Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Candy sushi for Halloween

I'm not really into Halloween.  It was not something that my family 'celebrated' growing up, and it was similarly irrelevant to my husband's family.  Actually, I think for most of New Zealand, Halloween had about the same relevance as say, Thanksgiving in America.  In the last few years I've noticed huge pushes in shops to stock Halloween merchandise.  I'm not taking this celebration up, basically because I sense merchandisers would like me to.  Children who get past the security gate on our property will be politely told that we think it is unsafe to request lollies from strangers, and that we additionally don't consider being 'tricked' for not supplying lollies to be an acceptable response.

That being said, I am thrilled to be invited to share meaningful celebrations with other families.  To a friend of the family, Halloween was very relevant to her family growing up.  She has always tried to celebrate it with a giant family friendly BBQ.  We enjoyed the Halloween BBQ last year, and look forward to it again tonight.  It has also proved to be a great way of explaining to our daughter what makes families unique - after all, few Kiwi families celebrate Chinese New Year or the Moon Festival.

A few days ago I was in Auckland and had two hours BY MYSELF to go shopping on Queen St.  I went to my sacred shopping sites of Japanese dollar stores.  I found a DIY candy sushi making kit in the 'Made in Nippon' shop close to our hotel.  We decided to make candy sushi for Halloween as part of our contribution to the BBQ.

It is a bit wonky.  Having a two-year-old yell "TURN, TURN" any time her sister did anything made everything challenging.  My daughter and I both had a lot of fun dropping orange goo into a solution.  When dripped in the goo immediately set as orange spheres.  So I've managed to get a little molecular gastronomy out of the system and the kids have lovely sticky fingers. 

It has made me think though of making some kind of dessert sushi for my daughter's looming birthday.  Coconut in place of rice?  I'll think about it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

RIP Elderflower tree

My beloved elderflower tree is only 1/8th mine.  I live in a complex with a body corporate and the land where the tree is, while directly behind my property and not indeed visible to most of the houses, is on communal land.  For the last three or four years I have looked forward to spring and making delicious elderflower cordial.  Another friend has made elderflower champagne for her friends from this tree and this was going to be the year that I got up the ladder and harvested the berries for jam.

We have a drain problem.  Our property has flooded during some of Wellington's more extreme rainfall.  Tree roots blocking the drains seems the most likely reason. The tree surgeons arrive tomorrow.

I'm thrilled with the decision to remove 95% of the trees.

But losing the elderflower really hurts.

This time last year I was making elderflower cordial for my daughter's crèche teachers as a farewell gift. Now she has been at school for a year and my youngest daughter is helping me to make the cordial. Making cordial is a great activity for a two year old - they can scoop sugar (there is a lot of sugar in elderflower cordial), squeeze lemons and oranges and help to collect the flowers.

I'm going to take cuttings tomorrow, and friends have offered me access to their known elderflower haunts.  But I'm really, really going to miss 'my' tree.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Platter and more Elderflower

It is Elderflower cordial time again!  Check the link for elderflower cordial and champagne recipes.  This year I've made two big bottles and then I had about two cups left over and no storage bottle.  I had a brainwave and put it in a pot and boiled it down to syrup.  If you boil it until reduced by half you will have the most deliciously concentrated syrup.  I've frozen mine (well, it wont freeze because it is too syrupy but I am storing it in the freezer).  I'm going to use it to make gelato and to drizzle over sorbet.  You can also use it like cordial, with just the tiniest amount (about a teaspoon) generously flavouring a glass of water.

I'd love to access a Soda Stream and make fizzy elderflower cordial drink! I'll settle for bottled soda sparkling water.

Last year I made elderflower and lemonade ice blocks for the children.  The ice blocks were also very useful as emergency cold drink flavouring when we had summer guests and nothing fresh to offer!

I'm going to experiment with some other elderflower flavours now.  I'm curious about adding vanilla - I think it will be either very good or very bad.  Ginger comes to mind as well.  I use orange and lemons when making the cordial - but might look at changing the proportions around a bit.

I still haven't tried battered elderflower but I'm making cauliflower pakora tonight so I might have a go while I've got the oil heated.

Yum, it is so lovely to have so much elderflower that I can just experiment away to my heart's content!


It is nearly the end of the school holidays and today my five year old and I had a special day off together.  With the two year old in creche and my husband at work we went off on a loosely planned 'day of trying new things.'  We went to playgrounds we have never stopped out, went op-shopping for dress ups and visited the Makara Wind Farm.  By the time we got back into town, picked up the two year old and caught up on chores it was late and dinner time.

I couldn't be bothered.

Then I remembered platters.

I was considering Fish 'n' Chips but given that lunch today was fruit and vegetable free I roused myself to something healthier.  With the two year old standing on her steps at the bench helping herself and being a general cute nuisance I did the old platter trick:

It took five minutes to make.  It would have been quicker if I hadn't used a bento food cutter to make a couple of carrot butterflies.  The breadsticks were a project with the two year old a couple of days ago.  I used a chocolate oatmeal stout beer that I'd been given at the International Chocolate Festival in a goody bag.  I don't actually drink beer, so can't comment on the drink itself. I can say that it made a fantastic flavour to pizza dough and when I made Nigella's Chocolate Guinness Cake last week it turned a great cake into some kind of in-your-face adult-only mud cake deliciousness. 

The photo was close to perfection: then the baby jostled me, the five year old reached across and I accidentally clicked.

I thought I'd taken a picture of elderflower but can't find it.  This is the girl's playing in cherry blossom a fortnight ago instead.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Cooking with Cola - Cola Chicken Terikyaki

At the moment in New Zealand there is a launch of 'personalised' Coca Cola bottles.  The company has selected 150 of the most common names, added them randomly to their original Coke and so people can search out their name when shopping.  I have a very, very common first name and haven't come across it yet!  I've been fascinated watching people rummage through the bottles trying to find their name - cola bottles have become a messy display item in my local, anally tidy supermarket.  The one name I continue to come across is 'Meena.'  I wouldn't have thought that it was that common a name - and since I see it all the time at the moment I think that not too many 'Meena's' are interested in purchasing personalised Cola!

At the Food Blogger's conference we sampled Six Barrel Soda's Kola flavour.  It was a warm, spicy flavour and I really enjoyed it.  It was a lot less syrupy than your standard Coca Cola and the residue at the bottom of the sample cup was proof that the drink was made with genuine spices.  My friend has actually made cola syrup after coming across an Internet recipe for Coca-Cola a long time ago. I was so impressed when she assembled all the ingredients together (over many months) then actually made cola syrup.  She gave us some as a gift for our daughter's birthday last year - it was really nice!

I've heard of the odd recipe using cola drinks as an ingredient.  I wondered if there was a recipe out there were the cola drink was the star of the dish. I used ordinary Coca Cola in the recipe below.  I'm off to buy some more of the Six Barrel Soda version though - I think that the mixture of spices in their cola would make this dish really special.

Chicken teriyaki is a Make-Do Mum favourite here.  It is the only recipe I know of that gives beautiful, marinated flavour to chicken without actually marinating the chicken in the first place.  The only catch is that you have to be able to pay attention to it for the twenty minutes or so that it is is cooking.  Bottled teriyaki sauce will burn rather quickly if not watched.  The advantage of this dish is that the sauce is thin, and thickens after twenty minutes or so of cooking.  So there is a good chance that the chicken is well cooked and glazed before you have to worry about it burning.

It doesn't matter if the cola is fresh or flat for this dish.  I don't know about you, but I tend to find the last drink in a bottle of soda rather uninspiring.  I didn't use diet cola - you really need the sugar in the full-on version to caramelise the chicken.

You could also use that last slug or two of cola drink to help glaze roast pork - a great way to add some colour during cooking.

Cola Chicken Teriyaki

About one can of cola drink (a cup and a half)
Quarter a cup of Chinese Rice Wine (you can get this very cheaply at Asian grocery stores and some supermarkets (found with Asian ingredients, not in the alcoholic drink section).  This wine is absolutely not for drinking, only for cooking.  You will find dire warnings to that effect on the label!  You can substitute with sherry.
Half a cup of light soy sauce
One diced Garlic clove.
One onion
Black pepper
Vegetable Oil
Approx 1 kg Chicken - I used chicken nibbles and often use chicken wings for this dish.  If you are using diced chicken, such as chicken breast  you may find that the chicken has cooked long before the sauce, and you could end up with quite dry meat.

Use a really large pan or wok so that all of your meat can be cooked at one time.

Cut the onion so that you have long stringy pieces.  Rapidly cook these in a very hot pan until they are golden and getting some crispy bits (I like to see a bit of charred effect on mine).  Set aside to cool.

Cook the chicken in oil until the chicken has got a nice browned effect on all sides.  Add the cola, wine, garlic and pepper.  Cook on a moderate to high heat, turning occasionally until the chicken is glossy and most of the liquid has evaporated.  Add the onion, cook for a couple more minutes then leave to cool slightly before serving.

This can look really attractive sprinkled with either spring onions or black sesame seeds just before serving. 

Caramelised and delicious
We had a great chat at the Food Blogger's Conference about referencing and acknowledging sources when writing recipes.  If I would like to copy a recipe then I will always link to the original recipe, adding my own comments.  If I'm creating a recipe I tend to use a search engine to find recipes similar to what I am after.  If I am condensing a recipe from a number of sources, changing methods, amounts and local ingredients then I will from now on make sure I acknowledge the most helpful of those sites.

Inspiration for this recipe came mostly from the following two blogs:
* Fuss Free Cooking
* Appetite For China

Monday, October 1, 2012

Blog word cloud

This word cloud represents the amount of times different words have been used on this blog.  I'm a little embarrassed that 'Chocolate, chocolate and chocolates' come up quite prominently.  I suspect the New Zealand Chocolate Festival is responsible for that one! Take a look here if you want to have a go at making your own.