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