A Village Life

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Farmers market bounty

This morning I thought it'd be a good idea to take the girls to the Matakana Farmer's Market while Pete was out on a marathon fishing session (what every kiwi bloke does on Saturday mornings apparently).  We loaded up in the car and headed off.  After about 2 minutes Rita started complaining that it was taking a long time.  At that point I should've turned around.  Matakana is only 10 minutes down the road, not like we were in the car for half an hour or anything but the complaint carried on the whole ten minutes.  Because we were a little late getting going this morning we arrived in Matakana just at the same time as half of Auckland did.  Another 10 minutes spent driving around looking for a parking space.  Now with hefty Gigi on my hip and Rita clinging to my hand, we walked down to a jam packed market to scope out the goods.  I was pleased to find lots of fresh dark leafy greens that I immediately snapped up.  We wandered through checking out some delicious Sicilian food, homemade pies, smoothies, churros, breads, you name it.  The Whangaripo Valley Buffalo Cheese was most enticing and I left with a slice of Marin Blue and a bit of St. Malo, a pecorino style buffalo cheese.  They will introduce their mozzarella next weekend.  Hooray for local cheese makers!!!  Stopping for a bag of potatoes, an assortment of small bread buns and a newspaper, I had about all my arms could carry.  But of course Rita spied the ever present Kiwi sausage sizzle which she convinced me she needed.  Juggling now a little girl with a white bread, sausage and ketchup sandwich, my goodies from the market and a very heavy one year old I just barely managed to make it to the car without dropping everything and causing a scene.  Back home I collapsed in a heap and decided next time PETE WILL NOT BE FISHING ON A SATURDAY MORNING and instead he will come and help me so that I can actually enjoy the wonderful farmer's market we have just down the road!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Child's Play

I think my mother in law may have a bit too much time on her hands.  Not that I am complaining.  Just look at these adorable doll clothes she knit for Rita's doll, Barbara.
Should I start taking orders? 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Little Treasures

After a family illness imposed hiatus, I am finally back in action.......sort of.  We are nearly there; a bad nappy rash lingering on, a few slightly runny noses, the end of the chesty coughs and one eye infection almost cleared up.
I've been waiting all week for the chance to sit down at the computer and tell you all about this wonderful little treasure Rita came upon this week.  She spotted this little unassuming book on the bookshelf and came to show it to me.  I have no idea how this ended up in my hands because I don't remember it at all but it made me so happy.  I opened it up to find my grandmother's maiden name written inside and as I looked through it, I realized it was a French book with a variety of short stories for language students.  My grandmother had marked in pencil throughout the book, little notes about the stories and translations of the vocabulary.  I had no idea she spoke French!  And just as I start my new French class, Rita digs out this priceless treasure!  It was copyright 1924 and seeing that my grandmother had written her maiden name, Genevieve Mendonse, in it means that she probably would have used it around that time.  She also had written a quote on a blank page inside the cover, 'music is love in search of a word'.  What a beautiful little book indeed.

My husband also proved to be a bit of a little treasure himself this week.  A few days ago Pete left work early to come look after the kids so I could go to yet another doctor appointment for this damn eye stye.   When I returned about an hour later, Gigi was down for a nap and Pete and Rita were in the kitchen making a quiche for dinner, homemade pastry and all.  He had out the Ballymaloe Cookery Book and was following a recipe for quiche lorraine, despite the fact we didn't have cream or bacon or half the other ingredients it called for.  I watched trying not to give too much advice as he rolled out the pastry, blind baked it, filled it up with his improv filling and baked it.  Well, voila, who would've thought he could produce such a fine quiche?!  The pastry wasn't too thick, nice and buttery, quite short; the filling delicious despite using milk and cream cheese instead of cream.  A little treasure of a man I'd say.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Kitchenaid whole wheat yeast bread

This one's for you Mel.  It is a quick non messy way to make a good loaf of wheat yeast bread.  This loaf can be sliced for sandwiches and is more like a traditional loaf than the denser no knead recipe I posted before.  I use my kitchenaid mixer so if you do it by hand it will be more laborious for sure.  Here are the ingredients required:
2 cups water
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp dried yeast
3 cups plain white flour
2 cups 7-grain or wholemeal flour
1 tbsp salt
These are not exact measurements because you may need to add more or less flour depending on the flour type and the humidity in the atmosphere.
Put the 2 cups of warm water (not hot) in the mixing bowl.  Add the honey and the yeast and let  stand a few minutes until it forms a foamy layer on top of the water.  Give this mixture a stir.  Add in all the flour and the salt.  Put the bread kneading attachment on the machine and turn it on to 1.  Don't mix any faster than level 1 or you can ruin your machine.  I found this out one time when I was working on a sailboat and had my dough kneading of full throttle and the whole kitchenaid took flight off the bench and landed on the galley floor.  Only worked on top speed after that.  OK, back to the recipe.  Knead the dough (or rather let the machine do it) for about 10 minutes.  This is where you gauge if you require more flour or more water.  The dough should not stick to the sides of the bowl.  If it does, add a bit more flour, perhaps a 1/4 cup at a time until the dough is not sticky but more elastic.  If your dough was too dry, it would be crumbly so add a bit more water, just a tablespoon at a time.  Every few minutes, I stop the machine, scrape the dough off the hook then restart the machine, just to make sure it is getting a full thorough knead.  When it looks shiny and elastic and is not sticking to the sides, take the bowl off, cover with clingfilm and put it somewhere warm to rise.  I use the hot water cupboard and it works a treat.  I leave it at least an hour and up to 3 if you have time or get distracted.  It will rise to 3/4 the height of the bowl.  Take the clingfilm off and release the dough from the sides and make it into a nice ball again.  Generously oil your loaf tin AND the dough and form it into a cylinder that will fit in the tin.  Now once again put it back into your warm spot (if that sounds gross to you then get your mind out of the gutter) and let it rise for at least another 30 minutes but more like an hour if you can.  It should be well above the sides of the tin.  Bake in a hot oven, 200C or whatever that is in Fahrenheit, 400 or so?  for 30 minutes.  Take the loaf out of the tin, turn off the oven and let it sit INSIDE the oven for another 15 minutes.  Should be a winner!!!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Weird Asian Things and Frozen Marshmallows

The other day I had the urge to make some of those glutinous rice type of Asian sweets.  They're not every one's cup of tea but I love that mochi like texture and subtle sweetness.  The only problem is that I didn't have the glutinous rice flour.  Instead I had some tapioca flour so I searched through endless recipes looking for something similar that I could make.  In the end I gave up my search and decided to 'experiment'.  I mixed up the flour with some pandan extract, some water and a bit of palm sugar until it was a sticky mess.  I knew I had to cook it somehow and usually they steam this sort of thing.  I spread it out in a glass pan and fit it into the wok with some water at the bottom and gave it a good steam until it went from a cloudy green to a bright green.  When Pete came home from work he asked me what the rubbery green stuff was.  I cut the rubber up into squares and rolled it in coconut and palm sugar.  They actually tasted quite good.  Kind of the result I was looking for but not perfect.  A few days on and the texture keeps changing, no longer rubbery but now quite firm.  Next time I think I'll stick to a recipe and the right ingredients but it was quite fun to have a play with some unusual ingredients. 

The next experiment we tried in our house this week was frozen marshmallows.  Rita's favorite treat is a marshmallow and if she's been really good, Pete toasts it for her.  He had a clever idea to try freezing them to see what happens.  Well....they were just very cold marshmallows, not really frozen because there is so much air in them.  The best part was the noise they made when you bit into one, a funny squeaking sound.  Once again I am pretty sure we won't do that one again.

Yesterday I finished off the week by baking a loaf of kneaded wholemeal yeast bread.  I don't really follow a recipe for this and sometimes it shows.  This time it was a huge success.  Check it out...

Instructions on how to make this loaf comg soon!

Friday, August 13, 2010

hier soir

So, last night I did something that I've been wanting to do for years.  I had my first proper French lesson since University days.  It was a small class with just 3 of us and the instructor.  2 hours of pure bliss!  If I had known how much fun I'd have doing something like that, I would've signed up ages ago.  We chatted in French, did grammar, pronunciation, etc.  The funniest thing (which I've noticed a few times over the past few years) is that the Kiwi representation at the class was the minority.  I was the American woman (hard label to wear), there was an Irish woman and the instructor was actually from Holland.  One solo Kiwi amongst us.  So for the next 6 weeks we will meet for 2 hours every Thursday night and I can live in my dream of being a true Francophile.  And yes girls, I will be the team leader and schedule master on our trip to Paris.

And alas, here is my beautiful table runner?! or whatever the hell it is.  It actually fits nicely on my legs when I am sitting on the couch and have my legs extended to the coffee table.  Damn, I wish I had had enough remnants to make an actual blanket that looks like this.  For now I will keep it because it makes me smile and everyone gets a good laugh out of its awkward shape.  I mean, what could it be really?  I have no idea!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Up at the crack of dawn

Yesterday morning my youngest daughter woke us up at 4:15am.  Now we are early risers, but that's just that little bit too early where having a coffee and starting your day at that hour just seem wrong.  Nonetheless Gigi didn't think so and up I got to fix her a bottle.  There was one consolation: the view from our bedroom at dawn break. 

The other thing that eased the pain of waking up that early was something else that my eyes are also drawn to from my bed, some new wall art courtesy of Estelle.  Last summer Estelle bestowed upon us these beautiful gift books that she made for our circle of friends, each wrapped in the most incredible wrapping paper.  I kept the paper (my grandmother would have been proud) and just the other day I finally put it in a frame and hung it alongside the sheet music from the musical South Pacific, one of my favorites.  Once again the ever so thoughtful Stella scored that one for me too.  Don't they look delightful hanging next to each other?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ta da!

In association with Estelle over at Under a Pink Moon, today is the unveiling of the long awaited ripple afghan projects.  I can't say I am over the moon about this one because like Estelle this has been a long project with episodes of 'I hate it, I love it'.  At the moment I hate it again and want to pull it out and start again.  The thing is that I used the leftover bits to play around with and I love the result so I want to refashion the whole thing into the new style.  I don't know what will happen but for now this afghan is getting much use on our sofa during these cold winter nights.  It is quite heavy and dense and warms you up like nobody's business.  So here it is:
Coming soon will be the 'table runner' that is making me think I should take this blanket apart and restyle it completely.  We'll see what you think before I do something brash.

Now, with no relation to the above story I wanted to tell you about something that made me so happy yesterday.  I went to the post shop to pick up our mail and there in the post was my 1 kg bag of award winning espresso beans from Hayden at Rush Coffee.  These beans make the most delicious coffee you will find in all of New Zealand, I promise.  Hayden used to hand deliver our beans to us when we lived up north nearby his roasting business.  Now I eagerly await our delivery by post.  Thanks Hayden!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Do Not Try This At Home

Does this look dangerous to you?  She's not even 11 months and this is her favorite activity to do.  Nothing like living on the edge!
Yes, that's a rocking chair and yes, she is rocking away.....on her own.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Birthday Bliss

Peter recently turned 37.  Not that exciting of a milestone but we did our best to make it a special day.  Birthday cards, lotto tickets, gift vouchers...and being the good little wife I baked his favorite cake (carrot cake) and brought it to his work for morning tea to share with his co-workers.  Hey, I am no professional baker here but the cake was delicious and I tried my best to make it look the part.  The result....

Ok, well perhaps cake decorating classes are in order but it was good enough for our purposes.  Later that evening we had the rare opportunity to go on an actual date.  We pawned the girls off to Nana and Pa and headed to the cinema to see A Single Man, a movie by Tom Ford of Gucci fame.  This movie is serious eye candy.  Absolutely beautiful to watch, each and every frame of it.  Peter and I drooled over this house where the main character, played by Colin Firth, lives.  Set in the 1960's, the film was styled by the same set designers who do Mad Men.  Anyway as we were watching Julianne Moore do her magic on stage, I had a serious moment of "aha, so that is what Estelle was talking about".  Voila Stella, I finally caught a glimpse of this infamous princess phone!
Estelle and I visited the Alameda Flea Market last month.  Clever Stella had a list with her of things she was looking for....a globe, a princess phone and a few other random items.  We didn't find anything that actually ticked her boxes but it was fun having something in particular to look for.  I had no idea what this 'princess phone' was that she kept describing to me.  Until I saw this movie!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Words of Wisdom

As I was reading this parenting book last night in bed, I came across these two brilliant quotes.  I won't even mention the book I am reading.  I think it might be total rubbish actually but it was a panic grab.  Being in the library with two small children was the worst idea ever so I literally grabbed these two books that were on some display about parenting.  The first book, a novel, was about a mother who smothers her daughter while she is sleeping!  Yes you heard me correctly.  How sick is that?  At first the book seemed normal and even made me laugh a few times.  Then it turned black.  Who could even come up with that idea and publish it?  Not my sort of easy reading.  The second book is more of a handbook on parenting that I kind of take with a grain of salt.  I mean, who actually knows best about this whole parenting thing, you know?  We are all just trying to do our best and hope our kids end up as normal functioning adults, right?  But these quotes seemed to ring true for me, do they for you?

"If there were no schools to take children away from home part of the time, the insane asylums would be filled with mothers."
-Edgar W. Howe

"Anyone who thinks the art of conversation is dead ought to tell a child to go to bed."
-Robert Gallagher

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Just browsing

As my 11 month old whinges in the background, I can't pull myself away from this website


The cutest ever wall decals and prints.  Hmmm......might be time for a little girl's bedroom revamp even though we've only just settled in.  The first of many redecoration sessions to come.  Poor Peter, I've still got the decorating bug.  Wouldn't you if you saw these?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tutorial: Vegetarian Lasagne

So this recipe satisfies even the most carniverous of palates.  My husband who was born and raised on a farm and thinks (or used to think) that no meal is complete without a serious blob of flesh reckons that this dish is my greatest all time vegetarian invention.  It isn't an exact recipe, more of an Elizabeth David style talk through.....
Start with a few onions, a few carrots and some celery sticks.  Chop them into a small dice 'mirepoix'.  In a large pot drizzle a good amount of olive oil, I'm talking like a third of a cup or so.  Chuck in your mirepoix and saute on medium heat.  Add in a bay leaf, a clove of chopped garlic, a large pinch of dried oregano and as much dried chili flakes as you think you can handle.  If my kids weren't in the equation this would be 1 or 2 tablespoons.  You could also add in some fresh herbs if you have them; a handful of basil, a sprig of rosemary or thyme, what ever you fancy.  Saute these ingredients until the veggies start to soften and get a bit of color on them.  Now add in your lentils.  For a large rectangular dish of lasagne this will be about 2 cups of 500grams approximately.  Use only either French puy lentils (if you are feeling a bit extravagant) or plain brown lentils.  Any other kind will break down into a mush.  You must use a lentil that keeps its structure.  Saute the lentils until they are coated in oil and well combined with the vegetables.  Add in a generous amount of salt (1 tablespoon or so to taste), I prefer maldon sea salt or NZ sea salt flakes.  Now pour in either water or stock to cover about an inch above the lentils.  The lentils must cook with water first before you add your tomatoes or else they won't soften due to the acid in the tomato.  Let this mixture bubble away until most of the water gets absorbed and the lentils are almost soft.  Now add in a 500 gram tin of tomatoes and a small tin of tomato paste.  Exact quantities don't really matter, it depends on your taste.  If you like a really tomatoey sauce the put in more tomato paste.  Now let this simmer on the stove for a good 20 minutes.  It needs to be quite liquidy so top it up with water if it gets too thick.  Think chunky soup consistency.  It is important that your sauce is a bit on the watery side because the pasta will absorb that liquid. If your sauce is too thick, the lasagne will be dry  So you see here we are making a lentil 'bolognaise' sauce.  Adjust your seasonings to taste, add salt and pepper if you like.  Once you are happy with your sauce take out any fresh herb stems and we can start to assemble.  I have used both fresh and dried lasagne sheets in this dish and both are equally as nice.  Fresh pasta gives a toothier thicker pasta feel to it. Start with covering the bottom of your dish with a bit of the sauce then cover with a layer of lasagne.  Break the sheets to fit into your dish.  Now layer away putting a good amount of lentil sauce in between each layer.  So maybe like 3 layers total of sauce, 4 layers of pasta.  Finish the top with your final pasta layer.  Set this aside and begin your white sauce.  In a large saucepan melt 3 tablespoons of butter with 1/4 cup of flour.  Stir and cook over medium heat for 2 or 3 minutes.  Whisk in 3 cups of milk and cook stirring continuously with a wooden spoon.  You want this mixture to thicken to a heavy cream consistency.  This will take about 5 to 10 minutes.  Taste and season.  Now top your lasagne with this white sauce and put in a preheated oven 180/350 and bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until the whole thing is bubbly and golden on top.   
We serve it with shavings of pecorino or parmesan, more dried chili flakes and some good fresh young olive oil drizzled on top.  Yummy with some mixed dark greens lightly dressed with balsamic vinegar, fruity olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.  And of course lots of good red wine, friends and family.