Friday, June 24, 2011

Blue Suede Shoes

Ziera, who used to be "Kumfs" and specialised in old ladies' shoes and never had sales because the styles stayed the same year after year, are having a sale. Just about a year ago they changed their name to Ziera because they felt it was a better fit for the more stylish shoes they are making these days. They are still incredibly comfortable, like wrapping your feet in foam rubber, but considerably less dowdy than previously.

I bought two pairs of shoes in the sale, this is number one:

Flat blue suede lace-ups, down from $220 to $110. Super comfortable. I just love the colour, although they are available in black leather as well. I'm wearing them today with black tights (as you can see), a short black wool dress, the cream Aran jersey I knitted recently, and a blue beret and scarf.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mushroom soup with chicken - or chicken in mushroom sauce?

Just for a change last week I made a pot of thick mushroom soup, aka stewed mushrooms.

When I was small Mum and Dad used sometime to take us for a "Sunday Drive". We'd pile into the car and Dad would drive somewhere in the country - usually there was a gravel road involved, because he loved driving on them. No matter that it made my brother and me feel sick breathing in the dust in the back seat. When the weather was right there would be farm kids sitting at the side of the road with buckets of mushrooms that had come up overnight in the paddocks. Farm kids were traditionally allowed to pick and sell them for pocket money. You never see kids doing that these days, more's the pity. Possibly modern farming techniques don't encourage the growth of mushrooms.

Anyway, we'd always stop and buy a big bag of mushrooms whenever we saw them, and that night we'd have stewed mushrooms on toast for tea. Those mushrooms were gorgeous. Some of them were the size of a small umbrella, and their gills were as black as black. The stewed mushrooms were also black - like squid ink mixed with a bit of milk.

The days of those black field mushrooms are well gone, and the pathetic things you get in the shops just don't compare. These wee white button things least of all:

However, you work with what you have. Firstly melt some butter in a pot:

Then sautée the sliced mushrooms. I decided I really was making soup, so I quartered about a third of the mushrooms and sautéed those …

… while the rest went in the food processor to get chopped more finely:

They, and some chicken & bacon stock from the freezer …

… went in the pot too …

… along with some thyme from the garden:

Next ingredient was milk, and the soup was left to simmer for a while.

Meanwhile, I got out a chicken thigh from the fridge …

… sliced it …

… and fried it in some butter …

… until it was browned and just cooked:

Next thing I did was thicken the soup with some cornflour (cornstarch), enough to make it quite thick:

Then I had some soup for my dinner, with chicken in the middle:


The only difference between this and stewed mushrooms is the size of the mushroom bits and the amount of liquid. And of course the lack of big black field mushrooms.

Roast chicken

Before you eat steamed pudding, you have to have roast dinner.

We had chicken. I hadn't made a roast for ages and ages, but you don't forget how. It's about the easiest thing to make.

First stuffing for the chook. A couple of cups of fresh breadcrumbs, some parsley and sage from the garden chopped up finely, a big onion chopped finely and sweated in about 50g of butter, salt and pepper. Mix them all up and insert into the chicken's cavity.

I hadn't used all of the paprika-y melted butter I made on the çılbır we had for breakfast, so I smeared what was left over the chicken:

Into the oven for a couple of hours, then out again to rest, while I roasted some kumara, parsnip, carrots, beetroot, and tiny Brussels sprouts from the garden.

I also made cauliflower and parsley sauce (just bechamel sauce with parsley added), and the pan drippings from the chicken were made into gravy.

That's Kiwi soul food. Although there should have been potatoes.

Old fashioned steamed pudding

I had a young man friend visiting a couple of weeks ago, so it was time to dig out the recipe for steamed pudding from the recesses of my brain.

This is something I used to make often when my son was living at home, the recipe is really basic, but you can change it around heaps by adding spices and/or fruit, cocoa, jam or syrup on the bottom etc.

You start by creaming butter and sugar together …

… I'm not very thorough at this, it should be done better.

Then you mix in egg …

… until it's well combined …

… add some vanilla essence (or whatever takes your fancy and will go with the other flavours) …

… then add flour, baking powder, and milk …

… and mix to a batter:

This is going to be a "Black Cap Pudding" so I'm putting stoned dates on the bottom of a greased pudding basin. Another sort of BlackCap pudding has dark jam (e.g. plum) there instead.

The batter goes on top …

… the top of the pudding bowl goes on …

… then it is lowered into a pot of boiling water, covered with the lid, and left to simmer for a couple of hours. The water in the pot needs to come about half way up the side of the bowl, and you have to be careful not to let it boil dry.

You can't really overcook it, so when you're ready to eat it you retrieve it from the pot, remove the lid …

… put a plate over the bowl …

… invert it, and remove the bowl:

This is traditionally eaten with custard powder custard, which bears very little relationship to custard, but is nice anyway.

You heat milk and a bit of sugar …

… and when it's nearly boiling, add in some custard powder that you've slaked with some cold milk:

Custard powder is basically vanilla flavoured, yellow coloured, cornflour (cornstarch). Very similar to what I believe Americans call "pudding".

You stir the custard vigorously so it doesn't go lumpy …

… then pour it over the steamed pudding:

So there you have what we call pudding with custard, but which Americans would no doubt call pudding with cake. Runny cream is a good addition, but I didn't have any.

Recipe (approximate)

Steamed pudding

(can be doubled or tripled)
100g butter
100g sugar
1 egg
125g flour
1tsp baking powder
milk to mix

you can also add  any of:
1 tsp essence
1 tsp any spice
handful of dried fruit
2 tbsp cocoa (use correspondingly less flour)
jam, fruit or syrup at the bottom of the bowl

Cream butter and sugar
Add egg and mix well
Add flour, baking powder, and enough milk to mix to a cake-like batter
Pour into a greased pudding bowl, cover with lid (or tinfoil tied with string if you don't have a lid), and place in pot of boiling water. Water needs to stay half way up the side of the bowl, so top up if necessary. Simmer for at least 1 1/2 hours.
Serves four adult females or two (maybe one) teenaged boys.


This is a Turkish dish I've been wanting to try for ages.

It's as simple as can be; a puddle of room temperature garlic yoghurt, with a poached egg (or two) on top, and over that you drizzle melted butter mixed with smoked paprika and a little chilli:

It's gorgeous. It doesn't taste like any of its ingredients, somehow all the flavours mix together and turn into something quite different.

It feels as decadent as eggs Benedict, but with far far fewer calories. Even that pool of butter is less than you would think - it goes much further when melted!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Some old-fashioned baking.

I ordered "the Art of Cooking made Plain and Easy" by Hannah Glasse from the Book Depository a couple of weeks ago. It arrived last week, and today being the official Queen's Birthday holiday in New Zealand (no work), I did some baking from it.

Choosing something to bake from an 18th century cookbook is not easy. I was tempted by "wigs", but had no idea of what they were supposed to look like - the penultimate instruction is "shape into wigs" - so that was a washout. You also need to choose a recipe that gives more or less complete instructions, and that's not overly extravagant with butter and eggs.

I settled on Portugal Cakes and Gingerbread.

The recipes for both of these were rather massive, so I reduced them considerably. Portugal Cakes, for example, wanted 10 eggs, and the Gingerbread 3 quarts of flour!

I started with said Portugal cakes. I quartered the recipe, starting off with 4oz flour (fine white, sifted very fine) …

… and 4 oz sugar (beaten very fine) in a bowl …

… then I rubbed in 4 oz butter (best sweet) …

… until it looked like grated white bread:

Next I had to "beat well with a whisk" 2 1/2 eggs (I used 3 smallish ones) …

… and add these, along with some sack (sherry), …

… rose water (rose essence), …

  and currants to my mixture. This was an ideal time to use some of my home-grown currants, so I did.

Not having much idea of what size and shape of tins Portugal cakes required, I used what I had; some nice round-bottomed patty pans.

I buttered them and put the cake mix in, and forgot to take a photo before they went into the oven. This is what they looked like when they came out though:

They're very tasty, and not too dense (I really did beat hell out of those eggs).

I reduced the gingerbread recipe to a third of the original. I started off with 1 quart of flour (some mental arithmetic was required here, resulting in my using 1.2 litres of flour measured in a 500ml measuring jug) …

… and a goodly amount of ginger (I trusted Greggs to have beaten it well for me) although not the 3 oz the recipe wanted. I didn't have that much in the house.

Next came nutmeg, cloves, and mace, with extra nutmeg instead of the mace. I'd run out.

Like a good little 18th century kitchen maid I ground the cloves myself in a mortar and pestle:

1/4 lb of sugar went in next:


Then I melted together 1/4 lb butter and 2/3 lb mixed treacle and golden syrup. It was supposed to be all treacle, but I didn't have enough.

The treacle mixture then went ito the dry mixture, and I mixed it as well as I could. It didn't look right at all. It was crumbly, not doughy or battery. There was no way that it could ever turn into a loaf of anything!

I muttered away to myself, thinking my "quart of flour" must have been very off, and decided to throw in some yoghurt.

I put in enough to turn the crumbly mixture into a bread-like dough …

… turned that into a buttered and papered loaf tin, and put it into the oven to bake.

It took a lot longer than the recipe's "an hour in a quick oven will bake it", but eventually it was done.

I haven't tried it yet, I might even let it age a bit before I do.

I checked the quart of flour thing with Wolfram Alpha, and my measurement was pretty much spot on. Maybe Mrs Glasse left something out of her recipe.