29 August 2013

Wanderings:Pliz Slo Daon....Island time in Vanuatu


Pliz slo daon, no not a spelling mistake that is Bislama, the pidgeon English that they speak in Vanuatu alongside French & English. And it is very easy to slow down in Vanuata.  I find there is something about all of the Pacific Islands, in that the minute you arrive you you slow down to island time, no longer in a hurry, happy to amble along, let things happen when they happen.

Hello - Halo
Goodbye - Ale Tata
Good Morning - Gudmoning
Good Night - Gudnaet
Please - Plis
Thank You - Tankyu tumas
Excuse Me - Skiusmi
I’m Sorry - Mi sori tumas
How are you? - Yu oraet?
I am fine thanks - I orate, tankyu

Vanuatu means “Land Eternal” & the local people are Ni-Vanuatu; of Vanuatu. The locals have been here for centuries & still today more than 115 cultures & languages thrive here.  Dances, ceremonies, status, animals & crops vary from island to island & district to district. Some 80% of people still live in rural villages, mostly small & clan based with less than 50 people & each headed by a chief & to this day pretty much live off their land.


Honeymoon Beach
These villages are peppered throughout Vanuatu, sitting incongruously next to luxurious 5 star resorts.  The tin roofed huts & basic, ramshackle structures that make up the villages where cooking is still done over open flames in stark contrast to the 5 star luxury sometime just across the road.  

They work hard to look after, clothe & feed their families.  The older kids looking after the younger ones & so on.  Don’t be surprised to see 5 or 6 year olds playing with machetes!  Unemployment is high at around 70%, however with it being so pastoral & community based if 1 or 2 people have a job they then look after the rest of the family. And when there is a celebration the whole village celebrates.  We spotted 2 pigs being prepared for a local wedding, celebrations for which would go on for a week.

Their needs are simple & they are happy & friendly people with beaming smiles, the 21st century not so prevalent as yet, though I imagine that will change as more & more fast broadband & the connection to the outside world becomes available.  Many of the villages still have no electricity & a few have solar panels, however apparently these are mainly for charging their mobile phones! They may have basic homes, grow their own food & cook over open flames but almost everyone has a mobile phone!  So, the 21st century has begun to encroach.





Port Vila is the capital on the Island of Efate, one of 83 that make up the archipelago of Vanuatu. It is set in a beautiful harbour but the town itself is fairly dusty & run down.



Getting around is quite easy.  You can hail a bus or a taxi from just about anywhere.  Buses’ license plates begin with a “B” & taxis’ with a ‘T”.  Buses are by far the cheaper option, though you may have a few stops along the way before you get to your final destination. The rule being; last on, last off.  Just flag one down, hop on & let the driver know where you want to go & you’re on your bumpy way.  Many of the sealed roads are pot holed & once you’re off the sealed roads you are indeed for a bumpy ride!


We were blessed to have picked Kooyu Villas for our stay on Vanuatu.  Just passed Pango village, 15 minutes out of Port Vila & on the sheltered northern side of the Pango Peninsula in the aptly named Paradise Cove. 


The villa itself...idyllic, tropical, wonderful! Sliding doors that open on all sides to make the most of the balmy, tropical warmth.  Plus a hammock & outdoor beds for lounging around poolside.  It was a perfect 26C-27C most of the time we were there the ideal for slipping in to the rhythm of the tropics, lounging around in the hammock, reading by the pool, lazing on the beach or for the more adventurous snorkelling, paddle boarding & kayaking. And if the evening feels a little cooler you can have a beachside fire, the pit is all ready to go.  The only thing we were missing were a few marshmallows.


For us in & out of town was via Pango Road. This is an ever changing coral road that wanders through Pango Village, or for a welcome break from all the bumps grab a water taxi from Coco’s Beach just next door. Or if your very brave take the most direct route & kayak or paddle board the 3km to Port Vila!



If you are driving drive slowly through the village, one the road is quite rough with potholes & rocks...yes beware of the rocks!  Also there are likely to be village kids or pikininis playing in the middle of the road, not to mention the dog who kept trying to outrun our car. Just slow down you are after all on island time. And don’t forget to smile & wave!  In return you will  get some of the most beaming smiles you have ever come across. These people could out smile anyone.



We stocked up on provisions at Bon Marche Nambutu, not the best, but the best on the island & a good selection of French cheeses, perfect for that pre dinner nibble with a little aperitif as you watch the sun go down. And for some of the local beef or veal, which is some of the best meat I have ever eaten, head to the butchery in the Leader Price Supermarket.  Not surprisingly there is something to be said for happy, free range, grass fed cows. Also as it is local it is very reasonably priced...we had a whole season rack of veal for about $12 a kilo!!





And for fresh produce avoid the supermarket & head to the waterfront markets in the heart of Port Vila.  The produce is fresh as you get & for all intents & purposes organic at this bustling hive of activity.  You can just smell how fresh it is.  The markets run 24/7 from Monday morning through to Saturday.  There is beautiful fresh produce piled everywhere along with mud crabs & even the odd chicken.




In amongst all the chillaxing we did manage to get out & about...I think I am still on Island time so more on that soon.


22 August 2013

Ottolenghi’s Dark Chocolate Mousse with Baileys & Mascarpone Cream - IHCC



This week is pot luck at I Heart Cooking Clubs with Ottolenghi & as we can cook whatever Ottolenghi concoction we like I let myself be led astray from all those gorgeous greens & vegetable delights by chocolate. Come on...who hasn’t been lured by chocolate?  

Even better this called for dark bitter chocolate & provided the perfect excuse for me to indulge in one of my favourites; Whittaker’s Dark Ghana with 72% cocoa.  Dark, rich, bittersweet. Even better this Ghanaian chocolate is now 100% Fairtrade Certified so you can feel good while you indulge. Not to mention all those antioxidants!!


This is a dessert for real dessert lovers, real chocolate lovers.  It is decadent & indulgent.  Melt in the mouth dark chocolate mousse topped with a generous dollop of a Baileys Mascarpone...sublime & dangerously addictive. You will think you can’t possibly manage another spoonful but somehow you do. I think there is maybe always just a little space in that other time that you save just for desserts.

Ottolenghi’s Dark Chocolate Mousse with Baileys & Mascarpone Cream

Serves six.

Ingredients

3 eggs
100g / 3.5oz caster sugar
300g / 10.5oz dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
500ml / 18fl oz cream
Cocoa nibs or powder, to finish (optional)

For the Baileys mascarpone cream
200g  / 7oz mascarpone
75ml / 3fl oz Baileys


*A bowl worth licking!
Directions

Place the eggs & sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer & whisk until light, pale & airy.  The longer you whisk, the better, at least 10 minutes. Set a timer & leave them to whisk away while you get on to the chocolate, cream & the hazelnuts.

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl & place over a pan of just simmering water. Stir with a wooden spoon until the chocolate is melted.  With the mixer running on medium speed, add the melted chocolate to the egg mix in a steady stream. Please note it is important to combine the two gradually but continuously, with the chocolate going into the eggs & not the other way around.


Whisk the cream, or rather semi-whisk the cream until it firms up just a little, you are looking for the loose ribbon stage; so when you lift the whisk the cream dribbling off should create clear lines in the surface before disappearing. Gently fold the semi-whipped cream into the egg & chocolate until it is all combined.  The mousse can be poured in to one large bowl or into individual dishes. Place in the fridge & chill for at least an hour to set.

For the Baileys cream put all the ingredients in a bowl & whisk. The cheese will go loose and runny, but it should firm up again. Stop when it reaches a very soft peak consistency. Place in the fridge until you are ready to serve.



Serve the mousse with a generous dollop of Baileys cream on top. Dust with cocoa powder or cocoa nibs, if you wish.

What can I say?  Dark, bitter chocolate is always a winner for me.  Add to that the Baileys mascarpone for a little sweetness & the cocoa nibs for a little crunch & you have one of those desserts, that no matter how full you are you will always find a little space* until every morsel of mousse is gone.  If you are a true addict you may even lick the bowl.

*you know that other tummy you have just for desserts??


For more Ottolenghi inspiraton head over here to I Heart Cooking Clubs.




This is also my contribution to this month's Sweet New Zealand being hosted by Marnelli over at Sweets & Brains.


If you like this you might like this Baileys Chocolate Truffle Cake
Three years ago Island Time Part Deux

Enjoy!

19 August 2013

Good for You:Green Frittata




I find I need to be organised at the beginning of the week, all set to go so to speak.  If the start of the week gets a little out of balance sometimes I find it has a ripple effect through the week & it always seems so much harder to get back on track.

So in an ideal world Sunday will involve a fair amount of pottering around the kitchen & getting organised for the week ahead.  A few lunches good to go & a good idea of what I’ll be eating for dinner. Perhaps I’ll rustle up a pot of soup or roast off a pile of veggies to add a little something to salads so that I don’t feel I am living on rabbit food, or bake a frittata to have along side some salad.  They can all be made ahead & are all good to go, especially handy if you have a hectic week ahead.  If not so organised  & the week becomes a tad hectic it can lead to a lot of toast!


As long as you have eggs, a little milk or cream & some vegetables & herbs kicking around the fridge you can rustle up a frittata.

Green Frittata, adapted from Dr Libby’s Real Food Chef

Ingredients

1 head broccoli, broken in to florets
2 spring onion, finely sliced
Big bunch swiss chard or kale or silverbeet or spinach or a mixture, finely sliced
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, julienned
Good pinch chilli flakes
1/4 cup Salash chorizo, diced
8 eggs
1 cup almond milk or regular milk
3 small zucchini, thinly sliced lengthways in to long ribbons
Olive oil to drizzle
Salt & pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 160C / 325F

Mix together the broccoli, spring onions, swiss chard, parsley, basil, chilli & chorizo in a large bowl, season with salt & pepper & then place them in a roasting dish in a single layer.

Beat the eggs with the almond milk & pour over the vegetables.  Press the vegetables down with your hands so that they are evenly soaked & covered with the egg.


Arrange the zucchini slices over the top of the frittata & drizzle with a little olive oil, season with a little salt & pepper. Bake in the oven until just firm, about 20 to 30 
minutes. 

Remove from the oven & serve alongside some salad for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Packed full of greens it will leave you feeling both satisfied & nourished. It will also keep in the fridge for a day or 2  to provide a speedy meal on the go.



If you like this you might like this Fabulous Frittata
Two years ago My Darling Clementine
Three years ago Sunday Kitchen

Enjoy!

13 August 2013

Ottolenghi’s Roast Chicken with Hazelnuts, Honey & Saffron - IHCC



This week over at I Heart Cooking Clubs it is all about nuts.  I do love a nut, all sorts of nuts, cashews, brazil nuts, pistachios, walnuts, pecans & I usually have some almonds to hand to snack on. Sweet or savoury I really like them any which way.  My favourite though would be the earthy & elegant hazelnut*.  A little toasty, a little buttery & ever so delicious.

I was flicking through the Ottolenghi app, in a spare moment, & I came across this little delight, inspired by a Claudia Roden recipe in her book Tamarind & Saffron.   The exotic combination of rosewater, saffron & cinnamon was too tempting to resist not to mention the topping of hazelnuts; roasted & mixed with honey & rosewater.  Immediately I drifted off & I could imagine all those fragrant aromas that would be emanating from the oven & wafting through this kitchen....



*Hazelnuts, also known as filberts, are a healthy option. They are rich in protein, complex carbs, fibre, iron, calcium & vitamin E. They are also very low in sodium & sugar & contain no cholesterol. Over 80% of the total fat in hazelnuts is mono-unsaturated. So they are a super healthy snack!

Ottolenghi’s Roast Chicken with Hazelnuts, Honey & Saffron

For the chicken

1 chicken cut in to pieces, thighs, legs, breasts or do as I did & buy the pieces.
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of saffron threads 
Juice of a lemon
Salt & pepper

For the hazelnut paste
100g hazelnuts, lightly roasted and chopped roughly
70g honey
2 tbsp rosewater*

*I was so sure I had some rosewater lurking in the pantry, but on a good look; no.  So for a hint of the exotic I added orange blossom water instead. Granted it is a little different from the prescribed rosewater but still that sweet, fragrant, perfumey aroma that whisks you off to far off exotic lands.


Directions

In a large dish mix the chicken pieces with the onion, olive oil, ginger, cinnamon, saffron, lemon juice, water, salt and pepper. Place in the fridge to marinate for at least an hour, or overnight, in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F & transfer the chicken and the marinade to a roasting dish large enough to accommodate everything in a single layer cook for 30-35 minutes.

Meanwhile mix the hazelnuts, honey and rosewater together to make a paste. Remove the chicken from the oven & spoon the hazelnut paste onto the chicken pieces. Return to the oven for 10 more minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the nuts are a toasty golden brown colour.  The juices will run clear when cooked through.


If you like you can transfer to a serving platter or if you are going rustic serve straight from the roasting pan. Serve over rice or couscous or even a little of this celeriac puree as I did.

Golden, toasty, buttery & fragrant this is a perfect winter warmer that will whisk you off to warmer, more exotic climes for just a little while.



If you like this you might like this Chicken, Fennel & Orange Casserole
Three years ago Island Time Part One

Enjoy! 

10 August 2013

In Season:Celeriac Puree with Brown Butter



A right couple of gnarly beauties.  Celeriac, one of my favourite winter vegetables & a welcome change from all the greens.  These round roots with tough skin, a little gnarly & muddy bottomed they don’t look like they would be all that appetising, but don’t pass them by. They are a versatile root that can be mashed, eaten raw in salads, the star attraction in a velvety smooth soup or braised alongside other meat & vegetables in a comforting stew. 

Also known as knob celery or celery root or turnip-rooted celery it was developed from wild celery, a member of the parsley family. It was one of the first vegetables to appear in recorded history & is common in Europe, think the classic French remoulade of raw celeriac & a mustard mayo, & also in the Middle East. Not to forget in Ancient Egypt they gathered the plant for its seeds to be used as a flavouring & the Ancient Greeks used it in medicine.

*If you are buying celeriac or celery root look for good sized ones (about 3/4 of a kilo or 1.5 pounds) that feel heavy for their size & have no soft spots.  Overly large & they may be a little spongy in the middle & very small ones will leave you with not very much once they have been trimmed & peeled. They’re also a keeper, for me in more ways than one.  To store, don’t wash them, just wrap them in a dry paper towel & pop in a loosely sealed plastic bag & they’ll keep in the fridge for a week or 2.



However, one of my favourite ways to have celeriac is in a velvety smooth puree drizzled with a little, or a lot of, brown butter, which I find makes everything a whole lot better. 

Celeriac Puree with Brown Butter

Ingredients

3 cups milk
3 cups water
1 tsp salt
2 large celeriac (about 2 1/2 pounds total), peeled, cut into 2-inch cubes*
1 medium potato, peeled, cut into 2-inch cubes. I used agria.
1 small onion, peeled, quartered
5 tbsp butter, cut into 5 pieces
Ground white pepper
Good sized knob of butter

*You’ll need to move quickly or have some acidulated water (just plain water with a little lemon juice added) to hand to avoid the white flesh turning brown.

Directions

Place the milk, water & salt in a large saucepan over high heat & bring to the boil. Add the celeriac, potato & onion. Reduce the heat & simmer until vegetables are cooked through, about 30 minutes. Drain & discard the cooking liquid.

Place the vegetables in the bowl of a food processor & puree until smooth. Do this in batches if need be & add the butter  a little at a time.  Taste & adjust the seasoning to suit your taste. 



For the *brown butter melt the in a small frying pan over a medium heat stirring occasionally until the butter becomes light golden brown.  Remove from the heat.  The butter will continue to cook & turn a darker nutty brown colour & will smell amazing!  A nutty, toasty, buttery aroma that will make you want to dive right in.  Drizzle the butter over the celeriac puree & serve.



*Brown butter, also known as beurre noisette or utterly delicious, is made by cooking butter long enough to turn the milk solids and salt particles brown while cooking out any water present. Brown butter is traditionally served with fish, but makes a delicious addition to all sorts!  Great drizzled over vegetables such as brussels sprouts & broccoli or over pasta or risotto with a few crispy sage leaves or a lovely toasty buttery nuttiness to muffins or cakes . Be warned it is highly addictive!



Serve on the side with chicken, steak or fish.  It is velvety smooth, mellow & a little sweet yet full of flavour & the brown butter delivers its wonderful toasty nuttiness.



If you like this you might like this; Potato & Celeriac Gratin
Two years ago Chicken Liver Pate
Three years ago Grapefruit Bounty

Enjoy!

07 August 2013

Chard and Saffron Omelettes from Ottolenghi’s Plenty - IHCC



So after a weekend of eating, drinking & shopping I am back & back in to our Ottolenghi themed I Heart Cooking Club.  This week it is all about greens & I have had my eye on these chard & saffron omelettes for quite some time.  And with a big bunch of the green stuff in this week’s veggie patch they are just the ticket.



Chard, it makes regular appearances in the winter veggie box. A little brighter than the usual green with their lolly coloured stems of candy pink, bright orange, sunshine yellow & ivory white. They are a cousin to spinach & get their name from the heavy, thick stems known as chards. Their flavour a little earthy & a little minerally.  Fortunately, given their regular appearance in the winter veggie box, they are quite the versatile veg. Great in fritters, with spaghetti, in a little scafata, alongside a plethora of greens in a herb pie, alongside some Kikornagi in a tart & even in some falafel.

But for today this winter green along with some cavolo nero & some kale, is the star in some omelettes....



Chard and Saffron Omelettes from Ottolenghi’s Plenty

Ingredients

Serves four

50g / 1.5oz waxy potatoes, peeled & cut into 1cm / 1/2 inch dice
200ml water
Pinch of saffron
350g / 12oz Swiss chard, washed & shredded*
Salt & pepper
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed
5 eggs
60ml milk
20g / 3/4oz mixed fresh herbs, chopped...I used thyme, chives & parsley
Vegetable oil
100g / 4oz crème fraîche

*I had a mixture of greens so some kale & cavolo nero made it in their too.



Directions

Place the potatoes, water & saffron in a large saucepan & slowly bring to a simmer. After four minutes, add the chard, season with salt & pepper, cover & cook for a further 15 minutes, until the potato is soft & the water evaporated.  Remove from the heat & add the lemon juice & garlic. Leave to cool.


For the omelettes; whisk the eggs, milk, herbs together & season season with salt & pepper. Pour a teaspoon of oil into a large, hot non-stick pan, pour in a quarter of the egg mix & make a thin, round omelette. Transfer to a kitchen towel to cool, & repeat three times.



To assemble spread half of each omelette with crème fraîche. Taste the chard mix, adjust the seasoning if need be & spread generously over the crème fraîche. Fold the omelette over the covered half, then fold along the centre to get a fan-shaped case allowing the filling shows at the open side. Arrange on a lightly oiled ovenproof dish. 

To serve, preheat the oven to 170C / 350F & bake for five to eight minutes, or until hot. Serve immediately.



If you like this you might like these...

And for more Ottolenghi inspiration check out over here at I Heart Cooking Clubs.


Enjoy!

06 August 2013

Bites & Bobs 05:08:2013


Bites

I want to eat these noodles. They do indeed look & sound insanely good.  Fried garlic & charred chilli...what is not to love? 

And for a little more spice I am going to have to try Hannah's Fiery Jalapeno Sauce.



And for a little sweetness I most definitely like the look of Alessandra's Chocolate, Vanilla, Cream & Grappa Desserts.

And what have I been eating... 

A little addicted to the dumplings at The Blue Breeze Inn. The tiger prawn & coriander dumplings are impossibly moreish, I could scoff buckets off them morning, noon or night.


Another welcome addition to the Auckland food scene is Michael Van De Elzen's Food Truck Garage where you can indulge in burgers & fries that are both delicious & good for you!  Not a deep fat fryer on the premises.  My favourite the beefroot burger; beef & beetroot with lettuce, tomato, gherkins, ketchup on a wholemeal spelt bun.  And on the side baked chips, skin on agria potatoes, swedes & beets with lime emulsion.




On the decadent side there is Milse - & decadent these desserts are. It is an Alice in Wonderland cornucopia of dessert heaven, hidden away in a corner at the Pavillions at Britomart. And don't forget if you're at Ortolana you can order your dessert from Milse!


Bobs

I want: to throw a Gatsby Party! In the meantime I got to go to one.




Seeing: 
Andy Warhol - Immortal at Te Papa - iconic images & on until 25th August.
The Great Gatsby - visually spectacular, I know there are critics out there, but I loved it! 




And so far at the NZ International Film Festival...
Mud - beautifully filmed coming of age story & great performance by Matthew McConnaughey.
Dial M For Murder - the Hitchcock classic.
The Bling Ring - one crazy ride! You just could not make this stuff up...who would have thought celebrities would just leave the doors of their palatial mansions in the Hollywood Hills open or their keys under the mat??
What Maisie Knew - touching, harrowing, heart warming. Onata Aprile as Maisie steals every scene.
The East - eco come environmental terrorists holding the bad guys to account. Can 2 wrongs make a right?
I'm So Excited - if the Bling Ring was a crazy ride this one is insane! Pedro Almodovar & sex, drugs & rock 'n' roll, well the Pointer Sisters at 30,000 feet in the air as an airplane tries for an emergency landing. Hilarious.
To The Wonder...by the same director as The Tree of Life, for me I'll just leave it as almost the same as Tree of Life, & that is not a good thing!

Travels: Wellington! Read all about it here & here.

Watching: Scandal & House of Cards...highly addictive, completely engrossing, fabulous television. And Suits is back! Oh Harvey Specter I did miss you...does anyone wear a suit better??



Reading: 
White Slave Marco Pierre White - interesting to see how the original enfant terrible of British cooking climbed to the lofty heights of Michelin star stardom
Dr Libby’s Rushing Women’s Syndrome - inspiring & possibly life changing.
On Beauty by Zadie Smith - beautifully written.






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