Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Great Wellington Jam-Off

It is just too hard.

Too, too hard.

Only one entry allowed per person.

But which jam?

The Great Wellington Jam-Off is being held in March during a City Market.  Picking a jam to enter is proving very, very difficult.  I love the look of my sweet orange jelly I made last year during citrus madness.  My blackberry jam is beautiful and thick.  I've even had good feedback about the marmalade....I think that there is a possibility that I make too much jam.  It seems to be hobby that sneaks up on you - I didn't think that I was actually making all that much - just small amounts here and there.  But I guess I sent out a lot of jam goodwill last year during Citrus Madness because I'm very well stocked with jams from friends at the moment.  So much jam - I'm actually trying to come up with some recipes that use jam as I just do not eat enough toast to get through it all.

If you are in Wellington and enjoy jam making I strongly recommend that you consider entering.  I have sampled a lot of delicious jam lately so I know that there are some strong contenders out there!

Also, and I'm about to use shouty caps on this next bit, the Great Wellington Jam-Off website contains MAPS OF THE BEST LOCATIONS IN WELLINGTON TO SCAVENGE FOR BLACKBERRIES.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Fruit and vege box

Twice now I've purchased half price boxes of fruit and veges from Riverside Orchard via one of those daily deal sites.   The first box was stone fruit and my husband and I worked mightily to eat the ripe fruit before it turned mouldy.   The second box arrived last Friday.  This one was a more standard box - perhaps exactly what a family of four could get through in a week - giant broccoli and cauliflower, a huge lettuce, three kilogrammes each of potatoes, apples and pears and a big bag of ripe peaches to top it all off.  The peaches have been worked on steadily through the weekend and we have one left.

The pears were on the hard side.  I decided to preserve them as a straightforward way of softening them up.  Did you know if you don't tell your suddenly fussy five year old that you made them yourself she will assume that you found a nicer brand of tinned pears??!!  Sigh.

Given we are still harvesting jersey bennie potatoes from our garden I was a little unsure of what to do with so many potatoes.  But then I remembered my husband's signature potato dish: potato gratin.  We like it garlicky, full of pepper and nutmeg and NO CHEESE!!  This is beautiful, rich and very much a meal to make for good friends.  We have no planned guests tonight, so I think we will have a couple of days of delicious potato side dish.

I'm going to keep an eye out for these deals.  I love being able to get such fresh fruit and veges, at a great price and delivered on a day of my choosing.  The freshness of the produce has been a real inspiration, enough at least for me to produce an entire colander of pear and potato skins for the worm farm today!

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Hour old Jersey Bennies for dinner

Tonight I watered the garden and saw treasure! Tiny potatoes were peeking out from the soil. I grabbed a bowl and gently filtered the soil through my fingers. My husband came out to watch and was amazed at how easy it was to find them.

Dinner plans were changed and the potatoes were cooked. They are amazing, soft and delicious. What a special meal.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Crispy skin chicken/ Happy Birthday Make-do Mum!

Posting about fried chicken is a crowd pleaser! What could be more delicious? This was pretty good, and quite the mid week treat. For some reason if our family gets takeaways mid week (the adults at least) it is always on a Wednesday. Given that I spent every spare moment today painting the bathroom I'm fairly pleased I pulled this off!

I'm also pleased because this blog is a year old!  When I first started it was a place to put recipes requested by friends.  Over the last year I've added many recipes from my personal stash, and had a fair few food adventures.  I've enjoyed learning cheese making, charcuterie and processed a giant box of citrus.  I wonder where I got the time?!!   Thanks to those who have followed, commented or just plain looked.  It is cool seeing how many people read each post, and discovering which posts are most popular.  Last month the site was accessed over 1000 times, a record!!! 

Anyway, back to the delicious chicken!

Crispy skin chicken is a dish of great significance to my husband and I. It formed part of a regular order from our favourite Fish'n'Chips/ Chinese takeaway when we were at university. My husband and I bonded over a dislike of much of the food at our hall of residence in our first year at university. Even though we were pretty broke, we ended up seeking out fish'n'chips every month or so. We got to know the family running the store well, assisting the kids with their homework on occasion and discussing high school subject options.

I was given their recipe for crispy skin chicken one night but sadly never wrote it down. All I remembered was honey. Yesterday I decided it was time to master this dish. Mine is not as good as my beloved favourite store, but was pretty awesome.  This can be made in stages over a couple of days.  The final stage is messy, and left my kitchen smelling like cooking oil.  Still, the delicious taste and pleased husband were a great reward!

Crispy Skin Chicken

2 TBSP salt
6 TBSP Chinese Rice Wine (you can buy this at Asian grocery stores, it is pretty cheap and is not for drinking neat)!
2 TBSP clear honey
2 cloves
2 TBSP cinnamon/ or two sticks of cinnamon (I wanted the skin to look a little speckled so used powdered).
5 star anise
2 spring onions, roughly chopped in two inch chunks
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
One inch chunk of ginger, sliced or grated
Four chicken legs, each cut into three pieces.
Cooking oil

Rub the salt all over the chicken.  Mix together the other ingredients and marinate for five hours/ overnight.  Steam for two - three hours in the marinade.  (I put the chicken and marinade in a bowl, a trivet on the bottom of my wok and then put a lid over the whole arrangement.  It wouldn't fit in my small steamer). Leave to cool, remove from marinade and dry the chicken.  It is a good idea at this point to leave the chicken on a rack in the refrigerator - this dries out meat very nicely.   The chicken needs to be very, very dry (I once dried a duck using a hairdryer in an emergency).  Put an inch or two of oil in your pan (enough that the chicken is at least half covered).  Do the skin side down first.  When crisp, drain well and serve. Yum. 

Best eaten hot and fresh.

I also liked the look of this recipe, and might try it next week

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Why can't all children's meals be like this?

We are on holiday and went to an incredibly family friendly country cafe about eight kilometres out of Timaru.

They do not serve chips!

You could have a hot or cold kid's meal. The cold included: ham and cheese muffin (with a small piece of real ham in the middle), sliced apple, a pack of raisins and some crackers with cheese on them.  A watered down juice box comes with it - a fairly decent children's meal option.  The meals are served on small, strong ceramic bowls.  They have clearly thought about a sensible meal for children and arranged one.  Fantastic!

What is particularly nice about the Shearer's Quarters is that there is a huge play ground out the front, and out the back there is mini golf, a driving range and a mini-farm.  For $1 you can buy a small bag of pellets and go out to feed the animals.  My daughter loved the donkey and pigs best.  There is a famously naughty goat who will even eat the paper bags that the pellets come in!  I was a bit sceptical about this and decided to test out the paper eating theory with my EFTPOS receipt from the amazing gift shop (there is basically an entire house attached to the Shearer's Quarters selling beautiful gifts, locally produced art and craft and lots of jewellery - I had good reason to want to destroy my receipt)!  The goat declined to eat the receipt, and therefore was not complicit in hiding evidence of spending.

My Timaru based family go there every Sunday morning with my niece.  She has also celebrated a couple of birthdays out there - it has been declared my daughter's favourite restaurant!

The baby fell asleep on the way back into town so we turned around and drove out to Geraldine.  Geraldine was a poky little country 'town' when I grew up.  It has since become a tourist destination with a number of high quality tourist/ gift shops to show for it.  My planned destination was the Barker's store.  Barker's produce quite delicious jams and preserves and the outlet store is normally good for some specials.  I got quite excited about the 'seconds' as they really demonstrated to me the difficulties of consistent process in making preserves.  I bought some mint and apple jelly deemed to be low on mint; you could also buy cheap peanut curry sauce that was 'too dark.'  I was glad to see that they also sold jam that hadn't set.  It really does make me feel better about some of my worst jam days!

We spent a not to be disclosed sum at a decadent chocolate shop, Choco.  They also sold strange soda drinks so we got a couple.  We arranged a tasting of this drinks during my Mum's birthday dinner.  The dandelion and burdock was considered too sweet, the Mello Yello additionally too sweet (although highly commended for the childhood memories) and the Tango orange was the favourite as a less sweet version of Fanta.  I think I will probably avoid impulse buy soda cans from here on.

Strange soda from Geraldine - the Mello Yello was a surprise find!

Famous fudge from Christchurch Art Centre.

 The Fudge Cottage was a favourite stop during past visits to the Christchurch Arts' Centre.  You could taste samples of their very wide range and view fudge making in progress.  They are trying to get another viewable kitchen set up, and it is good to hear that they are still in production.
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