Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cold Day Comfort Food

Ugh! Night shifts. I really, really, really, really hate them. They come around about every 3 weeks, and I have just finished them until next time. Tasha was so happy to see me when I got home at 7.45 this morning. She was asleep on the bed when I left last night, but I always crack a secure window as an escape route for the cats if they are still inside when I go out. The trouble is, once out they can't get back in. Hence an extremely ecstatic cat when I got home.

Yes, straight up onto the boot of the car wanting smooches.

Sophie -  Happy to see me but stand-offish as usual.

The light was pretty this morning so, since I was holding my camera, I snapped a couple of things before heading inside.

Mexican Orange Blossom, with large leaved Puka behind it, and a glimpse of the lemon tree

The lemon tree, with my artistically aged tin fence, and chicken wire for contrast. I'm afraid that side of the garden, the cold damp side that I hardly ever go round, rarely sees me. Yes there is sun in this picture, but five minutes after this picture was taken the sun is gone completely from that side until it's five minutes of glory the next day at the same time.

Common old jasmine - its scent greets everyone who walks up my drive way and me when I get out of my car

Arum lilies and ladder fern. Both inherited when I moved into this house. I've tried getting rid of these 'weeds', and now I have resigned myself to co-existing with them. Nothing short of a direct nuclear hit will stop these things from growing. I guess they have their own charm. They are green all year round, and grow in this area that is damp and shady throughout winter, and dry and shady throughout summer.

I have an "Apple Blossom" flower carpet rose to go in this problem spot. I'm scratching my head over why I have a dead stripe in the lawn. Very strange.

New Zealand has been in the grip of a low worthy of mid winter. It has been cold. It has been raining and hailing and gale-ing today in Napier, starting not long after I took the above pictures. Other parts of New Zealand have suffered snow in quantities that have made rooves collapse beneath the weight!!!

And if there is one thing about winter-like weather it is that it makes me want to comfort eat.

Ive never been much of a sausage fan, however I saw these in the deli section of my local supermarket.

I was suss. My last experience of vegetarian sausages was many years ago. I think those were TVP-based. They tasted funny, and they literally left layers behind in the pan where they stuck no matter how much I tried to keep them moving. In short, they were disgusting.

I decided to give these new vegetarian sausages a go. They were pricey, at over $NZ7.00 for 6. But when I divide that by 3 (the number of meals I will get from them), it's not so bad.

The main ingredients: Tofu, Onions, Wheat gluten, Roasted red onion, Cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, Parsley.

I gently fried them, and ate them with a fried egg, baked beans, and poached tomatoes. And the verdict? They were delicious and filling and didn't stick to the pan at all. A true winter comfort food meal!!!

Tomorrow's adventure is to finally overcome my fear of Tofu. I have bought a block, watched a very informative video on how to press it to extract all the excess fluid, and found this recipe  which is for Penne With Heirloom Tomato Sauce and Roasted Tofu.

***I ended up cooking the tofu in a honey/ginger/chilli stir fry. The recipe called for marinating the tofu in the above mixture for "1 hour to overnight". Kind of a big difference. The mixture seemed strong and I was short on time so I went for the 1 hour option. It was okay, just very bland. I will do this recipe again but I will definitely marinate it overnight next time.

Live and learn. And now I have cooked using tofu for the first time so am not terrified of it anymore heh heh

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Sad Farewell to the Wonga Wonga

I have loved the beautiful Wonga Wonga vine that I planted as a baby only five years ago. I planted it where I thought it would get knocked back by the frosts each year as it is an Australian native and therefore (according to the blurb) frost tender. I know how big these things get unchecked, hence deliberately sabotaging its growth.

Unfortunately, the vine decided that it likes the climate here - frost or no frost - and has grown to the point where it's thick woody growth is now threatening to tear apart the shed hidden behind it (you can catch just a glimps of the red through parts of the vine).

It is now in full flower, and sadly it will be the last time for this vine. I will then become an axe murderer and end it's reign of beauty, as pruning only makes it grow faster and stronger.

Just beginning to flower

Half open

In full splendour . Clover is starting to dominate in my lawn, I see. The lawn that is starting to resemble a paddock. It is only one week since it was mowed - it grows fast at this time of year.

Such pretty cream bells with soft yellow throats

Now I will have to get used to looking at the particularly ugly tin fence that it has been doing such a beautiful job of hiding, while I wait for something else to grow in its place.

It's been such a long, dreary and WET winter that my garden is looking horribly neglected. I think it has rained on every day off that I have had for months. With the sudden onset of milder temperatures, the grass has suddenly started growing at twice its normal rate. Unfortunately, so have the weeds.

The feijoa bush has lots of new growth which will provide lots of fruit

The new leaves on the Indigo Bush, another Australian native which I thought I had lost when it dropped all its leaves with the first winter frost. You can barely see them against the WEEDS!

Red spring growth on the gaura, one of my favourite plants

Unnamed Chinese Lantern hybrid

I can't remember the name of this weed, but it is incredibly invasive and grows very fast. This wasn't there a week ago.

Borage - the bane of my life. I planted one plant several years ago and I've been pulling out seedlings ever since.

More borage, muscling in next to the budding "Cherry Pie" heliotrope

I'd love to know how those freesias got into the pot with the succulent, because I didn't put them in there. (And can you see more sneaky borage?)

I desperately need to get out into the garden and pull some of those weeds (and borage). I will try tomorrow, but the forecast is for - you guessed it - more rain, this time with strong winds thrown in for good measure.

Maybe I will stay inside and start re-organising the house instead. My daughter has decided to return home to live from the city where she has been for the past two years. I had filled the gaps she had left, and now have to create new gaps. This will involve an awful lot of work. I am also trying to get quotes and organise a furniture carrier and dates and her packing from a distance of 500 kilometers. All in little windows of time between my job and sleeping. I'm feeling overwhelmed and under-motivated right at this moment.

Maybe I will have a piece of Jim Beam fudge. This and a box of Ferrero Roche chocolates are gifts that were given to me last Christmas. They have been patiently waiting for me to be in the right mood for them. Well, tonight is definitely a Jim Beam Fudge night.

And yes, my monitor is sitting on a pathophysiology book and a book on horse breeds. Doesn't everyones'?

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Not-too-fishy Kedgeree

A few weeks ago I came across a recipe in a magazine. Unfortunately the magazine was in the waiting area where I was treating myself to a gourmet vegetarian pizza. Undeterred, and probably a little brashly, I asked if I could rip the page out. They seemed remarkably uncaring whether I did or not. So...
White lettering on a brown woodgrain pattern. If I'd realised how hard it would be to find my place quickly while in the process of cooking, I would have written it out by hand first. Live and learn.

This turned out to be super-tasty and not too fishy, this being my biggest worry as I only like very mild flavoured fish, such as gurnard.

Cardamom seeds turned out to be an unexpected pleasure.

I've been having difficulty sourcing cardomom pods (which are called for in a lot of the recipes I've been using). I've been using the ground cardamom, but yesterday  finally managed to find some pods. I nearly didn't buy them, thinking that the flavour would be the same as the ground version. How wrong could I be? I followed the instructions to break open the pods and remove the whole seeds.

As I was eating the kedgeree one of these tiny seeds would get crushed and my mouth would fill with a beautiful and flavoursome sweetness. I think this is a big breakthrough somehow.

Now I understand.

I used sultanas rather than raisins, but only because I don't like raisins or currants.
I used half a cup of chopped onion and half a cup of chopped sweet red bell pepper, rather than a whole  chopped onion, (but this was only because I happened to have these two half cups sitting in the fridge surplus to the failed baked layered tortilla stack I made last night. The top burnt, there was too much chilli and yes I did follow the recipe, and it totally fell apart when I tried to cut it into slices. Under the top burnt tortilla the unsightly mess it fell into on the plate tasted fine but it is, nonetheless, a recipe I put into the paper recycling bin).
I also used vegetable stock rather than fish stock because I didn't want it to be too fishy.
I also halved the quantities since there is only me, and I had a very hearty meal (and went back and had a little more), and there is enough for me to take to work for the next two days to reheat.
Those were the only changes I made.

This is the recipe with the original ingredients and quantities.


4 eggs, hardboiled and quartered
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups jasmine rice
1/4 tsp chilli powder
3 tsp curry powder
6 cardamom pods, seeds extracted
1 cup fish stock
2 1/2 cups water
salt and freshly ground pepper
500-600g smoked white fish, taken off the bones
             (I used a 300g can smoked fish fillets)
1/2 cup raisins
2 Tbsp snipped chives
3 Tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

1. Sautee onion in butter for about 10 minutes without browning.

2. Add rice and spices and cook gently for about 5 minutes.

3. Add stock and water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook uncovered for approx 12 minutes, or until rice is just tender. If it dries out add a little boiling water from the kettle (I just added a bit of leftover stock).

4. Add a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper, then taste and add more if required (must admit I didn't add that much salt).

5. Lower heat, then stir in fish, raisins and herbs. Half bury eggs in the rice. Heat through. Serve immediately.

After adding the spices.

After adding the stock

After the water has reduced, the rice bite tender, and the sultanas added

And with the fish and egg added

And, because I'm a drongo, I totally forgot to take any more photos because by then all I wanted to do was...

Nom Nom Nom

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Napier has been experiencing earthquakes since my last post. Four in the past few days. This afternoon's was 5.2.

Not happy.
Not happy at all.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The 1931 Earthquake in Napier, New Zealand

As New Zealand comes to terms with the earthquake on Saturday which hit Canterbury and one of our four main cities, Christchurch, I can't help but reflect back on the "big one" that hit Napier, my home town, in 1931. It registered 7.8 on the Richter Scale, and cost 258 lives.

This was one of the main streets in the CBD before the earthquake.

This is the same street after the earthquake

This picture shows the nurses' hostel where some nurses had been asleep after night shift.

Lying at anchor in the bay was the HMS Veronica. The earthquake raised the seabed and left the small British warship temporarily grounded.

In the following days the crew of this ship became our heroes. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, all outside communication on shore was cut off. HMS Veronica provided outside communication and alerted the rest of New Zealand to the disaster and enabled other naval ships to arrive the following day laden with supplies, doctors and nurses.

While waiting for this relief, the sailors of the HMS Veronica stepped into the breach. Within 10 minutes sailors were helping with rescue work. Over the next several days they worked tirelessly to scour the city for food, bedding and clothing for emergency camps and hospitals. They established a food depot and cooked meals for 2,000 people. They searched for survivors, moved patients from the shattered hospital, demolished buildings, and patrolled the streets. They sheltered many refugees aboard the HMS Veronica itself. They also helped to fight the many fires which broke out and which raged for several days.  Their presence is credited with preventing panic from breaking out among the population.

The crew of the HMS Veronica will never be forgotten in Napier, even though it was almost 80 years ago. A beautiful sunbay, aptly named the Veronica Sunbay, was built on our Marine Parade.

In 2005 we honoured them with a commemoration service held in front of the Veronica Sunbay. In the background you can see the Veronica Bell, saved from the ship before she was scrapped in 1935.

Napier's memorial to the earthquake which changed our city forever.

And some images of Napier as it is now.

The Veronica Sunbay is just visible to the far left.

Napier literally rose from the ashes and Christchurch and the surrounding areas will too. In the meantime, God Bless all those providing assistance. We in Napier know how much this is worth.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Welcome, Spring!

I love Spring!

Yesterday, September 1st, was the official start of Spring in New Zealand. The winter we have just come through has felt very long and wet. The meteorological service say that it has been 15% rainier this year throughout our little country.

I could have told them that!

But now it is Spring, and while the first two days have been a little chilly, at least the sun has been shining, and the fields and orchards I drive past daily on my way to work are full of lambs and blossom.