Asparagus is very much in season at the moment in New Zealand with signs hanging by the roadside offering freshly picked spears of this gloriously upright vegetable and quantities of it available in greengrocers. Despite the plenty, I must admit that the Boyfriend and I have been slow off the mark this year and have only had a couple of feeds of it – so far. We need to hurry up and feast before the season ends.
My only experience of pumpkins while in Ireland was at Halloween during my first year in Dublin. One of my then housemates bought a pumpkin and carved it into a grinning Jack O’Lantern to sit in the window. I had only ever made Jack O’Lanterns from turnips before and was amazed at how easy it is to hollow out a pumpkin rather than spending ages digging your difficult way through the tough flesh of a turnip! With touching (and undeserved!) faith in my cooking abilities, he set the pumpkin flesh aside and informed me that it was my job to turn it into something edible. I failed the challenge, I must admit. Every time I opened the fridge the watery yellow flesh rebuked me and it wasn’t too long before it made the trip to the dustbin. Since then I’ve seen pumpkins appearing in Irish supermarkets in time for Halloween each autumn but I’ve never even been remotely tempted.
Quinoa is something that I’ve been meaning to cook for quite a while. About ten years, in fact, ever since I read Nigel Slater‘s Real Fast Food. He has several recipes for this protein-packed ancient grain and, as with all his writings, I was seduced by the delicious descriptions. Not seduced enough, however, to seek it out in Ireland but, since arriving in New Zealand, I’ve come across it on several occasions. Eventually, an article in Cuisine led me to buy some from Piko which…just sat in the pantry until an inquiry about it from the Boyfriend’s mother made me decide that it was time to actually try cooking it instead of admiring it every time I opened the door of the pantry.
I’ve been getting plenty of use out of the Ral Al Hanout that I made fairly recently and it is particularly good with lamb. Of course, being in New Zealand, there’s no shortage of the baa-ing beast although, as the Boyfriend told a former vegetarian friend after one such dinner, we only eat the ugly ones!
There are so many things that you can’t go near when you’re trying to Eat Local. I had written this piece about Spanakopita ever before I started this challenge but, pressed for choice on Saturday night, it was something I happily turned to. I had spinach and onions from Canterbury, feta from Karikaas, ricotta from Zany Zeus (North Island but still New Zealand!), nutmeg (and couscous for the accompanying salad) from Piko, our brilliant local wholefoods/organic shop but I must admit failure with the pastry, which was Australian. If I had been a bit more organised ahead of time I could have made my own but still, it didn’t turn out too badly!
As it’s winter at this side of the world – although the temperatures seem to have taken a turn for the better lately – I’ve been cooking lots of soups. I love making anything that just takes 20 minutes of chopping and frying, and then is happy to sit simmering on the cooker for an hour or longer, until it’s done. As a result of my interest in dried peas, beans and lentils, there’s always a cupboard full of various legumes to be incorporated into soup and one of the best soups around can be made with dried green split peas.
Pies truly are a New Zealand classic. Maybe it’s because of the British influence and their Pork Pies, although colonisation of Ireland didn’t leave us with any such culinary heritage. As I mentioned the other day, pies are eaten by Kiwis on long road trips – the guarantee of a good pie will encourage people to take major detours – and they are apparently the traditional accompaniment to a rugby match.
Yesterday was the Boyfriend’s birthday so I decided to throw a small surprise birthday dinner. The plotting and planning for this has been going on for a couple of weeks but, after pondering various options, I only decided on what we were going to eat fairly late in the day. Eventually I decided on one of the Boyfriend’s favourites – the good old Kiwi meat pie.