables.  I haven’t made any for the past couple of years and we were missing having them on hand as they are great on an antipasto platter and make for a lovely addition to make a nice crisp salad in the winter.

First I had to sort and chop all the vegetables and put them in a brine mix for 24 hours.

selection of veggies – cauliflower, broccoli, yellow and green zucchini., capsicums of all colours – red, yellow, green & purple, baby red onions, green and yellow beans, celery 
Draining the veg.
Time to make  the pickling mix and cook, add the veg and then bottle.


That should keep us well supplied with our 5+ a day!

On our way to the Hasting Market, we drove across a tree lined road, not anything unusual in that but in this case the trees lining the roadside were walnut trees.

There is a man lurking under those trees somewhere.

With enough walnuts to last us some time, we continued on our way home, but with just one more stop.

Cider and beer tasting at the Filter Room. However, after we had sampled and made our choices of the cider varieties we liked, we went to the counter to make our purchase only to be told that they don’t sell the cider to take away, only the beer, ginger beer and Perry was available to purchase! Weird.

Books and Quinces

April 6, 2016

On our sleuthing around the Wairarapa, one member of the touring party saw that there was a book sale on in Greytown, so of course we just had to visit didn’t we?  I went along for the ride, and I admit that I could not help myself – the books were bargains with a reasonably good selection.  However, I was not buying for myself, I was buying for my niece Natalie and her two young girls Renee & Michelle, well can you blame me? Childrens books were 10 for $1!!!  On our previous visit to see Natalie, I had noticed that Renee (age 7) seemed to be always reading, and reading well in advance of her age as she was reading Black Beauty and White Fang so I thought it was only right that we foster that interest.  Michelle is 2 1/2 so picture books were more her forte and I had to get a few good books for Natalie as well as she is about to go into hospital for treatment so needs some good reading material.   

We visited the book fair on Friday and returned for another session on Saturday.  We then devised a plan on how we were to get the books to the recipients in Wellington.

You see a certain member of the touring party has one of those Gold Cards, it’s for those who are of a certain vintage, which means he can get free train trips. On checking the timetable we found that he could leave Masterton at 4.30pm, arrive in Wellington at 6pm and return on the 6.25pm train getting back to Masterton by 8pm.  

  The collection of books
He was loaded up with around 40 children’s books and a dozen or so novels for Natalie. 
  Off on the courier mission

Mission accomplished, and now they all have plenty of reading material!

Whilst we visited Garrick & Marguerite at Longwood, Margureite gave me some lovely big quinces from her abundant tree.  I don’t think I have ever seen such huge specimens, so  whilst Roy was on his courier mission, I set to to make some quince paste as well as bottle some of the delicious fruit. 

   
 Quince paste

I can tell you that it is the best and easiest quince paste I have ever made.  

  And the bottled quince segments are also delicious and will be a welcome addition to our menus over the coming months.

Blackberries

March 18, 2016

We all went down the country lane
for blackberries, sweet blackberries 
And there we saw them wet with rain
Those blackberries, sweet blackberries
And oh my dear it was such fun
To see them glistening in the sun 
We ate them all, yes every one 
Those blackberries, sweet blackberries.

This is a nursery rhyme from my childhood (I think I have recalled it reasonably accurately) which every year at about this time comes to mind especially when we find blackberries growing. And this year we found a nice couple of places where we have managed to find them growing in abundance. The first patch of blackberries we found were not too far from Gladstone where we were parked last week, so Roy and I went off to pick a few. 
  growing wild
  
Roy in gathering mode
On one of our trips out and about with Pat & Sue we found a lovely apple trees growing on the side of a road, of course we stopped and picked a bag each of some very good cooking apples. We are not sure what variety they are but they are very tart, and when cooked fluff up beautifully. The perfect combination – blackberries and apples.  

  
A bag of apples and a bowl of blackberries
It didn’t take too long to get the first lot of Blackbrry Chutney in a pan cooking away. This is a recipe that I developed a few years ago whilst at the Lodge when I was looking for a chutney to accompany a specific cheese and after trying a few recipes, I worked at developing my own recipe very carefully noting all the quantities and methodology along the way.
   

  Chutney in the making
 

  Chutney at the front and the start of Blackberry & Apple Jelly cooking at the rear.

Chutney was made, Jelly bottled, then apples cooked up and portioned into bags and put in the freezer along with a few small bags of blackberries. Blackberry & Apple tarts were also made,  individual ones made in muffin tins and these have provided us all with a treat at the end of dinner.  A few pears have also been foraged and added to the larder and a few more blackberries were added to the freezer after we moved to park at the reserve by Lake Wairarapa where we found another irresistible patch to raid.  These will be used at some stage over the next few months to remind us of warmer times.

Fixing, fritters and fishing 

October 21, 2015

It’s so nice to be back at Matai Bay, relaxing in the warmth and sunshine and generally keeping ourselves busy with one thing or another. 

 First on the list was a trip into Kaitaia to pick up the replacement fishing kite, line and accoutrements and also to check on mail that was being forwarded to us at Kaitaia as well as catch up with extended whanau.   The parcels were duly retrieved from the courier depot then it was back to the van and the beginning of getting our lines sorted.

 This is what the damaged kite line looks like when it’s removed from the reel.

Next  it was the task of joining the last of the old line onto the new line and wind the line onto the reel.  The traces (these are the short lengths of line with the hooks at one end and clips to attach to the dropper rig at the other end)  were put onto the trace rack and a few new ones were tied.  Now it was time to try it all out and a trip to Tokerau Beach was in order, as if the fish weren’t biting, we knew that there are plenty of tuatua (shellfish) to gather in the shallows.  

No fish were harmed in that expedition but the kite and line all worked perfectly and there were  plenty of tuatua gathered.  The shellfish were left in a bucket of sea water overnight so that they purge themselves of any sand, as there is nothing worse than eating gritty fritters.  Sue and I made two batches of fritter mixture using two different methods and recipes – one an Al Brown recipe and the other Lauraine Jacobs recipe with Lauraines  version getting the thumbs up from us all.

  Sue wondering who ate all the fritters?

Another day and we headed off to another beach close by to try our luck fishing (we can’t tell you where as you would all want to go there) this time with much more success, with good sized snapper being caught and brought home, and a barracuda returned to the sea to swim again.  Of course you will have to take my word for it as we were so busy living in  the moment we forgot to take any pictures. 

However, another day and we returned from a mornings fishing and with 6 snapper, this time I remembered to take a photo of the fish.

 
Shame I neglected to take a photo of our delicious dinners the past few nights though, they were pretty damn good even if I say so myself!

Our new home!!

August 9, 2015

Have we got your attention??

Yes we have a new home….and this is the view from the deck this morning

image

This is our home for the next six or seven weeks whilst we housesit in Whakapirau on the Kaipara Harbour for Jacky & Chris.  It’s lovely to be here and enjoy all the “luxuries” of being in a house wherr we don’t have to watch battery levels and power consumption, nor water consumption or waste water levels.

We do have some responsibilities whilst here though, as well as the cat to look after we also have chooks to mind and this morning (our first morning) they rewarded us with 5 eggs – a record apparently!

imageA slight variation in sizes of eggs.

I am also taking advantage of the laden Seville Orange tree and have a batch of marmalade on the go

image

Tomorrow it will be cooked up and bottled ready for eating later.

Today is our daughter Alexandra’s 29th Birthday, we hope she has a lovely birthday and celebrates well in London where she lives.  And if she behaves herself then she may just get a special belated birthday delivery from Jacky & Chris in a week or two😉

The Italian Job

April 21, 2015

Roy’s 70th birthday revleries were to be a little less raucous than previous ‘0’ birthday celebrations, however, we did celebrate and celebrate well.  Steve & Leslie invited us to their place for dinner with Roy’s eldest son Simon and wife Anita joining us along with our son Antony, oh and Steve and Les just happened to be babysitting their granddaughter Bea and she joined in the fun.  And  Alex joined us via Skype from London for a chat before the evening got started.

It was to be an Italian themed dinner.  We were having a slow cooked Pork Ragu for the main so once that was all prepped and in the oven, Leslie and I could head out for a bit of retail therapy to gather the rest of the necessary ingredients for the festivities.   We only away for an hour or two and on our return the making of the pappardelle pasta to accompany the main  was well underway with Steve getting lots of help from Antony and Bea.

  The pasta making production line 
Once Simon & Anita arrived we were into the cocktails – an Aperol Spritz, which is an Italian aperitif that we had wonderful memories of trying when we were in Lucca although at the time we could not recall the name of it.  Aperol is made of bitter orange, gentian, rhubarb and cinchona, the latter is apparently also known as quina which is one of the plants that gives us quinine.  It makes for an interesting drink, quite bitter on first tasting, but something that does grow on the palate!  Antipasti accompanied the drinks and these were platters  of olives, sun dried tomatoes and other vegetables, Italian cheeses, salamis and other cured meats, bruschetta and the like. The main was a tender pork Ragu with the delicious pasta along with some greens.  

 Happy birthday!

Since the evening had an Italian theme we all wore moustaches (Roy already has his own version) and speaka lika theees.   
  A right looking lot!
  
For dessert we could not go past a Tiramisu which also became the birthday cake complete with appropriate candle adornment.

A lovely evening was enjoyed all round.  Further celebrations are planned for later dates with censored reports posted here,

Hot and Cold

April 13, 2015

Roy had a piece of bacon curing in the fridge for the past few days, and it was now time to smoke and cook it.  That must mean it is time to get out one of the new toys – the cold smoker.  This is a totally different process and result from the usual hot smoking.  The difference between hot and cold smoking is fairly self explanatory according to Wikipedia; cold smoking is a gentle drying process at around 25C, which imparts a smoky flavour but doesn’t “cook” food through. Hot smoking is usually more a way of cooking than of preserving, a sort of light roasting at around 80C to 120C.  

We use our BBQ as our smoking apparatus for hot smoking, as everything in the van has to have at least two uses to warrant storage space, and we can also add a third use, for cold smoking.  It helps that there was an access hole in the side of the BBQ where you place a long match through to ignite the BBQ.  However, it just so happens it is not only the exact right size to attach the cold smoker but it’s also in the perfect place.

  

The smoker was attached to the side of the BBQ a and filled with some Manuka wood chips before being set alight,  the smoke is pumped into the BBQ without any heat.  After and hour or so the bacon is done and then ready to be cooked slowly in the oven.  

Then the next new toy comes out – the electric slicer!  We bought this one after seeing and using John’s one whilst we were in Whakatane, we figured that we could very easily justify its use. The bacon is all perfectly and evenly sliced before it is packaged up and yes, you guessed it the next new toy is put into use – the vacuum sealer. 

Next is the turn of the Pastrami.  First the meat has its coating of carefully selected and ground spices rubbed all over it and then it is left for a day or two.  The next step is to put the meat into the cold smoker for a gentle smoking before it is then steamed to cook it.  We use a thermometer to test when the internal temperature has reached the desired level so we know that it has been cooked properly.  

  

Once it is cooled, we slice it up and vacuum seal it into portions for later use.  Mmmmm, delicious!

  We also smoked a couple of pieces of salmon for our dinner, but this time it was using the hot smoked method.  With a chilli glaze on it, it was done in a short time, delicious for our dinner served with a creamy mustard mash and braised baby peas and greens. 


 

Cooking up a storm

March 13, 2015

John & Jude returned from their trip to Melbourne last Saturday, only to head off again on Wednesday for a fishing competition off Whitianga which means we are still here in Whakatane minding the ranch.  Not that we mind as wehave not been completely idle, we have been cooking up a storm.  By that, I don’t mean that it has anything to do with the impending arrival of Cyclone Pam, just that we have been busy in the kitchen.

Myrtle, Mabel and Mildred(the hens) have kept us well supplied with fresh eggs every day.  I used some of the eggs to add to the Passionfruit proliferation by making some Passionfruit Curd as well as some Passionfruit Syllabub.  The hens give us one egg each a day but on one particular day, one of them obviously decided to give us an egg the size of the other two together!!



We are unsure which of the hens is responsible for this monster, but it was a double yolker.   Roy has also been busy in the kitchen,  both inside and out.  John has a cold smoking unit as well as a large hot smoker, but it is the cold smoker in which we have put to good use.  First there was the making of some pastrami,  giving it a burst in the cold smoker before steaming it.



He also made a batch of bacon, also using the cold smoker – oh and of course John’s electric slicer to neatly slice it all up.  We then packaged it all up into portion sizes and vacuum packed it ready to stack neatly into our small freezer. I neglected to take any photos of this process.  Howeve we did buy ourselves a new vacuum sealer as our other one had decided to die on us.  The vacuum sealer is very handy for us in the van as we can repackage everything that goes into the freezer into portion sizes as well as being able to efficiently stack much more into the small space.  Not to mention being able to seal up smelly fish bait!

Another day and we decide it’s time to make some fresh pasta.  I had purchased a new Pasta machine last year but the other day I finally found a pasta drying rack which pulls apart and packs away neatly into a small box thus not taking up too much room. Now there is no excuse to making fresh pasta.  It hardly took any time at all before we had beautiful silky pasta for our dinner.  With a simple sauce of lemon, oil garlic and rocket, it was a delicious, light and quick evening meal.  



And then there was a batch of mint sauce to make (with mint jelly on the to-do list), this did not take more than half an hour to make which included sterilising the bottles and lids as well as making the sauce, with the longest time spent of chopping the mint.  Now we have plenty of mint sauce to accompany the traditional roast lamb.



Pickles and relishes are also on the to-do list but these will be done once we are back through Auckland so that we can go to our favourite market gardens in Manukau to pick the produce required.  Watch this space!

PS.   it’s our wedding anniversary today – 33 years, and yes, I was a child bride 😉