Monday, December 19, 2011

the ones that got away

In October I quietly ignored the 6th anniversary of Confessions of a Food Nazi. There’s been a lot of water (and homemade cordial) under the bridge since that first post on rhubarb with strawberries and rosewater.

At the beginning of the year I went mad on fish cutlets in a tomato and olive sauce. Just remembering it now is driving me crazy with desire, it was just so darn good. But give me a glut of tomatoes and I’m still more likely to make the vegan wonder of 2010 (tofu in a gingery tomato sauce) instead.

In June I had a wet weekend in Newcastle and ate Balinese food and in August I hung out with people from Newcastle in Bali at the Mindfulness retreat. Despite the weather, I enjoyed the NSW city but for the food, swimming and massage I'd be back on a plane to Indonesia any day.

Though Bali was the sweet spot of the year, the vegan truffle redux were a close second. The only food promise I’ll make for 2012 is there will be more experimentation with coconut oil extracted flavours. Plus lots more vegan food as the Significant Eater has announced, that for now, he’s joined the ranks. This summer I’ll be making more quinoa and millet dishes than you can poke a stick at.

Beyond my own kitchen I’ll take a stab at local food trends 2012:

  1. Coconut will be king. I’m predicting coconut oil, water, milk, cream and even dried coconut in various forms will be the new hot flavour. Or maybe it’s because I have a Mr Nice Guy coconut vegan cupcake still a vibrant memory in my mouth from lunch?

  1. Macarons have had their day; they jumped the shark when supermarkets started to sell them. Canelles could be in for a similar fate. I don’t think it’ll trend but I’d love the irony if macaroons became the new macarons (and that’d segue nicely from my first prediction!)

  1. Local honey. The city is becoming alive with hives on urban rooftops and any hip eatery seems to be doubling as an apiary. In 2012 I’m predicting we’ll see honey labelled by street name, a little like Swords wines celebrated the back streets of Fitzroy in the ‘80s.

For now I’ll save my rants on the zillions of dumb emails I got courtesy of the blog this year (there are doozies, I promise you) and leave you with a few pics of the posts the got away

I grew parsnips for the first time, the first flush of young veg were so tender you could eat them raw. Nothing like the old tired ones that make their way to the shops.

Wraps are my home lunchtime fallback. Something leafy and green from the garden, tomato and avocado if there's any to be found and some kind of protein. Often panfried tofu or this tempeh fried with kecap manis. A little mayo never goes astray if the mountain bread is a little on the dry side.

I'm a sucker for Noisette's fig and apricot fruit loaf. In the rare event there's any leftover on the weekend, I make thick batons, dunk in vanilla scented beaten egg and whip up the most amazing French toast. Best served drenched in pure maple and organic strawberries.

I love to have my main meal at lunch (and then just a wrap for dinner) some days. This was a pepper crusted hunk of flash fried tuna (cut into strips so I could lazily eat the meal with only a fork), topped with tuna and Kalamata olives, served with roast asparagus and potatoes. A Nicoise bake, rather than salad.

My October trip back to Wellington, I got to have brunch at Larder in Miramar (aka Wellywood). Celeriac and smoked eel in a breakfast dish? It made my day.

What stood out (or got away) in your journey through 2011? Do take a punt at some food trends!

Have a pleasant season of over-eating and a healthy New Year.

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Saturday, December 03, 2011

how a gadget reclaimed my heart and the war on clutter was lost

Why is it that the process of decluttering tends to cover more surfaces with mess than it clears up? Or perhaps I’m the only one who begins chores, only to loose interest half way through. The sad reality is that my kitchen is invading the rest of my small home. From cookbooks to preciously hoarded jars (yes, instant entry to old-womanhood), there are only so many things that can be shoehorned into a tiny house.

Something’s got to give.

While a few cookbooks have been culled (and a pile of less-used-but-still-can’t-be-thrown-out sit on the table awaiting banishment to a high shelf) and the aforementioned recycled jars are on notice, my small handful of kitchen gadgets got the once over.

The mini-food processor is used so often it’s won bench top squatting rights. A week doesn’t go by without a batch of nuts being ground to sprinkle on breakfast or a quick curry paste blended from scratch.

A bigger version hunkers in the cupboard, rarely touched since I fell in love with its dwarf twin. But the promise of whizzing up a batch of scones in the wink of an eye gains it a stay of execution.

In frequent use is the stick blender. I worship this invention and thank the day it superseded the old-fashioned jar blender. Who could forget attempting to blend molten batches of soup in the 80s? It’d take at least two or three blender-fulls and a couple of pots to transform a chunky liquid into a smooth soup. And the mess! Not just all the washing up but at some stage the inner lid would blow, creating an unwanted art installation on the (inevitably) white kitchen and the risk of second degree burns.

With the delightful combination of warmer weather and arrival of affordable bananas, my stick blender and favourite jug are in regular service. I’m loving summer fruit blended with rice milk and a touch of either pomegranate molasses or a spoon of coconut sorbet.

So it was with a heavy heart that I eyed up my long neglected juicer. Purchased almost-new for $12 at a garage sale in 1990, she’s done great service. I figured the carrots, celery sticks and apple quarters that gadget’s seen in the name of detoxifying had surely earned a dignified retirement?

But a watermelon bought with the intention of becoming another summer of love salad became my undoing.

“Watermelon juice!” I thought. And oh how right that notion was.

Watermelon juice three ways

Watermelon smoothie: blend juice with a small banana and a handful of strawberries. No milk or added sweetener required. The banana gives it added body and creaminess.

Summery watermelon cocktail: shake together 3 parts juice, 1 part Cointreau and a dash of rosewater and pour over ice. Not sure how I dreamed this combo up but I promise you the hint of orange from the liqueur and the fragrance of roses marries with the watermelon perfectly. And it’s pink!

Au naturel: or mixed 50:50 soda water to extend the loveliness.

So after three weeks of “decluttering” – the kitchen table’s still missing in action, cookbooks have been relocated (making space for my burgeoning jug collection) and the juicer is fighting the jam jars for space in the cupboard.

...and a former ambivalence for watermelon has been transformed into a new seasonal crush.

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