Monthly Archives: March 2012

I ate Spongebob Squarepants’ house. And it was delicious: pineapple desserts

I haven’t posted much recently, I know. This is mainly because the devil has decided to set up camp in my head and run riot. Don’t panic though, I don’t need an exorcist, just a good painkiller. The first doctor said migraines, the second said tension headaches, the third said cluster headaches. None gave me any effective advice for controlling said migraines/headaches. Don’t get me wrong, lots of advice was given – eat more salt, eat more sugar, just eat more in general (I liked that one), change your posture every 2 minutes, give your self a back massage (she said this like she was serious but it seems like she was secretly having a laugh), and, most bizarrely, go swimming. However, none of it has worked.

But tonight I have braved the brightness of the laptop’s glare to bring you this short post on two things: making the most of what you’ve got in the fridge and the evils of food waste.

The two topics go hand in hand really. Seeing food being thrown away or thinking about how much food gets thrown away is one of the few ways that food ever makes me feel physically ill. That and the time I ate a chicken pie that had been left on the bench overnight. This guilt leads to a heavy conscience every time I buy something that I will only use a small amount of and will go off quickly, like coriander. This week’s guilty pleasures were mint and pineapple. Both were originally bought for an epic taco-and-beer night earlier in the week (which I will post about later) and have been staring at me every time I open the fridge since. So last night after making gnocchi with red onion, asparagus, chorizo and homemade tomato pasta sauce (another case of using anything I can find in the fridge that is looking a little shaky on its last legs), a fierce determination grew to cut the brown patches off the mint and pineapple and make the most of them. This led to last night’s dessert: pineapple two ways.

Pineapple with mint sugar
*start with a pineapple (or half if making both desserts)
*cut the skin off the pineapple, core it and cut the remainder into triangles, as roughly as you want (within reason – try to cut only the pineapple and not your fingers)
*take a handful of caster sugar and a handful of mint and mix up in a mortar and pestle until you have a deep green sugar
*sprinkle over the pineapple chunks and enjoy

Note: don’t get excited like I did and just when you have it perfect shout “More mint!”. If you add too much mint or grind it up too much it will take on a soggy, paste like consistency. Not that this really matters, it just makes it harder to sprinkle.

Caramelised pineapple

*start with a pineapple (or, again, half if making both desserts)
*cut the skin off the pineapple, core it and cut the remainder into thin triangles (but don’t be too pedantic, it’ll work even with big chunks)
*mix together a tablespoon of brown sugar and half a teaspoon of cinnamon and coat the pineapple
*heat a pan over medium-high heat, add the pineapple and cook for a minute or until the sugar is caramelised
*let cool, eat and, hopefully, enjoy

Both desserts were ready minutes after the ingredients left the fridge, tasted delicious, created minimal dishes and were (sort of) healthy. I call that a cooking win. Give them a go!

Note: there are no photos this time as I am sick of abusing your trust in me by including terrible quality, blurry shots

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Monday night meals: Steak and strawberries

Experimentation. Sometimes it can lead to revelations, such as peanut butter and jam, sometimes it can lead to all kinds of hell. I’m glad tonight was the former, as I was too hungry to stand for the tuna and rice that failure would bring. It was a dire state in the fridge tonight so I turned to the freezer and the pantry for dinner and used whatever I could put my hands on that I thought would taste alright. The only base for my plans was a kangaroo marinade I bought from the most incredible spice shop yesterday and haven’t been able to stop thinking about since. I was in Australia for over 2 months before I found out that not only do people eat kangaroo but you can buy it in the supermarket. So tonight the novelty roo came out of the freezer to become a novelty no more. I managed to hunt down 2 potatoes, a handful of cherry tomatoes, 2 mushrooms and 2 cloves of garlic and suddenly I had enough for a meal.

Although when arriving home from work late and hungry tuna and rice did sound like a good plan, I’m glad I resisted the temptation to do something easy and spent a bit of extra time on making a proper meal.

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What you see (blurrily) above is roasted cherry tomatoes and mushrooms with mashed potato (potato+butter+milk+parmesan+roast garlic+roast onion+chilli) alongside kangaroo and strawberries. I bet you were wondering where the experimentation part came in. Why strawberries? Because I wasn’t joking when I said I put anything into the meal that I could put my hands on. Were they good? I’ve never cooked kangaroo before but after tonight I think i’ll find it hard to cook it again without some strawberries joining it on the plate.

Oh and also that is not pepper on the potatoes it’s black lava sea salt. Damn you awesome spice shop! It won’t be long till I’m down to $5 a week for food again if I keep hanging around that place (for the record I spent that $5 on getting my finger bandaged up and then made it from Sunday-Saturday without spending any money on anything but bandaging my finger, which is healing tremendously well)

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BREAKING NEWS!

You heard it hair here first!

The big chop has occurred and the Leukaemia Foundation is $1200 up.

Today I woke up at 7 and was too nervous and excited to go back to sleep so off I biked to our favourite local cafe (the ‘our’ in this situation is the little family within my flat) for breakfast/to celebrate having the money to go to a cafe, where I ate an early breakfast served by a very friendly man and caught up on the latest in NZ news magazines (thanks dad!)

Then it was off to the market to meet the person who would put my hair into 80s style pigtails and then cut it all off.

The person brave enough to take on the task of taming my notoriously stubborn hair is named Ero and he is pretty awesome. Also from Christchurch (what are the chances?), Ero trained at Servilles in Auckland and now cuts hair for $30 down at the local market because he enjoys it more than working in flash salons. I didn’t know about Ero’s fancy hairdressing pedigree when I decided he was going to be the one to cut my hair, all I knew was that he only charged $30. When I told him my plans and he told me not to chicken out, I was sure. Today, Ero and I had a good chat for an hour or so while the hair was very successfully tamed and then we parted ways. He forgot that he said he’d do my hair free but since it is only $30 and he’s from Christchurch I think its ok to let that one slide.

See below for a bit of a photo essay of my day

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Honestly the scariest part of the whole day was measuring my hair, I was convinced it wasn’t going to be long enough. Somehow it made it to 38cm from a measurement of just under 30cm a month ago!! I hope I measured wrong initially or else Ero will become my new best friend, the amount of haircuts I’ll have to get.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed my St Patrick’s Day

The donation link below will be active till 30th March
http://my.leukaemiafoundation.org.au/personalPage.aspx?Referrer=http%3a%2f%2fwww.worldsgreatestshave.com%2f&registrationID=427449

Being surprised with an unexpected public holiday on Monday (Melbourne’s Labour day, different to New Zealand’s – who knew?!), I took the opportunity to bake for Tuesday’s upcoming bake sale at leisure, rather than frantically whipping something together at 10pm the night before like usual. So with the aid of my handy helper (thanks Mikayla!), a feast of Samoa biscuits and raspberry brownie was gathered for the hungry masses in my office. More on the brownie another time as it is my go to dessert fallback. As for the Samoa biscuits, these caramel and coconut beauties are my new favourite treat to bake and eat. And it seems I’m not the only one. While I’m finding it difficult to find the origin of the name ‘Samoa cookies’ (or for that matter to figure out why Americans call scones biscuits and biscuits cookies), it is clear that they are by far the most popular variety of girl scout cookies sold in the US. They are a perfect mix, catering both to the unashamed sweet tooth (with their mix of caramel and rich chocolate) and the closet sweet tooth who prefers their sweets more grown up and sophisticated (with the addition of toasted coconut and a shortbread base with a subtle hint of vanilla).

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With focussing all my willpower on not eating every single one of these bad boys before I made it to the office on Tuesday, taking a photo slipped through the cracks so all credit for the above shot goes to Mind Over Batter (http://foodgawker.com/post/archive/mind-over-batter/). I might also add that is not a completely accurate representation as the chocolate on mine would be more accurately described as ‘blobby’ than ‘beautiful’.

All I can say is you have to go and make these biscuits right now. No. Stop making excuses like ‘But it’s 1am’ and ‘But I’m allergic to coconut’. Ifs and Buts are totally unacceptable when it comes to this, my new favourite biscuit.

Samoa biscuits (not cookies)
Makes about 30

Biscuits
225g butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups plain flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping
1 and a half cups shredded coconut
200g chewy caramels
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons milk
200g dark/cooking chocolate (whichever you prefer)

For the biscuits
*preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius
*cream butter and sugar
*stir in flour, baking powder and salt, mix, then stir in vanilla extract and mix well (best to get your hands dirty for this part)
*roll the dough between two sheets of baking paper (it’ll be quite soft but not sticky, this is ok, we’re going for almost a shortbread like end result) until it is just under 1cm thick
*cut out biscuits with a glass/small cookie cutter (I used a large shot glass), and bake for 10-12 minutes
For the topping
*toast the coconut in the oven in a single layer on a tray lined with a baking sheet for about 5 minutes (keep an eagle eye on it) until brown
*melt the caramels with the salt and the milk (techincally it would be best to double boil them but I was lazy and stuck them in the microwave for 50 seconds) and stir in the coconut
*spread on the biscuits, let them cool, and drizzle chocolate over to your heart’s content.

Viola (which in the US is the name of a brand of corn oil)!

As for the bake sale, I have been hosting one every Tuesday and Friday for the last month from my office desk to raise money for the Leukaemia Foundation as part of the World’s Greatest Shave, in which I am participating. If you’re keen to find out more about the World’s Greatest Shave or sponsor me without being bribed with baked goods you can do so by clicking the words below, thanks to magic of the interwebs:
http://my.leukaemiafoundation.org.au/personalPage.aspx?Referrer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.worldsgreatestshave.com%2Fsupport-2012%2F&registrationID=427449

One more reason to love Samoa

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The post in which I admit to being incredibly irresponsible with money: Brunch and tacos on a budget

It’s been an exciting few days!

Well, actually no not particularly. But being bored has given me the motivation to finish reading my book (you’ll no longer see it lurking in the corner of food photos) and the chance to eat A LOT. However since payday still looms on the (decreasingly distant) horizon, the weekend has again been a case of ‘yummy on a budget’. And that looks set to continue since I chose to buy fusbol pants from the Salvation Army with majority of the last of my money and now have $5 to last me till Thursday. Now this might seem like the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard (because it is), and I’m not normally the type to prioritise new clothes over life’s essentials but I like a little risk, have a stack of frozen ingredients, thought this would force me to be inventive, and most importantly am so comfortable in my new pants!

Before I spent my remaining money on trousers that would make MC Hammer envious, I did pretty well for food on Sunday without breaking the bank.

Sunday brunch on the cheap

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Asparagus: $1
Tomatoes: $40c
Mushrooms: $1
Egg: $60c
Juice: $2
Tea: I don’t know, 20c, who ever thinks about how much a cup of tea costs?!
Total: $5 (ish)

Sunday dinner on the cheap

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Chicken: $5
Lime: 30c
Tomato: 30c
Tortillas: $1
Salsa (red onion, garlic, pineapple, tomatillos, green chilli, coriander): $2
Beer: $5
Total (for 2 people): $14 (ish)

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They seemed to be well received.

While a stricter budget can definitely be followed, I was pretty happy with the weekend’s menu based on the amount of money spent.

PS Just a thank you to the nurse who gave me the tetanus shot because a rusty piece of metal flew off the photo frame I was jazzing up today and gouged a cut in the very centre of my forehead. I think I’m cursed.

PPS Yes I said ‘jazzing’.

A picnic with strangers

I couldn’t sleep this morning and so was up looking for something to do at 8.30am on a Saturday. Something which was both incredibly strange and extremely pointless. Incredibly strange because it was 8.30am on a SATURDAY and extremely pointless because noone is up to anything at 8.30am on a Saturday.

That is until I saw this: https://www.facebook.com/events/398797253470053/

A chance to bake for, and hang out with, strangers? Sounds great right?!

Well I think so, so an hour later a banana cake with chocolate ganache icing was jammed into a tupperware container and I was on my bike.Image

The next 4 hours were spent eating and lying in the sun with my new friends Anna and Jessie on a spotless Melbourne day. Their chai chocolate and pear cake won an award (good job ladies), mine won nothing, potentially due a giant oversight or simply a vote calculation error…? 😉Image

Now I am watching the Lion King and making pompoms. Raging Saturday night!

PS I believe the word ‘spotless’ should be used to describe amazing days more often.

The perils of making basil pesto

On a day that started like this…

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…and went a lot better than any day has for a long time prior, I got home from work early (!) and decided chicken, asparagus and basil pesto pasta was in order. But oh no! No pesto in sight, so I biked off to the shops to get some. Three shops and no pesto later I decided it was about time I make my own pesto anyway (something I’ve been wanting to do for a while). So I paid a visit to my super friendly local greengrocer, who has terrible stock but the best temperament in the world. He even offered to let me away with the basil cheap when he saw me scrabbling for change in my wallet, and often claps me on the back while talking to me in a language I have never heard before. Anyway more on him in future posts (no doubt).

Now comes the part bound to make you wonder how I can type this let alone tie my own shoelaces. Those with weak stomachs stop reading now.

Next I went home, prepared the ingredients and minced them up with a stick food processor. Pesto complete, I started to clear out the base of the processor before cleaning it. And then it turned on. I was instantly covered head-to-toe in pesto and blood, and the kitchen got a fairly liberal coating too. I will not bore you with the gory details, just give you the highlights which included:

*scoffing down a massive bowl of leftover shepherds pie in 2 minutes after my neighbour told me the ambulance was on its way and I shouldn’t eat before they arrived and pumped me full of anaesthetic (brain: “but I’M HUNGRY!”)

*paramedics telling me I could wait till the morning to have my hand stitched up rather than wait in the emergency room all night

*washing out the food processor and continuing to make and then eat chicken, asparagus and basil pesto pasta

*still catching the end of My Kitchen Rules, where my two most hated characters got kicked out

So a doctor’s trip, a fingerful of severed nerves, 16 butterfly stitches and a tetanus shot later we come to the (fairly obvious) moral of the story: don’t stick your finger inside a machine that contains a running blade.

Once again, sorry about the terrible quality of the pictures and grammar (I blame blood loss). And for a great, flesh free pesto recipe, go here: http://ginandjuniper.wordpress.com/

And if in doubt you know what to reach for –

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2 posts in 2 days: Banana bread

A rare phenomenon that I’m sure is never to be repeated. This once in a blue moon occurence can be put down to a particularly quiet weekend that is ending with my attention being torn between writing this, watching the valuation of a piece of Queen Victoria’s wedding cake on Antiques Roadshow and wondering if that noise I hear is my rice boiling over.

While I wish I could tell you that the rice is for something really delicious and amazing, sadly it is instead being made to complement the leftovers of larb which will constitute my lunch tomorrow. With the move to a new city and taking on a professional job (you’d be surprised how well retail pays here), the words ‘strapped for cash’ have gained new significance, and while gourmet adventuring has not completely gone out the window, options have been limited lately to what can be made for 21 meals a week on $50(ish). However, I have not resorted to the easy mac yet, and any tuna and rice dishes always include a bit of asparagus or something mildly exciting. Instead much loved favourites such as tacos,steak and chips, and rice vermicelli salad have been welcomed back with open arms. Planned for this week: shakshuka, homemade pizza, and shepherds pie.

With a fruit shop selling all their gross stock seconds on every corner though, banana cake and homemade juice have been getting an absolute thrashing in this household. Juice today (bad quality photos included!) was a perfect balance of orange, apple (to take that edge off the orange), celery, carrot, lemon and ginger. I think I need to come up with a snappy name for it, takes too long to type all those out. And my go to recipe for banana cake can be found below (da da-da daaaa!)

banana bread

115 grams butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 bigger sized bananas (the riper the better, my freezer is always jam packed with bananas)
1 Tbsp milk
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
115 grams chocolate chips (optional)

*soften the butter and mix in the sugar. add in the eggs and mix completely.

*mash up the bananas in the milk and add the cinnamon. it’s ok if it’s lumpy. add the banana mixture into the butter mixture.

*combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and add to the wet ingredients. don’t overmix; just break up any large clumps of flour and get everything mixed together. mix in the chocolate chips if using.

*carefully pour into a greased loaf pan and bake at 180 F for one hour (i go an extra 5 minutes if i add chocolate chips). remove from oven and let rest in the loaf pan for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool.

This cake can be in the oven 5 minutes after you start getting out the ingredients and tastes amazing. Last time I made this I, let the edges go nice and crispy in the oven and iced it with chocolate ganache. Word spread around the office like wildfire and there wasn’t a crumb left by 11am. All credit goes to http://www.peterandrewryan.com for the recipe, except I changed it out of pesky American measurements. Also, I would highly recommend checking out his blog, I am there all the time for inspiration and am totally bummed he has stopped posting.

Whew long post, that’s all for tonight!

PS the noise was my rice boiling over

Another Saturday night…

…with my friends Cat Stevens and Sam Cooke. It has been a lazy Saturday for me. So lazy that I finally got around to starting up a blog, something that every single other person in the world crossed off their ‘to do’ list years ago. But what better way to spend a Saturday night than wrapped up in a blanket, eating everything in sight and watching Indiana Jones? Very in-keeping with a day in which the most exciting event has been posting a parcel.

I’ve got a few things to update you on in the coming weeks but for the moment I’ll keep my first post short and sweet and finish with something that you’ll soon come to realise I absolutely love: posting photos of my food.

Sadly not pictured are my breakfast and dessert as I got too excited about eating them to stop and take a photo but today’s menu goes as follows (theme: nothing to do but read and clean)

Breakfast: Porridge with raisins and brown sugar
Lunch: Chicken tacos with pineapple and tomatillo salsa
Tea: Pork larb
Dessert: Spicy hot chocolate with stewed rhubarb and raspberry
Rating: I just ate and I’m STILL HUNGRY!

PS also included for your viewing pleasure, a shot of my snack the other day: Pimientos de Padron (or ‘russian roulette’ peppers) and Achacha. The one awesome thing about Melbourne: so much new food to discover!