Aging gracefully: 10 things I’ve stopped doing pre-50. With Greek pork, capsicum and feta.

My 50th birthday is far closer than I’d like. It’s a mere 18 months away. Although I shouldn’t be dwelling on it, I do sometimes, freak myself out, then try to busy myself with other things to take my mind off my advancing age.

Shite. 50.

It’s quite bloody old really. HALF A GODDAMN CENTURY FOR CRISSAKES!!!!!!!

Anyway. Because I’m now an old person, I’m taking stock. These are ten things I’ve stopped doing.

Number 1: Lying about my age

Well, duh. That’s fairly evident from the title of this post.

I used to lie about my age. Or just omit to tell people how old I was. I really hated turning 40, all my work colleagues at the time were in their 20’s so I just wouldn’t say how old I was. And hope that they would think I was significantly younger than I am.

Now I don’t care what other people think. I am as old as I am. That give me life experience, kids that are heading into their teens, a comfortable lifestyle, a few wrinkles and an occasionally dodgy body.

Besides, I like to think I’m young on the inside. (Feel free to roll your eyes here)

Number 2: Botox

I started using Botox in my late 30’s. I had deep frown lines between my eyebrows, which I wanted to eradicate. My frown muscles were so strong that I didn’t realise I was frowning most of the time, so was continually told to “stop frowning” by well meaning passers by.

Fast forward 10 years, and the Botox had removed my frown. Unfortunately in the meantime, my aging face had developed crows feet around my eyes, marionette lines on either side of my mouth, plus other assorted signs of age. I should say, on the whole, I don’t look too bad for my age, but the amount of Botox I would need to sort out my wrinkles was getting out of hand.

As was the cost. I’ve written often about our move to downsize last year, and my continued Botox use felt like it was doing the opposite. Where I was trying to save money in all other parts of my life, my Botox bill was going up.

So I stopped. Result? Ten years of use means my frown muscles have atrophied. I’ve forgotten how to frown. There are a few extra lines where there weren’t before, but I’m ok with them. Afterall, I’m nearly 50.

Number 3: Going to Beauticians

Now if this isn’t a pit to sink your money into!

I stopped having facials years ago, for a number of reasons. Firstly, I was having Botox. No amount of facials will do the job injectables do. Secondly, facials are pretty much expensive snake oil. You feel great for half an hour or so, with your wallet $100 lighter, then the next day you look precisely the same as you did before having the facial. Thirdly, I have sensitive skin. If the beauty products aren’t right, I break out. Not a risk I fancy taking.

Every so often I get my nails done, but to be honest, it’s cheaper to do it myself. And I do a pretty good job.

And massages? Don’t get me started. This may be a job for a psychologist, but I lie on the bed thinking of the dozens of other things I could be doing instead. I’d rather relax with a good book.

Number 4: Buying expensive cosmetics

I used to own beauty products and makeup items to rival your common-or-garden Kardashian.

Then my skin packed up. I got eczema on my face, which was far from attractive, and which wouldn’t heal. My doctor narrowed the cause down to the perfumed, highly branded beauty products I was using, and recommended moving to perfume-free supermarket brands. No attractive packaging, no fancy names, no Baz Luhrmann shot commercials. This was as basic as moisturiser can get.

I should add that around this time I spoke to a Beauty Editor colleague, who asked not be names, lest her magazine lose the immense amount of lucrative beauty advertising it receives. When I asked what products I should be using on my face, she said a cleanser and a moisturiser. That’s it. Because everything else does the same thing.

I was specifically interested in an eye cream. My moisturiser does the same thing as an eye cream (this from the Beauty Editor). There is no need to spend money on extra products. So now I don’t.

Number 5: Lying in the Sun

See all the points above. If I want to avoid my skin looking like a dried up piece of leather, then spending hours sunbaking just isn’t going to cut it. I can see the difference in others of my age who have spent hours in the sun – the years are not being kind. For many of them the damage was done when they were in their teens, but I figure it’s never too late to break a bad habit.

To be honest, I’ve never really been much of a sunbather, but now hats, sunblock and general sun avoidance is essential.

Plus, you know, cancer.

Number 6: Going to the gym

I should point out this doesn’t mean I’m no longer exercising. I just can’t tolerate gyms any longer.

I’m not sure what it is exactly. Too many people obsessed with how much they can lift? Too much lycra? Too much vanity?

Jokes aside, possibly a combination of this, alongside feeling the pressure to be fitter, thinner, stronger, better, which I really just can’t be bothered with any longer. There’s enough pressure already to be all of those things without adding a temple to worship the gods of fitness to the mix.

All of which creates barriers for me to even go to the gym. Forget that I’m paying vast sums of money to be there. I just don’t enjoy the experience, so I avoid it. Which is not great for me getting enough exercise into my day.

So I’ve decided to focus on exercise I enjoy. Exercise I don’t have to drive to (another barrier). I walk. Almost every day. It’s good for my head and my body. I enjoy walking alongside our beautiful harbour, which makes my heart sing. I make the most of the time by listening to podcasts, or making calls to friends. And I walk, so I can tick the exercise box.

Number 7: Working in an office

I love this one especially. It’s not so much about the office per se, but what the office represented.

A career I’d fallen out of love with, clients who were obsessively critical, office politics that I was never savvy enough to understand.

A marriage under duress, children I didn’t see enough, a home I was too busy to enjoy.

A body that was falling apart, skin riddled with eczema, hair falling out, a near-miss breakdown.

It’s not surprising that my love/hate relationship with my work had become a hate/hate.

So now I work from home. I’m free to pursue my dreams, to write as the mood takes me, to cook, to nuture my family, to nuture my marriage, to nuture myself. I’m happy and at peace, for the first time properly in my adult life. It’s only taken me half a century.

I know that not everyone can do this, because it is a luxury to be able to afford to work without income for a period of time. To step off a corporate ladder is to take an immense financial risk, and we have made some sacrifice to get here. But the sacrifices for us were insignificant and superficial in the end. Which makes us immensely fortunate and privileged.

Number 8: Wearing heels

I used to wear heels every day. Sky scrapingly high heels, heels you could get vertigo from wearing. My party trick was to take off my heels to show people how short (5’3″, 159cm) I am. Tada!

Then the injuries started.

Aside from falling off said heels a couple of times after one or two too many (another reason for 10 weeks alcohol free), which resulted in grazed hands and a bruised ego, I was experiencing more serious, long term damage to the tendons in my ankles. I would wake during the night and walk like a woman of 80, with pain through my feet.

My physio recommended that I stop wearing heels. Which I resisted for quite a while, until the same injury happened again. So I gave up, and haven’t worn anything above a 5cm heel since.

I don’t miss it. I can still spend money on shoes with the best of them. The plus side was a whole world of flat shoes opened up where I had never seen them before. Sneakers, brogues, loafers, slippers, mules, sandals. I don’t feel like I’m missing out at all. And I never fall off my shoes now.

Number 9: Wearing my hair long

This went with the heels thing. I had a look. Long hair, a fringe over my eyes, vertiginously high heels, and short skirts.

When the heels went, the hair and the skirts suddenly didn’t work. The length of my hair was dragging my face down, making me look older. The short skirts looked wrong with flat shoes. I felt like I was trying too hard to look young.

So I totally changed my look. My hair now sits just above my shoulders, the fringe has grown out, the short skirts have been replaced with trousers in winter, maxi dresses in summer, and always, always, flat shoes. I’m so much more comfortable with how I look now.

Number 10: Indiscriminate friendships

This one is important.

When I worked in advertising, I had so many “friends”. Friends to go out to lunch with, friends to drink to much with, friends to complain about the industry with, friends to gossip with.

Then I left, and many of my so called friends disappeared. I was hurt initially, until I realised that they were friendships with many conditions attached. Some were friendships based on the money I could spend with the companies they worked for. When I stopped having a media budget, I stopped being of value. Some were friendships based on being in the trenches together. When my tour of duty was over, we suddenly had no common ground.

But many of my friends remained. They’re the ones where the friendships are deeper than the superficiality of common employment. They’re the friends where we’re there through thick and thin with each other. The people I can talk to for hours about anything and everything.

In a way its been cleansing to clear out the indiscriminate friends. Like going through your wardrobe and getting rid of the clutter, to see the beautiful pieces you’d forgotten you had.

GREEK PORK, CAPSICUM AND FETA
Serves 42017-06-02 10.45.43 v2

This is a simple mid-week style dinner, that comes together in less than an hour. The flavours deepen with time, so you could make it the day before.

2 tablespoons olive oil
600g pork leg or scotch fillet
2 onions finely sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried mint
3 red capsicums, deseeded, finely sliced
2 x 400g cans crushed tomatoes
6 silverbeet leaves, stalks removed, chopped
100g olives
Handful parsley chopped, plus extra to garnish
100g feta
Fresh crusty bread to serve

  1. Heat oven grill to highest heat (250⁰C)
  2. Heat oil in a large fry pan over medium/high heat. Cook pork in batches until golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Reheat pan over medium heat. Add onions, capsicum and garlic and cook, stirring for 5 minutes or until onion is translucent and soft.
  4. Sprinkle over dried herbs and cook for another minute.
  5. Pour over tinned tomatoes and return pork to the pan. Stir to combine, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes or until sauce has thickened slightly (it should still be quite runny)
  6. Stir through chopped silverbeet, olives and chopped parsley and cook for another 5 minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper
  7. Crumble feta over the top of the pork and tomato sauce. Place the fry pan under the grill until feta is starting to brown (about 5 minutes)
  8. Remove from heat and serve, sprinkled with extra chopped parsley and with crusty bread on the side to mop up the juices
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Luganega Sausage Orecchiette with Broccoli

This recipe was inspired by my friend Charlotte’s lovely step-father Les, who makes a version of this as his signature dish. When he heard I was planning to make this, he even provided the Oricchiette pasta! Thanks Les x

It was a perfect excuse to try L’Authentique’s latest creation – an Italian Luganega pork sausage, with parmesan, fresh garlic and white wine. I tested some of the sausages at Farro yesterday for them, and we sold out in minutes! They’re that good.

If you can’t find Luganega, feel free to exchange for a good pork and fennel sausage instead.

L’AUTHENTIQUE LUGANEGA SAUSAGE ORECCHIETTE WITH BROCCOLI
Serves 6 generously

500g orecchiette pasta2017-05-19 09.12.45 v1
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
500g Luganega sausage (approx 2 packs)
1 red capsicum, cut into small dice
1 cup chicken stock
1 head broccoli, cut into small florets
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup parmesan, grated
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Salt/Pepper to taste

  1. Heat a large pot of salted water. When boiling, add the pasta and cook to the manufacturer’s instructions
  2. Meanwhile, in a large heavy based frying pan, heat the olive oil over a moderate heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until onion is soft (about 5 minutes)
  3. Using a small sharp knife, split the sausage casing, and remove the sausage from the skins. Add the sausage meat to the pan, and cook, using a wooden spoon to break up.
  4. Add the chicken stock and capsicum, and cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the broccoli, stir to combine and cook for another 2 minutes
  6. Add the cream and parmesan and cook until the cheese has melted and combined
  7. Add parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Toss through the pasta and garnish with extra parsley and grated parmesan.

A beautiful mind: Pork Mole

My friend Charlotte has a mother who has advanced Alzheimer’s disease. This in itself is not unusual, as 1 in 10 people are expected to get Alzheimer’s in their lifetime. A frankly horrifying statistic.

What is unusual is that Charlotte has chosen to share her story, and to write about the ways that we can possible stave off this terrible disease by making some small changes to the way we live and eat.

Her blog is called A Beautiful Mind. I highly recommend you read it. Her story is powerful, emotional, raw, confronting, and definitely worth reading.

PULLED PORK MOLE

A mole (pronounced mo-lay) is a Mexican sauce that features a small amount of dark chocolate. Chocolate is packed with antioxidants, and the darker the better. The chocolate in a savoury sauce is not as odd as it sounds. In this sauce it takes on a rich, earthy quality, with little of the sweetness in the original product.

2 Tbsp olive oil2017-03-31 17.09.29 v1
1kg pork shoulder, cut into 5cm chunks
1 onion, finely chopped
1 green chilli, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin seeds
2 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 tsp ground chilli powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sweet paprika
440g tinned crushed tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
40g extra dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids or more)
Salt/pepper to season

  1. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy pan. Fry pork pieces until very brown. Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. Add extra oil to the pan if required and saute onion, garlic and green chilli until soft.
  3. Add cumin, coriander, chilli powder and cinnamon and fry briefly until fragrant.
  4. Add chicken stock, tomatoes and paprika, bring to the boil and return pork to the pan.
  5. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until pork is very tender (about 1 hour).
  6. Remove pork from the pan and set aside to cool.
  7. Add chocolate to the sauce and cook until chocolate has melted and sauce thickened.
  8. Shred pork with two forks, and return to the pan. Heat through.
  9. Taste and season with salt and pepper if required.
  10. Serve with warmed tortillas, cooked rice, sour cream, chopped fresh coriander and lime wedges.

Stolen Recipes: Pork Souvlaki

I’ve been making this recipe for quite a few years now. It’s Jamie Oliver’s, from his TV series Jamie Does, but he’s also kindly published it online, which is where I found it. He calls these “wicked kebabs”.

I won’t be doing that.

This is one of those Friday night what-the-hell-am-I-going-to-feed-everyone-when-I-can’t-be-arsed-cooking kind of meals. It’s really simple. Marinated pork (takes minutes), cucumber Tzatziki (ditto), chargrilled capsicums (ok, this is a bit fiddly) and grilled pita (a cinch).

There are two elements that can slow proceedings some what:

  1. Threading the pork onto skewers. Depending on how I’m feeling, I either skewer up and barbecue the kebabs, or just fry the individual pieces in a frying pan, which works as well (but doesn’t look as pretty when serving).
  2. The grilled capsicum. The grilling takes a while. Taking the blackened skin off takes a while. I have made this as per Jamie, and it is really tasty. But you can sub in a jar of marinated red peppers/capsicum which does the job and removes the hassle factor. I haven’t included the capsicums in the recipe below, but you can find it here.

I should mention that dried mint is important here. It seems weird to use dried instead of fresh, but the flavour is different and it tastes good.

Once you’re done, you just stuff as much as you can into a grilled pita pocket and you’re away laughing.

PORK  SOUVLAKI2017-01-05-19-47-28-hdr-v1

For the pork:
800g pork of your choice (I’ve used belly, rump and shoulder) cut into 2cm pieces
1 tablespoon dried mint
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 lemon , juice of
100 ml olive oil
2 cloves garlic , peeled and crushed
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch sea salt

For the tzatziki:
½ large cucumber
200 ml fat-free natural yoghurt
1 small clove garlic , peeled and crushed
1 heaped teaspoon dried mint
1½ teaspoons red wine vinegar

To serve:
8 pita breads
Jar of marinated capsicum/red peppers, thinly sliced

  1. Mix together the pork with all the marinade ingredients in a non-reactive dish and leave to marinate for 30 minutes (or longer).
  2. Grate the cucumber into a sieve placed over a bowl.
  3. Sprinkle with salt, then squeeze as much water out with your hands as possible.
  4. Discard the water, and mix squeezed cucumber with all other tzatziki ingredients.
  5. Thread the marinated pork onto either pre-soaked wooden skewers or metal kebab skewers
  6. Pre-heat a barbecue or griddle pan to very hot and cook pork until cooked through
  7. Brush pita breads with olive oil and chargrill until well browned.
  8. Put everything on the table and let everyone help themselves. You can add some lemon wedges for people to squeeze over, but I don’t think I ever have.

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Ham-a-lam-a-ding-dong

In my house, Christmas wouldn’t be the same without ham. We watched Christmas with the Kranks last night (not the best Christmas movie), and I was more than a little horrified to see a tinned ham passing as a desirable part of Christmas festivities. Sorry, that just doesn’t cut it.

Most years we buy a whole leg, which, when properly looked after, will give us ham for Christmas lunch, and every lunch there after until almost new year. The NZ Pork website has all the tips for taking care of ham post Christmas Day.

The thing that really elevates a Christmas ham, aside from the sheer scale of the thing, is the glaze. A good glaze needs sugar of some description for caramelisation, acid for balance, and often spices of some kind. I have opted for a combination of honey, mustard, and lemon juice in the past, then studded the ham with cloves for a traditional look.

This year I’ve done a couple of things differently. Firstly, I bought a quarter ham. It’s more manageable, and since we’re heading away to a bunch of different places through January, we can make sure there’s none left by Boxing Day. Hence the photos without the giant pork leg.

Secondly, I’ve gone for a Middle Eastern-ish glaze. I haven’t added spice here, as I like the simplicity of the pomegranate molasses, but you could add a tablespoon of cumin, or try studding the top with whole 5 spice, which have the added advantage of looking really pretty.

I should mention I’m using an already cooked ham, so all I’m doing here is giving it a flavour and appearance boost. If you need to cook your ham, this post from the Otago Famers’ Market provides a couple of pre-glaze methods.

The volume of glaze I’ve provided here should be enough for a whole leg. Halve the amounts for a 1/2 ham, 1/4 amounts for a quarter, etc.


POMEGRANATE GLAZED HAM2016-12-09-18-31-46-hdr-v1

1 whole ham, bone in
1 cup pomegranate molasses
1 cup brown sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180ºC
  2. Mix ingredients for glaze together and set aside
  3. Use a sharp knife to score the skin around the bone end of the ham
  4. Slide your fingers under the skin of the ham, gently working the skin, until it lifts away from the layer of fat surrounding the ham. Discard the skin.
  5. If the ham is overly fatty, trim some of the fat, but leave a good layer (about 1cm thick). This will keep the ham moist.
  6. Score the fat layer with a sharp knife. You can use a cross hatch pattern, or horizontal lines about 5mm apart, which I prefer.
  7. Place the ham in a baking dish lined with baking paper.
  8. Brush liberally with glaze (there will be quite a bit left over)
  9. Place the ham in the oven, and bake, glazing every 15 minutes or so, for approximately 1 hour, or until the glaze is very brown and caramelised. make sure it doesn’t burn!
  10. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature before refrigeration.

Stolen recipes: Barbecue sauce

There is an abundance of barbecue sauces on the market. The inexpensive ones are generally packed with sugar, fillers and artificial flavourings and preservatives. The good quality ones are less dodgy, have ingredients you don’t need a chemistry degree to decifer, but are pretty pricey!

I love a good barbecue sauce as much as the next person. It’s an essential condiment for spare ribs, can tart up a sad piece of steak, and makes a humble sausage feel like fois gras (I’m possibly exaggerating with the last one). You should be able to use it as a marinade, not just a sauce on the side, and when it costs a bit, you don’t necessarily want to be splashing it around.

Great news! It’s really not hard to make. There’s no need to pay upwards of $15 a bottle for the good sauce, when with a a bit of know-how and a good recipe, you can make it to order.

My go-to recipe is from Al Brown’s incredible book on all things barbecue, Stoked. It has a LONG list of ingredients – don’t worry, once you have these things on hand, you can make a batch of sauce whenever you need to. Most of the herbs are useful for a good many other things too. The only thing I’ve found challenging to source is Tabasco Chipotle (which Al specifies), so on the recipe below, I’ve used regular Tabasco and added liquid smoke. Culley’s does one of these, which is good quality and lasts for ages. I’ve also used pre-ground spices to make things a bit easier.

If you keep this in the fridge, it should last for at least 3 months, possibly longer. This makes about 5 cups of sauce.

AL’S FAMOUS (IN LYALL BAY) BBQ SAUCE2016-12-03 11.32.40 v1.jpg

1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup finely diced onion
2 Tbsp finely chopped garlic
Pinch chilli flakes
2 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp Spanish smoked sweet paprika
1 tsp celery seeds
1/2 cup bourbon
1 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 cans crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup apple juice
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
6 drops liquid smoke
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Heat canola oil in large saucepan over medium-low heat.
  2. Add onion and garlic and sweat for approximately 10 minutes or until soft
  3. Add chilli flakes, cumin, smoked paprika and celery seeds. Cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add bourbon, cider vinegar and brown sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes
  5. Add all other ingredients except salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking.
  6. Remove from heat, cool slightly and blend until smooth. Season to taste.
  7. Bottle in sterilised jars and refrigerate until required.

 

Asian Braised Pork Belly

This is one of those dishes that impresses people more than it should. That is to say, it’s very straight forward to make, but it tastes delicious and looks fantastic on the plate.

The pork belly is cooked long and slow, so the Chinese/Japanese flavours of ginger, soy and garlic cut through the richness of the meat. The remaining stock is then used to cook brown rice with mushrooms, risotto style.

All you need is to add some steamed greens (bok choy, asparagus, broccoli or whatever takes your fancy), and dinner’s served. This recipe serves four, but it’s easy to scale up should you need to feed more people.

ASIAN BRAISED PORK WITH MUSHROOM AND BROWN RICE RISOTTO2016-11-10 20.36.43.jpg

For the pork:
800g boneless free range pork belly (approx 200g per person. It will shrink during cooking)
2 Tbsp canola or other flavourless oil
1 litre chicken stock
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup rice wine (sake or similar. At a pinch you can use sherry)
3 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
4 whole star anise

For the risotto:
1 Tbsp canola oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 spring onions, whites and greens separated, whites chopped finely
250g brown rice
500ml chicken stock
50g mixed asian mushrooms chopped (eg. shitake, oyster, etc)

To compile:
100g mushrooms extra (I used portabello)
Green part of the spring onions finely sliced lengthwise

  1. Cut pork belly into 5cm pieces
  2. Heat canola oil in a large deep frying pan or casserole dish with lid
  3. Fry pork belly in the pan until well browned. Remove and set aside
  4. Reduce heat and add first portion of chicken stock, soy sauce, rice wine, ginger and star anise to the pan. Bring to the boil, then return pork to the pan. Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 2 hours or until meat is very tender.
  5. Remove pork from the pan and set aside. Pour remaining stock into a measuring jug and set aside.
  6. Heat second portion of canola oil in a large, heavy based saucepan. Add garlic and white parts of the spring onions, and saute until spring onions have softened (this should only take about 30 seconds)
  7. Add brown rice and stir for about 2 minutes.
  8. Pour over 500ml chicken stock and 500ml of the leftover pork stock. Add chopped mushrooms and bring to a simmer. Cook until much of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is just tender.
  9. Heat the remaining 500ml of pork stock in a large frying pan. Add second portion of mushrooms and spring onions, and return pork to the pan until heated through.
  10. Ladle the risotto onto deep plates, top with the pork, and spoon over mushrooms and spring onions. Reduce the remaining stock slightly, then pour over the top. Serve with steamed greens.

Not quite ramen.

I lived for ramen when I was in Japan. We were skiing in the mountains inland from Tokyo at Hakuba. The snow was deep, the temperature cold, and ramen was a nutritious, delicious way to warm up after a morning on the slopes. It was also invariably well priced and very well made.

12208283_10155125058502228_2229439237229553170_nRamen is a catch all name for different styles of Japanese noodle soup. This story from Lucky Peach outlines how ramen differs by region, but loosely speaking they can be grouped as being shoyu, miso, shio, or tonkotsu, although there are variations on a theme at a restaurant level. Ramen has it’s origins in China, and all soups share the same elements of noodles, broth, tare and toppings. When I came home from Japan, I desperately wanted to make ramen myself, but the only really good recipe I could find (this one from Bon Appetit) requires 3 days to complete.

So I took the elements, roughly, from that recipe, plus a couple of others, and shortened the process to make it a bit less unwieldy and more of a quick Sunday/Monday dinner for when you have left over roast meat in the fridge that you need to use up. I used roast pork in this instance, but you can change out the ingredients for chicken which would work as well. Not completely authentic, but completely delicious.

NOT QUITE RAMEN2016-11-13 19.49.09.jpg

For the broth:
2 litres of stock (either chicken or pork. I used the pan drippings from a roast and thinned with water)
1 sachet dried dashi powder
2 Tbsp grated ginger
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine (sake or similar, or use sherry at a pinch)
1 Tbsp mirin

100g ramen noodles per person, cooked to manufacturer’s instructions

To assemble (choose any of the following):
Roast pork or chicken, thinly sliced
1/2 hard boiled egg per person
Nori sheets
Spring onions
Bamboo shoots
Sweet corn kernels
Spinach
Chilli oil
Sesame oil
Shichimi togarashi (Japanese spice mix)

  1. Cook all the ingredients for the broth together in a large pot. Bring to the boil and cook for 15 minutes
  2. Place noodles in the base of large noodle bowls, and ladle over hot broth
  3. Top with any of the above ingredients as desired
  4. Serve with chilli oil, sesame oil or shichimi for diners to add to their taste.

 

Sausage wrapped in pastry. What’s not to love?

Sausage rolls are a New Zealand culinary icon. Kind of. Maybe a dodgy bakery icon, when you’re really hungry (or hung over) and that’s the only thing left in the pie warmer. Often a bit greasy, packed with fillers and non-descript meat, then smothered in red sauce.

I know. I’m really selling this concept.

Sausage rolls don’t have to be like that. If you don’t want to make them yourself, you could give I Love Pies sausage rolls a go. They come ready to cook from frozen, in three flavours, beef, lamb and rosemary, and feta and spinach. They’re made from quality meat, fresh herbs and no nasties. And they’re really good.

However, sausage rolls are ridiculously straightforward to make. Worst case scenario, you buy some of your favourite sausages, the best quality you can afford, take them out of their cases, wrap them in pastry and bake. This is a great option, as there are some wonderful sausages available these days, filler free, with all the herbs and spices you need, ready to go.

But if you’re really keen, you can make the mince filling to your own taste. This can be a bit of a challenge. It’s not like you’ll be trying raw mince meat to make sure the flavours are right, so you’ll have to wait until the rolls are cooked. Which can mean a lot of work for little return. Luckily for you, I’ve already been through this palava, so I can pass a couple of recipes on.

I’ve given you both options – the easy, and the not so much. Either way, they’re delicious, quick to make, and a country mile better than the dodgy bakery down the road.

HOME MADE SAUSAGE ROLLS

2016-08-18 18.10.02.jpgOption 1: Using pre-made sausages

8 pre-made quality sausages of your choice (I used L’Authentique Toulouse)
2 sheets of pre-rolled puff pastry
1 egg beaten

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C
  2. Line a large baking tray with tin-foil
  3. Remove skins from the sausages (try and maintain their shape – it’s easier than reshaping)
  4. Cut each pastry sheet in half
  5. Lay two sausages end to end lengthwise across the pastry sheet
  6. Roll pastry around sausage meat and brush edge with beaten egg to seal
  7. Slice to the size you like (I cut mine into quarters), score the pastry diagonally with a knife, and brush the tops with beaten egg.
  8. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until pastry is puffed and golden

 

Option 2: Make your own sausage mince

There’s a couple of options here:

  1. Asian chicken sausage rolls
  2. Pork and fennel sausage rolls

The Asian chicken sausage rolls are inspired by Al Brown‘s Japanese Chicken Burger recipe, from his book Stoked. But I’ve messed with them somewhat for this purpose.

ASIAN CHICKEN SAUSAGE ROLLS

500g chicken mince
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon pickled ginger (pink) finely chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 x sheets ready rolled flakey pastry (each sheet makes two large rolls)
1 x egg, lightly beaten
Sesame seeds to garnish

  1. Mix together all ingredients, except pastry, egg and sesame seeds
  2. Place 1 quarter of the mixture along one edge of the pastry and roll
  3. Seal by brushing with egg, cut unused half of pastry off and repeat
  4. Cut each large roll into halves.
  5. Brush tops with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds
  6. Bake at 200°C for 20 minutes

 

PORK & FENNEL SAUSAGE ROLLS

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 x onion finely diced
500g free range pork mince
1 Tbsp fennel seeds, toasted and ground in a mortar and pestle
2 x tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
Salt/pepper
2 x sheets ready rolled flakey pastry (each sheet makes two large rolls)
1 x egg, lightly beaten

  1. Heat oil and cook onion and rosemary until soft. Cool
  2. Mix together onion mixture, sausage, fennel seeds and breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper
  3. Roll into sausage shape and lay out onto pastry
  4. Roll into tube and seal with beaten egg (Each sheet of pastry should make two large rolls)
  5. Cut each roll into halves
  6. Brush top with beaten egg
  7. Bake at 200°C for 20 minutes or until pastry is puffed and golden

Another week gone by

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Florentine Pork

SUNDAY:

Florentine Pork was a wonderful Sunday night dinner. This is a recipe I found a year or so ago in Dish magazine (it was their cover issue), and it’s become a regular part of my winter repertoire. Despite cooking in the oven, the pork chops remain moist and tender. You can find the recipe here.

 

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Brined Chicken

MONDAY:

Brined chicken is a great way to ensure a moist, flavoursome roast. Sadly, my family are growing too fast, so we rarely have leftovers, just enough for stock. Read my blog and see how easy it is to make!

 

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Tomato baked prawns and feta

TUESDAY:

Another day where I couldn’t find inspiration, so turned to a food magazine for ides. This time, Gourmet Traveller with delicious greek prawns, baked with feta, tomatoes, fennel and mint. Sadly we don’t have the amazingly fresh prawns our Aussies counterparts take for granted, but this was a simple, delicious, one pan dinner. The recipe is here.

 

WEDNESDAY:

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Vietnamese noodle soup

A few days since we’ve had any red meat, and I’m mindful of my teen aged daughter’s iron levels. We haven’t had soup so far this week, and I’m feeling wistful for the heat of Hanoi. Vietnamese noodle soup ticks all the boxes (aside from actually being there!)

 

 

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Pearl Garden Dim Sum

THURSDAY:

My kids have been on holiday this week (a full week before anyone else!), so I took them to yum cha (or dim sum, depending on which part of the world you’re from) at Pearl Garden. My kids have been going to yum cha since they were first able to eat solid food and we all love it. Kids love the perfect portions and constant surprise than yum cha brings, and it’s generally an affordable restaurant experience (sans Michelin star). The folks at Pearl Garden in Newmarket have been producing outstanding Chinese food for three generations now. Still friendly, still fresh, still reasonably priced. They’re open for yum cha every day, or go there at night and try their outstanding three course Peking Duck feast.

FRIDAY:

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Audrey’s Cheesies

While the holidays are on, we go through an insane amount of food. The kids are growing fast, and their appetites appear to be insatiable. I’m trying to reduce their reliance on processed snacks, so have turned to an old recipe from Richard’s grandmother, Audrey, that has all the crunchiness and cheesiness a good snack needs, but without the additives. Get the recipe here.

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Spring Tulips

SATURDAY:

In the grey of winter, some brightly coloured flowers can be just what the doctor ordered. I’ve noticed the first spring blooms breaking out around Auckland (in July, one small upside of global warming). Tulips are available commercially, at a reasonable price. They’re the only flower to keep growing once cut, so put them into a vase with about 5cm water. Change the water every two days, and trim an inch or so off the bottom to keep them fresh. They should last well for about a week.