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Colour me red, she said

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Each time I put out an APB for fresh ripe fruit, my call is answered, and I have put out a few.   Again in my life I find myself without feijoa.  I have adolescent feijoa trees in the garden, but they aren’t putting out for a few more years, so I put the word around I needed some, and the call was answered.

Dragged through a hedge backwards, such apt imagery. I scrambled around under a few bushes at the end of feijoa season, and also most fortunately came across Peter Gordon’s recipe via Grant Allen’s column in the Herald for Roasted Feijoa Chutney. It is a little doozie, it reminds me of Boardwalk Empire for some obscure reason, naive and elegant, bootlegging, speakeasy, sweet and a tiny bit baby face Nelson. This chutney is second cousin twice removed from caramelised onion jam. It has fruity, tangy and spicy undertones – a keeper for sure and worth a try if you managed to squirrel feijoa into your nether regions – a phrase here which means the deep freeze. I will reduce the amount of sugar next time, and according to the fab new feijoa blog I found, the manuka branch can be replaced with rosemary. It seems like a lot in the pan, but you can take this to a sticky place beyond the pale.

It has been annoying me for over a week now, I want to use words that have been stuck on play in my mind for the best part of 30 years, the words of a television ad that I vaguely remember. It was a paint ad, could have been for Dulux, but based on their propensity for olde english sheepdogs – I doubt it, and Rolf Harris had Bristish Paints covered. I remember a glowing, flowing almost cartoon like paint pouring image, not very subtle red lips, and a velveteen voiceover “Colour me Red she said” and the words spoke to me. Words used to stick, but these have gone, apart from the first line. I googled and a-youtubed but I can’t find it , you will have to be content with the first line…reward offered for remainder of script.

Colour me red she said…..

Round this neck of the woods we draw closer to the shortest day, or the longest night. The amber of autumn makes room for mossy dankness and colour is found in the most unlikely places. I like hunkering down, making do, eating from the freezer and the pantry, my root cellar.  Root vegetables are like cannisters of sweet nutty colour, squirrelled for later. The foundation of alot of winter dishes is a soffritto, the green, white and scarlet orange, the celery the onion the carrots.

I want to make a trio of soups, a tricolour of bon vivant starting with the carrots, onion and celery and finishing with layers of stocky root vegetables – colour me red she said, borscht, colour me cumin like carrot, colour me blue like brocolli.
A borscht is usually made with a deep dark beef stock – but down home chicken stock does this borscht nicely.  This carrot soup is vegan and the broccoli is vegetarian.  I make a generic vegetable stock – with a few litres of vege stock up your sleeve you are pre-pared and ready to roll soupwise.  I do like a good home made chicken soup, and a beefy stock gives definite depth – but much flavour can also wrested from a basket of veg set to boiling water.   Very very easy to create 3D soups without animal bits if that is your thing.  The vege stock is perky, deep and full of umami goodness.  I use carrots, onion, celery and leaves, thyme and a packet of dried shitake mushrooms with a mystery guest – Chinese fermented black beans.  Cook, strain, reduce.   I always always freeze the carcasses of roasted free range chickens and make my own tasty chicken stock, all you have to do is stick them in a pot (there are usually also leftover roast veges and lemons&herbs I shove up it) with cold water and bring to the boil and reduce – all that is required is seasoning. I have tetrapaks in the pantry for emergencies.
Roasted Beetroot Creamed Borscht
4 large beetroot – cut in half and roasted in tin foil, cooled and largely cubed
olive oil, a dram
1 dsp dill seeds,
1 large onion sliced thinly, sauteed till soft with dill seeds
1 litre self induced chicken stock
seasalt and freshly ground pepper
sour cream to serve
fresh dill, chopped
Roasting the beetroot creates even more sweet earthy flavour and I like to go back over the wall and get eastern, I imagine cows in a dill field with beetroot lying all over the place, past life Soviet Union stuff again probably.  Heat the stock, add the beetroot and onions, blend with a stick blender, season season season – use lots of salt and pepper.   I used the stick blender to prove it could be done – so you don’t have to.  I like to put a spoon of horseradish sauce in the bottom of each bowl or serve with sour cream, some chopped dill and crusty bread.
Carrot, Orange and Cumin Soup
4 large Ohakune carrots, sliced thinly, mandoline I love you
1 large onion, sliced thinly
2 tbsp cumin Seeds
1 litre vege stock
Juice of 1 orange
Salt & Pepper
Olive Oil
Carrots and cumin go together like, well,  carrots and cumin.  My handy dandy Flavour Thesaurus places carrots in the woodland category alongside nuts and butternut pumpkin and if you look up cumin & carrot you can see it says ‘see carrot & cumin’, funny. Moroccan styles.  Saute onions and cumin in stock pot, add carrots and continue to cook until onions are translucent and carrots are just not that crunchy anymore.  Add vege stock and blitz like crazy, then add orange juice – serve with a dab of olive oil and crunchy croute.  A light soup with delicate flavour – nice to drink out of a mug.  Chopped herbs like that nice boy coriander goes well.
Broccoli and Blue Cheese Soup
1 large onion sliced
1 tsp hazelnut oil
2 tbsp olive oil
2 heads broccoli, thinly sliced
1  litre vege stock
blue cheese
salt & pepper
Any qualms about eating blue bacteria are more than offset by the anti-cancer properties of broccoli – it’s true.  Don’t worry about the hazelnut oil, I just need to use mine up before it goes rancid.  Saute the onions and broccoli in the oils in a large pot until broccoli starts to go bright green.  Then add the stock and cook until broccoli is soft, then go hell for leather in a machine of some kind, blender,  foodprocessor or my favourite – my thermomix.   You then can add crumbled blue cheese to serve.  I often find cut price packets of cheese at the Family Barrow a downtown deli in Auckland – a very handy spot for food ingredients if you live in the middle of the Pacific Ocean like I do.
It is pretty hard to write about food on the internets these days without fear of plagiarising another writer, whether professional or amateur, it feels like a race to write with any seasonality or innovation, especially in a country as small as New Zealand. I don’t believe there is much left to write about that hasn’t already been, but you can’t beat the classics.  Which is why they are called classics and why people never tire of them.  Rice pudding is a classic, it is warm sweet and comforting – and I like how I have learnt about Asian style rice pudding.
I have seen two versions of a recipe I have been keen to try.  Glutinous rice is ever so popular in Asian countries like Thailand, and is quite different to the grass which shall henceforth be known as ‘wild rice’, it looks inky, exotic and pretty and  it is.  Black Sticky Rice Pudding is begat of rice pudding, arroz con leche, congee and sweet risotto and has become the little darling of my all day breakfast and is the ultimate comfort food.
This recipe is an overnight success – you need to soak the rice overnight – if like me you live on an island far away from cosmopolitan shops- you can get this rice from the asian suypermarket behind the foodhall down mercury lane off K road -or your local Asian supermarket.  The remainder of the ingredients are easily available.
Sweet Black Sticky Rice Pudding w Coconut Cream & Fruit
1 cup Glutinous black rice (aka Thai black glutinous rice)
1 kaffir lime leaf (lemon or lime leaves)  – pandan leaves ideal yet hard to find
1 400g tin coconut cream
3 x palm sugar stingrays + water of same weight (sub brown sugar)
1 vanilla pod
sliced ripe banana  or pineapple
Soak rice over night, rinse and drain well. Put in pot with enough water to cover by 3cm then add the kaffir lime or lemon leaf.  Cook, covered until rice is cooked through – this can take over 30 minutes, cover and rest for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook palm sugar and water with the split vanilla pod until syrup is desirous and reduced, you do not need to grate the sugar – it will dissolve.  Stir the syrup through the rice and serve with coconut cream poured over the top.  Look at it – it is a beauty to behold.  Add sliced fruit and try not to go back for thirds.  This can be eaten for breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, tea, dinner, dessert, supper and midnight snacks.
NOTE BENE:  All coconut creams are NOT created equal, in most cases do not be under any illusion that you are dealing with 100% coconut.  Indeed, lurking beneath the swaying palm tree labels usually awaits additives, preservatives and emulsifiers with added water!  Here is a photo line up of the GOOD guys – the products I would buy – the brands I refused to buy had between 50 and 80% coconut – the remainder being added water  AND preservatives, emulsifiers and something else I can’t remember and wouldn’t choose to buy anyway.
Ceres Coconut Cream – Creamy & Unsweetened – Organic coconut (min 65%) water & guar gum
Kara UHT ‘Natural Coconut Cream’ – Fresh natural coconut extract, stabilizer
Kara UHT ‘Natural Coconut Milk – ‘Classic’  – Fresh natural coconut extract (90%) – water, gm free stabilizer (Xantham gum) E415 Guar Gum E412, Carrageenan E407
Ayam – Premium coconut cream ‘100% natural’ – 100% coconut kernel – No preservatives, no added water, no additives, gluten free
Needless to say – I bought and used the Ayam.

Little pig, little pig, there’s a fair over at Ostend this afternoon. Will you go there with me?

Going to the local market in Ostend for me is like discovering that you know you are one with the universe, or a bit like being sperm compulsively swimming towards an alluring ovum, or maybe even like secretly discovering the last chocolate biscuit in the Christmas sampler box. I dunno, but I want to convey the feeling of being along for the ride and gleefully unable to turn back.

I recently developed a duo of condiments and I was hoping to sell my wares at the local market. I reawakened the dormant Nantucket Trading Co. Ltd. I resurrected the stagnant bank account, I carried out product research and development, I turned my family and friends into lab rats and located a commercial kitchen for a short while, I found fabulous local mentors, I sourced containers and an infinite supply of herb with guaranteed continuity, I signed up with a local wholesaler, and visited more on the mainland, I hired local graphic designers and printers, I approached retailers and oh, I so wanted a stall at the market.

I was told there was only room at the market for ‘serious vendors’ (as opposed to silly ones?) ‘those people trying to make a living’ (as opposed to those who start businesses for a hobby?). This all sounded infuriatingly similar to the local real estate agent who, the very same year, told my newly childed child that rental property on this island would go first and foremost to ‘proper’ families, implying Asian lesbian Hebrew couples perhaps? Or possibly miserable middle New Zealand mom and pop investor heterosexual couples on minimum wage with a crippling mortgage, student loans, 2.5 kids and 0.5 of a cat? I haven’t figured out what either of them means.

So, it seems the Saturday market has gone in a similar direction to the rest of  the greedy old world, excuse my cynicism, all exclusive not inclusive and rampant with protectionism or perhaps a growing fear of not having enough or missing out on money to be made? However, if I don’t go to watch the mighty Minxes (our under 15 girls soccer team) come wintertime; then you will find me wandering the market on Saturday, and gaining pleasure from doing so.

I took a few snaps this Queen’s birthday weekend. Ostend Market is not solely a food’s paradise, it is a communal meeting place, it is upcycling, recycling and unicycling, it is straw into gold, new lamps for old and Mr McGregor’s garden! It is all the people you see at op shops who stop you in your tracks before you find a single item, now 100% certain that if there was anything worth getting it was already got. It is the Speaker’s Corner, the street corner sidewalk subway underground metro busker, it is a Cook Street souvlaki, egalitarian fair-trade greendollar, oliveoil gourmet blessed are the cheesemakers type of place that Waihekeans call “The Market”.

At this time of the year, locals may possibly outnumber the visitors, even if it is a long weekend, and on a nice morning it is still worth the effort to grab a few bags of don’t need-that-anymore and convert some cash. The acoustic busker gives the karaoke guy the evils, but stays for the performance, a few dogs and their humans risk the wrath of the dog ranger now that the summer crowds have dwindled back to town. There are people searching for some soft sweet morning sun, coffee and a bit of a chinwag, you will find poets and authors, gardeners, singers, stalkers, walkers, violinists, farmers, nurserymen, omnis and v*gns who all gather if the weather permits. The best thing is the familiarity without contempt and bumping into people, literally. It’s nice.

This is not a farmers market as such, the first five ships lot came bearing dubloons, rose quartz and Joni Mitchell LP’s ages ago and procured the most suitable land on Waiheke to grow stuff like grapes, olives and other Mediterranean fare. It’s not that I’m ungrateful, I mightily adore olives, their oil and such, but it means that surrounding countryside, the hinterland if you will, is unavailable for local agricultural sharecropper serf types to grow and therefore sell local seasonal produce, not with any continuity or volume anyway. But look, it’s awesome, it’s local and I love it.

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Okay, enough ramblings and obtuse descriptions, here are some lovely recipes I tried recently, the eggplants were cheap up the fruit and veg, two yul brunners for $2.50, rather small and rather late, but rather welcome. I have a penchant for eggplant that never wanes, they are mellow, meaty and capable, so George Clooney. I made two different eggplant dishes. I wish I could sell the excess from my home kitchen *sigh* doh! born in the wrong century AGAIN.

First up is  Braised Eggplant w Tofu in Garlic Sauce, a fruity little number that packs alot of punch for vegan dollar. This recipe is based on one from Serious Eats – one of my most favourite American cooking sites. The website is packed with free TESTED recipes and mucho information,  rather like a big food day out. Reviews, obsessive comparisons and blind tastings, gourmet food is dissected and replicated as is hawker, bistro and foodtruck fare. It is everything stateside (well mainly New York & Chicago) mildly related to food, dining and ginzu knives. Executive Ed Levine has pulled together a large dedicated team of foodinistas full of fresh food facts, recipes and reviews. Love it so much I bought the book. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, a serious food scientist over at Serious Eats did the vegan thing in February and I took note of some of the recipes – they looked and sounded terrific, and I knew that they would have been tested to within an inch of their lives – this is not a vegan cooking vegan food, this is a dedicated makes-his-living from pork products kind of guy – so I knew they would have to taste great and they do.

Braised Eggplant with Tofu in Garlic Sauce

A Chinese style eggplant, and tofu dish – packed with flavour, it closely resembled an amazing vegan Chinese dish I ate in Los Angeles a while back. I made a few substitutions, but have given you the original ingredients in case you are lucky enough to live near a great Asian market.  Get these ingredients into your pantry – most last forever and make food like this go from meh to magnificent.

4 small asian eggplant, (or 2 medium )cut into chunks
2 tsp rice wine vinegar (original recipe = chinkiang or black vinegar)
¾ cup shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
1 tbsp cornflour
3 tbsp shoyu or tamari (original recipe soy sauce)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp miso (original recipe had fermented broad been chilli paste)
1 tbsp chilli paste (added this with the miso as replacement for bean paste)
1 handful preserved blackbeans (not in original recipe – but I have to use them in something!)
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic smashed  +4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
2 spring onions, sliced thinly and reserved
2-3 tbsp horseradish paste (original recipe used preserved mustard root)
1 packet firm tofu, frozen then defrosted & squeezed (original recipe called for 1 box silken tofu)
2-3 tbsp fresh coriander, roughly chopped (original recipe said cilantro – but I speak English)

Steam or fry eggplant first, I fried it – heres a hint, if you soak eggplant in water for about 10 minutes then dry it off – it soaks up less oil when frying – cook until tender and set aside. I chopped the tofu up , coated in rice flour and fried off – I had some frozen tofu I wanted to use up – but in hindsight – use the silken, the taste and texture of the tofu I used was good, but only got really great when heated up in leftovers 2 or 3 times (Help! I need someone to eat all this food!) – if you are eating it all immediately definitely go for the silken, I will be next time – if you intend to cook and re-heat – got the frozen firm route.

Make the sauce – combine vinegar, wine, cornflour and stir – add tamari or soy, sugar, miso, chilli paste and sesame oil – set aside. Heat wok and add oil and whole garlic, cook around 5 minutes until golden and smells amazing – discard garlic, and heat oil till smoking, add spring onions, sliced garlic, and horseradish (mustard root). Cook stirring and tossing about 1 minute, stir sauce and add to wok, I now add the handful of dried preserved black beans, the eggplant and tofu and fold gently to combine.

At this point I added chopped broccoli florets because we needed greens – continue to cook, folding and stirring until thick and glossy, maybe 5 minutes more. Stir in spring onions, sprinkle with coriander and serve with white rice or not. Be careful if you use silken tofu – it will fall apart like a mother of three under five with no gin in the house.

I also made a mayonnaise with a roasted eggplant base – perfect for them vego types (no eggs) and again packed with creamy meaty capable (can I say George Clooney twice? yes I can) texture and garlicky flavour. Without any further ado – here is the recipe and some pictures.

Eggplant Mayo

2 small or ½ large eggplants, cut in half and brushed with oil, wrap in tinfoil
1 cup grapeseed oil (original recipe called for canola)
1 clove garlic, grated
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp Dijon or wholegrain mustard

Preheat oven to 200degC – place wrapped eggplants on tray and roast about 1 hour, cool. Scrape flesh from skin, discard skin. If you have a stick blender, use the cup and blend flesh with garlic, lemon juice and mustard. Carefully pour oil into cup, do not disturb! Put stick blender into bottom of cup and turn on – slowly pulling the stick up to point where the eggplant meets the oil. If you don’t have a stick blender make mayonnaise in your favourite drip by drip fashion. This forms a thick creamy emulsion – otherwise known as mayonnaise. Season judiciously, with seasalt and freshly ground black pepper – the lemon juice & mustard are negotiable also – taste taste taste. The original recipe was part of a roasted vegetable and mayo sandwich, but you can use it any which way but loose.

And as a parting gift – I wonder if by any chance they are related?

bon apetit!

Joy Lucky Book Club, or How to Have Your Book and Eat it.

Cakeohyeah

I bought my first cookbook when I was at primary school. Lucky Book Club, oh how I loved thee! Sure I went to the library, with its sprawling chestnut tree out front, but it was some kind of special different to order, anticipate and devour my very own brand new, previously unread book.

Marguerite Patten’s Second Piccolo Cookbook.  Now I didn’t own the first Piccolo cookbook and despite Marguerite’s constant and ever-so-slightly annoying references to recipes in the first book, this was a Pandora’s box experience for me.  Each chapter contained vital information for the enthusiastic preadolescent wannabe chef:  Equipment, taxonomy, abbreviations, metrics, safety, shopping, storing, nutrition, making a complete meal, baking with yeast, snacks, suppers and desserts all with delightful line pictures,  tips for success – and so much margarine?!  It didn’t cover how to pay for all the ingredients, but for me it was like preparing for grand theft auto down the highway to yumville.

Boy steals limelight circa 1970

I could have taught Ms. Patten a few things about gender equality though – just take a gander at that kid on the front cover, obviously the girl was quite in control of the pastry until Jamie (I’ll do the pastry and you do the jam) Oliver came and took over – how things have changed since then.

The first recipe in the book is for pancakes, and following the dictates of my as yet undiagnosed OCD, I planned to cook my way through the entire book, in order, starting with the pancakes.  I don’t think I ever made anything else from the book, and looking back through the pages, it’s 50/50 whether I would have succeeded or that the house would have remained standing.  Marguerite’s instructions can be a little skewed, heating the pan for croque monsieur while the sandwich is resting in the beaten eggs!  Opening a tin of salmon and removing the skin and bones, I’d probably still be there clutching at skin tissue and dissolved calcium.  There is a LOT of margarine and corned beef. These are simple recipes, Marguerite Patten was famous for stretching food during wartime rationing, economical, tasty and plain, tried and tested, the publisher of 170 cookbooks and 170 million worldwide sales – I’m not arguing the toss here, she is truly a living legend.

One of the most appealing recipes to me now is a version of a Pear and Ginger Upsidedown cake – and as I received a  bottle of Hakanoa Ginger Syrup in me Ooooby box this week – I thought I would include a warming winter cake recipe – perfect for dessert me thinks.  It is based on two separate recipes from Christine Manfield’s wonderful book Spice.

Gingerbread and Spiced Pear Upsidedown Cake

Spiced Pears
6 x pears, peeled, cored and halved
Poaching liquid:
Sugar syrup 250ml water/250gm raw sugar simmered together for 5minutes
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp freshly ground allspice
150ml Stone’s Green Ginger Wine
250ml Made up of Hakanoa Ginger Syruip & Monteith’s apple cider (replaces Poire William eau-de-vie- or could use apple juice)
Heat all ingredients except pears in a wide heavy based saucepan and simmer 15minutes.
Arrange pears in liquid, cover with cartouche (baking paper circle) and simmer gently until cooked & softened – approximately 30 minutes.  Remove pears, quarter and set aside, reduce liquid over a medium heat to syrup – strain and set aside.

Note – Instead of spicing pears from scratch, you can used preserved or tinned pears

Gingerbread

 175g self-raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
100g butter
60g golden syrup +10g molasses for colour
125g brown sugar
2 large eggs
125ml milk
2 tbsp crème fraiche or yoghurt or buttermilk
2 large tbsp chopped glace ginger

Note: The Gingerbread component of this recipe could stand alone beautifully

Preheat oven to 180 degC – use the cartouche you used to poach the pears to line a round tin (not springform – it will leak), butter the sides and line with baking paper or just do what you normally do to stop a cake from sticking to the baking tin.  Sift flour, baking powder, spices and salt  into a bowl.  Melt butter with golden syrup, molasses and brown sugar.  Whisk eggs with milk, crème fraiche & glace ginger – then stir in melted butter mixture.

Before you add the liquid to the flour mixture, arrange the pears roundside down in a circular pattern in the tin – try to cover the whole base – pour 150ml of your syrup if you need a measurement or enough to generously cover the pears, it really depends on how much you reduced your syrup.

Stir egg mixture into spiced flour until combined and pour over the pears and syrup.  Bake for around 40minutes or until tests cooked.  Leave in the tin for 10 minutes until the syrup settles, then carefully put a cake plate over the tin and turn out – should be amazing – mine was!

This recipe can easily be veganised – butter=oil eggs=banana or applesauce milk=soya or rice or almond milk creme fraiche=soy yoghurt – if you care – you prob know the drill – same goes for glutenfree flour.

My mother was a wonderful cook, until the diet aliens left implants in her brain, and my father grew wonderful vegetables until he went west with the gardening tools.  But I was born into a foraging frugality which had woven its way through our Anglo Saxon genetic makeup, this meant that I really wanted to cook, but not for family and friends as Marguerite suggested, bugger the family, I wanted to learn how to cook so I could eat, and therein lies the foremost reason to develop a passion for cooking, hunger and a developing ravenous appetite plain and simple.

Since my first purchase I have accumulated many recipe books, many, many, many recipe books, but how do you find a recipe amongst all those written words?  How do you extract specific information from all the blood, sweat and batter splatters? The answer my friends, lies in Eat your Books a brand spanking new subscription based cookbook database and search engine.  A what? A masterstroke for masterchefs is what it is, pure genius.  You create a searchable virtual bookshelf of the books you own (or scarily, books you want to own) or books and recipes you have access to, note well, there are no recipes here, only access to indices.  Culinary research and writing will never be the same.

I can now search for specific recipes, authors, ingredient types, courses, occasions, dietary constraints or different cuisines, – all hidden within my books or library books, or inside books I don’t even own yet – and if I like the look of a recipe, I can buy the book via a direct link to either Amazon or The Book Depository! I can even perve [a word which means here to stare at in a lewd manner] at other peoples’ racks!  EYB are indexing magazines, blogs and online recipes, you may add your own recipes or recipes from that bulging vanilla folder of cuttings, heck you can even create shopping lists!  Not many of the 100,000+ books are indexed as yet, so you can request one to be, and most democratically,  if enough members ask, the book shall be indexed.  There are professional indexers or any member can apply to index a book – it’s so much fun for a cookbook geek like me – I have signed up for a year and have started going through my books adding them to my virtual searchable shelf – I am loving going through my books and you know, I get the same thrill as I did when I opened Marguerite Patten’s cookbook 40 odd years ago.

G is for get your mitts off my gravadlax!

Whats your caper then?

When we moved from the city back to the Island a few years back, I pretty much immediately got a job helping to manage the local gourmet grocery.  My tendencies towards luxurious, exotic or artisan food items meant that I practically worked for discounted food – not that I could see any problems with this arrangement.  One day I mistakenly ordered whole sides of raw salmon instead of smoked, I bought at wholesale rates my mistake – my love affair with curing my own gravadlax had begun.  I no longer work there and the shop has changed hands, which means I am once again a mere customer, not such a bad thing – but no discount and to be frank (and I’m not being ungrateful) still quite a limited and static supply of fresh and/or gourmet goodies to feed my insatiable cooking soul.

For around 20 weeks (that is how many recipe leaflets are magnetised to our fridge) once a week, on a Tuesday evening I receive an Ooooby box, a NZ version of CSA (Community Sustained Agriculture) – it will contain, not always organic, but always local (Auckland region) and absolutely seasonal, fruit, vegetables, nuts, eggs, bread, honey, bananas, and numerous other ‘add-ons’ – you can specify three things you don’t want and three things you would like to receive more of – but it is random and a wonderful way to get creative with your ‘mystery box’, as it often contains exotic (daikon, chestnuts, cherimoya, Jerusalem artichokes) and the not-so exotic (potatoes, apples, onions, garlic, rhubarb) and  kale which I have taken into my careand grown to love as one of my own (the kids on the other hand have never recovered from my ‘we must eat raw kale and lots of it’ vegan conversion a few years back – so they refuse it).   I shop at other places after I receive our box and am finding I spend alot less on fruit & veg hunter gathering expeditions than I used to – a good thing I’ll be bound.

I would say that the stupidmarket here, which, alongside quite a large proportion of the permanent population, I am loath to frequent, is an abomination of at the top end of the food chain.  The poor staff are not enthusiastic representatives and let us face facts, who? in their right mind would look forward to endless hours in that freezing fluorescent mausoleum, for often not much more than minimum wage? Most have no choice. The management, as is befitting of a large Australian food mover, are removed from the everyday needs and wants of their customers and more recently the mooted move to Ostend at the cost of the lives of mature pohutukawa and the aesthetics of the village, cemented the dysfunctional relationship they have with our community.

I do however, still shop there, at least once a week, I buy those cheaper consumables that can be of a consistent above average quality, some fruit and vegetables, organic rolled oats, herbal tea, local coffee, organic milk (I am travelling the aisles in my mind) limited spices, seasalt, olive oil, vinegar, tinned goods (mainly Italian tomatoes) free range chickens, other (NZ) meat, occasionally free range eggs, eco-cleaning products, wine, recycled toilet paper, cheddar cheese, unsweetened yoghurt, vogels, recycled toiletpaper and a few other bits and bobs.

This is a supermarket, ergo they do have loss-leading items for sale (they take a hit on one product to get more customers in the doors spending up large – haha!) recently, and here is my point if you were wondering that I actually had one, I found some really really reasonably priced whole sides of salmon – I can’t remember the kg cost, but I bought one side of around 900g for just under $30.  I don’t often see sides of salmon for sale at the fish counter here, so I priced it out and bought it – I am a sucker for gravadlax or cold cured salmon – it is dead easy and tastes sensational, keeps either in the freezer or in the fridge for ages and one side does a good four antipasto platters – depending on your appetite, but be warned! a portion sliced sitting next to an opened packet of Philadelphia cream cheese doesn’t last long if in full view on the kitchen bench – as far as a component of a platter goes – very good value at $7-9.

Here is my version of gravadlax based on about three different versions from different sources

1 side of uncooked, unsmoked raw salmon – skin on – pinbones out
175g seasalt
100g sugar
large bunch rough chopped fresh dill
1 beetroot – grated
zest of 1 orange
4 tbsp Gin or Vodka

Salmon skinside down on a board, feel along the middle line and out edges for small opaque bones.  Using tweezers or needle nose pliers pull out (on an angle is easier).  Put the dill, grated beetroot, zest and gin or vodka into a food processor and process until fine – remove and add sugar and salt (I have a Thermomix and don’t have to grate the beetroot first).  Place the salmon into a glass or stainless steel dish (if too big, cut in half), massage into the salmon and cover in plastic wrap.  A lot of liquid will be drawn out by the salt – try to keep marinade over the salmon piece, turning every day.  Marinate for 3-4 days (up to a week) until required, wipe down the salmon and with the skin side down, and using a very very sharp knife, slice on an angle as much as needed, the gravadlax can be rewrapped in clean plastic, and will keep frozen for a month or in the fridge for up to a week.

Goes well with , capers, diced onion, mustard, cream cheese, buttered rye bread or pumpernickel rounds.

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