Monday, June 1, 2009

Queen's Birthday in the kitchen

On a freezing cold long weekend what better thing is there to do than cook? Especially when you have favours to repay and toys to try out, and Matinée Idle to listen to?

Matinée Idle will need some explanation for non-New Zealanders. Best described (as they said themselves today) as "a couple of middle-aged blokes you'd expect to see hanging out at record shops and art house cinemas, hijacking the national broadcaster for an afternoon". They fill in over the summer period and on public holidays, when the usual sedate serious people are on holiday, and play weird stuff. It's sort of like sitting in the living room of your two music buff friends, who keep going "Oh, you've got to listen to this"; playing strange and obscure music and trying to outdo each other in strangeness and obscurity. Often they have a theme for the hour from 2pm-3pm, today's was "mangling the Queen's English"; some very strange songs with extraordinarily meaningless or grammatically odd lyrics. And they always have a concert from 3 - 4, anything from Deep Purple to Dolly Parton, but today it was Leonard Cohen live in London in 2008, which was wonderful. I sang away to myself in the kitchen and cooked and kept warm.

It's still on and we've just been treated to Lenny from Motorhead singing the Beatles' "Back in the USSR". This is a radio station which is usually strong on literature and the arts and current events and has no advertising. You get the idea? A lot of fun.

Anyway, my first adventure on Sunday was poffertjes. I just recently bought this pan on TradeMe (which is what New Zealanders tend to use instead of eBay) and wanted to try it out.

I took this pic after using it - it was actually brand new and came with a pack of poffertje mix, a squeeze bottle, and a couple of skewers for turning the poffertjes. I thought I'd better use up the mix before mixing my own - no point in throwing it out even if it does have egg powder and other odd stuff in it. You just mix it with water and cook it.

Here are some poffertjes …

… you're supposed to eat them with melted butter and maple syrup or other sweet stuff, but I used this:

It is rock sugar with natural flavourings, in a grinder, and comes from South Africa. This one, "Lust", as you can see, is ginger, lime, and rose flavoured. I also have one that is just citrus called Greed. They have bits of dried peel and things in them and are really delicious on pancakes, or waffles, or anything really.

Then I made this wee Dundee cake (yes I should have used blanched almonds - didn't have any and couldn't be bothered blanching these. Fibre is good.):

It was intended to be for Murray the electronics technician at work. His wife left him a year or so ago, he loves fruitcake, and is great at fixing broken electrical things that you bring from home. I feel less guilty for abusing his good nature if I can bake him a cake every now and then.

God, now they're playing "Jam Up and Jelly Tight". Haven't heard that in decades! I'd forgotten it existed, which was probably a good thing.

However, back to the cake; I didn't think it felt quite right when it was cooked. I used the recipe here, halving it to fit my 6" round tin. I'd never used that recipe before, and even though I reduced the cooking time quite a lot it felt hard when it came out of the tin.

Unfortunately you can't taste a fruitcake before you donate it; a great wedge out of it is rather obvious. I resigned myself to making another cake, using half of my usual Christmas cake recipe.

I soaked the fruit overnight and baked it today and it came out beautifully. And I did take a wedge out of the Dundee cake, and it is a bit dry. Anyway, Murray is now taken care of, and I can take my wee non-functioning heater to him next week with a clear conscience!

I've been following "At the Very Yeast" lately and was very impressed by her English muffins. They looked great, so I did a web search and found the recipe she used (or at least one by the same author, though from a different book) and set out to make my own. I used my oblong griddle on the stove, and divided the dough in eight instead of six …

… and not having an electric frypan, covered the muffins with the two halves of an expanding cake tin to cook them through:

I may think about getting Henry (my stainless steel fabricating friend in the North Island) to make me a proper cover for it.

The muffins turned out great:

The only problem being that I now have to eat them. And a heap of butter and jam at the same time. I am very tempted to make Eggs Benedict - but Hollandaise is soooo fattening and you can't just make a little bit.

Next on the agenda was something healthy for the week's bento lunches. A hunt through the fridge, freezer, and garden produced these likely-looking ingredients:

And I had some feta and a mangy looking lemon, the peel of which was used in the fruitcake.

Two salads was the decision I made:

One with broad beans (young tender ones, frozen from my garden last summer), stir-fried zucchini, crumbled feta, spring onion, thyme, and lemon juice:

And one with stir-fried zucchini, cherry tomatoes, chopped avocado (soaked in lemon juice), mint, spring onions, and lemon juice.

And salt and black pepper in each of course.

So that was my Queen's Birthday holiday in the kitchen. Reasonably productive, wasn't it?


  1. Reasonably? You are modest! I love the muffins best...! Yup, the only perils with cooking as a pastime... u eventually have to eat the end products! Oi? where are the shoes for the day?

  2. oh righty! you did not walk out of the house!

  3. Correct! I did wear some nice new sheepskin slippers though.