I love a challenge when it comes to cooking and baking, so rather than turn my nose up at food-intolerances, I usually relish the restriction of ingredients, try my hardest to seek out delicious alternatives, and maybe learn about a new ingredient or method while I'm at it. Bonus points if you feed them to people who don't even realise the baked goods may be gluten-free, or vegan, or organic or whatever. And so when the need arose for a gluten-free morning tea the other day, I went straight to my favourite place for all things wholefoody, my friend Kelly's blog bonnie delicious. Sure enough, fellow cookie-afficianado Kelly (whose instagram is worth a gander if you're that way inclined) had in pride of place these very simple vegan dark chocolate and peanut butter cookies, and no more than 30 minutes later was I eating peanut butter by the spoonful as I put these in the oven.
About three weeks ago, amongst the ever-present looming of deadlines, I got one of those calls that meant about two weeks ago I was flying business class to Sydney for a night, thanks to Qantas.
Qantas has completely changed up the way it serves food in economy class, and had a launch lunch to tell us all about it. I went over the day before the launch which meant I had a bonus day to spend in Sydney - dealing to deadlines in a Sydney café instead of an Auckland one, catching up with my big sister and brother-in-law, and eating as much as possible in a short space of time. It was awesome.
Here’s how it went.
It was an early start to check in before the 8am flight. This was not helped by the fact I’d been at a winemaker’s dinner the Monday night before, which ended with a casual bottle of Bollinger La Grande Année. After a little OPI purchase, a mediocre Airport coffee, and adding to my Penguin classic collection with Donna Tartt’s The Secret History (which I’m loving), I got to the boarding gate. I was waiting patiently when those immortal words were uttered: “Ms Mes, your upgrade has come through.”
the Rosemary 75
Infusing the gin: if you want to do a whole bottle, just add a few stalks of fresh rosemary to the bottle and leave for a few days. If you don't want an entire bottle of rosemary-gin, get a smaller bottle with a sealable lid and do it on a smaller scale.
Thanks to Nick from the Golden Dawn and Kelly from bonnie delicious for creating this little beauty.
- About a 30mL shot (be generous!) of rosemary-infused Rogue Society dry gin
- All Good Organics sparkling blood orange
- Dry cava (or another dry sparkling wine)
- A slice of blood orange, and fresh rosemary, to garnish
1. Fill a tall glass with ice.
2. Add the gin, and half fill the glass with sparkling blood orange. Stir together with a long handled stirrer.
3. Top with dry cava, and garnish with a slice of blood orange and a sprig of rosemary.
The world's gone mad for chocolate milk. And when I say the world, I mean the north island of New Zealand. And even then, I only mean the people who have been able to get their hands on this stuff. It's bloody liquid gold. As Campbell Live has reported people are queuing, supermarket staff are being harrassed, there are two-bottle limits in place, and security guards have been employed. It's ridiculous.
I would have told you to believe the hype, until I heard local dairies were selling bootleg versions, and a black market had emerged on trade me.
It's definitely delicious. As a non-milk drinker (you could not pay me to drink a glass of plain milk straight, and if you saw my bank balance you'd know that is really saying something. Bleurgh.) I have always liked chocolate milk. I'm also a big fan of Lewis Road Creamery, their butter is incredible and I very much appreciate a small company doing one thing very well. Whittakers do it with chocolate, and Lewis Road with dairy products. Together, they're in a match made in utter heaven.
- Lewis Road Creamery chocolate milk
- Baileys irish cream
- plenty of ice
1. Fill a glass with ice
2. Add a generous pour of Baileys
3. Top with milk
4. Lose your shit
Liesl was shit out of luck when she enthusiastically requested to stay up "....and taste my first champagne" in that wondourous Sound of Music house party scene. The tension between Maria and the Captain you could cut with a knife, and the Baroness knew it. The most maligned character of the entire movie, according to my sister, the eternally glamorous Shraeder really was quite something. Once Maria had the Captain dancing the ländler, she knew she was doomed.
And poor Liesl, sent off to bed with her siblings. At 16 (going on 17) she was far more likely to be sniffing around her Dad's liquor cabinet, especially before sneaking out to pash Rolf in the rain. Beware the Baroness though; she would have tolerated nothing less than perfect behaviour from her love interest's eldest.
- 30mL Chambord
- 30mL Vodka
- Sparkling grapefruit (san pellegrino pomello or all good white grapefruit)
1. Place a large ice cube in a champagne saucer.
2. Add the shot of chambord and the shot of vodka.
3. Top with sparkling grapefruit. Sip and enjoy!
One of my favourite things about working from home is the fact I can cook myself something for lunch. Even though back when I used to work in an office I would get very creative with my take-to-work salads, the ability to just fry up some haloumi, or throw down a noodle stir fry is very satisfying indeed.
The other really great thing about working from home is the amount of procrastibaking I can do. If I get an overwhelming desire to spend the morning making a cake and deal to deadlines at bedtime, then heck, I will. And oh, I do.
Staying true to my love of all things seasonal, I have been buying up rhubarb by the bunch lately, and making this rhubarb and vanilla cake a lot. About 4 times in as many weeks lately, which is a lot of cakes. My friend's birthday and then my Mum's, and then as a thank you present, and one because I just damn well felt like it.
Rhubarb and vanilla cake
This recipe is from The Caker's Seasonal Fruit Cake
150g softened butter
150g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla paste
3 free range eggs
150g spelt flour
50g ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
½ cup full fat unsweetened natural yoghurt
2 cups chopped rhubarb
Preheat the oven to 180ºC fan bake. Grease and line 2 x 22cm cake tins.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale, light and fluffy. Note: this takes ages! I always give it a good 10-15 minutes to get it really pale and really fluffy. It's worth it!
Add the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.
Sift in the flour and baking powder. Mix them in gently, along with the yoghurt and the ground almonds. Be careful not to over mix.
Evenly divide the batter between the two tins and gently press in the rhubarb.
Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until golden and springy to the touch.
Cool the cakes for around 10 minutes before turning onto a cooling rack.
For the cream cheese icing, beat cream cheese, honey and lime juice until smooth.
Once the cakes are cool, you can either ice the cakes separately - I like to ice over the fruit side, or you can sandwich them together with jamor icing or both, and then ice the top and decorate. I love a good layer cake, but I also love the single layer cake as a nice small gift.
As The Caker does, fresh flowers and freeze dried fruit powder always make a cake look pretty. See how you go!
Store in a cool, dry place in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Just as the NZ Winter set in a couple of months back, I made a bit of a jaunt over to Sydney. A visit to my sister and her husband who have moved to Coogee upon their return from London, and a bit of a long-weekend slightly-romantic getaway. On our last night there, big sis and I needed a night cap. We'd had a food and beer and footy filled weekend. The boys went to bed, and we sat under a duvet on the couch streaming Girls. It was funny because we probably hadn't done that since about 2002, when we'd sneak Mum's Bailey's Irish Cream and drink it on ice watching The Strip and Sex and the City. That was probably close to the last time we lived in the same city, but old habits die hard.
the Rice Russian
This is great for those who can't have dairy!
30mL Kahlua, or another coffee flavoured liqueur like Tia Maria
1. Fill a short tumbler or rocks glass with plenty of ice [a note about ice: lots of ice will mean it dilutes slower, but keeps it cold which is very necessary for creamy cocktails. It's counterintuitive but it totally works.]
2. Add the vodka, some rice milk, and then pour over the kahlua. Top with more rice milk if necessary.
In the immortal words of Scribe, congratulations, you've made it. It's Friday, and you deserve a drink. Welcome to a new regular feature on heartbreak pie, aptly called Friday Drinks. There was a time, when I was a young professional mid-twenty something, where I would very much look forward to getting home and pouring myself a beverage. I still do, even though my weeks are a lot more fluid these days, and it's not uncommon for me to work on the weekends, and ease up on myself during the week. Come Friday though, sometimes at the end of a long week, just one is enough to take the edge off, before curling up on the couch with takeaways watching the Graham Norton show. If that's the case, you might as well make it a beauty.
the bitter botanist g+t
Remember folks, a gin and tonic is a cocktail, which means your BBG+T needs a 45mL pour of gin, instead of a standard drink's 30mL.
3 large ice cubes
45mL The Botanist gin
150-200mL Quina Fina Bitter Lemon
1. Place ice in a stemless wine glass.
2. Add a thin slice of lemon, then the gin.
3. Add bitter lemon to half way. Gently stir and serve.
Last year my friend Josie was doing publicity for The Illusionists magic show. The show had a live band, and she ended up hanging out with them and showing them round Auckland. A couple of them loved food, and so she invited me along last year for a day trip to Waiheke, with these 5 musicians, who when they weren't playing on a magic show, played backup for rapper Nas at festivals like Coachella and Glastonbury.
We ate at the Oyster Inn, and on the ferry back I got chatting to Tom Terrell, a trumpet player, who told me for his final music recital for his music degree at UCLA, he got a community grant and cooked an 8 course meal, pairing a musical piece to each one. I'd recently quit my job to throw dinner parties so naturally we hit it off, and it was one of those conversations that stuck. We had to get in the kitchen together, so I said I'd come to LA.
1 part Creme de Cassis (blackcurrant liqueur)
5 parts sparkling white wine (prosecco works well)
In a variety of mismatched glassware, pour a small amount of creme de cassis, and top with bubbles.
Since ditching the comfort of a salary-paying office job, for a life of freelance writing and throwing events and cooking (I am for hire by the way) I have reached new levels of procrastination. I don't know what it is in my brain that means I can only do something I'm supposed to if there's an intense time pressure on me, but it is something I'm working on trying to change.
Working from home I've gotten pretty good at procrasticleaning - a spotless kitchen before starting a story undoubtedly makes for a better piece of writing. Today though I hit a new low (or was it a high?) in procrastinating: I procrastinated baking with baking.
I was supposed to have already prepared my recipe for tomorrow morning's TV appearance on Good Morning. It had been on my ever growing to-do list, but all of a sudden it was glaring at me from my diary. I've not been a guest cook on the show since they changed the format last year, but during 2011 in Wellington and then 2012 in Auckland, every few weeks I would take a morning off work to head to the studios and wreak havoc in the kitchen on live national TV.
I halved the recipe, which made four perfect scones. Seriously, best scones I've ever made.
2 cups flour (I used rye flour, which gave a very savoury flavour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch cayenne pepper - optional (I used a generous pinch of smoked paprika)
2 cups grated tasty cheese (I used edam, with a little parmigianno regianno)
1 cup full-cream milk
Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and cayenne pepper into a bowl.
Mix in the grated cheese.
Make a well in the centre and pour in the milk.
Mix lightly then turn out on a floured bench.
Shape into a rectangle about 3cm high. Cut into 8 and transfer on to a baking tray.
Bake at 220°C for 15-20 minutes until deep golden.
Serve slathered in butter with a cup of tea!