Wednesday, June 1, 2011

wine, song and a lot of cleaning up

Meal: Pizza, 3 Salads and Squashed Cherries with Vanilla Mascarpone Cream

Tonight I spent significantly longer than the 30 mins that Jamie said it would take - partly because the simplicity of the meal tonight left me wondering if there was a hidden trick and because it's week five at school and I seem to have the reading comprehension skills of a hungover vole. I must have re-read some sentences a dozen times.

Pizza: Very simple and easy to prepare but made loads of dishes! I liked the idea of frying and grilling the pizza and the mix of baby mozzarella and fresh parmesan was lovely.

The salads: The rocket salad was lovely and simple. The tomato and basil salad was lovely and messy. I haven't eaten so much raw garlic since I was a poor student at teacher's college in the early 90s and my friend Olivia told me that a glass of orange juice with 10 cloves of diced garlic would cure my cold cheaper and quicker than a trip to the doctor [it does BTW]. The baby mozzarella salad was memorable because we like pesto but probably wasn't necessary in the overall concept of the meal; it didn't seem to fit in with the simple theme.

Cherries and Marscarpone Cream: The idea of having fresh cherries on ice at the table was fun and there was an encore of the squashing here which was much more tame than the tomatoes.  Lou added a fresh cinnamon brioche from NOSH at the last minute, which was a nice surprise.

Time Taken:  Too embarrassed to say.  Think of a prime number less than 99 and you're close.
Cost:  $42.55 (but there is a lot of expensive cheese left over... mmmmmm cheese)
Chef: Blair
Music to cook to:  William Fitzsimmons newly released "Gold in the Shadow"
This meal was brought to you today by the herb 'basil' and the number 3 [only 3 litres of olive oil per person!]

Kia ora Jamie.

Squashed Tomato & Basil Salad

Cheat's Pizza with Basil

Rocket Salad

Bocconcini Salad with Basil

Cherries on Ice

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Three Kinds of Men in the World

Meal: Thai Red Prawn Curry, Jasmine Rice, Cucumber Salad and Papaya Platter

So the whole thing is... we don't have any jasmine flowers (even though they are a weed in many people's garden... our garden is, of course, totally weed-free and a model of urban green space) so Lou came up with the inspired idea of infusing some lemongrass into basmati rice instead. Not really 'homemade jasmine rice' but never mind.  Also, it turned out that the curry paste (that I TOTALLY made from scratch!) was pretty strong and it may not have mattered if I had infused the rice with diesel... you couldn't taste it.  There was, however, a brief moment (before the other spices and hacked bits from our herb garden [actually and truly weed-free]) weren't dominating the kitchen and the rice smelt quite fragrant as it cooked. Result.

Now, at this point, I feel it is important to clarify that there are only three kinds of men in the world.  Those who eat prawns and love them, those who tolerate prawns (in the same way that you tolerate third formers when you reach the lofty heights of 6th form)  and those who believe that prawns are nature's plughole - collecting foul cast offs in the kitchen sink of life as they hover about sewer outlets in Taiwan, treading water with their mouths open. I am, as luck would have it, a man who quite likes them.  You won't ever hear me banging on about how much I like them (I didn't say that I trust them), but like them, I do.  The curry paste (that I made from scratch - did I mention that?!) was tossed into a hot frying pan with 1/2 the prawns and then baked for about 10 mins in a hot oven - they were crispy and delicious.  The other 1/2 prawns were softened alongside a boat load of snow peas also in said curry paste with an obscene amount of coconut milk.  I really enjoyed it and would like to make it again.

Cucumber salad:  lovely... but 3 tablespoons of oil Jamie? Really? I'll use a telegraph cucumber next time (Wife interjects here to say that it WAS a telegraph cucumber and even the receipt said so). No good. Can't hear you...

I substituted quite a few things out because they weren't in season here in NZ.  I secretly wish that papaya was out of season because, well, it kind of tastes like feet.  The lime zest mixed with plain greek yoghurt played against the mint leaves, pawpaw and banana fairly.  At the end of the day, it felt like a refreshing dessert.  And I would never talk about how bloated I was on the internet (even if I was... and i didn't say I was...) because that's how common people behave. 

In summary, I am left feeling satisfied and pleased with my travail in the kitchen this evening.
I leave you, fellow charlatans, no longer a "make curry paste from scratch" virgin.  How exhilarating!

Time Taken: 61 mins
(lots of distractions tonight though; little boys, neighbours, wife fussing about 'the right platter', elusive coriander etc)
Cost: $24.36
Chef: Blair

Baked Tiger Prawns - the highlight.
Could've tripled the quantity as
the recipe only suggested 8.

Cucumber Salad before the toss

Thai Red Prawn Curry with Snow Peas

Papaya Platter - A Refreshing End.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A 41-minute Roast

Meal: Roast Beef, Baby Yorkies, Little Carrots, Crispy Potatoes and Super-Quick Gravy

My brother Lee (this is Lou) is over in NZ from the UK for a couple of weeks (for a wedding) and has managed to cover Auckland, Dunedin, Queenstown, Wanaka, Rotovegas and Tauranga in that time. His family could be forgiven for being unsure that he was actually here at all being that we saw him for a grand total of approximately 150 minutes (but there was a wedding and a girl so we will let it go... for now).

Anyway... tonight we had our usual Sunday family dinner shuffled to a Thursday night so we could catch up with Lee before he hit the airport again tomorrow.  It coincided with our date night so we thought 'what the heck' and decided to cook our Jamie meal for everyone. Fortunately it was a meal that was easily enlarged (though we could've enlarged it even more, it went down so well!) and catered for 6 adults and 2 kids.

The biggest hits were the Yorkshire Puddings - having never made them before, I was impressed with how simple the recipe was, how fast and easy to make and how scrumpy they were. Mum was particularly flabberghasted as, though she has been a Cordon Bleu chef since 1971 *cough*, she claims she has never got the hang of the suckers - they 'just sit there' she says. So I smiled, quietly chuffed with myself (thanks Jamie!)

Mum also loved the gravy (beef juices, red wine, mushrooms etc) but I found it quite a dominant flavour.  Everyone raved about the crispy potatoes (fried in rosemary and garlic - that recipe is going straight to the pool room) and I loved the dressing on the watercress-that-was-actually-mesclun-in-a-bag salad.

Overall the meal was a hit. Lots of lovely comments which is always good for the chef-esteem.

Time Taken: 41 mins
Cost: $23.51
Chefs: Lou & Jacqui (who actually is one)

'Smashed' Crispy Potatoes with Rosemary and Garlic

Better-than-Mum's Yorkshire Puds

Roast Beef in Thyme, Sage and Rosemary

Friday, February 25, 2011

Better Late Than Never

Meal: Green Curry Crispy Chicken, Kimchee Slaw & Rice Noodles (with Berry Icecream)

It's probably the only time in our lives that we will be able to say that 'dinner was late because of the earthquake'.

It's a crazy and awful time in NZ right now - Christchurch and surrounding regions of Canterbury have been ravaged by a devastating quake resulting in broken homes, broken families and stricken communities. Businesses, schools, hospitals, cafes, restaurants, churches...  this quake was no respecter of age, race, position, location or occupation. It just slammed Christchurch to the side of the head while it was already dragging itself off the playing field and took most of NZ with it. Never before has such a event devastated us so widely and affected us emotionally. It's brought us to our knees (and for some it's been a while) praying for rescue for the victims in the CBD and their families... it's brought tears to the eyes of the average Kiwi bloke watching the news and spurred heroic and miraculous actions by rescuers, volunteers, ERTs and 'Joe Publics' all around.

In a swirl of feeling helpless and ineffectual, we suddenly had a shiny ray of opportunity to help and in a fantastic way.  In a miraculous 24 hour turnaround, our business Husk Creative (along with Pegboard Australia and Port80WebDesign in Canada), designed, built and launched a website with Habitat for Humanity called 'Shelter', set up to provide accommodation all over NZ for displaced Cantabrians, some of whom have lost everything. This project holds hands with a wide range of initiatives being offered by not-for-profits, churches and corporates all over NZ... and it's in a week like this that I am prouder than ever to call myself a Kiwi.

The website was launched at 8pm last night but the flurry and exhiliration of coding quickly turned to kitchen-oriented activity as our guests had been waiting patiently for us to BEGIN cooking dinner. To speed things along, the wonderful Shirley helped me in the kitchen while the boys sat themselves on the couch, only popping their heads up to complain that the noise of the mangler was impairing their conversation. Pffft.

We split the dishes up and went for it - I took the Crispy Chicken & Rice Noodles, Shirl took the Kimchee Slaw and the garnishes. (Fyi this division of dishes actually made the process harder as the recipes are written to jostle from one dish to another and back again, with perfectly allotted times in between - we spent a lot of time staring blankly at the cookbook trying to figure out who was doing what and when). We also borrowed a dessert from a different section 'cos... well, you have to give guests dessert and this menu didn't have one!

Though we overmangled the Kimchee Slaw, undermangled the curry paste, used alfalfa sprouts instead of bean sprouts, couldn't find prawn crackers anywhere and slightly overcrisped the crispy chicken, the end result was still satisfactorily delicious.  We queried (read: freaked out at) Jamie's generous use of fresh chillies during the prep but, the moment we put the fork in our mouths, we acknowledged that 'perhaps he does actually know what he is doing'.

My personal fav? The crispy chicken with runny honey cooked in a homemade green curry paste. I also really liked the Berry Icecream but it possibly had too much mint for Simon. (I personally don't think there is such a thing as too much mint but I'm not going about to be seen arguing with someone so posh...)

Time Taken: 54 mins
Cost: $83.57
Chefs: Lou & Shirl

(Slighty Over) Crispy Chicken

Kimchee Slaw....(Slawce?)
Curry Sauce (which didn't look a thing like Jamie's)
All together in one bowl baby!
Homemade Berry Icecream
Thankful guests, finally served at 9.15pm. Phew.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Meal: Oozy Mushroom Risotto, Spinach Salad and Quick Lemon & Raspberry Cheesecake

I loved using the blender tonight as part of a main evening meal - a first time for that I think. Across the three dishes, there was enough tearing, smashing and banging to keep me happy too.

Tonight, I believe that I have personally consumed three tablespoons of olive oil.  If that doesn't make me feel like a mediterranean adonis, then I don't know what would.

The Spinach Salad was my favourite element of the meal... toasted pinenuts are always a winner. I have never been a fan of sundried tomatoes (and we aaaaaall know that the sun has nothing to do with it), but chopped up into small bits, they were a welcome texture and flavour in the salad.

The mushroom risotto was lovely, but we probably could have halved the recipe and still had enough leftovers for lunch tomorrow.  I liked the crispy mushrooms combined with several hundred kilos of chopped flat parsley that were thrown on top - a really clever idea.

If I were to make the cheesecakes again, I'd consider subbing out the lemon curd and using a vanilla custard instead - we felt it was quite dominant and are also unsure what to do with the remaining jar of curd. The dessert was great even though it was a bit like having an ADHD convention in one's mouth.

Overall, Mrs Mumble seemed impressed. Result.

Time Taken: 57 mins
Cost: $47.80
Chef: Blair (mumbleboy)

Oozy Mushroom Risotto

Spinach Salad

Quick Raspberry & Lemon Cheesecake

Blair's Kitchen Carnage

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

From Crummy to Yummy

Meal: Broccoli Orecchiette, Courgette & Bocconcini Salad and Prosciutto & Melon Salad

So...I can say upfront that we started off this 'pilgrimage to foodie enlightenment' in a manner we do not wish to continue - a churlish disagreement between husband and wife (about something trivial, of course)... followed soon after by both of us carrying our grumpy sons up a hill with a whole assortment of large and ungainly toddler toys. This backdrop did not set us up well for a exciting night ahead delving into the first chapter of Jamie's shiny new cookbook, but at least you can see that there are 'real' people behind our impressive chef ninja-ness.

Husband graciously handed over the first chapter cooking rights to me (read: kept clear) while I set about collecting ingredients, venting my frustration on the missing food processor part (swear, swear) and trying to get the kitchen in some semblance of 'pre-cooking' order. (Jamie's got a whole section in the prologue about the importance of an organised kitchen - according to his list of essentials, it seems we are down a balloon whisk, a mestle and portar (spelt how I inevitably say it every time), a decent peeler and a bay tree.

Before we start, I should tell you that there was a bit of creative license with some of the ingredients (the best chefs do this, we hear... cough). We couldn't get bocconcini in time, so used baby mozarella (gasp); it turns out a 'cantaloupe melon' is the same as the orangey-coloured rock melon we get in NZ; I accidentally subbed a parmesan block for pre-grated and who the heck has heard of 'purple sprouting broccoli'? We just left that out...

Anyway...I set the timer, to see if in fact, I could do these three tempting meals in 30 minutes and got things underway. The first thing I noticed was how Jamie has cleverly written the book to enable us to (reasonably) effortlessly juggle the prep of 2-3 dishes at once. I chopped things madly while in the background a jug boiled (yes yes, very difficult... shut up), broccoli and pasta bubbled and the anchovy-caper-thyme paste thing sizzled. I especially enjoyed the lavish use of fresh mint, basil and thyme - trademark Jamie - but held back a bit on the multiple lashings of extra virgin olive oil - also trademark Jamie.

The winner at the end of the day (surprising the courgette hater) was the raw courgette salad. An incredible blend of lemony-minty goodness with a kick. And healthy too. The melon salad was also amazing and thus the pasta dish, which was nice but its mild flavours paled in comparison, was thus relagated to third place.  Nom nom nom.

Time Taken: 37 mins
Cost: $35.74
Chef: Lou

Broccoli Orecchiette
Proscuitto & Melon Salad

Courgette & Bocconcini Salad