Month: May, 2014

When an orange and a chicken become friends

I have a love/hate relationship with yoga. I know people love it and get all in touch with their inner voice, get all stretchy and flexy and then love drinking coconut water afterwards – I get that. I just get a bit bored. Where’s the competition? Where’s the running around and shouting? I often feel like I spend enough time in my head as it is without being forced in there for 90 minutes straight. But I have signed up to a yoga studio just round the corner from our apartment to keep me busy and hopefully meet a few people. I am giving it another go, and yes I do feel better afterwards. Plus, an added bonus is that I have been thinking about some great food to make for dinner while I spend all that time in my head. This one came to me last night and I popped into the Bi-Rite on the way home to pick up some chicken, asparagus and an orange.

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ORANGE CHICKEN SALAD

Serves 2
2 big chicken thighs- skin on
A bundle of asparagus
1 avocado
Rocket
1 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp marjoram
Zest of one orange
Salt
Olive oil
Juice of half a big juicy Californian orange/ juice of a whole normal one

Peel the skin back from the chicken thighs and rub them with the orange zest, cumin, salt, olive oil and margoram then tuck the skin back in. Just like making a bed. Pop them into the oven at 180 degrees celsiusand while they are getting started, snap the woody bits off the asparagus and cut into thirds. After about ten minutes, add the asparagus to the roasting dish. You can now decide how fatty you want to be- either take the skin off the chicken or leave it on. Up to you. By the time the chicken is ready, the asparagus will be too. Add it to a bowl with the sliced avocado and rocket and dress it with the orange juice, olive oil and salt.

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This salad is just sooooo tasty. The orange flavour goes so well with the asparagus and chicken. I imagine it would be even better with duck if your budget stretches that far, but we were pretty happy with this for a Thursday evening in.

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Far from home

When anyone in a café, bookshop, second hand kitchen store (places I have been frequenting this week) asks me where I am from and I tell them New Zealand, they all seem to say “Oh that’s so far away”. Yes it is. New Zealand is far from everywhere, and moving away means knowing that you won’t be popping home for weekends. When I lived in Italy and was just doing nannying jobs I was very aware of the cost and distance separating me from my friends and family. But that was a few years ago and I had no sense of permanence. Everything was temporary and I knew that it wasn’t long before I would be moving on again.

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Now I feel differently. I know that we are here for a good few years. And although that is an exciting thought, it also makes me feel far from everyone. Two of the most amazing people I know just got engaged, I want to have a drink with them at the Love Shack. It is one of my most special friend’s birthday today, I want to have a long dinner around her table with bottles of her favourite chardonnay. Then in a few weeks there is the marriage of one of my kindest and calmest friends to her long time boyfriend, I hate that I am not going to be there to celebrate with them.

But this is what it is to live in a world where there is opportunity, to experince living in a new city. We have skype, emails, facebook, instagram, snapchat, to keep in touch. I even posted some letters, cards and post cards this week.

Soon I will have work, be busy, have friends I have collected around me. And for now, we have a beautiful apartment that is feeling more and more like a home.

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Making breakfast better

I only discovered bircher muesli a couple of years ago at a café on Ponsonby Road. Since then I have been mixing it up at home, trying to create a perfect recipe. At the moment, coconut and raspberries are a vital ingredient for me.

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COCONUT AND RASPBERRY BIRCHER MUESLI

2 cups oats
1 cup coconut water
1 cup natural yoghurt
1 granny smith apple julienned
½ cup coconut shavings
½ cup frozen raspberries
2 Tbsp melted honey
1 tsp cinnamon

This is as simple as combining everything together in a container that will happily live in the fridge for up to five days.  I never actually measure anything out, I just play around with amounts until the consistency seems about right. You may need to add some more liquid- water, coconut water, apple juice or yoghurt is fine- more fruit, or more oats as you desire. Some people like dried fruit in their mix, nuts are another popular addition, but I like it like this. Especially this morning with some fresh strawberries cut on top and a book in bed…

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Add some crunch to your lunch

At my family home, we often have grated things for lunch. Grated things has changed and evolved over many years, depending on who is making it, what is in season and what people feel like that day. Generally there will be at least a couple of the following: cabbage, carrots, beetroot, celery, apple, cheese, cashews, peanuts, chickpeas, red onion, chillis… the list goes on. I don’t have a grater in my new kitchen, but did some fine slicing today to make a San Fran Grated Things. I sent a picture to a salad loving friend, and she wanted the recipe- so here you are Al, enjoy!

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SAN FRANCISCO GRATED THINGS

1 cup red quinoa
2 cups water
1 granny smith apple
1 fennel bulb
1 stalk of celery
Handful of flat leaf parsley
Olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Tsp whole grain mustard
Salt
Rocket

Put the rinsed (don’t have a sieve so I didn’t actually do this step…) quinoa in a pot with the water, bring to the boil and then simmer until the water has all absorbed. Set aside to cool. Finely slice the apple, fennel and celery. Make the dressing by combining the lemon juice, mustard, olive oil and salt and then mix it all together with the rocket and quinoa in a big bowl. Make sure you do this straight away as the apple and fennel will start to discolour if they don’t get any loving from the lemon juice. This is a very quick and easy recipe, perfect for a lunch at home with friends – just add some poached chicken, nice cheese, a loaf of bread, some wine. Or make it up the night before to take to work. It will be worth it.

Cooking in a new kitchen

I have a kitchen. My very own, do whatever I want, fill it with whatever I want, kitchen. With this comes the fact I have nothing to go in the kitchen. A crate of things from New Zealand comes over in a couple of months, so it is a matter of working out what we can do without, and what we need immediately. Luckily we went out for dinner with a couple of new American friends on Sunday night to a cool wee local gastro pub called Magnolia with delicious beers and burgers. Steph lent us a pot, 2 knives, forks and spoons so we are good to go for a while! This means I am having to get creative with one pot. Here’s my first attempt…

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ONE POT WONDER

Pinch of fennel seeds
Pinch of chilli flakes
Tbsp of fresh thyme leaves
1 onion
1 stick celery
4 cloves garlic
2 chicken thighs
1 cup green lentils
1 tin tomatoes
1 cup of stock
Handful of green Sicilian olives
Handful of fresh parsley
Grated parmesan

Fry the onion, garlic, celery, fennel seeds, chilli flakes and thyme slowly in lots of olive oil. Once they have softened, turn up the heat a bit and add the chicken thighs so they lightly brown on each side. Then add the tin of tomatoes, the lentils and the stock, season well with salt and pepper then put the lid on and walk away. After about half an hour/45 minutes (I may have forgotten to check a clock) your lentils and chicken should have cooked. Try to schmush up the tomatoes as well as you can- they should have fallen apart a bit by themselves- and add the olives.

Serve this in a bowl with parsley and parmesan on top and some chunky sourdough bread on the side to mop up all the delicious juices.

This is served in our beautiful new bowls from Heath Ceramics– such an inspiring shop. We got a voucher for there from some amazing friends and got to spend it this weekend. Definitely worth checking out. Thanks guys!

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Celebrating with Italian Food

Today we signed our lease! We have a home! After getting a bit stressed about how competitive it is and how we don’t have social security numbers OR credit history in the US (apparently very important), I was starting to doubt our ability to be accepted anywhere. And when you have to pay $50 every time you apply for a place, things were getting expensive. But we succeeded. We are now proud renters of a one bedroom apartment and we move in on Saturday. It’s on the fourth floor, it’s near parks, cafes and restaurants, and it has a beautiful view out over the city. (Plus it is just near the Full House houses!)

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We went out to Ragazza for dinner and ate amazing salads and pizza, drank some yummy red wine and talked about what we needed to get for the place. And then the next night we stayed on the Italian buzz and ate this:

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MY KIND OF CARBONARA

2 zucchini
1 leek
1 onion
Fresh thyme
Fresh parsley
2 eggs
Long splash of cream
Salt and Pepper
Fettucine
Parmesan

Slowly and softly fry the finely chopped leek and onion in olive oil and the thyme. Add the zucchini halved and then cut into long slithers once they are lovely and soft. This will mean you will have some different textures going on. In a bowl mix together the cream and eggs with some salt, pepper and chopped parsley. When your pasta has finished cooking, drain it and then return it to the pot. Quickly add the cream mixture, stirring it through so it coats all the pasta equally. You want the pasta to be silky and shiny, not scrambled eggs, so make sure the pot is no longer on the heat. Then mix in the vegetables and serve with some shaved parmesan.

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Now I know this isn’t a REAL carbonara, but it  is rich and delicious. So Italians, you will have to excuse me.

You can add pancetta, prosciutto or bacon if you wish, it can add a nice bit of crunch. Or you can spend that money on a bottle of white wine to drink while you eat, as we did.

Local Bookshop Found!

I have had a lot of time to read since I have been in this city. In between apartment hunting I have perched in cool looking cafes with a coffee and a book hoping someone will come and befriend me. No luck just yet, but I am ever the optimist. At least I have devoured some good ones this week- Flesh and Blood by Michael Cunningham was an epic tale spanning three generations of American immigrants. Not quite as good as Middlesex, but a captivating and tragic tale. Plus I have read Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel, A Pale View of the Hills and the very creepy The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.

So it is with great excitement that I have found my new favourite bookshop. The Booksmith on Haight Street immediately wooed me with their range of books and beautiful space. They have write ups on favourite books so you have all the people who work there’s opinion on what to read. Someone called Amy liked a whole lot of books that I also like, so I have bought Captial on her recommendation.

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Bookshops are so important in any community, whether they sell a selection of dog eared second hand books, or beautiful new waiting to be discovered books. People thought that with the rise of bookshops like Borders, smaller independents would suffer. Then with the ease and discounted price offered by the Book Depository and Amazon, then kindles, we wondered- how could a small local store ever compete when they have to charge so much more and people have to leave their homes to look and buy? Perhaps it is for that very reason independent bookstores are doing better than ever. People want to feel like they belong in a community, buy their fruit and vegetables from the local farmer’s market. They don’t want to be anonymous in a huge mall. There is something nice about chatting with the person who makes your coffee in the morning, something even nicer about someone being able to recommend a book they know you will love.

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I have some amazing talented friends who are starting up their own thing and being their own boss. Anna has become a freelance photographer. Within a year she is turning away bookings because she is in such high demand. Olivia has started designing beautiful rugs and is now being stocked in small local shops in Sydney, Wellington and Auckland. Millie sells flowers out of a converted truck at Cox’s Bay and sells out all the time. These incredible people are a sure sign that we like supporting local. Why should bookshops be any different? My friend Kimberley and I have a long standing dream to open up our own bookstore one day selling beautiful books, coffee and community. It may be a cliche, but I think we can make it happen.

Springtime soup

I love finishing a weekend with something healthy and tasty to prepare you for the week ahead. This springtime soup was perfect- easy, quick and delicious. The beauty of it lies in its versatility, you can just use whatever is in season. Make it a denser wintery soup with the addition of root vegetables, or a earthy autumnal soup with mushrooms.

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SPRINGTIME SOUP

1 onion
1 fennel bulb
4 cloves of garlic
Zest of half a lemon
6 spears of asparagus cut into thirds
Handful of brussel sprouts halved
Half a Savoy cabbage finely sliced
1 handful of baby spinach
Fresh Italian parsley
Fresh basil
Chicken stock

Slowly fry the finely chopped fennel, lemon zest, garlic and onion in a good amount of olive oil. Once they have softened and are lovely and sweet, add the chicken stock, the asparagus, brussel sprouts, cabbage, spinach, herbs and simmer for about ten minutes. You don’t want to vegetables to be raw, but you also don’t want them mushy and boiled tasting. Aim for firm and youthful!

Serve with some grated parmesan, freshly ground black pepper and bread and butter. Health instantly restored after the weekend.


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Gluten free? Not a chance.

And so the first weekend in our new city draws to a blustery and blue skied end. Most of it was taken up with the continued hunt for a place to live, but we managed to sample some of the best things the city has to offer. Bakeries. Really good ones.

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1. The Mill

Beautiful clean space with fresh bread and good coffee. I had a Asian inspired sesame brioche and Ollie had sourdough toast with homemade nutella.

2. Craftsman and Wolves

Delicious rolls filled with salami, gherkins and mustard as well a whole cabinet of sweet treats I could not possibly have chosen from!

3. Tartine Bakery

The most incredibly light and buttery pastry made for a delicious pain au chocolat with raspberries. I can’t wait to go back for the toasted sandwiches they make.

Tonight? A very green spring minestrone soup for dinner. Maybe with some fresh bread…

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Fighting tech workers for a home

House hunting is a crazy thing here in San Francisco. The tech boom out in Silicone Valley has meant a huge change in the property market. Because of people like Ollie, my husband, there has been a big influx of people who have moved here to work and want to live in a cool area. So for a studio apartment in what was a pretty dodgy area, now with cafes and tiny restaurants popping up, you are looking at paying between 2,500- 3,000 US dollars a month. And that is before you factor in parking, expenses and that there are no laundries in the buildings. This rapid increase in rents has resulted protests over the last few months- the influx of people earning a good salary has meant hasty gentrification of neighbourhoods, forcing families who have rented there for years to be evicted. People say it is killing the creative and artistic heritage of the city as no one can afford to live centrally. Others say that is is bringing money to the city. You can read more about it here and I would be interested in your thoughts.

Anyway, my days look like this at the moment.

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Trying to set up viewings of apartments and walking from place to place to find the same groups of people arrive with me. Some have cash in hand ready to seal the deal if the place looks good. Our expectations have quickly fallen from a two bedroom apartment so people can come to stay, down to a studio apartment- sorry visitors, it’s going to be a tight squeeze in our bed instead.

Keep your fingers crossed for me, I’m heading out to another couple now!