Archives for posts with tag: New Zealand

QuinceQuick! For those of you in New Zealand/southern hemisphere find some quince before winter truly takes hold. Make quince paste, jam or jelly, scrub the furry fruit, cut, roast and boil away, stock up for a whole winter of cheese boards. If you are like me at the moment this leap into action, this leap into the kitchen will be just the thing to anchor everything in place.

QuinceQuince and avocadoIt’s been busy around here: assignments, uni club, assignments, an internship, fundraising sausage sizzle, more assignments and occasionally I have found time to work for actual money which is nice, because you know, the rent doesn’t pay itself. And amongst all the writing about historical print journalism, the political economy of modern news media, the role of a copy-editor and the rules of punctuation, I have helped on photography shoots, defrosted a 5cm wall of ice from my freezer, listened on repeat to an eclectic playlist – Bruce Springsteen, Macklemore, Angus and Julia Stone, the Beach House, Fleetwood Mac.

I’ve had a freezing weekend away in Christchurch, and have been reading up on HTML code, because now seems as good a time as any to become a code geek. I have been reading short stories and essays by and on Katherine Mansfield and I have been devouring anything written by Joan Didion, and God could these women write! I have eaten more kebabs, pizza slices and take-out sushi in the past couple of weeks than I’d like to admit and between our flat and Georgie being at home in Wellington for over a week, I have shared more bottles of wine than I’d like to admit.

quince bathscrubbed quinceWhat I’m leading up to here is that the days have been full and apart from the people and the wine and the great literature I am growing tired of this year. My parents commented the other day about how fast the year is going, can we believe we are a third through 2013 already? I said quite loudly and with a melodramatic exhale of breath, “Thank God!” I feel quite indifferent to the routines of going to class, sitting in a lecture hall, moving from one computer desk to another, moving from one essay writing assignment to another. These feelings are not new or particular to only myself – I think all students feel this as uni wraps up and new projects seem within reach.

roasted and wrinkledpulled apartUnfortunately these feelings of indifference have weedled their way into the kitchen, hence the take-out sushi, kebabs and pizza. But food – good food, real food – has an ability to make us take notice. I’ve written this before, of food’s power to redirect our attention and our priorities.

Avocado and oilavocado, fig, bookAutumn produce has been worthy of attention. Fresh figs, feijoas, quince, the most crisp, tart cooking apples and sweet, juicy eating apples. Local pears, the flesh the softest I have ever eaten and new golden kiwifruit, rich and mellow, quite different to their acidic, green cousins. The last of my summer tomatoes – green and peppery, and four of the most beautiful avocados, so oily and rich, from the tree at the olive grove. In the northern hemisphere people are heralding the arrival of spring produce in all its green glory, but I think we simply like the change in seasons, the chance to honour something new.

avocado in halfgreen tomato and avocadoThis autumn quince proved to be most interesting to cook with. It seems I haven’t learned that raw quince is very sour and shouldn’t be consumed in its raw state, no matter how fragrant it smells or buttercup yellow it is. But cooked into a thick, dark pink paste the quince becomes sweet, the fragrance intensifies, like roses and apples. My kitchen smelled wonderful. Quince paste is a relatively time consuming task but on the day I made it there seemed to be nothing more remedial than standing at the bench peeling the skins from the roasted fruit or stirring gently at the stove.

ready to setQuince pasteQuince and cheesePerrin gave me the quince, passed on to him from a kindly fruit and vegetable shop owner up the road. The figs, scavenged from my neighbour’s tree (who perhaps does not realise figs are $22/kg, never picks them and let’s them ripen for the birds) were eaten in greedy, mischievous lust, ripped open to expose their pink beaded insides. While I stood in my kitchen stirring fruit paste I began to think about scavenged fruit, free fruit and reasons why it seems to feel special, treasured, honoured. Can we appreciate the downy skins of a quince or the crispness of an apple or the spurting juicy seeds of a tomato more when they come from somewhere we know? I don’t mean the supermarket we know, but if we can put a face, a place, a time, a field or a road to food I’m sure it’s likely to be more significant to the consumer and treated with all the respect it deserves.

So these are thoughts that occupy my mind at the moment – an argument for local, community eating. These thoughts and days spent at the stove are valuable and interesting. I make room for them, prioritise them, amongst everything else.

Lois Daish’s Quince Paste (Penny Porritt’s Quince Paste)

I love my Lois Daish book. Every time I look through it I vow to make a blog project out of it – to cook my way through the year with Lois Daish. As for Penny Porritt, I believe she was a Listener columnist at some point, but anyway Daish’s recipe comes from her.

Take your quince and scrub gently to remove the down. Place the whole fruit in a casserole pot or roasting dish and pour over 1/2 cup of water. Cover with a lid or tightly wrapped tin foil and bake at 150°C for 2-3 hours (closer to 3, I would say) until the fruit is pink and tender. Remove from the oven and when cool enough to handle, scrape off the skins, cut each quince in half and pull out the core.

Weigh the fruit and then purée in a blender or pass through a mouli. Place the pulp in a pot and measure out enough sugar to equal 3/4 the weight of the prepared quince. Add to the pan of purée and heat gently, stirring occasionally. Cook gently for about 45 minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. The paste is ready when it is so thick that you can drag a wooden spoon through the mix and still see the bottom of the pot.

Lightly oil a shallow heatproof container – I used a similar sized dish that I would make a brownie or slice in. Cool the quince paste for a few minutes and then scrape into the dish. Smooth the top and put somewhere warm and dry for a day or two (I left it in my switched off oven). Once dried out, cut the paste into blocks, wrap in baking paper and store in a plastic container in the fridge.


Plum and Almond SpongeThe rain came, finally. The hills are misty and the sky is grey and for the first time in over a month the city feels quiet, calm and reflective. We have been high on summer here. Bright days and warm nights, restless without the weight of a sheet or a duvet. There is a sobriety to dull misty rain and while the humidity hangs heavy, for today, this could be the beginning of the end of summer. So to mark the transition of the seasons I sign off to summer with one last plum recipe.
Plums and red wineheartily spiced almond batter
It’s been a bit of a plum summer, really. Plums have been in my fruit bowl more than any other stone fruit this season. There is something humble about the plum quite different to the polished, white-fleshed peaches or nectarines and I don’t feel the plum has the same following of the apricot with their pleasing pink blush, downy skins and child-friendly pull-apart groove. Nearly every piece of food writing or poetry of the plum mentions the bloom – the silvery blue smudge to the skin of the fruit. The obvious association would be with the bloom of a flower, full of the promise of scent and colour. But when I read about the bloom on a plum I tend to think of algae bloom. Moving right along.
fading light, ready to bakegolden and warming
This recipe takes a different sort of plum altogether – the canned plum. The slick patent leather-like skins of the dark purple Black Doris have disappeared and the fruit sits in a sweet, lip-staining juice. (Good for a bit of colour and sparkle in a gin and tonic.) The plums are baked with dollops of heartily spiced, almond sponge spreading over the fruit like a winter quilt. The sponge is tinged burgundy in colour, not necessarily from the plums as you might think, but rather from a splash of red wine in the batter. I’ve made this dish sound decidedly wintery, and the ease of canned fruit does lend this dessert well to cold nights, but come back to the plums for they are sweet and light and fragrant.

The fruit, the fruit – plums, apricots, peaches and nectarines – they’re all so lovely and innocent, but sometimes you just need a bad-ass, a rebel. The red wine is robust; it delivers a strength to the sponge that perhaps contradicts with a traditional Victorian sponge and all its typical associations of lightness and delicacy. But the red wine; it works. It adds ooomph and character.
warm plums and an open crumb
Mum has been making this dessert for a while now; it’s part of our regular repertoire. Like many of the recipes in this rotation, they feel so normal, so regular; delicious for us four perhaps only because of their history in our kitchen. But these recipes are worth sharing and worth eating, no matter the weather.

Plum and Almond Sponge
This recipe comes from a small cookbook from the kitchen of Church Road Winery cook book. Every recipe in here looks great and every recipe lists wine in the ingredients, but we have settled on the plum and almond sponge; it’s our favourite. Time to branch out maybe.

100 grams butter
40 grams brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs, separated
130 grams ground almonds
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon caster sugar
6 tablespoons red wine + 4 tablespoons (preferably a weightier varietal like syrah, merlot or a blend)
1/4 teaspoon ground star anise
1 tin Black Doris plums

Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Cream butter, egg yolks and brown sugar, then add cloves, ginger, cinnamon and baking powder. Add the first measure of red wine (6 tablespoons), then the ground almonds and stir until just combined. Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then whisk in the caster sugar. Fold the egg whites into the creamed butter mixture.

Place the plums in an oven proof dish and pour over the second measure of red wine. Sprinkle the ground anise over the plums. Spoon the almond batter on top of the plums and smooth with the back of the spoon. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

We serve this with cream or yoghurt; crème fraîche would be nice too. The original recipe suggests a slice of blue cheese and a glass of noble semillon. That sounds very nice, indeed.

Carrots, scrubbed and chopped lengthwiseI remember how I began 2012: in Central Otago, the peak of summer, drinking local wines and eating freshly picked stone fruit. We all sat outside on the first day of the year, in short sleeves, probably drinking rosé, rolling the number around on our tongues, 2012. It sounded good, clean, even. It was going to be a good year and, for the most part, it was. I was sorry to see 2012 roll ever so easily into 2013, with little ceremony or pomp. Thank goodness for Christmas.

Christmas always seems a far better way to say good-bye to one year and welcome in the next, and our Christmas this year, well, we let 2012 go out with a bang. On Christmas Eve, the temperature in the late 20s (celsius), Mum and I made mayonnaise, furiously whisking until perspiration glistened on our foreheads. But it was beautiful mayonnaise, the real deal, a shiny yellow and a flavour that you just want to keep in your mouth.
Hot smoked salmon platter + home made mayo
The next day was hot, fan yourself with your napkin hot – the hottest Christmas day in Wellington since 1934. We started with fresh summer fruit – melon, green and coral pink, nectarines and white flesh peaches, strawberries and plump blueberries. We stuffed a turkey breast then set a leg of lamb onto roast. I stirred a handful of finely diced dill into half of the mayonnaise and wasabi into the other half, just enough to make the back of your throat tingle. We began with a smoked salmon platter – buckwheat toasts, fried capers popped open like crunchy salty flowers, gherkins and oat crackers, and so began our afternoon, a tide like motion of ebbs and flows between the kitchen and the table.
marinade for scallops
Lamb leg ready to roastTender and moist turkey breast
There were scallops marinated with citrus, chilli and coriander – their delicate orange and cream spheres bursting with a soft sweetness and a mere whisper of heat. There was the leg of lamb, rubbed down with rosemary and garlic and roasted to a perfect medium – sweet, savoury, herbaceous – New Zealand lamb at its best. A turkey breast nearly halved, flattened and therapeutically beaten then stuffed with Big Bad Wolf sausage, char grilled capsicum and spinach from our garden. Our favourite Christmas salad, a trio of red, green and white, green beans blanched to a pleasing snap and brighter colour, crumbled feta with plum coloured smudges from the roasted beetroot. Boiled new season potatoes, the joy of summer Christmas, with curls of butter and torn herbs.
Cinnamon and cumin roasted carrotsorange rounds
Then this salad, my new favourite, roasted carrot and orange salad. It is no secret my love of roasted carrots – their tender sweetness and bright warmth pull me in every time, no matter the weather. The salad is a wonderful mess of shapes, colours and textures – long rectangles and full rounds, burnt orange and near yellow, flecked with dark spices.
Roasted carrot and orange saladA trio of saladsChristmas colours
In between courses we drank lemoncello, declared how much we all love it, and opened another bottle of Riesling. My uncle Adrian and his partner Nicola made dessert: fresh fruit of every colour, strawberries, grapes, nectarines, peaches and my first raspberries of the season. A dairy free and gluten free trifle that, had we not been told the slight nutty flavour was rice milk custard and the nubbly texture a ground almond sponge, would have fooled us for the more traditional cream and plain flour variety. We ate trifle by the bowl full. There were home made brandy snaps – thin and wafer biscuit like, holding within their lacy edges the taste of real ginger rather than a generic sweetness like the store bought sort. We filled them with cream as we ate them – fill, bite, fill, bite.
summer by the bowl full
It’s mid-January already. Christmas feels long gone and with it, 2012, but the feast we shared that day seems a good a way as any to welcome in a new year. There is not much we can do about the speed at which the years change, except to live each year wholly and fully. Perhaps that is why I loved 2012 so much and, also why I have barely realised 2013 is well under way.

Roast Carrot and Orange Salad
Taken from the Cuisine Christmas issue 2010 The salad is a cinch to make if you happen to have a bottle of orange blossom water lying around, but I’m sure it will be fine without.

600 grams carrots, scrubbed and halved lengthwise
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
sea salt to taste
4 oranges
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon orange water
1/4 cup finely sliced mint

Pre-heat oven to 200°C. Place the scrubbed and cut carrots in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of the oil, cinnamon, cumin and salt. Stir well to combine. Place on an oven tray lined with baking paper and roast for 40 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile place the juice of one orange in a large bowl with the remaining oil, sugar and orange flower water. Slice the rind and the pith off the oranges and slice into rounds. Set the orange slices to one side.

When the carrots are cooked add them to the orange vinaigrette and set aside. The salad can be served warm or cold so just before serving add the sliced orange rounds and sliced mint, toss well and place on a serving dish.

This salad goes very well with lamb.

On 7 June my dear Nana passed away. She was 5 months short of her 90th birthday. I think she was holding out for this milestone; Nana loved any chance to get dolled up. She was a beautiful, graceful and elegant woman. Even when ill in hospital she wore lipstick and had brightly painted nails. The nurses would comment on her smooth, unlined skin, and I like to think they asked her the secrets of her beauty regime. It broke my heart to see her hands, to which she had so diligently applied moisturiser all her life, bruised and blackened with needles and IV entry points.

Until I was fifteen and we moved into Wellington, Nana had always been there, just a short bike ride away. She was simply my Nana who gave us biscuits, always had sweeties and let my sister and I play with her make-up. She was as fit as a fiddle, and as long as she drank gin and played bridge once a week, everything was as it should be. It wasn’t until I grew older that I began to wonder who Nana really was. Who was Nana to her friends? What did they talk about while they drank their tea and played cards? What was Nana like as a girl, a young woman, a new mother? What did she dream of and hope for?

Sadly, it wasn’t until she became ill and we spent hours at her bedside that I began to put pieces of her life together. She was a woman who fiercely loved her husband, Ken. He was tall and handsome with blond curls, and as the story goes, women used to stop and stare at him in the streets. A few months ago, while lying in her hospital bed, Nana told Mum and I of the day her and Ken got married. Her eyes were closed as she spoke, and her voice was slow. They were married at St Andrews on the Terrace at 11a.m on 6 September 1947. Nana said no one came to their wedding; it was a quiet, private ceremony.

Her and Ken returned to the church for their 25th wedding anniversary. They signed the guest book and the chaplain saw they were married in his church 25 years before; he gave them his congratulations. I have walked past St Andrews on the Terrace many times, but now it means something different to me.

Just after Nana died my auntie Barbie came to stay. She told us a story that will inspire the romantic in all of us. My nana was a nurse in Wellington Hospital for a few years while her and Ken were courting. Ken worked on a dairy farm in Otaki, a small town an hour (by modern car, on modern road) north of Wellington. Every Sunday, after rising early for milking, Ken would bike into Wellington and take Nana out for a picnic lunch. After a few precious hours Nana would go back to the hospital and Ken would cycle back to Otaki ready for the evening milk.

On the night Nana died, when mum and I had cried our tears and called the people who needed to be called, we opened dad’s bottle of whiskey. We cooked steak and drank whiskey on the rocks; Nana would have approved. Mum and I started chatting, sharing our thoughts about Nana just to fill the quiet, really only the things we already knew – how she died without having had a gin and tonic in months; and that she would most certainly not miss the hospital food. But then mum told me that Ken taught Nana to cook. When they began their married life Ken showed Nana the basics: soups, stews, how to re-use leftovers, and maybe a basic cake. I like to think of a young newly-wed couple in their farmhouse kitchen cooking, of both donning an apron and preparing a meal together.

When I think of Nana in the kitchen I think of her boiled sultana cake: plump sultanas held within a dark, loose-crumbed batter. It is a satisfying cake, warming and hearty and seems to hark back to farmhouse kitchen days. But, dare I say it, a slice for breakfast would be a good idea; this cake is light and sweet from sultanas. One day when I was 9 or 10 I biked over to Nana’s house to ask for the recipe. She handed me a piece of paper, brown with an illustration of kitchen instruments along the top. Nana dictated the recipe to me and in my newly learnt cursive, I wrote it down. I’m not sure why I remember this so clearly, perhaps it seems like a definitive grandmother-granddaughter experience: the sharing and passing on of recipes.

And so now I share it here. This cake is perfect for a large crowd, a cut and keep sort of cake. We made this cake a few weeks ago when we had friends over to honour Nana. She would have like it: we drank bubbles and gin and tonic. There were beautiful cheeses and red grapes, little sandwiches and savouries. Nana would have held court at one end of the room, gin in one hand and probably my hand in the other.

Boiled Sultana Cake

450 grams sultanas
225 grams butter
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
a few drops vanilla essence

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line a large round tin. Place sultanas in a pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour off most of the water, leaving a few tablespoons. Chop the butter into the sultanas and leave to melt.

In a separate bowl beat the eggs with the sugar for a couple of minutes, or until slightly thick and pale. Stir in the vanilla. Add the egg mixture to the sultanas and butter, then add the flour and baking powder. Stir until well combined.

Bake 1 hr 10 minutes, but no longer than 1 hr 15 minutes.

Fruit bread holds a certain healing power in my mind. It must be heavily spiced and laden with fruit. These sorts of breads, whether buns or loaves, speak of comfort and cups of tea, a sunday afternoon wrapped in a blanket watching movies. A few weeks ago I received two text messages in less than a hour from friends telling me how their days had been improved, or could be improved, with fruit toast. Not even chocolate has the same capacity to bring such homely comfort.

It may seem I have missed my opportunity for spiced fruit bread immediately after Easter when I am sure many of us have eaten our fill of hot cross buns. Though, in saying that, I could live on spiced fruit bread. Every Easter I gorge myself on hot cross buns. I can’t get enough. Cut in half and toasted, slathered with butter and jam. Or heated in the microwave with thin slices of butter already inside the bun so the slightly salted butter melts within the bread. I like the hot cross buns that are so loaded with fruit and candied peel they appear almost undercooked and soggy.

Hot cross buns come and go so quickly, like other autumnal delights – feijoas, quince, radish. When Easter is over I wonder why hot cross buns aren’t available year round, knowing full well that hot cross buns hold such magic only because of their brief appearance. But dried fruit embedded in heavily spiced bread can be eaten any time of year. Think of this raisin bread as a hair of the dog type treatment to get us over Easter, and if you are this way inclined, this bread may keep you going until next year’s buns roll around.

Lois Daish’s raisin bread is from her beautiful book A Good Year. This is a book I have written about before; a book that appears rather plain until you start flicking through and realise you could quite easily make every recipe. It is a book I turn to often, sometimes just to read, because not only are the recipes wonderful, so are the words which describe them.

Daish makes this raisin bread in April which is rather fitting, not only for its Easter connotations but we are also just beginning to get cold here. The leaves are starting to change and the wind has a bite to it. The next time it rains the gutters will flood, the water bursting its dried-leaf banks. It is a nice time of year to make bread.

There is something quite special about making bread, coaxing the dough along, keeping it safe and warm, only then to knead and pummel it, lovingly so, but pummel it nonetheless. Bread making is a soothing process and the home-maker in me revels in it.

There is also something in the taste of home made bread, something quite different to store-bought or bakery bread. The yeast taste is a bit like the malty, hoppy after taste of home brewed ginger beer. The yeast has some weight to it, it seems to anchor all the other flavours of the bread, sort of rounding them out. I imagine yeast to be like the little baker within the bread, kneading and pushing all the actors together, the flour, spices, currants and sultanas, rallying the troups so to speak. I guess that’s the role of yeast in any baking but the flavour of the home baked variety is lovely.

I took two thick slices to eat on my way to work the other day. They barely fit in the toaster but crisped up wonderfully. It was the perfrect start to my day. I thought about texting my friends about my bread, but it was not yet 7am. Even in the name of fruit bread, that might have been too much.

Thank you dear Georgie for the lovely photographs.

Lois Daish’s Raisin Bread
Adapted from A Good Year

The original recipe made two loaves so I halved the quantities but added more spices and more dried fruit. Next time I will add even more, perhaps some candied peel too. Daish made her bread in an electric mixer, using dough hooks and beaters but I do love hand kneading.

2 tablespoons Surebake yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup milk
85 grams butter, cut into thin slices
1 egg
2 tablespoons soft brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
425 grams high grade white flour
1 to 1.5 cups raisins, currants or sultanas (or a mixture of these)

To Glaze:
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon sugar

Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a small bowl and set aside for about 10 minutes. Put the milk in a pot and heat unitl lukewarm. Pour the milk into a large bowl, add the chopped butter. When the butter has almost melted add the egg, sugar, salt, spices and yeast mixture. Whisk to combine. Add about half of the flour and continue to whisk until a smooth batter forms. Add the remaining flour and the dried fruit, mix until just combined then turn onto a lightly floured bench. Knead until smooth. Cover the dough with a damp towel and place somewhere warm to rise for 3 hours, or until doubled in bulk.

Turn the risen dough onto a lightly floured bench and lightly knead. Form dough into an oblong shape and place in a large buttered loaf tin. Cover the loaf tin with the damp cloth and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk. While the dough rises preheat the oven to 220°C. Put the risen loaf in the oven. After 15 minutes, lower the heat to 190°C and bake for a further 25 minutes or until the loaf is deeply browned. (I covered my loaf in tin foil for the last 5 minutes.)

While the bread is baking make the glaze by heating the milk then stir through the sugar until dissolved. Remove the bread from the oven, tip onto a cooling rack and brush on the glaze.

Eat fresh or toasted. This loaf freezes well and can be toasted straight from the freezer.

The World Cup is over. The tourists will leave. The Cup will stay. We will have to find something else to talk about.

I feel the Rugby World Cup has opened an entirely new door to rugby appreciation for me. (Beyond the players’ physiques…) For the opening weekend, quarter finals, semi finals and finals weekends I have been working at Eden Park in Auckland. The atmosphere has been quite electric and everyone is so passionate. We have been able to watch snippets of the games while polishing glasses and making coffee. It does get a bit exciting. Although, we do worry about the effect of the game on our guests. Are they too nervous to eat? Will they leave in disgust and embarrassment as soon as the final whistle has blown? Will they drink to their success or to their sorrow?

Before the semi finals game between the All Blacks and the Wallabies we were busy folding napkins discussing the various merits of Dan Carter and Richie McCaw.

We decided Richie was the one. He seems equally comfortable in both city and country. He is dashing in a suit but undoubtedly ruggedly handsome in a Swandri and gumboots. He can drink a beer with the boys or a cup of tea with your Nana. A bit of a lumberjack but he could probably whip up a sponge cake should he so desire. Gracious in defeat and in victory. And, that jaw line! Our male colleagues were not particularly impressed by this discussion.

This chocolate spiral is from Lois Daish’s fantastic book A Good Year. According to Daish, chocolate spiral is the sort of thing to make in October. Personally, I feel anytime of year would be ideal chocolate spiral eating time.

As I made this spiral cake, re-reading the recipe a thousand times (one can not serve Richie a messy chocolate spiral), I thought this recipe could not possibly work. I poured the chocolate mixture on to the baking tray. It seemed far too runny; it was surely going to bubble off the edges. I was expecting a burnt and blackened mess in the bottom of my stove. I pulled up a chair and took stove-side vigil.

But, instead it came out rather nicely with a light spring to the touch and a smooth finish. I filled the roll with sweet vanilla cream, chocolate may have been nice, but with the black and white it seemed rather fitting at the moment. Like a delicate fern frond, twirled in black and white. Or an All Black shirt, tightly wrapped and white collared.

Signing off like a lovesick teenager, Richie, this is for you.

Chocolate Sponge Spiral
From Lois Daish, A Good Year

3 eggs
75grams icing sugar, plus 2 teaspoons extra
15grams cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
pinch salt
pinch cream of tartar
10grams cornflour
25grams plain flour

Preheat oven to 210°C. Place a piece of baking paper on a baking tray.

Separate the eggs – yolks into a large bowl, whites into a slightly smaller bowl.

To the yolks add the 75grams icing sugar, cocoa, vanilla essence and salt.

To the whites add the cream of tartar. Beat the whites until just foamy then add the 2tsp icing sugar. Continue to beat until firm and droopy peaks form. (Not hard peaks, you don’t want the mixture to be too dry.)

Without washing the beaters, beat the egg yolk mixture until well combined. Detach the beaters and leave one beater in the bowl.

Mix the cornflour and flour together. Sieve half the mixture into the chocolate egg yolk mix, then add a heaped scoop of the egg whites. Fold gently but thoroughly together with the detached beater.

Sift the remaining flour and cornflour and add the remaining egg whites. Fold together with the detached beater. Lastly, use a plastic spatula to sweep the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Scoop the mixture onto the prepared baking tray and use the spatula to spread into a rectangle about 30cm x 15cm and 1cm thick.

Place in the oven for 8-10 minutes until the cake feels bouncy when gently pressed. Do not overcook or the cake will break when it is rolled.

When the cake is removed from the oven spread a clean tea towel on the bench. Lift the cake and the banking paper and place baking paper side up on the tea towel. Peel off the baking paper. If the paper sticks to the cake brush lightly with warm water and leave to sit for a few minutes.

While the cake is still warm, roll it up loosely and leave to cool on the tea towel on a cake rack. Once completely cooled, unroll and spread a sweetened cream filling. Roll up more tightly.

Sprinkle with icing sugar. This spiral cake is ideal for afternoon tea or dessert.

Sometimes, often in the most ordinary of places, or doing the most ordinary of tasks, a food idea pops into my head. While cleaning my teeth, or sitting on a bus, I will quite suddenly be day dreaming of chai syrup cake, or cinnamon raisin muffins, or chilli caramel corn. Maybe they are prompted by a memory, maybe a forgotten item in the pantry, maybe my sub-conscious is simply a melting pot of culinary thoughts.

Last week’s idea was oat cakes. I envisaged quite a substantial cracker, with a slightly flaky crumb held together by the creamy taste and texture of oats. Maybe with a mug of weak black tea and a chopped up apple or piece of dried fruit after dinner. Or paired with a sharp cheddar, a tangy blue and a glass of red wine.

I’ve made oat cakes once before, in year 7. We were studying Scotland and I chose to look at Scottish food. When it came to sharing day, the floury, dry, tasteless oat cakes sat untouched next to the infinitely more popular Kiwi onion dip, Mexican tortilla chips, French baguette and German spice cookies. Eleven year olds were more willing to try sushi over my oat cakes.

I haven’t made oat cakes since but the slightly romantic notion of a rustic cheese platter and a desire for home made crackers has only grown. After my foodie thought of last week, I felt sure I had a recipe for oat cakes in one of my favourite, but somehow forgotten, cook books, A Good Year by Lois Daish. This is a wonderful cookbook. It is a tiny book with a simple cover of a small bowl of cherries. There is no slightly padded coffee table cover with a self promotional picture of a celebrity chef. This book is simple and elegant. Each time I open it I feel I could quite happily work my way through the book, recipe after recipe.

Daish is a New Zealand food writer and the recipes are a compilation from her food column in the Listener magazine. This book follows a calendar year with a lovely introduction for each month focusing on one ingredient. For July, “Intensely sweet, sour and spicy, dark red tamarillos are a perfect tonic for a New Zealand winter.” And for November, “Strawberries, which are the first berries to ripen, are a sweet harbinger of all the berries to come – gooseberries, raspberries, loganberries, boysenberries, blueberries, blackberries, and currents – black and red.” The writing is beautiful.

A Good Year does indeed include a recipe for oat cakes. Daish credits this recipe for oat cakes to Roy Duncan, which he gave to her after she complained her oat cakes tasted a bit like mine from year 7, dried porridge cardboard.

These oat cakes were just as I imagined. Eaten with a crumbly, sharp blue and the last little bit of plum jam, they had a pleasant crunch and a mellow taste.

Roy’s Oatcakes

from Lois Daish, A Good Year

1 cup standard flour
1 cup oatmeal or rolled oats pulsed in a processor
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
50g butter melted in 1/2 cup boiling water

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Mix the dry ingredients together and pour in the butter and hot water. Knead in the bowl until the mixture holds together. Tip onto a lightly floured bench and knead a little more before rolling out thinly. Cut into large squares and use a spatula to transfer to a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 10-15 minutes until light brown and crisp.