San Francisco Bound

I meant to be more on top of things… I swear I did! This was meant to go on here days ago, an epic post detailing my excitement and plans and frantic preparations for my trip – but those frantic preparations got ahead of me and now here I am, leaving for the airport in half an hour without so much as a word of what I think I’m playing at, giving you all such short notice and such.

But, I will be in San Fransisco from the 09th till the 16th, and if any of my lovely readers happen to be from the surrounding area and have any tips or advice for me about things to do (or lets be honest things to eat) while I’m there – or who want to put a face to the charming mess that is my blog, please contact me and let me know! My email can be found in my about section.

Chillingworth Road

Last night I was lucky enough to head out with a few people to try out a new Christchurch restaurant, Chillingworth Road. I usually make it my business to keep up with new restaurants in New Zealand…. because I am restaurant obsessive, but for some reason until I was asked to come along for dinner, I’d never heard of Chillingworth Road. Maybe because it’s slightly out of the way location (verging on destination restaurant, it’s not exactly somewhere you’d stumble across by accident) or perhaps it’s just new and hasn’t had much of a marketing campaign, but either way I didn’t know exactly what to expect. But I can tell you know that it (apart from a few minor technical difficulties) is amazing, and has the kind of delicious, thoughtful food that leaves you walking away already thinking about when you’re going to be able to come back again.

honey seasame brioche

We started with a brioche roll glazed with honey and sesame seeds and just a touch of sea salt. The rolls are baked in house, and each bite was a mouthful of buttery, happy goodness that was only enhanced by the olive oil and dukkah provided to dip it into. I was a little skeptical about the sweet brioche working with the dukkah, but as everyone at the table agreed – it somehow elevated it even further. When I finished the brioche I found myself a little sad that it was finished, so when it proved to be a fairly regular feature of the rest of the dinner, I wasn’t complaining.

terrine and pate

Alas, I tried without success to convince the rest of the table to try the eight course ‘trust the chef’ menu, but with a 93 year old in attendance, it was decided that that might be a little too much food and so sadly I was stuck with the a la carte. But I wasn’t sad for too long because soon my starter of pork terrine, chicken pate, burnt butter vinaigrette, pickled pears, toasted hazelnuts, cress, and house made curd arrived on the table.

I was not only thrilled to see my beloved brioche show up again (and thanks to the wait staff who very kindly indulged me by checking with the chef that yes it was the same brioche dough, but finished differently) but also to experience the silkiest, creamiest chicken liver pate that I’ve ever tried. All the elements were delicious separately but piled on top of that brioche into one mouthful they were even better. This was probably the highlight of my meal.

tuna carpacchio

Almost unanimously the rest of the table ordered the yellow fin tuna carpaccio, tiger prawn escabeche, young radish, avocado as their starter. It was agreed by the table that while it was very good, particularly the avocado sorbet quenelles, that the tuna was overpowered by the other flavors and it honestly wouldn’t have made much of a difference if it hadn’t been there at all.

lamb

 

 

I was next seduced by the idea of a Canterbury lamb rump, chevre gnocchi, medjole date puree, sweet peas, and harissa main. It was an odd choice for me as I’m not usually a massive red meat eater, but the idea of chevre gnocchi and date puree was too much to resist. The lamb was perfectly cooked and I enjoyed the interesting take on the gnocchi which could best be described as a gnocchi marrow bone where chevre played the role of the marrow. But the break out star was definitely the pulled lamb and mint which was be seen just poking out the back of the above picture.

groper

I didn’t try my companions main’s but I’m told that the line caught groper, smoked eel, new season potatoes, tomato and smoked roe buerre blanc (above) and the Canterbury duck breast, potato fondant, beetroot, confit garlic, honey roasted Takamatua walnuts, and stone fruit relish (below) were both extremely good – though it was agreed that the duck was slightly tougher than could really be recommended. The duck was redeemed however by a cauliflower puree which made the entire world a slightly better place with its very slightly sweet, intensely cauliflower flavored, smooth goodness (I’m paraphrasing here, but that definitely seemed to be my companion’s opinion).

duck    strawberry soup

Our stomachs were groaning by the time our plates were cleared, but considering the overall brilliance of our previous two courses we knew we’d be missing out if we said no to dessert. I was promised by my waitress that the New Season strawberries, terrine, consomme and basil cream would not disappoint – and indeed she was right.

The strawberry consomme tasted like the essence of strawberries, like the most intensely flavored strawberry jam with just a hint of turkish delight or perhaps rosewater and balsamic vinegar, and you could really see the attention that the kitchen had to detail when they had scooped out tiny spherical balls from the fresh strawberries in order to enhance the presentation. Every element of the dish enhanced the other parts and the entire dish reminded me of a deconstructed strawberry shortcake. It was the perfect way to end a wonderful meal.

baked cheese

Also spectacular was the baked cheese, toasted brioche, pear, walnuts, and port wine sauce. The baked cheese was most similar to a cheese souffle but was tasted strongly of goats cheese rather than egg. I could only manage a tiny bite of it just to check that it was every bit as good as it looked, but don’t you worry – it was everything and more.

citrus cake

The only slightly disappointing dessert was the citrus cake, lemon curd, citrus salad, lime macaroon, and yoghurt sorbet. The citrus cake tasted slightly undercooked, a little like raw flour, and didn’t seem to have that much describable flavor. However considering this was the only low point in an otherwise amazing meal it seems a little nit picky to make too much of a big deal about it.

Apart from a few tiny quibbles, Chillingworth Road provided an excellent food experience that I would recommend to anyone looking for a new fine-dining experience in Christchurch. While not particularly cheap, the price reflects the care and attention given by all the staff – from the chef’s to the wait staff and is not unreasonable considering the quality purveyed throughout the entire night.

Chillingworth Road
478 Cranford Street
Papanui, Christchurch
03 352 7784

New year, new start.

*crickets*

You may have noticed an unusual silence on my blog of late, no posting for a few months and no activity. Maybe you thought that like so many other blogs I just got tired of it, grew bored with finding new recipes and posting them to share with you, or maybe that I’d been taken down by some illness, or perhaps that I’d just fallen off the face of the earth itself. Or maybe you just didn’t even notice?

I’d like to preface this by saying that what I’m about to post isn’t to get sympathy, not because I want the people of the internet to pity me and think of me as some damaged broken little bird that needs to be coddled by the masses. I’m mostly posting this as an explanation of why I’ve been gone, why I haven’t been answering emails and also because I think this is an important issue to talk about. I didn’t have the strength to do that for a long time, and sometimes you need to hide away from life for a few months, curl up in a little cave somewhere and let yourself heal a little bit. Because you see, three months ago, I was at a party celebrating a friend’s birthday, walking out of a bathroom after touching up my makeup (as girls are wont to do), when a man I’d met earlier that night pushed me back into that bathroom, locked the door and proceeded to violently rape me.

This isn’t the right place to go into details about exactly what happened in that room – and needless to say after having told countless police officers, therapists, family and friends, the idea of going over the details again seems like an impossibly difficult act – so that’s as much detail as I intend to go into it, but to answer the inevitable questions people will be wondering in their minds: yes I am prosecuting him, yes physically I am now okay, no I would not like anyone to put a hit out on the man. I hope you’ll all understand now that after what happened I was in no place to worry about things like answering emails and updating my blog.  I spent weeks curled up in my bed crying, sobbing for all the things I felt like this man had taken away from me; for the ways he had fundamentally violated everything I thought about myself and stolen my trust for other people. Unfortunately for me, the fact that everything around me had come to a complete standstill didn’t mean that was the same for everyone else and so after I was finally able to drag myself out of bed I focused all my energy into finishing my last month of college so I could come home to my parents’ house for summer and let myself heal.

When I finally made it here, I was exhausted. Mentally and physically, I just collapsed – a symptom of the post-traumatic stress disorder I was experiencing as a result of what happened to me. Even after my bruises and wounds had healed I was just exhausted, my body’s immune system completely crashed and I spent days in bed just sleeping, trying to drag myself out of this endless haze of fatigue. Things that I used to do without thinking about now seemed insurmountably hard, just getting dressed became an achievement and three months on I still can’t walk out of a bathroom without a moment of sheer, debilitating, panic. But I’m on the road to getting better.

To be clear, no this isn’t a post to say: “but now thanks to my family and my therapy I’m completely over it, and I feel so much better, things back to normal!” This post is more about letting you know that things are still hard, that the court case will most likely be on-going for at least another year and that it’s still going to be a struggle for me. But also that it’s a new year, and I’ve made a resolution to try and make myself re-engage with the world. A part of that is going to involve updating this blog whenever I can, as I’ve always used food as a form of self-care. So hopefully, you’ll start seeing more posts around here again very soon.

Five Things

1. Lemongrass Chicken Pho. At a tiny little Vietnamese restaurant near the Art Gallery in Auckland I had the best pho of my life. Absurdly juicy pieces of chicken, fresh vege and… okay I admit it, I’m a heathen, I added tonkatsu sauce. I just really love tonkatsu sauce. If you can find this place, there’s really no wrong choice here in terms of what to order, but make sure you get some dessert. My favourite is thetaro and sticky rice with coconut cream – it is all the delicious carbs you could ever want in one little bowl.

2. Watermelon Nails. I’m getting really into nail art lately, and there’s no better way in my mind to celebrate the oncoming summer heat than by making my fingers look like delicious pieces of fruit. I’m pretty tempted to try orange wedges next time, what do you guys think?

3. Shio Butter Ramen from Daikoku. I’m almost reluctant to tell you about this tiny restaurant because there are literally about three tables in the entire place, and you aren’t allowed to reserve them. So it’s basically the luck of the draw about whether you will get to eat there or not. Hidden next to Britomart in Auckland Central, if you are anywhere near it I must insist you go and grab some of their ramen. At roughly $10 for a giant bowl that you’ll be able to take home, it’s one of the best bargains in town – and definitely one of the tastiest. For bonus points, grab some gyoza and meltingly tender pork belly while you’re at it.

4. Glitter Boots from Dotti. I’ve been trying to convince myself I don’t need these boots, but it’s not really working. I just… they have glitter on them guys! How can I possibly resist such a thing? I admit it, I’m a total magpie. If it has glitter on it, I want it – and these boots are no exception. I keep trying to talk myself out of them by asking myself ‘but where would you wear them?’ and then a tiny voice in my head goes ‘EVERYWHERE, you would wear them EVERYWHERE.’

5. Visiting home for the holidays. Yes… I hate flying Jetstar, we all hate flying Jetstar. But then I go to book flights and they are about $200 cheaper than the next cheapest ones and then suddenly you find yourself on the flight, and it’s Jetstar, yet again, even though you promised yourself you wouldn’t. But the latest Elle magazine, tempura prawn sushi and the promise of two weeks with the family in Christchurch was promise enough to make it worth the hassle of flying.

The Disappearing Banana Bread


You guys see that banana bread up there? My flatmates. Ate. ALL OF IT. In one day! I made it late one night when we were all craving something delicious to eat while we watched bad TV together, but sadly by the time I’d scoured the web to find a suitable recipe, found all the ingredient’s from my rabbit warren of a pantry (I swear to God, the cans of crushed tomatoes are multiplying. Every time I go in there, more have magically appeared) and cooked the thing, most of them had disappeared into their rooms.

So, being the lovely girl that I am, I dutifully cut a few slices to photograph, and scurried away to my room to nom them all up. And it’s lucky I did, because by the time I got downstairs for breakfast, half of the loaf was gone. And by that evening, it was all gone. For the record, I can totally understand why it disappeared so fast because it was delicious.

It’s probably news to no-one that Smitten Kitchen pumps out some amazing recipes, and so when I was looking for an excuse to eat cake and pretend it wasn’t cake (come on.. lets be honest. That’s why we all love banana bread.Because it means we get to eat cake for breakfast), I went to her. I adapted the recipe slightly to fit my own specifications, taking out the bourbon, mostly because I didn’t have any on hand, and adding some chopped pecans on top. I had some pecans leftover from my latest batch of home made granola (recipe here) so it was mostly a ‘Oh Jesus I have to get rid of these pecans what can I put them on?’ addition, but actually it really worked. I know, I know, it’s not exactly a startling revelation that nuts + bananas = yum, but hey! No judgement. Regular readers are probably well aware of my affinity for nuts, but I really do think that they add another dimension to just about anything you put them in.

The resulting banana bread was beautiful, rich from the spices but light and crumbly enough that if you sneakily find yourself eating half the loaf before you get caught by your family face down in the loaf tin, well there’s no need to hate yourself. Not that Gin and Juniper would ever support hating yourself because of something you’ve eaten. Food is delicious, if it makes you feel happy, eat the food. Just eat it! There’s no shame. And if anything is going to make you not hate yourself, well its a big slice of banana bread.

Click through for recipe

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Quinoa, Walnut and Almond Granola

Oh I’m sorry, were you not looking for the world’s most delicious home-made granola? Well… this… is… awkward. Because this is the world’s most delicious granola (at least by my standards, and I’m fairly convinced that my feelings on granola are the only ones that matter?). I’m not normally a person who is really into this whole granola business, in winter I usually go for slow cooked oatmeal, and in summer it’s usually a banana as I run out the door (the curse of the chronically late). But I had some spare time yesterday, and as luck would have it I also had a large bag of steel cut oats and some quinoa that had been staring at me resentfully for weeks begging that I found a purpose for it.

I’d been wondering lately about what else I could use quinoa for other than my stand-by of quinoa tabouleh or as a general salad base, but I’d never even considered that I could use them raw. But as it turns out… you totally can. And oh my God I might have just stumbled across quinoa’s true purpose. Roasting it slowly in the oven with steel cut oats, raw almonds and walnuts, it transforms from a fairly humble little seed into some sort of crunchy super food. My one gripe with granola is usually that it starts off all crunchy and delicious but once you add milk it rapidly melts into soggy, textural mush. Not so with this granola! The quinoa makes tiny, crunchy nuggets of deliciousness that are happily interspersed throughout the whole affair and would make it worth adding to the mix even if it wasn’t packed full of protein that will keep you full for even longer than your standard oat granola.

 

I also might have fallen a little bit in love with how moreish raw walnuts and almonds go once roasted in honey and cinnamon. The walnuts in particular seem to intensify in flavour and become almost umami-eque, rich and delicious enough that I may have already started picking them out of the mixture as I type this like the world’s most delicious scavenger hunt.

This recipe is my personal preference, but you can easily adapt it to fit your own needs. I’ve already started thinking about adding chia seeds and dried apricots to my next batch, but if you like raisins, pecans maybe even brazil nuts – these would all be delicious in it. And while it’s delicious on it’s own as a cereal you could also use it to top greek yoghurt, as part of a fruit crumble topping or even go really nuts and mix it into your pancake batter for amazing granola pancakes.

I mean… all of those suggestions imply that you will be able to resist just eating it straight out of the jar. Which I am definitely not doing even as I type this. No… that would be delicious. I mean ridiculous!

Hey, this is a no judgement blog.

Recipe below the cut.

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Zucchini, Mint and Feta Fritters

When I was contacted by the lovey people in charge of PR for The Second Black Dog Cottage Cookbook  who asked if I’d like to try out a few recipes from the book and share the recipes with all you fine people, I of course jumped at the chance.  My elder sister had a copy of Adie McClelland’s first cookbook, Black Dog Cottage Cookbook and I have it on her word that it is amazing so I was very excited about having a chance to test out one of the recipes and let you guys all know what I thought.

They offered me a range of delicious choices, and although I was sorely tempted to try out the Warm Salad of Lamb, Asparagus, Spring Onions and Pomegranate Seeds with Lentil and Black Olives or the Rolled Baklava with Orange Syrup and Greek Yoghurt, I eventually set my mind to the Zuchinni, Mint and Feta Fritters. Not only did I already have most of the ingredients on hand already, but it was fast, easy and it sounded delicious. I love the combination of Zuchinni and mint at the worst of times, and I’ve yet to meet a savoury recipe that wasn’t improved by the addition of feta. Basically, it sounded ideal to me.

As you can see from above, this is not a recipe that skimps on zucchini. If you’re looking for a fritter recipe that can ‘hide’ the zucchini from your kids and other reluctant vegetable eaters, this is not the one for you. However if you’re looking for something that clebrates spring flavours and really highlights the versatility of zuchinni’s then you’ll probably love this. One of my favourite things about this recipe was the scent of mint that permeated through my kitchen as I was cooking. The final product doesn’t taste overwhelmingly of mint, you get just a refreshing hint that cuts through the richness of the feta, but mint has such a sweet and soothing smell that it’s always a pleasure for me to cook with it. If you end up buying a wee plant of it like I did, you might end up with quite a lot of mint left over, but that’s not a problem. You can steam some fresh peas and mash it with chevre and mint to spread over bruschetta or make a refreshing mint granita. In other words there are a world of things you can do with leftover mint.


I served the finished product with a spinach and capsicum salad with a little sake and seasame dressing, and it was delicious. Zucchini and mint are a classic combination  and work really well in these fritters. I also really liked how the creamy feta melted within the mixture and really made them taste rich and indulgent.  They really are very good, and would work not just for dinner but also would be great for brunch (just imagining a little bacon and a poached egg on top of a tower of these fritters is making my mouth water) , and the recipe will make a lot: enough that you might become overwhelmed with how many fritters you have and end up serving them to your flatmates who luckily are always grateful for free food.

The best advice I can give you about this recipe is to really make sure you salt and drain the zucchini well before you mix them into the fritter base.  I drained mine for about an hour, but found that it wasn’t enough and ended up with quite a wet mixture that I had trouble bringing together to make fritters. This was easily remedied by adding a little extra flour to the mix, but next time I make it, I’ll definitely be more careful to make sure the zucchini’s are dry.

For more information please visit Phantom House Books www.phantomhouse.com
or our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/BlackDogCottageCookbook

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