Although we may be back in Ireland, today we are celebrating Waitangi Day, a national holiday in New Zealand, with that ubiquitous Kiwi desert – the pavlova. After bemoaning the lack of pavlovas in Irish supermarkets, the Boyfriend went off to work this morning laden with boxes of meringue nests, tubs of cream, my hand whisk and one of the my pink bowls to assemble a selection of impromptu pavs for his workmates. Bron has an entertaining defence of the NZ claim to the pavlova here, along with many delectable pictures of her own fabulous Waitangi Day creation.
Boiled, Baked & Basted, the brilliant RTÉ Radio 1 programme that I mentioned in October, featuringchefs and cooks talking about their favourite cookbooks, sadly came to an end on 30 December. A simple but effective format – just the voice of the interviewee, interspersed by actors reading from cookbooks that they mentioned – made this essential listening for the cosy Saturday nights that we spent in the cottage. You can listen back to the whole 13-programme series on the all-new redesigned RTÉ.ie website here.
I’d be the first to admit that, despite my frequent use and consumption of the fruit of the vine, I don’t know much about wine. This is something that I’ve been meaning to remedy by doing a wine-tasting course but life, somehow, always manages to get in the way. Perhaps a resolution for 2007? I’ve already missed the first night of the La Cave Wine Tasting Programme but, should I be organised enough, there’s plenty more to savour in the coming weeks – must see if I can get there for the evening that features New Zealand Pinot Noir! These events take place in the small French wine bar on South Anne Street from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. Each tasting costs €30, which includes all wines and a light meal of cheese, salami and pâté.
This is the most useful recipe to have in your repertoire. I use it – sometimes with the addition of broccoli, chorizo, bacon or chilli – with gnocchi, pasta, cannelloni and polenta, as a topping for pizza and even when baking pancakes. If you can track down some decent Italian plum tomatoes, it’s all the better for that; if you can’t, just keep tasting and adjusting the flavour with sugar if it’s too bitter, red wine or balsamic vinegar if it’s too sweet, tomato purée if it needs more body, water if it’s too thick. If you have fresh basil, add it at the end to lift the flavour of sauce. I often use thyme – fresh if I have it but sometimes dried – if I want the sauce to have a herby tinge.
New Zealand cafés still continue to surprise and delight me. A moist Spinach Risotto Cake at Reid’s Store during a break while driving to Nelson the morning after we arrived, eaten in bright sunshine outside on the decking was my re-introduction to café cooking, NZ style on this trip. There were other days of happy eating. Marinated Lamb on a Puy Lentil Salad with lemon yoghurt dressing at Nelson’s Morrison Street Café, with a glass of local sauvignon blanc; a sticky, dried fruit-packed, gluten free Ginger Slice with a long black, milk on the side (my coffee order of choice in NZ) in Muses Café, Motueka, en route to the Boyfriend’s family bach in Ngaio Bay; a last Christchurch breakfast of a fresh-baked savoury Spinach and Cream Cheese Muffin followed by an enormous date-studded sweet scone outside Veronica’s Café on New Regent Street, soaking up the last rays of sun as we watched the tourist trams going past.
Two weeks in New Zealand and I didn’t want to leave. Being on holidays and it being summer, rather than grey and gloomy Irish winter, certainly made things harder, especially as we had such a good time catching up with family and friends on that side of the world. We thoroughly enjoyed the main reason for our trip – the Boyfriend’s sister’s wedding last Saturday – especially as the reception was held in a recently opened vineyard in Moutere, Woollaston Estates, and I had more than a few chances to sample their 2006 Nelson Sauvignon Blanc!
We left a damp, wintery Ireland last Friday morning and touched down to blue skies and sunshine in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Wednesday after a three-day stopover in Kuching with my Malaysian family. Sure beats sitting around in Ireland with the post-Christmas blues! While in Kuching we got a chance to feast on our favourite teh tarik, or pulled tea, and roti canai, layered Indian breads that are served with a runny dahl. The next day, the reheated roti are especially delicious when they reappear with kaya, an unctuous coconut spread, not unlike lemon curd. Daily feasts of tropical fruit at my aunt’s house included papaya, the hairy-skinned rambutan, several types of banana, mangosteen, sweet ripe pineapple and rich, juicy-to-your-elbows windfall mangos from the neighbour’s tree. This time round we avoided the durian, however!
Being a big fan of cranberries, I decided to turn some of the fresh ones currently in the shops into desert for our annual Christmas bookclub dinner last week. For the last few months I’ve been experimenting with Clotilde‘s versatile Gâteau au Yaourt or Yoghurt Cake, making different flavoured versions, including an All Spice Upside Down Plum Cake for dinner with my uncle, aunt and cousins in the cottage and, when the Boyfriend was hosting his Arabic class at our flat, a Middle Eastern-inspired Pine Nut, Orange and Rose Water Cake.