Thursday, January 20, 2005

I've moved my blog This is where you will find me now. You may need to copy and paste to get to my new page.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Quick food for a weekend lunch

Julian Barnes would hate my style of weekend cooking. I have just read his book "The Pedant in the Kitchen" in which he stresses how important a well written recipe is for him. I'm more the sort "a pinch of this" or a "handful of that". He did get me thinking though as he quotes a Nigel Slater recipe from Real Cooking ( I book I happen to have on my shelf). The pictures of the recipe for "Pork Chop and Chicory" show two chops in the pan and to this you are required to add 4 chicory the same pan. I checked the book and Julian has a point. Looking at the photo there is no way you could get four chicory halves in the same pan. So did Nigel use two pans, although the recipe states you add the chicory to the pan with the pork chops?

This weekend I felt sufficiently well enough to spend a little time in the kitchen. On the way home from our morning walk on Takapuna Beach we stopped at IE Produce and bought some wondeferul summer fruits....peaches, nectarines, apricots and blueberries. I noticed some leeks that were not too large and grabbed those and a couple of potatoes.

Into a baking dish I placed the sliced up fruit, scattered the blueberries over, sprinkled it liberally with sugar and a splash of vanilla essense and baked it in a 200C oven for about 30 minutes. It is delicious served with Greek style yoghurt.

I made a soup by sauteeing the two sliced leeks, two diced potatoes, and one chopped onion. When it was all softened I covered it with water added a teaspoon of vegetable stock and let it simmer until tender. Then I blended it, adjusted the seasoning and served it in white bowls with a sprinkle of chopped chives.

In the fridge were two sheets of ready rolled flaky pastry, a few slices of ham and the remnants of some Gouda cheese.

I cut each sheet of pastry into four equal pieces, placed a slice of ham and some slivers of cheese onto each of the four pieces, dampened the edges and placed the remaining four pieces over and sealed the edges. I then brushed the tops with oil and scattered a little Maldon salt over, popped them into the 200C oven for about 20 minutes. The crisp pastry, the melting cheese, and the slighty salty tops were a tasty combination. You could vary the filling, maybe try fetta cheese and some cooked spinach or for a sweet taste some stewed fruit.

Not too difficult and very enjoyable. I am working on "how to add photos my blog".Then you will get to see photos of my food.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Cezanne's Tomatoes

My favourite piece of art of all time is Renoir's "Le Dejeuner de canotiers". In 1880 Renoir painted a group of his friends enjoying a meal on the terrace of the restaurant Fournaise. I imagine myself as the girl in the straw hat leaning on the balustrade chatting to a group at the next table.

So what has this to do with Cezanne's Tomatoes? Cezanne was a close friend of the Renoir family and the baked tomato recipe was given to Madame Renoir by Cezanne. She asked for the dish to be served on the day her second son, Jean, was born . Madame liked to use a little more oil than Cezanne, as I do also.

Cezanne's Tomatoes (serves 6 people)

9 large tomatoes
2 tablespoons table salt ( I use Maldon)
4 garlic cloves
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley
Freshly gound black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs

Wash and dry tomatoes, then cut in half lenghtwise.
Salt abundantly on the cut surface and lay them salt side down on a rack over a dish and allow to drain.
After 10 minutes, squeeze them gently to remove excess water and seeds.
Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.
Using a pastry brush, brush a baking dish with oil. The dish should be large enough to hold all the 18 tomato halves.
Peel, crush and finely chop the garlic.
Remove the parsley from the stalks and chop the leaves finely.
Mix garlic, parsley and pepper together.
Arrange tomato halves in dish and spread mixtrure over each tomatao half.
Pour over a generous helping of olive oil.
Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
Bake 20 - 25 minutes, keeping a watchful eye to avoid burning.
If you think it is necessary, you can use the grill to crisp the tops.

Serve with lots of bread to mop up the juices. I serve a light pinot noir with this dish.

A little history of the tomato - it originates in South America and was introduced into Europe in the 16th Century. The big health plus is the antioxidants it contains which offer protection from free radicals that cause cancer, premature aging and heart disease. Calorie wise a tomato has about 35 calories. Healthy and tasty.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Tetsuya...oh Captain, my Captain

Tetsuya Wakuda arived in Australia from his native Japan in 1982. He started work as a kitchenhand and worked his way up to become a master chef. He is now considered one of Australia's most respected chefs. You must book a month in advance to get a table at his Sydney restaurant Tetsuya's.

His simply titled cookery book Tetsuya was published in 1999 to celebrate the ten year anniversary of the opening of the restaurant. This is one book that won't sit gathering dust on my shelf when I buy it. For the moment I have the local library copy to read and enjoy.

I have already planned the menu I will cook from it when I'm back in the kitchen full time.

I shall choose a fine Sunday in summer and invite two good friends to share the experience with us. We will begin with a Tian of Marinated Scampi with Pawpaw, Cucumber and Tonburi. Followed by Lobster Ravioli with Tomato and Basil Vinaigrette. For a sweet finish to end the meal, the Granny Smith Apple Sorbet with Sauterne Jelly.

We shall then leave the table and move outside to sit in the afternoon sun and muse over our lives as one does after a good meal and a few glasses of wine, and then a few more glasses of wine. A little later in the day I shall serve coffee with small slices of Tetsuya's Flourless Chocolate Cake. Tetsuya spent 8 months perfecting this recipe. I can only admire him - I once spent a week experimenting to come up with the perfect flourless chocolate cake for a friend's birthday and never did get it right.

Tetsuya has a love of seafood and many of the recipes in the book use the wonderful seafoood Australia is known for. He combines the Japanese philosphy of natural flavours with traditional French cooking techniques and the best Australian produce available.

The recipes are not complicated, the layout is easy to follow and the pictures are oh so inviting. Each recipe comes with a suggested wine to serve to compliment the dish.

I love this book. If Tetsuya is not already an Australia National Treasure he should be - the man is a genius.........

............and now from the book.......

Tian of Marinated Scampi with pawpaw, Cucumber and Tonburi
2 small scampi, halved
1/4 teaspoon walnut oil
1 teaspoon grapeseed oil
1 drop Banyuls vinegar
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped chives
1 pinch salt
1/4 pinch white pepper
1/4 teaspoon lemon or lime juice
4 tablespoons finely diced pawpaw
4 tablespoons finely diced cucumber
4 heaped teaspoons tonburi (mountain caviar) or standard caviar

Take the meat out of the scampi and finely dice. Mix the scampi with the walnut oil, grapeseed oil, vinegar, chives, salt, white pepper, lemon juice.

Put a round mould (a PVC ring of 5cm diameter is a suitable mould) on each serving plate. Fill first with a layer of pawpaw, followed by a layer of cucumber, scampi, caviar. Remove the ring and serve.

Tetsuya suggests you serve it with an aromatic dry white wine such as a Viognier.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Back in the kitchen

Last week my oncologist decided I deserved a weeks break from my chemo as I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. Bryan has done all the cooking for the past six months. He has done an excellent job but I really miss pottering about in my kitchen. Today I finally felt well enough to potter for a couple of hours.

Some focaccia bread with topping seemed like a good idea. I made a pizza dough and while it sat on the bench in the warmth growing bigger by the minute I organised some bits and pieces to go on the top. In the fridge I found some fetta cheese and black olives. Combined with sliced red onion, some chopped garlic and herbs all sitting in olive oil while the yeast did its work and we had a meal.

A couple of hours later and we were eating one of my best efforts. It was so good we sat at the table and ate the lot. Sitting in a sunny spot in the garden, a glass of wine in one hand and a focaccia in the other.... a nice way to spend a couple of hours on a Saturday. I had to forgo the sun and the wine ...but there will be other days.


Pizza dough
450g High grade flour
3 teaspoons dried yeast ( I use Williams Sonoma)
280ml warm water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

Sprinkle the yeast onto a 1/4 cup of the warm water to soften.
In a large bowl place flour, salt, olive oil and remaining water.
Add softened yeast.
Mix all together and knead until dough is pliable. This only takes a few minutes.
Oil bowl and place dough in bowl, turning over so both sides are oiled.
Cover with a cloth and in a warm spot until doubled in size.

While dough is rising
Into a medium size bowl pour half a cup of olive oil and add 2 cloves of crushed garlic, a few sprigs of chopped rosemary, 20 black olives (stones removed), 200 grams cubed fetta cheese, 2 finely sliced red onions and allow flavours blend.

When the dough is ready roll out and press into a 80cm x 25cm pan.
Evenly distribute topping over dough and leave to rest while oven is heating.

Bake 30 minutes in oven set at 220C.

Remove from the oven, slice and enjoy with a glass of wine. I'd go for a rose with a bit of strength (ie a Cabernet based rose).

Thursday, January 06, 2005

My very first posting on my very own blog

I discovered internet blogs in the later half of 2004. My whole life changed when I was diagnosed with cancer while on holiday in Portugal in June 2004. Bryan and I had just completed the 800K Way of St James walk across Spain and ventured down into Portugal to experience some of the wonderful wine and food I had read so much about - grilled sardines,flaky pasteis de Nata with creamy custard fillings, the famous semi sparkling vinho verde, the honey nutty tawny ports. Within 24 hours the food became hospital food, I was in no mood to drink wine and now back home in Auckland I am nearing the completion of 7 months of chemotherapy treatments.

On our last night in Portugal we ventured out to the restaurant near Bryan's hotel and I ordered my grilled sardines. They arrived, seven in total, arranged alongside each other like tall soldiers on a plate. These were the big brothers of the canned sardines. Is there a biblical reason for serving seven? The taste was sensational. You recognise the taste of sardines immediatley but it is improved by the texture of fresh fish. I'm told it is customary to eat sardines with your fingers but with my Mother's voice in my head I proceeded with knife and fork. Four was all I could manage. As the waiter removed my plate he enquired if madame did not like the meal could he bring me something else. In Portugal the portions are huge and the price is low.

Sated, we left the restaurant, to be greeted by the streets of Viana do Castelo alive with tooting cars full of happy soccer fans. Portugal had just beaten Spain for the first time in 20 odd years. Portugal was still celebrating as we flew out of Oporto the next day on our way home to Auckland.