Tag Archives: passion

The city girl moves to the country

I adored living here for 7 years, I have my parents to thank for providing this very special family home as it was in this nurtured environment I discovered my passion for food and cooking amongst other things. Terrace Cottage of Woodside Road is situated in the picturesque foothills of Oxford, North Canterbury, New Zealand on a quaint 3 acres. Originally the school masters house circa 1870’s, Terrace Cottage had an extensive renovation and addition in the 1980’s to a 300 sqm floor plan. We had a constant stream of friends and family as our guests visiting from around Auckland and overseas. There were gatherings and parties with delicious feasts prepared , this was a big, happy social home and never was there a shortage of great home cooked food and full baking tins.

  Being in my informative teenage year of 13 and moving from Auckland city (population 1,000,000) to rural Oxford (population 3,000) to say it was a shock was an understatement, I cried for a year. However what a great move my parents made. The only excuse for getting bored in Oxford was a lack of imagination. I creatively flourished, writing plays and short scripts, cooking, dancing, performing, acting, photography, art, exploring, river parties, bonfires,  friday youth group nights & river swimming with all my Oxford best friends.

You could easily spot the newly arrived townies, like me; walk up to electric fence hold on with both hands! argh. I learnt quickly.

There was a joke in Oxford that a few of my best girlfriends and I shared, let’s get t-shirts printed `I married someone who lived at the end of Tram RD” eg:Christchurch. We all joked (and secretly feared) we would end up marrying a farmer and never get out! eg:leave Oxford.

You can take the girl out of the city, but you cant take the city out of the girl!

Oxford, North Canterbury now can boast of its most famous resident,  New Zealand’s famous cook and food writer Jo Seager’s cook school, cafe and shop. http://joseagar.com

To find out more about Oxford   http://www.oxfordnewzealand.co.nz/

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Beautiful creative people

My Mum is one of these people, she has always expressed herself beautifully by being a very generous woman who has given  through cooking, baking, home making, collecting, sewing, crafting, mothering, being a faithful and loving wife, and more recently a successful creative business owner of Truly Scrumptious on Victoria St, Christchurch, NZ. (Which she lost during Feb 22nd 2011 Earthquake). I am so proud of my Mum, look what she achieved in her shop, her shop  is really an overflow of the creativity she expresses in her home.

Mum also had a cafe selling delicious chocolates, friands, muffins, dainty club sandwiches, scones, pretty iced cupcakes, coffee La Farre espresso and high teas served all with fine antique bone china.

These special little dense fruit cakes were available in different icing styles and Mum even had one called the “boyfriend cake’, It was iced with masculine style icing.  A perfect gift. Here is a pretty iced cake which sold for around $20.00 each.

Mum’s nickname is Fou, because she loves, laces, fou fou and anything that is insanely beautiful, feminine and pretty. She has had a few stares at the supermarket dressed in vintage 1950’s petticoats and that’s all on!. She alway says she would be much more comfortable living in the 18th century wearing Victorian clothes. She really is a soul borne in the wrong era, she would agree.

When at home Mum loves to entertain and she is fabulous at creating an atmosphere for elegant dinners and creating a lovely table setting. I love her dining table which is an antique french farm table with the original chairs.

Mothers influence daughters and even though I always joke I don’t like too much pink, lace and antiques (after being surrounded growing up with it) I really am my Mothers daughter and have been blessed to inherit her love of all things beautiful and carry on a legacy to the beautiful creative people.

Mum is also a fabulous cook and baker, this is her soft as angels wings Pavlova cream filled sponge cake.

Truly Scrumptious Shop is hugely missed by all my Mums loyal customers in Christchurch, it was seen as an escape from the ordinariness of life to a beautiful dream world of sensory experience. I know Mum will find another outlet for her creativity in the near future – it is natural as breathing.  Being beautiful, creative people you can not help but express yourself in whatever you do. I love my Mum.

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Gricklegrass Lentil Pie

Gricklegrass Organic farm nostalgia, Oxford, North Canterbury, New Zealand late 1990's

Here is a little bit of background on the name Gricklegrass lentil pie. When It was 1998 I was 18, a student studying professional photography, living in a small rural North Canterbury town Oxford, New Zealand. Not far from our family home on Woodside Road was a commune called GRICKLEGRASS organic farm. I decided one day for an assignment I would visit and ask if I could photograph some of the people living there. Gricklegrass consisted of a lovely character, rambling home from the late 1800’s which was in a state of disrepair set on over 20 acres of farmland that ran down to the Coopers Creek riverbed. At this time there were a number of eclectic residents, a few young families, alternative, idealistic young organic farmers and always some transient eccentrics like Graham who lived on his bus. My first visit to the intriguing Gricklegrass I met the dreadlocked 23-year-old Andrew MacDonald who was digging some holes out by the front door. This meeting was perhaps one of the most profound moments which changed the course of both of our lives. Andrew and I entered an extremely special season of close friendship and companionship.  I often would be invited to shared pot luck meals. I remember these always to be fun and the Gricklegrass table was always overladen of lovingly made whole food salads, curries and sourdough breads. Lentil pie reminds me of these feasts. I had a nostalgic hankering for a Wholemeal Lentil pie. This is the recipe I came up with.

Andrew and I at Gricklegrass - 1998/99

GRICKLEGRASS Lentil pie before the lid goes onChamp Mash Top (I have upgraded the pie to my 2011 budget and added some leftover Taleggio cheese)

Champ Mash Top (I have upgraded the pie to my 2011 budget and added some leftover Taleggio cheese)Gricklegrass Inspired Hearty Wholemeal Lentil Pie

RECIPE : GRICKLEGRASS WHOLEMEAL LENTIL PIE

Ingredients

  • Homemade is best Wholemeal Shortcrust pastry for base
  • 200 grams  Wholemeal pastry (I used freshly organic stoneground flour)
  • 100 grams chilled butter, cut into cubes
  • cold iced water
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion chopped finely
  • 2 garlic cloves crushed and chopped
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 1 tbsp cumin powder
  • 1 tbsp ginger powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 cup of lentils (I used blonde lentils, but brown or puy would still work)
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1-2 tbsp rice wine vinegar to taste
  • Agria mashing potatoes for the top and I used leftover cheese Taleggio from my fridge to melt over the top.

Method

  1. In a large pot bring well salted water to the boil and boil potatoes in well salted water till  tender. Then put through a potato mouli or mash the old-fashioned way with milk, butter, salt till creamy. 
    • To make the pastry, work the flour into the butter with your fingers in a big bowl until they resemble breadcrumbs and add the water until it comes together into a smooth ball, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge.
  2. In a large frying pan heat the oil and fry the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes taking care not to burn it. Add the carrots and continue to fry for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the spices and cook until it smells aromatic. Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to the boil and then turn down to the lowest heat and simmer for a 1 hour. Season and adjust if needed, I would add the rice wine vinegar now if it needs a lift. Then set aside and cool. The mixture should be moist but not swimming in liquid, if it is simmer it longer.
  3. Once mixture has cooled a bit and not piping hot. Roll out the pastry to fit a pie dish or deep loose bottom flan tin. (Bake blind – Google this technique for a good description. This stops the pastry from going soggy on the bottom)
  4. Fill pastry case with filling and top with the mash. Optional sprinkle with any melting cheese.

Delicious served with cauliflower and eggplant salad (previous post) or a big green salad. A side relish or chutney is a perfect accompaniment.

The finished pie ready to be served

I also went on to produce a series of portraits of the residents of Gricklegrass farm for my Professional Photography studies. These are some of the photos (originals were all handprints and taken with a 6×6 format  vintage Rolliflex camera, 2.8mm Zeiss lens)

Graham on his bus - Gricklegrass Organic farm, Oxford, North Canterbury 1999 NZ Andrew in his carpentry workshop from Gricklegrass Organic Farm 1999. Fast forward to 2011 Andrew is an Anglican Minister, married with three children.Jude at Gricklergrass Organic FarmGus and his dog Morphine - Gricklegrass organic farm 1999

 

Steve from Gricklegrass organic farmAndrew 1999

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Andrew at GricklegrassJude

 

Steve the Musician from Gricklegrass in his Hut

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Gus and his dog Morphine - Gricklegrass organic farm 1999Andrew 1999A family living at Gricklegrass - Kane and Sharon

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

You can see part of Gricklegrass home in the background.

 
 
 

Graeme cooking food in his bus. I ended up giving my diesel Lancer car to Graeme and the last I heard he moved to the West Coast

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
THE END

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Healing through food

What a pure joy and distraction it has been to plan, prepare, cook and serve food that comforts the soul, soothes the stress and anxiety of living through a major life change and trauma that an earthquake can wrought.

Today is nearly 9 weeks on from the Christchurch 6.3 earthquake and my husband has been joking “You really are trying to find healing through food”, not that he complains when he  is dished up in his own words inspirational, tasty, delicious and excellent meals”. In fact eats like a king in splendour. I told my Dad who was in Australia about all the cooking I had been doing and he joked I suppose you are 90 kg now!”.

 Its amazing at night from my kitchen we usually have lovely city views over Christchurch and the city. I had a dinner party last saturday night and the favourite topic was being discussed, earthquake war stories. My guests were absolutely amazed when I pointed out that there is now a big black dark hole in the middle of the view where the city lights usually sparkle. It is like ground zero – but its our WHOLE city centre. Our city is still cordoned off, closed, guarded by army, security and fences. 181 people lost there lives, other lost limbs, jobs, houses. I don’t think anyone feels like things are back to normal yet. These are some of the dishes I have been making.

Flat fish fillet of freshest Sole pan-fried very simply in the most delicious smoky spanish, lemon, garlic, paprika butter sauce. Here it is served alongside leftover TIAN (see my previous post for the recipe). This fish recipe was from Apples for Jam -Tessa Kiros cook book.

Photos are not the best, these were taken on my blackberry in dim light and my other camera is on the blinker.

Trusty shepherds pie, as comforting and satisfying as a hug from your Grandma!. Old fashioned, basic, tasty and just perfect in the most uncomplicated way.

New Zealand (French-way) Onion Soup. I had never made this wonderful soup and I am not sure why ever not, as it is simple, simple, simple. If money was tight after the earthquake this is one way to make your food $ go further yet eat like a french aristocrat. One 1kg bag of white onions $3.99, Good bought beef stock and I added two cups of my home-made chicken stock to lighten the flavour a bit, the biggest splurge which I could not resist was the hunk of Gruyère cheese which I melted dreamily over my sliced baguette. Thanks Annabel Langbein who I referred to for the soup idea. I had three different recipes going, and every cook agreed not to take any shortcuts when it came to cooking the onions down and ensuring they are silky, sweet and sexy. My cousin Brad Pitt (see previous Brad Pitt Post) came over to enjoy the soup with us and he gave it a 10/10 and he should know after travelling far and wide to the best restaurants!.

Slow cooked shoulder of lamb with apricots, chilli & chickpeas on carrot yoghurt rice – recipe from Everday Sunday Ray McVinnie

Thank goodness for my kitchen, the familiarity and rythym of the knowledge that 9 out of 10 times if I follow a recipe I will turn a pile of ingredients into a fabulous meal that can be enjoyed by the ones I care about.

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Where to eat out in post earthquake 2 Christchurch

Post 22/2/2011 Christchurch Earthquake Under the Red Verandah now is rubble. Rebuild is happening now and After the Red Verandah has now opened from a cottage next door

Under the Red Verandah cafe and restaurant, Worcester Street, Christchurch pre earthquake

 

Just about all my favourite eating out establishments have been red stickered, meaning it is unsafe to enter as structurally the building is now deemed unsafe, yellow stickered meaning restricted entry only for essential access – does morning coffee count?or green stickered meaning no restriction of use (However I have noticed Deli cious cafe in Sumner has a green sticker and sadly for all its loyal locals has still not reopened, Maybe Poor Holly is too traumatised?). I have been keeping my ear to the ground and have heard these updates on some of my favourite eating/coffee out establishments.

1: Mediterranean Food Warehouse, Tuam Street, Christchurch  http://www.mediterraneanfoods.co.nz/Earthquake-Damage/c104/index.html?osCsid=c6c2b8ca9fe99b57429b923efc6c735d  They apparently lost a wall and were in the process of having a temporary wall put in. The restaurant is expected to re-open in approximately six months time!!. It will be a long winter without their gorgeous thin crust pizzas and panforte. The warehouse store should be open sooner.

2: A suburban Christchurch institution for Brunch, Lunch, coffee and cake. The beloved Under the Red Verandah cafe or as my family have nicknamed it UNDIES http://www.utrv.co.nz/ . After it was bulldozed a few days after the earthquake it has now managed to reopen on a much smaller scale in the shed next door and adjoining cottage property. I look forward to supporting them by popping in for a coffee next week.

I love to cook at home but I also love to have time out from my kitchen bench and relaxing dining out. Everyone I have been speaking with in Christchurch are struggling with the anxiety of cabin fever. With limited options of places to go It feels like living in a rural town with one cafe, one supermarket (if you are lucky) only open. I am looking forward to supporting all my favourite cafe reopening and seeing them get cranking again!.

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Heirloom Vegetables grown by people that care!

It is so refreshing to meet to meet people who care about the food they sell when it is evident they have obviously grown it with attention, care and love. After the impersonal, depressing, bleak experience which is the commercial supermarket which may I say seems like it is run by corporate accountants and not foodies. I find it my pleasure to visit (and important to support) the fabulous Farmers Markets which have sprung up through out New Zealand. I found this stand with a big sign Heirloom vegetables, for some reason their fresh produce they were selling looked exceptionally  stunning and really stood out even from some of the other organic growers.

Heirloom Vegetables

The growers were two enthusiastic young guys which I assume is a family business. They were extremely knowledgable about everything they were selling and convinced me to buy a spaghetti squash. It looks like a pumpkin but tastes like a melon and looks like spaghetti. I am intrigued I will post some photos once I roast it in the oven!. Sounds bizarre huh?. I would be interested if anyone else has cooked with this before…I need recipes. Apparently they also told me that when onions are really pungent and strong and make you want to cry it means they are old!. New onions are mellow and sweet. This is all news to me…I have yet to find my green thumb. I always say my husband is the gardener and I am the cook!. I am so inspired by the vegetables they were selling I am now even keener to develop my own green thumb!.

Mr Heirloom Gardner (to the left) Assistant (right)

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A bit of this, a bit of that

Improvisational Salad

Prosciutto, Pan fried Haloumi, mizuna lettuce, red and yellow baby roast beetroot with Pedro Ximenez sweet sherry sauce sprinkled with pumpkin seeds and a squeeze of lemon juice, cracked pepper and sea salt of course…There was some extra virgin oil too. This salad was one of the best things I tasted in 2010! believe it or not. The flavours were intriguing yet not so in a weird way but they really seemed to work it was extremely moorish. You should give it a try.  

So following on from my last post about the sexy vegetables I bought home from the market which were just too good to eat which became ornamental art in my kitchen for 12 hours. Well I did get hungry and I ate them. The photo above is how I put them altogether. Now I ALWAYS use to freelance in the kitchen and create my own dishes since I was a teenager and into my early 20’s. However in my quest to further my kitchen cooking knowledge and skill I have purposely restrained myself to following recipes as I think it is so easy to fall into the trap of staying in your comfort zone and cooking from your own knowledge and what you are comfortable with and never really pushing out and finding new ways of doing things. It can be hard work following a recipe sometimes, I believe I have read it activates that part of your brain which helps with fighting off and slowing dementia (not that I should be worried about that at 30!). I guess I am putting myself through a self-taught home cooking school – like some very other well-known cooks who learnt in the same way. This is the beauty once you confidently know which flavours and ingredients can  balance and go together you can take off the training wheels (cookbooks) and the world of cooking is your oyster. Heres to freelance cooking!.

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