Thursday, 30 August 2007

Visiting and flowers


Simon had a big weekend at work a couple of weeks ago (did I mention I was behind in my posts?) so I took the opportunity to go and visit Charlotte & Kevin and Astrid.


Charlotte sent me home with some of her beautiful freesias and hellebores and they did a wonderful job of cheering up my dining room, and the cats have even been good enough to leave them alone! The vase also happens to be the one that C&K gave us as a wedding gift, and looks fabulous with any manner of spring flowers. (Flower arranging is by no means my strong point, but I was quite pleased with this!)

Chicken with Risotto

Yay! I'm slowly catching up! And I'm far too busy to cook at the moment, so there's no risk of me queuing up even more posts! (Hmm, although I have at least 2 more ready to go and another 2 sitting on the camera. Argh!)

This meal was the night after the Cauliflour swirl soup, and I used the remainder of the cauliflour part of the soup as my stock base for my risotto (a little unorthodox, but waste not want not). The chicken I did in a style that we usually use to cook veal - coating it in flour, frying (which I rarely do to be honest) in butter and olive oil, then pouring over lemon juice and a dash of vege stock to make the most delicious sauce. And it worked so well with the risotto, I was quite delighted! (The lovely yellow around the edge is mostly lemon juice, not butter!)

I should comment on these bowls too - they were a gift from one of Simon's aunts a couple of christmases ago. There are 4 in the set, each one hand painted with a different pattern. And we absolutely love them! As you can no doubt tell from the number of meals I present in them! They've inspired me to paint some more of my own.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Cauliflower Swirl Soup

I am soooo far behind in my posts its now getting beyond a joke! So I'm stealing 5 minutes to start getting some of the delicious meals I've cooked recently up on my blog!

This I made during Simon's manic week of working long hours, when I found it quite relaxing to spend my journey's home in the car on my own (we usually drive to work together) planning what to concoct for dinner.

I had purchased a new box of veges from Naturally Organic a couple of days earlier, so I chose 5 ingredients (although once I got to the kitchen I think I only used 3 of them) and compiled this little number.

Before:and after (yes, I finally used a real camera instead of my cell phone):

So the final result is a cauliflower and swede soup, swirled with broccoli and leek soup, both with loads of seasoning, but it was so long ago now I can't remember which ingredients went into which pot, topped with Parmesan crisps. I enjoyed making this, and was reasonably pleased with the end result, although to be honest, I didn't particularly like the flavour of the broccoli component - I think broccoli soup requires blue cheese to actually work. I'm open to being convinced otherwise though!

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2004

Usually I find that Gewurztraminer has Turkish delight flavours that are too strong for my liking, but I was pleasantly surprised to taste this wine from our cellar last night. We purchased this wine from the vineyard when touring around the top of the South Island at New Years a couple of years ago; this was one of my favourite vineyards we encountered and we did go to quite a lot of them.

This wine is currently in perfect drinking condition, has a lovely golden hue and a beautiful aroma. It is a big wine with strong flavours throughout and lingers long on the palate. Rose Water and Ginger are what I deem as the dominant aroma and taste, but a slight acidic undertone breaks it up beautifully and avoids an overly powerful bouquet.

We drank this wine with a summer Italian style dish consisting of a Homemade Coriander Salsa, Garlic Ciabatta, and Fresh Salmon with a touch of Fennel, and it worked surprisingly well with this herb induced set of flavours. It was the challenge of finding an appropriate wine match for this meal that resulted in this bottle escaping the cellar last night.

I thoroughly recommend this wine and look forward to drinking the one remaining bottle we have in the cellar.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Vegetable Fiesta as promised!

Well, true to my word, I did in fact cook a meal last night! Amazing! It took a while to decide what I was going to do, and I started by listing all the lovely fresh veges I had in the fridge, then chose 5 and finally composed an idea of what to do with them in my head! Although I must confess the end result saw me use only 3 of the 5 veges I orginally selected.

I have been finding my copy of 'Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book' absolutely invaluable of late! I bought this while I was in London in 1999. With a name so very close to my own I simply had to have it as a souvenir! So last night's meal featured some variations on ideas in her book. (Simon is always a little pertubed by the way I cook - whereby a recipe is simply a source of inspiration, NEVER a list of instructions. Hehe.)

My masterpiece! (Sorry about the hideous quality of the photograph - I really ought to use our camera more often and stop using my camera phone, better than nothing though).

The beautiful creamy looking dollop on the left is my rendition of skordalia. Kahla's mum introduced me to this years ago and she had made it with (as I recall) potatoes, garlic and almonds. So I was quite suprised to discover (from Jane G) that the traditional recipe doesn't have a potato near it! But rather is made with old bread, soaked in water! Well, needless to say, I took her recipe and the memory of Lynn's Skordalia and came up with my own rendition - which I might add I was really pleased with. It consisted of potato, almond flour, garlic (loads of garlic!), olive oil (thank you village press), maldon salt and white wine vinegar.

The Brocolli is warm (intentionally) and served with (again, my take on an inspiration from Jane G) a greek dressing called Lemonolatha. This had olive oil, dill, spring onions, white wine vinegar (this was mean to be the lemon - but I couldn't find any - until I opened the fridge after I'd made this! Bother! Next time). More garlic and the judicious use of my trusty blender. Again, I was quite pleased with the result on this one too - and I have a little pottle of the dressing left over in the fridge for later in the week. Apparently this is a dressing which is traditionally served over warm vegetables.

The salad is simply rocket, spring onions, lentil sprouts and homegrown (a la me!) mung bean and alfalfa sprouts.

Predictably Simon wondered where the meat was. :-) But I still think he enjoyed it. Or so he told me. Wise man really. :)
I'm still puzzling over what to do with the swedes. All ideas welcomed! I'm contemplating gnocchi at the moment, although I don't know if they'd be starchy enough (or if it would taste that good).
Wine and Food Society meeting tomorrow night, so no cooking. Oh, and tonight I took the opportunity to cook steak and kidney while Simon was out. The cats thought it smelt pretty good!

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Domestic Sunday, cooking at home

Tonight we're finally going to cook something at home. Hmm, it's about time I took a photo of a home cooked meal and blogged it too - just to prove we do still in fact know how to cook!

Charlotte inspired me some months back and I've been buying the odd organic box of fruit and vege from Naturally Organic (it's just like christmas coming home of an evening to my delivery and unwrapping all the items and pondering what on earth I'm going to make with some of them! Swedes are my main challenge this week!) So it will be a vegetable fiesta for dinner tonight - I've found this has also been a great way to restore my pleasure in cooking.

Both Simon and I had been getting a little bored with cooking of late, and I've found that by having to research vege's that I wouldn't usually buy and having to get really creative with my cooking has put much of the spark back in it for me!

Speaking of home cooked meals, we made an absolutely delicious meal the night Simon's folks came up from Wellington to stay for a weekend at the end of July. hmm, although I've just had a mind blank on the starter. But for main course I made a beautiful lemon, rocket risotto (I don't order risotto when we dine out now, as I usually conclude that mine are better), which we served with a trusty Veal in Lemon dish that Simon made. This is absolutely to die for and takes all of 15 minutes (tops!) to make. We'll make it again soon and the photograph it and put the recipe up here.

Right, the remainder of domestic Sunday awaits (my way of getting all the household chores done without thinking of them as evil hateful chores!)

Strawberry Alarm Clock & La Cigale - Parnell

We've been to the Strawberry Alarm Clock in Parnell several times now, but never actually written about it. We went and had lunch there today, and once again had an enjoyable visit. The food is good, the setting is rustic, homely and yet very funky - both inside and out the back in the courtyard. We've had consistently good coffees - and yet again today, and we've previously ordered and enjoyed their smoothies (although I still think Revel do the best smoothies I've had).

We wandered along to La Cigale on St Georges Bay Road today, to pick up some french cheeses for Kevin for his birthday. We didn't realise that the fromagerie is not really open on a Sunday, however the guy from the cafe was extremely accomodating about this, allowing us to sample the cheese we were interested in and even making some suggestions for us (along with recommending we come along on a Wednesday when they have all the cheeses available for tasting!) Certainly another nice find.

Andiamo, Jervois Road

After much searching on dineout and many phone calls to fully booked restaurants, we finally decided to go to Andiamo last night. They did warn us that the only available tables they had were outside, but knowing that we went prepared - me with my trusty pashmina and Simon with icebreaker merino wool. :)

So they seated us under a very pleasing heater, side by side so that neither of us was sitting in the wind and it was actually very pleasant! Especially once they filled up a bit in side - it was clearly quite noisy in there, while we had our own private dining room, and a fabulous vantage point for watching passer-by.

What we ate:
Entree
  • Jane - Veal Sweetbreads with chorizo and beurre blanc - really nice, beautiful chorizo
  • Simon - Grilled marinated Lamb Fillet on a salad of vine-ripened tomatoes,
    goats cheese, pickled garlic and roquette leaves.lovely smokey flavour

Main
  • Jane - Oven roasted crisp Pork Belly served on a Polish red cabbage choucroute
    with mashed kumara and crackling.- this was lovely, an appropriate serving size (which is always important with pork belly), lovely crackling and mash, wasn't quite so fussed on the red cabbage
  • Simon - Confit of duck, toulouse sausage, white bean cassoulet - something different for Simon to order, but he was really pleased with this.

Dessert
  • Jane - Pannacotta of Valrhona chocolate served with poached seasonal
    fruit and Mascarpone- this was quite divine! A very smooth, thick pannacotta, not too sweet.
  • Simon - Lemon mousse on sablé with mint coulis, stone fruit compote and
    passionfruit Sorbet.. Oh my word! Its not often that we rave about desserts, in fact more often than not we find them a bit of an anti-climax to an otherwise lovely meal. But this was to die for! We'd go back just for this dessert! The Lemon mousse was so light and deliciously lemony, the passionfruit sorbet packed full of flavour. Fantastic!

What we drank

  • Jane - Dr Loosen Reisling - lovely and citrusy - this was a recommendation from the sommelier to have with the pork. Quite a bit of residual sugar, and definitely a good match. Lovely.
  • Simon - Menhir Primitivo Quota 29, from Puglia, Italy. Absolutely beautiful, served at the perfect temperature and had a very warm nose to it - which followed through into the palate as well. Also a recommendation from the sommelier
  • Coffees - not so good, but still drinkable (unlike the ones we had at Chevalier point in the morning). I expect their brunch coffees are better, and we don't tend to judge a restaurant on the quality of their coffees at an evening meal.

The Decor and Atmosphere

As noted above, we were outside, and it was quite perfect.

Service

Fantastic! Excellent attention to detail, fabulously knowledgable sommelier. Despite being the only people sitting outside, we were really well looked after, with only one slightly longer wait when we were ready to place our dessert order - by which time inside was absolutely packed.

Price

We paid just over $150 for 3 courses, a wine each and coffees. For the quality and overall experience, this was good value for money.

Overall Impression

Lovely restaurant, we'd most definitely go back.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Our Hit List

We keep hearing great things about some restaurants we haven't been to, but when we come to think of somewhere to go out to dinner, we can never remember them! So here is our hit list:

  • Canton Cafe (Kingsland)
  • Soul Bar (struck off after Simon visited recently with work)
  • O'Connell Street Bistro
  • Rocco
  • Number 5
  • Dine
  • Chamber Wine Bar
  • the Grove
  • Rice

We've been out a bit lately, but haven't made the time to write things up.

A few summaries:

  • the Engine Room (again!) - fabulous as always
  • Der Metz - HUGE portions, but otherwise nothing special (and quite slow)
  • Mozaik Cafe (Albany) - brunch - some different, mediterannean style items, really nice, we'd go back
  • Latin Larder - fantastic coffee, great brunch
  • Grand Harbor - always reliably great yum char
  • Chevalier Point Cafe - quite stark, a bit slow, coffee not so good, food ok. will go back for an afternoon soda simply because of the lovely location (but note I didn't say food or coffee)
  • The Williamson Cafe - excellent new find for weekend brunch
  • Nada - STILL (and always!) the best bakery in the country. Shortbread to die for, mudcake like you wouldn't believe and the best breads around. And the personal deliveries from Johnsonville are always a treat! (cheers Michael!)