Saturday, July 27, 2013

Basics: Stock, breadcrumbs and pesto

Over the last week, Wellington has been experiencing some shakes.  Nothing fatal but still a little scary after knowing the affect of the earthquakes in Christchurch and even more when we know the city is built over a fault line.  A big one shook us on Sunday evening, just after we'd been pigging out on midwinter Christmas leftovers (turkey, stuffing, gravy, mash and peas in a roll - yum) and we were certainly all thankful that we were together with friends at that point.  And also that we had some hot cider warming on the stove.

On Monday, the CBD was closed for inspection and we were told to stay home from work while they assessed building damage.  Bonus day off!  And I was happy to stay put as our house felt quite stable and a safer place to be than in town.  It became the perfect opportunity to do some kitchen-errands.  In the freezer, I had chicken carcasses and leftover bread (from hollowing the bread out of baguettes and cutting rounds out for makeshift slider 'buns') destined for stock and breadcrumbs, as well as the makings of broccoli pesto in the fridge, pantry and garden.

To give me the fuel, I treated myself to a superfood cooked breakfast salad. A mix of quinoa, millet and amaranth cooked til al dente was set aside while I boiled an egg (5-6 minutes from cold water to boil and then left to sit, continuing the cooking process, while I prepared everything else) and fried a few mushrooms.  I cut these into 1/8's as I wanted more bite than when they are simply sliced, so with a pinch of garlic-infused salt and cracked black pepper, the mushrooms went in with the seed/grain mix.  Meanwhile, I added a small handful of frozen broad beans into the hot water in which my egg continued to gently cook.  While the broad beans defrosted, I sliced the green of one green onion and added this with a tablespoon each of chia seed and flaxseed.  After removing the broad beans from the water and then their skins, I proceeded to peel my boiled egg which turned out lovely and soft.  Into my breakfast bowl with another pinch of garlic-infused salt, cracked pepper and a swirl of good olive oil to lightly dress my 'salad', I dug into this with joy.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Gewurzhaus, Herb & Spice Merchants

How great is it when you stumble upon a wonderful shop, something that you never expected to find on your travels, despite all the research you did into the 'must-see' and 'must-do's.  I encountered this sense of delight when we, while trying to avoid the rain, walked through The Block Arcade in Melbourne (between Little Collins and Collins Street).  The first thing we saw was the long line of people queuing in front of the Hopetoun Tea Rooms.  I had no idea about this place either but I could see why they had attracted a crowd.

Hopetoun Tea Rooms, The Block Arcade, Melbourne

A gorgeous display of cakes and desserts, all presented with care, I had to see what all the fuss was about.  Instead of lining up for an opportunity to sit inside, I went straight in and ordered a slice of Apple Streudel to take away (possibly the only item in the window which didn't contain cream, so Brendan could enjoy it too with his casein allergy).  And while we were patiently waiting for this to be prepared, we looked around.  Directly opposite, something even better:

Gewurzhaus, Herb & Spice Merchants, The Block Arcade, Melbourne

Gewurzhaus, Herb & Spice Merchants.  Fill-yourself bins of pre-mixed herb and spice blends, featuring native Australian flavours, and salts from around the world.  The smell of the shop was amazing.

As in any great shop, I slowed right down and spent a long or longer moment surveying everything.  Either reading the list of ingredients or opening the lids of the herb and spice-blend bins and wafting the aromas towards me so I could purposefully inhale the complexities of the in-house-made blends.  It makes me hungry just recalling it! I decided I had to take something away with me.

I chose:
- Australian Bush Herbs (ingredients: Australian coriander, pumpkin, lemon myrtle, bush tomato, sea salt, onion, native thyme, aniseed myrtle, chives, chilli, garlic)
- Roasted Vegetable Salt (ingredients: Flake salt, rock salt, coriander, garlic, onion, caraway, oregano, pepper, thyme, ginger, lemon myrtle, marjoram, mustard seed, nutmeg, paprika, parsley, rosemary) &
- Salish Alder Smoked Sea Salt which has a wonderful intoxicating aroma from being slow-smoked over Red Alderwood.  The description tells me it is "especially great on salmon", and I have no doubt.

My selection of Gewurzhaus offerings

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Whole baked kahawai

Fresh off the south coast of Wellington, my boyfriend picked up a nice little 45cm kahawai with the help of the Yogi Berry (the boat/dinghy) and it's captain.  Last night, without scaling (we were a bit lazy) we butterflied it as if to smoke it but baked it whole with a simple stuffing.

Before and after

Whole baked kahawai (serves 3 hungry people with sides)

Whole fresh kahawai, head removed, gutted and butterflied with back bone removed
2 inches white part of leek, as thinly sliced as possible
2 spring onion, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
2 Tbsp freshly chopped parsley
Juice of 1 lemon (however, I didn't have a lemon so we used lime instead)
1 tsp Maldon sea salt (I actually used Salish Alder Smoked salt, see following post)
1/2 c homemade breadcrumbs (I like using my own as it has more texture but any breadcrumbs would be fine)
Decent glug of grapeseed or olive oil

Preheat oven to 180deg on fan bake and place kahawai on prepared oven tray.  Mix all other ingredients together, incorporating oil as much as possible so when cooking the stuffing doesn't catch.  Spread evenly over the fish pressing firmly to help everything stay together.  Drizzle lightly with a bit of extra oil and bake for around 35-40 minutes (depending on size of fish), with foil placed over for the first half of cooking time.  Test for doneness at the thickest part of the fish at 30 minutes to gauge how much longer it might need as you'll want it just cooked.

Serve with pan-fried potatoes (parboiled, cooled and then fried in hot pan with a little oil) and salad for a great dinner.