Beer drinkers, as wine drinkers, are pretty well catered for in New Zealand. There are plenty of microbreweries and brew pubs about – Brew Moon, the Dux de Lux and the Twisted Hop are amongst some Canterbury favourites – but even the big breweries have pretty decent beers. One of the biggies is Speight’s Brewery. Known as “The Pride of the South”, it is based in Dunedin and produces a very tasty dark beer called, in an obvious move, Old Dark.
I’ve always been a lover of peas, beans and lentils – things that are cheap and can be turned into something delicious without too much effort. But, in Ireland, a hectic schedule prevented me from really getting involved with these in their dried form. Instead I had to content myself with their tinned equivalents which, although not hugely expensive, do prevent you from using them with too much abandon. Since coming to New Zealand, however, and discovering that dried peas, beans and lentils are readily available through the Bin Inn chain and also through the self-serve bins in all supermarkets, I’ve been putting them to good use.
Now this cookbook is right up my alley. The combination of the words comfort, food, eating and pleasure – especially in winter – talk far more to me that those hated phrases low fat, slimline and reduced calories. Which isn’t to say that comfort food is going to have a drastic effect on your waistline, although it might! It’s just that the whole idea of comfort food which, by nature, involves things hated by the health police such as full fat milk, real butter and clotted cream, is especially evocative in the winter. With cold and rain outside (here in New Zealand), now is the perfect time to stay indoors, browse through cookery books and decide what tasty treat to cook for dinner tonight. You Northern Hemispherians will have some time to wait but there’s no harm in getting ready in advance for dismal, dreary weather.
I think that my interest in the Mexican combination of chocolate and chilli may have been originally sparked from watching the film adaptation of Laura Esquivel’s Like Water For Chocolate in college. The fire of chilli and the dark richness of chocolate seems, to me, to be a rather good combination. The Chocolate and Chilli Biscotti I picked up recently to accompany my flat white (coffee) at the Underground Coffee Company Café in Christchurch was a good example of this and put my mind musing over other ways I could use chocolate and chilli together.
New Zealand baker Dean Brettschneider was one of the people that I encountered at the recent Savour New Zealand in Christchurch. Together with Lorraine Jacobs, a Cuisine food editor, he has recently published Taste, the third in a series of quality books on baking. At Savour New Zealand, when not signing stacks of Taste and his other books, he gave an eagerly anticipated class called Kneading the Dough in which he made a loaf of my favourite sourdough bread.