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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Decadent Lamb Steaks

It's been a few weeks since I wrote about lamb, (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) for no reason other than it having been a busy few weeks. As usual, I'm actually weeks behind in my posting, but that's been OK because we've been mostly having simple summer fare anyway.

Usually I like my lamb simple, a little bit of seasoning and maybe a few herbs to bring out the flavour. But sometimes the allure of dressing up a lamb steak to the nines becomes irresistible, and if there's food in the fridge to make this happen, then I can see no reason not to.

This was one of those times.

Take some of the best organic, free-range lamb steaks you can lay your hands on.
Prepare them with a gentle seasoning of freshly ground pepper and salt, and a generous dose of chopped garlic, fresh mint and drizzled olive oil.

Heat some olive oil in a pan, and cook the steaks for about 4 minutes on the first side. At the same time, slice a tomato or two in half, season and grate over some parmesan, and sit them in the pan as well.
Turn the steaks over and layer with slices of brie cheese. Fry for 4 minutes.

Pop the whole pan under the grill for 5 minutes to brown the cheese.
Serve with the tomatoes, boiled new potatoes and crispy steamed veges.

(Disclaimer: Once again, I have no affiliation whatsoever with Wai-Ora Lamb. I'm just a very, very satisfied customer, and I think you should be too).

Monday, February 23, 2009

Half-Life Indie Short gets my big Thumbs-Up!

Whether you're a fan of sci-fi movies or TV shows, or just great shoot-em-up computer games, or want to see just how great a no-budget indie film can really be if you work at it hard enough, you really have to check out this video.

On a budget of just $500 Canadian, the Purchase Brothers have stormed the scene with an unlicensed - but subsequently wholly embraced - short flick set in the Half-Life Computer game world. Great fun, and leaves us hanging for more.

May these guys go on to bigger and brighter things!

Also, check out this interview with the co-creator, David Purchase.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Curry Odyssey Episode 3: Curried Lemon Chicken

OK, before I get onto whether or not this recipe is breaking the rules of the Curry Odyssey, I have a more worrying issue to address. Part of the reason why I was so keen to get right into making curries this year was because I had discovered, just across the road from where I work, a little Indian Food Grocer, who carried all sorts of obscure ingredients for authentic Indian cooking.

In particular, they sold jasmine rice in bulk, at about half the cost of getting it at the supermarket, as well as things like whole cardamons, fengureek seed, and a whole raft of uncommon spices and flours. Now, they're closing the doors.

This recession bites, and not in a good way.

So, can anyone in the Wellington area direct me to another good supplier of the raw ingredients I need to make my Curry Odyssey something worth writing about? Because a year of variations on a theme of "2T Curry Powder" will get boring pretty quickly.

But on the more serious side of this issue, I think we all need to ponder, at least briefly, how we treat our small local businesses, and ask ourselves whether we care for them like they deserve.

Because if we find that the only place we can go to buy food in ten year's time is a giant supermarket, and we all end up eating the same bland mass-produced meals, because all of the little stores that catered to the business end of our taste-buds have closed down, who will we have to blame?

Moving on, were there any rules to the Curry Odyssey? For example, could I only make curries that were recognised as classics and had a proper Indian name, or can I still make stuff up? Experience would suggest that I am not really enough of an expert in the field to fudge it, but when has experience ever taught anyone anything useful?

Also, am I allowed to post stuff that I actually cooked and photographed before I even made the decision to begin the Great Curry Odyssey? Well, the best thing about playing your own game is that you can make up the rules as you go.

I therefore decree, that YES, I can make stuff up if I want to, and YES, I can post in whatever temporal order I feel appropriate. And since the impending death of my local Indian supplier has left me somewhat bereft of inspiration right now, I present for your eating pleasure...

Mysterious Curried Lemon Chicken

(Serves 3)

Lemon chicken might be a Chinese thing, but I have a lemon tree, so as far as I'm concerned, Lemon can go with anything.

Even Chicken.

And Curry.



6 x Scored Chicken Drumsticks (ie, duplicate this recipe once for every 500g of Chicken Pieces you might want to cook), marinaded as below;

For the Marinade:
4T Soy Sauce
Zest and Juice of 1/2 Lemon
1T Garam Masala
2T Olive Oil
1T Minced Garlic
1T Honey
Freshly Ground Pepper

Marinate the chicken for at least 1 hour, preferably 6, in an oven dish that fits the pieces snugly.
Bake, uncovered, @ 220C for 45 mins to 1 hr, until the chicken juices run clear. Switch the oven over to grill for the last 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce, and boil a pot of jasmine rice.

Lemon Sauce Ingredients:
Juice of 1 Lemon
Shaved Lemon Zest
1/2 Cup of Water
2T Malt Vinegar
1 Cinnamon Quill
6T Brown Sugar
1t Vanilla essence, or the scrapings from 1 Vanilla Pod

Put all the ingredients in a small pot. Bring to the boil and turn down to a simmer, gradually reducing the sauce until it thickens. Remove the cinnamon quill after about 5 minutes of simmering. When the sauce is ready, scoop out the solids.
Dish the chicken over the rice and drizzle the sauce over everything. Serve with a nice crisp green salad.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Slow-Cooked Colonial Goose (No Goose Required)

Why, I can hear you asking, am I posting a mid-winter recipe in the middle of summer? Well, for one, a lot of my lovely northern hemisphere readers have been ogling at pictures of sunshine and gardens in full bloom, so I thought you deserved something more comforting while its freezing cold up there. Also, the weather here is so screwy right now that some days it might as well be winter over here too. Days of rain, and nights so cool we've seriously thuoght about lighting the fire.

In February.

That's nuts.

But moving on...

Also known as a Rolled Forequarter Hogget Roast, there are few things you can do better in a crockpot than a Colonial Goose. Wiki has a great description here, although I must admit I'd never read a recipe for it quite like theirs. The things you learn. Next time, I'll give it a go.

My version, on the other hand, is far more prosaic, lacking the honey, apricots, and red wine. On the other hand, it's done in the slow cooker, and that has to count for something.

Slow-Cooked Colonial Goose

(Serves 4)

Your rolled forequarter should be stuffed with onions and breadcrumbs at the very least. Toss the roast in freshly ground salt and pepper, some rice bran oil, and a splash of worcester sauce and some balsamic vinegar, then roll in semolina flour.

Rest in the fridge in the crockpot dish on a raised tray for about 5 hours. (Did I mention you need to start this one early in the morning?)

Cut an onion into 6ths and place around the meat. Place in the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 hours.
Remove the meat and rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, take a hand blender and blitz the onion and the juices in the crockpot dish to make the gravy. Season to taste. Slice the meat and the stuffing against the grain.
Serve with boiled potatoes and fresh veges, and lots of that lovely gravy.

If you have leftovers, use them up the following morning by making hash-cakes, with grated cooked potatoes, cheese and eggs. I'd post a photo but I'm guessing they disappeared too quickly for the camera to get a look in.

Monday, February 16, 2009

All that Webby Goodness

I've been putting aside all sorts of great stuff this year, but haven't got as far as sharing any of it, so here goes a little slice of web pie, from me to you.

First, a local plug for a local site: is a Wellington website, covering the many fine offerings that our capital city has to offer locals and visitors alike, from galleries and events to food reviews and community links. Be sure to check out their Restaurant Reviews before you head out with a rumbly tummy.

On a more hands-on subject, the Ethicurean recently ran a brilliant article on making your own sausages from scratch. Combine that with the advice on loading up those casings with your scrummy homemade filling provided by Bob del Grosso at Hunger Artist, and you'll have no excuse left for buying those snarlers full of numbers from the supermarket ever again.

Bob del Grosso is one of my favourite bloggers, actually, a man who knows his organic food inside-out - quite literally. Well worth a look for anyone who wants an insight into the back end of the small farm, be it raising animals, making cheese, or preparing meat products, from butchery through to salami. Not something I think I'll ever be likely to get my hands into, but it's nice to know that there are still people out there who see food production as a craft, rather than a mass market.

He also has a brilliant article here, on the art and skill of cooking, and how it is as much a talent as it is a craft, but one that anyone can learn and perfect. Highly Recommended. Read it, any never let me hear you say you can't cook.

In non-foody related subjects, anyone who has ever been a fan of the fantasy genre and fantasy role-playing in particular, and enjoys having a great laugh at that genre's expense, will love this. Thanks to Mr 2-Trees for the link.

I'd also like to make a mention here of two audiobooks that I'm listening to right now. Hoad's Grim is a horror audiobook drama, very much R-18, and absolutely riveting. I'm drafting a complete review, but the story is presently up to Chapter 20 and I don't want to spoil the mood by getting all wordy on it's @ss. The audio production is superb, and I'm sitting on the edge of my seat waiting the next episodes to come down. BTW, it's a free download, so if you can handle a dose of the macabre that will seriously scare you silly if you listen to it alone in the dark, go start downloading. (Hat Tip: John Joseph Adams at, with this interview [1, 2].) I have found a new reason to take my ipod in the car, and to turn the radio up.

The other one is called Crescent, and is also a horror story, though this one is set on a dilapidated and haunted space station on the fringes of the colonised galaxy. So, obviously, very sci-fi, and very VERY adult. Some of Crescent has made me squirm quite uncomfortably, so this one is not recommended for the tender-hearted. Unfortunately, the audio production is not as slick as Hoad's Grim, but this is mainly due to the author's decision to handle all of the voice talent himself, even the women. This makes following the dialogue confusing from time to time, but some of the writing is quite brilliant, and overall I haven't been able to stop listening yet.

Anyway, this was meant to be a quick post so I can get some more work done on my novel, so I must hit the post button. Byebye.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pork Chops with Herbs and Pinenuts

In this post, the second about how to make the most of pork, in an age when it just doesn't taste like used to, all I really have is a photo.

I guess I forgot to take notes that night, so here's my best guess, given the title and the picture:
Chop up a pile of fresh herbs, say, sage, mint, and thyme. Mash up in a pestle with some salt, pepper, and olive oil.

Preheat the oven to 180C, placing the rack about 6 inches from the heat.

Brush the chops with the herb mixture and fry them over a high heat to seal in the juices, about 4-5 minutes per side.

In a pan, heat some oil and very quickly fry a handful of pinenuts; be careful, because they'll burn easily.

Put the chops into an oven tray on a rack, press the pinenuts into the upper side, and place in the oven, cooking for about 25 mins until the juices run clear.

It's easy to overcook pork, but it's worse to undercook it, so I'll let you decide on what level of risk you're willing to settle on for the sake of moist chops.

All of the above, BTW, is really just a guess. I think it's what I would've done, and I probably thought I'd get around to posting this much sooner than I actually did. Oh well. If anyone else can suggest how they might do this, or even better, how I might have done it, I'd be very keen to hear.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Curry Odyssey Episode 2: How Not To Make Naan Bread

Nothing makes a curry go down better than a nice, fresh, hot naan bread.

I don't know how I got it into my head that I could make good naan bread, though. Particularly not when I went with the first recipe I found, which was on a site specially for New Zealand's Over 50s. (On that note, I went to buy spraypaint at Repco today and got asked for ID, to prove I was at least 18. Not many 31-year olds have that honour.)

I should've been suspicious of the apparent simplicity of the recipe, and the lack of any real detail of the important techniques required to make it come out right.

I also might've failed to read and follow instructions very well, but you're probably aware by now that following recipes is not my strong point.

So I'll spare you the details, and just lament my failure on this one. If anyone can point me in the direction of a good naan recipe, with complete and helpful instructions, I will be eternally grateful.

Because curry without naan is a bit like a burger without beetroot - what's the point?

(To all of you non-Kiwis who don't get the idea of beets in burgers, you really need to try it. Seriously. Yum.)

I started with real yeast...
mixed up all the ingredients, including flour, yoghurt and egg...
kneaded it the old fashioned way, at which point I realised I could have used the breadmaker like I usually do...
let it rise, and then cut it into triangular pieces...

at which point it all went wrong.
Mainly I think this had to do with a lack of rolling, because I somehow thought that even though the breads at this stage were short and fat, not long and skinny, they would somehow magically become long and lean and luscious like a naan should be.

Also, my habit when making bread is to handle the dough as little as possible at this stage so as not to make it go... er... flat. Yeah, my mind really wasn't in it.
I even sprinkled them with garlic salt and olive oil, in the hope that they would miraculously turn out how I envisioned them.
They didn't.

Ideally, a naan is oily and chewy and a little bit crunchy and should look something like this:
When my naans look like this, I'll be happy. Thanks to Mr Malique for the image (Copyright Mr Malique). Meanwhile, I've got some nice garlicky short loaves in the freezer which might make nice sandwiches...

So, the Curry Odyssey ran into its first hurdle, but though we stumble, we shall not fall. Onwards and upwards, I say. And thanks to everyone who has sent me recipes so far. I will get to all of them, I promise.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Garden Update

I know you've all been waiting eagerly to hear how my garden is growing. Well, I can be pleased to present the following for your perusal:
Exhibit A: Pumpkin 1
Exhibit B: Pumpkin 2
Exhibit C: The Lemon Tree
Exhibit D: Tomatoes
Exhibit E: More Tomatoes
Exhibit F: Yummy Fresh Potatoes

And all of this, with barely a few dollars spent. All the pumpkins and some of the tomatoes are wild, grown from sprouts in the compost, and the potatoes are from eyes sprouted on the windowsill, all planted in compost from the bin and fed with worm wees.

Gotta Love that Nature Thing.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

One little Piggy went to Market, and along the way he met an Alligator

I made my way, as is my wont, to the Riverbank Market in the Hutt today. Another gorgeous Wellington summer's day, and the place was packed. On my way there, I ran into the Alligator, and we got to chatting.

Turns out that, unbeknownst to me, the Alligator is a chef. Now, I'll be honest, I only met the Alligator a month or so ago, prior to Morgue's Big Day, and I must say he's a top bloke. So it was with great interest that I learned he was a man who is actually a certified professional in this food thing, whereas I am just a highly opinionated (yet open-minded, no less) amateur.

I do love meeting other foodies, and we had a brief discussion about these:
The Alligator had found them, and, thinking them to be a nectarine of some variety which he was heretofore unacquainted with, had decided to buy some and use them in some sort of flan (which he had yet to devise, but with all his chefly skills, I presume he will make a marvellous job of it).

Not to be outdone, I bought a few myself when I found them, equally perplexed as to what these curiously shaped summer fruits, that appeared to be some sort of cross between a nectarine and a very small mango, might be.

The answer: A Plum. Of exactly what variety, I can't say, but I ate one and they are definitely plums.

Now, I'm sure you'll be expecting a rundown on how I took these plums and gave them to Dessert Chef (since I'm really no good at flans and other desserty stuff, really), and what a delicious dish we made to rival the masterwork that the Alligator would surely produce, but sadly, it is not to be.

I bought nice ripe ones, and by the time I got home, they had somehow got squashed. So we ate them just the way nature intended, and they were delicious.

Assuming they weren't some bizarre GE crop, that is.

Do I have a point? Yes, I do. Would someone please give the Alligator a job, already?

Hailing from the beautiful Pacific Northwest of the US, the Alligator has in mind to start a business over here which is close to my heart (but which I can't reveal for fear of some big corporate stealing it from him - yes, I know you're out there!), but he needs to get a foothold in NZ to be able to stay and realise this vision, and to do that he needs a job. So, someone, please employ a Chef with long rows of pearly white teeth who spends his days lying in warm mud waiting for unwary birds to come to rest in his mouth. There'll be no shortage of skewered poultry kebabs, thats for sure.

And while we're talking about the market, I thought I'd water your mouths with a taste of the goodies I picked up there today.
And what better place for delicious fresh watermelon, than tossed through a cool garden salad with fresh mint and olives?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

King of Pizzas

I love homemade pizza SO much more than bought ones. I've already posted my dough recipe here, my not-so-secret-pizza sauce here, my slightly more successful pizza sauce here, my most inspired pizza topping here (a must for fans of chilli mussels), and a wad of vego pizzas here.

But my absolute favourite pizza has to be Chicken Camembert and Cranberry. I know that the best real pizzas are little more than the sauce and the cheese, but since Kiwis have destroyed this fine tradition and taken to slathering our pizzas with more ingredients than we'd normally put on a monthly shopping list, we may as well make the most of it.

Preheat your pizza stone in the oven at 200C, with the rack placed in the centre.
Start with one lovely fresh homemade pizza base (it really is easy, especially of you make a big batch and put them in the freezer in individual ziplock bags), and brush this with garlic-infused olive oil. Alternatively, you can rub a garlic clove over the top of the pizza base before brushing it very lightly with extra virgin olive oil.
Spread a topping of cranberry jelly on the pizza base, followed by generous slices of brie or camembert cheese and cooked chicken breast. Grind over some fresh black pepper.
Sprinkle with a mixture of grated mozarrella, cheddar and parmesan cheese.
Place the pizza on the hot pizza stone and cook in the oven at 200C for 16-18 minutes. I like to have the grill (broiler) on lightly as well, to brown up the cheese.
Unless you feel guilty for some reason, just eat this as it is. Isn't that the point of pizza?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


This post is a long time overdue.

Last year we got all crazy and decided to make playhouses for the little ones. In fact, it was Aunty L's idea, and I just got dragged into it, and I had to do all this awfully masculine stuff with tools and wood and wotnot. How very unlike me.

Working off plans we got off the internet, Uncle B and I slapped the frames together in their garage and I relocated the pieces back to our house on a trailer to assemble them.
Daddad John and Uncle B helped to get the base level and solid, and Isaac put the finishing touches on. Daddad John helped me put it all together,and Dessert Chef and I used leftover fence palings to clad it.
One should be aware, however, of the dangers of bringing a klutz and a hammer in close contact.
Uncle I helped me get the roof on in time for summer,
now we just have to deal with the little holes where the rain gets in - namely the door and the windows, and every gap between every piece of cladding and every roof panel.

But hey, Isaac thinks its great. I just think that he wishes we didn't use it to store our outside chairs and sun umbrella when we're not using them.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Curry Odyssey Begins: Butter Chicken

As per my last post, I have set foot on the the road to becoming a Dad Who Can Cook a Mean Curry.

I started with this recipe, via Steph at A Year of Crockpotting, because it looked easy. I adjusted the quantities and ingredients to suit the size of my family and to accommodate availability of local ingredients, whipped it together in half an hour and popped it in the Crockpot. Gotta love the Crockpot.

The end result was, we all agreed, a jolly passable Butter Chicken. I used Chicken Breast, because that's what we had, but of course it's not best suited to use in the slow cooker, so thighs or even drumsticks would probably have been better.

I also added the brown sugar in the last hour of cooking, because while the curry had a lot of flavour, it was spicy but not sweet. I suspect that perhaps coconut cream and even plain yoghurt in the US are sweetened, which would have compensated, but since ours aren't, I added brown sugar. What are you going to do? I said I wanted a toned-down, sweet and creamy curry, and that's what we got. Nomnomnom.

As a sidenote, I tried making Naan bread as well. That didn't work out quite so well, and will be covered in Episode 2 of the Great Curry Odyssey. Meanwhile, I'm still open to any great curry recipes you might have to offer. Thanks to Le Laquet for the Dahl recipe. I'll put it on the list!

Butter Chicken (Slow-Cooker Recipe)

Serves 4


600g boneless, skinless chicken breast

1/2 an Onion, Sliced

3 Garlic Cloves, Finely Sliced

7 Cardamon Pods

1 t Curry Powder

1/4 t Kaitaia Fire/Other Tobasco Sauce

1 t Garam Masala

1/4 C Brown Sugar

1/2 t Crushed Fresh Ginger

2 T Butter

50g Tomato Paste

200ml Coconut Cream

1 T Lemon Juice

1 Cup Plain, Unsweetened Yoghurt

3 T Cream

Slice the Chicken into roughly 2 inch slabs and drop it in the crockpot. Add the chopped onion and garlic.

Either sew the cardamon pods together, or wrap them in a little cheesecloth with some cooking twine,

like so:

Mysteriously, my cheesecloth vanished during cooking, which seemed to defeat the purpose, and means that we all ate at least a little of it in the process. But somewhere in the leftovers (tomorrow's lunch) I'm going to find a little piece of string and a whole mouthful of cardamon. Nom...nom...nyuk.

Add these to the crockpot, along with the dry ingredients and the ginger. Stir it all up.
Add the tomato paste, butter, coconut cream and lemon juice, stir it all in and turn the crockpot on to high for 3 3/4 hours, or on low for 7 hours.

In the last 15 mins, stir in the yoghurt and cream.Serve with Jasmine Rice, fresh chilled cucumber, steamed veges and naan bread - preferably better than the ones I made!