Month: June, 2014

Memories of Strawberry Jam

When my friend Anna was pregnant with her gorgeous Maxime, she loved strawberry jam. Whenever I have it, I am taken back to her little home. We are sitting and talking together by the warmth of the heater, her drinking milo, mug balanced on her tummy, me drinking chamomile tea with honey, and the tree outside the window is heavy with lemons. Anna is eating strawberry jam on toast.

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With Anna in mind, I had a go making strawberry jam. I didn’t do a great job of measuring, watching the pot in case it boiled over or timing things, but the end result tastes pretty damn good with plenty of butter on toasted fresh bread.

Anna K’s Strawberry Jam

Strawberries
Brown sugar
Seeds from one vanilla pod
Juice of a lemon

If you want it to set more and be more jammy, use equal amounts of sugar and fruit. I just think that is a whole lots of sugar to be eating, plus I’m not really a sweet tooth, so I would rather have slightly sloppier jam that tastes like fruit, so I used less sugar, more fruit. Up to you with measurements.

Quarter the strawberries and put in a pot with the brown sugar. Leave for a couple of hours at room temperature. Apparently fruit likes to do this before it is made into jam, I don’t really understand why but other blogs told me so. Then put on the element with the other ingredients and bring to the boil. Be careful here, as it likes to overflow everywhere and get really sticky on the elements. I boiled mine for about half an hour and then poured it into a sterilised jar and left to set.

Enjoy this as a strawberry hit on vanilla ice cream. Or with butter, toast and tea, thinking of friends like Anna as I am.

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It’s the little things

It’s the little things that make a big difference. The girl who works at the deli where I buy most of my food producing a little scrap of paper with Anna – New Zealand written on it so she could remember my name, being hugged by an Australian girl who works in the Aesop store after talking to her for over an hour about the highs and lows of San Francisco, receiving real mail in the post from friends scattered around the globe, finding a brand new, hard back copy of Janet Frame’s short stories for $6 at a tiny bookstore, or having coffee and pastries in the sunshine with Ollie before work on his birthday.

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I have also been thinking of little things in little jars. Pickling and jamming, if that is a word. I don’t think I have quite mastered the put things and jars and leave them for winter in the cupboard like a real cook, but they look pretty good in the fridge and taste good straight away. That’s the main thing, right?

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These measurements are just for a small jar, but you can adjust the qualities according to what you have.

A Quick Pickle

1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 pinch fennel seeds
1 pinch mustard seeds
1 pinch black peppercorns

Simply bring your vinegar and water to the boil to combine the two, add everything else and pour over your finely sliced vegetables in a sterilised jar. Allow to cool and then pop in the fridge. Simple as that!

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I have done this with onion and radishes, both were delicious. I used red wine vinegar as I didn’t have any white, but I think this gives the vegetables a lovely rich colouring. These are a perfect addition to a salad, sandwich or a cheese and meat board. Then again, I would think so. Even as a toddler I loved gherkins and pickled onions and my father has been known to drink vinegar from the bottle when he thinks no one is watching. Salt and vinegar chips? Obviously the best flavour.

To Market, to Market.

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The weekend was lovely. We went to a beautiful cafe and drank iced coffee in the shade of trees bowed over with the weight of fresh plums. We bought a car (feeling very grown up right now as it isn’t a Toyota Carolla) and went on an adventure to Sausolito. We sat beside the wharf in the sunshine, had a beer and enjoyed incredible fish and chips at a place called, very originally, Fish. We drove over the Golden Gate bridge with me singing the Full House song and then drove to Twin Peaks to look over the city.

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Sunday was a trip to the farmer’s market to find some cheap produce. There were tomatoes, berries, and zucchini of all shapes and sizes. I am currently attempting to do some pickling and jam making; results have been mixed, but I will blog about that later this week. Back at the market I was drawn to the fish monger after our delicious fresh fish the day before. There was some beautifully pink salmon which didn’t have a price tag but was quickly wrapped up with ice for me to take home. Turns out that not everything at the market is cheap produce so I had to think of something worth while to do with this piece of fish.

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Salmon and Lentils with a Spicy Yoghurt Dressing

1 cup of puy lentils
2 cups water
3 zucchini
1 small head broccoli
A handful of fresh herbs- I used coriander, basil and Italian parsley
A handful of baby spinach
1 big salmon fillet
Pinch of fennel seeds
Olive oil
Sea salt
Half a cup of thick natural yoghurt
juice of half a juicy lemon
1 garlic clove, finely grated
1 tsp paprika

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First of all, cook your cup of lentils with two cups of water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about twenty minutes. While they are busy bubbling away, bake the salmon with some lemon juice, salt and a pinch of fennel seeds. You don’t want to over cook the salmon, so depending on the size of the fillet, this should only take about fifteen minutes. Fry the zucchini and broccoli in a pan. I used a mix of yellow and green zucchini- they are just so pretty! Roughly chop the herbs and spinach and once the lentils are cooked, add along with the zucchini and broccoli. Break the salmon on top and then dress with a dressing made of the yoghurt, grated garlic clove, lemon juice and paprika. I also added some of the red onion I had pickled- it added a nice vinegary bite that complimented the earthy flavours of the lentils perfectly.

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This week I will let you know how my pickling/jam making goes, tell you all about the amazing looking restaurant we are going to for Ollie’s birthday, and about the book reading at a dive bar tonight. Until then, thank you for all the kind words and feedback you have given me so far. I have been overwhelmed by everybody’s response, so thank you x

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Asian Inspired

And so another Friday rolls round and it is coming up five weeks in this city. The sun is still shining, the wind is still gusting and I am still pottering in the kitchen, exploring new neighbourhoods and waiting for a work visa.

Earlier this week I wandered through Chinatown. Apparently it is the oldest Chinatown in North America, and the largest population of Chinese outside Asia. I walked past smells I couldn’t quite place, cars and fumes, shouting, lanterns and Chinese women doing synchronised dancing in a park opposite a beautiful Catholic church. I walked past these, and I started thinking about what to make for dinner. Something spicy, fresh and with noodles. Pho was calling to me.

Now this isn’t a real pho (a Vietnamese noodle soup), but my version made from what I had in the cupboard and what I felt like eating that night. Although it looks like there are a lot of flavours and ingredients, it really is very easy to make- there are only three steps. Simple as that. You can change it up, play around with different flavours and make it work for you. Have a go and let me know what yours turned out like.

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A Kind of Pho

Broth
Skin and bones from 2 big chicken thighs
1 litre water
1 celery stalk- with leaves
1 onion
1 carrot
1 chilli
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp hossein sauce
1 chunk of ginger, skin on
4 cloves garlic
Salt

Soup
Flesh from the chicken thighs, finely sliced
Handful of mushrooms, sliced
2 bok choy, halved
Noodles – I used soba because that is what we had, but wide glass noodles would be better

Garnish
1 lime, quartered
Big handful of fresh coriander
Handful of mung beans
2 spring onions finely sliced
Fresh chilli, finely sliced
Half an onion, finely sliced and deep fried

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First of all, you need to make your broth. Simply put all your broth ingredients in a big pot, bring to the boil and then simmer for about an hour. This should give plenty of time for all your ingredients to get together and create a flavoursome broth. Taste to make sure it is good, and add more of anything you think it needs. Strain and put back on the heat. Bring to the boil again and add the chicken, mushrooms, bok choy and noodles. These should only take five minutes to cook, so while this is happening, finely finely slice some onion and deep fry and salt it. This will make a deliciously salty and sweet element to top your soup with. Divide your soup into bowls and get garnishing. Or, lay the garnishes on the table and let people add what they want.

Happy weekend x

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A Bookstore Update

San Francisco is overflowing with independent bookstore. Some selling new books, some solely graphic novels, others travel books, anarchist books, others selling second hand. On my wandering I have come across some real gems, so I thought I would update you all.

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So far, I can recommend:

City Lights Bookstore. Bookstore and publishing house that is home to the beat generation and still fostering writers and readers who may not fit the status quo. Wandering through this store is so overwhelming and awesome, I don’t even know where to begin.

Located in my new favourite area of San Francisco, Bibliohead is a well selected second hand bookstore. You don’t have to fight your way through hundreds of copies of Fifty Shades of Grey to get to the good stuff, this is like a new bookshop, but cheaper.

Books Inc is an independently owned chain of bookstores, apparently the oldest on the West Coast. I went to the Van Ness Street store and was impressed by the range of books and loyalty card system. Free books! They seem to organise a whole heap of book clubs, so may have to check one out.

Dog Eared Books is another well thought out second hand bookstore with so much to choose from. Interestingly, second hand books only seem to be a few dollars cheaper than new books. I guess when a new book is only $15, and rent is so expensive here, prices can only drop so low.

And of course, The Booksmith, my first and favourite bookstore visited in this city. I said some stuff about it here.

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Lucky books are so cheap here as I have been consuming them at an alarming rate. The last two weeks I have read No and Me- Delphine de Vigan, Capital – John Lanchaster, The Dinner– Herman Koch and The Accidental- Ali Smith. Everything I have been reading lately has been so good, I am nervous that each new one I start wont live up to the last! So far, so good, but I am very open to any suggestions- comment away.

Little Indian Elephants

One fantastic thing about San Francisco is its love of Indian Pale Ale, every local brewery seems to make a good one, especially the one we found with the elephant on the label. It comes in a cute bottle, and did I mention the elephant? Anyway, the beer and then the beautiful cauliflower we bought at the farmer’s market on Sunday inspired me to make a curry to eat while we drink the beer. Here’s what I did.

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Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry

2 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp tumeric
1Tbsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp chili flakes
1Tbsp fresh grated ginger
Oil (I used olive oil because that is all my kitchen has, but you could use any)
1/2 red onion
1/2 white onion
4 cloves garlic
1 head of cauliflower
1 can chickpeas
1 cup frozen spinach
1 handful fresh coriander
Juice of half an orange
Splash of coconut water (you could also use stock or coconut milk, this is all I had at home)

To serve

Rice- obviously
Natural yoghurt
Fresh mint
Roughly chopped raw almonds (hazelnuts are even better with cauliflower if you have them)

Heat your oil and add all the spices, garlic and the grated ginger. Fry these until it has made a kind of paste like base for your curry. Now add the onion and slowly fry. Next comes the cauliflower, spinach, coriander, chickpeas, orange juice and coconut water or milk. Put the lid on the pot and simmer for at least half an hour or until the vegetables have softened and flavoured. Mine simmered for a good couple of hours as Ollie’s meeting lasted a little longer than expected, which was fine as it meant the flavours really had time to do their thing. I served it with some natural yoghurt, fresh mint and some roughly chopped raw almonds. And of course, a cold beer.

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Picnic Potato Salad

Yesterday was the ultimate lazy summer Sunday. We ate delicious toast with rhubarb jam in bed, read books and then wandered down the road to discover the Divisadero Organic Farmer’s Market which is on every Sunday morning. There were piles and punnets of any berry you could imagine, leafy greens, sweet stone fruit, pastries and bread and fresh cut flowers. There were hippies, hipsters, dogs, babies and yoga mat carrying young professionals. We picked up all sorts of fruit and vegetables from which I quickly made a few salads before meeting friends in the park for some sunshine, food and beer. It was perfect. And now my legs are a bit like a pasta pomodoro– all you can see is red, even though you know it is white underneath…

But anyway, here’s the recipe for the potato salad we enjoyed in the sunshine.

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Picnic Potato Salad

About 12 new season potatoes
2 spring onions
2 stalks of celery
1 handful of capers
1 heaped Tbsp whole grain mustard
A few big glugs of olive oil
Juice of a lemon
Salt and pepper
1 big handful of fresh mint
Big bunch of rocket

Half your potatoes and put them on to boil. While they are doing their thing, finely chop the spring onions and celery and add to the capers, mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. When the potatoes are cooked, run under cold water to stop the cooking and cool them down a bit, and then add them to the bowl with the dressing. When they have cooled down completely, add the roughly chopped mint and rocket and combine. The result is a fresh tasting summer salad, perfect for a picnic. This would also be a great addition to a BBQ for next time you offer to bring something.

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Mushroom Soup

I cannot wait for my cookbooks to arrive from New Zealand. You may call me old fashioned, but I love sitting with a pile of them, a cup of tea in hand, having a look through and getting inspired. Of course there is the internet, thousands of recipes at the click of a button, but it just isn’t the same. I told you I was old fashioned, and no I don’t own a kindle.

With winter showing up every evening, the last few days have made me feel like something warming for dinner. Something to savour when it is cold outside. So I went straight to Jamie Oliver’s website and looked at his soup recipes. A mushroom soup with mascarpone leapt out and I was inspired.

Mushroom Soup

1 onion
6 cloves garlic
Small handful of pried porcini mushrooms
Two handfuls of button mushrooms
Handful of thyme
1 litre chicken stock
1 Tbsp mascarpone
Zest of half a lemon (optional)

First of all, soak your porcini mushrooms in a little boiling water. Once they are feeling hydrated again, finely chop them, the onion, garlic and half of the button mushrooms. And I mean, really finely chop. This is how to make soup without a blender or whiz stick, so you have to do the work at the beginning. Slowly fry these in olive oil with the thyme leaves, salt and pepper. After about twenty minutes, add the water from the porcini mushrooms and the stock and simmer for another twenty minutes. When you have about ten minutes to go, add the mascarpone to the soup and roughly chop the remaining mushrooms. I fried these in some lemon zest for a bit of zing and added them to the bowls of soup at the end.

The result is an earthy and tasty soup that is rich in flavour, despite being this easy to make. Even better when mopped up with bread from The Mill.

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We then went round the corner to a bar called Toronado, which has an absurd amount of beers on tap, so we could toast the moment our dear friends said “I do” back in Auckland. All our love to the two of you x

 

The Mill

If you are in San Francisco, I have one cafe you must go to. The Mill on Divisadero St, just around the corner from our apartment, and therefore, just around the corner from the Full House houses. It’s a win win situation.

It is home to Josey Baker Bread and  Four Barrel Coffee. The menu is simple- toast with a few different options on top. You can have home made nutella, cream cheese and cracked pepper. Sounds kind of boring… until you taste the bread. Wow. You can also get chocolate and sea salt cookies which will blow your mind.

The coffee is fantastic, the space is beautiful, the food is good. I feel very lucky to have this place as my local.

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Chicken in a New Pot

Yesterday was made a whole lot better by the arrival of my set of blue La Creuset kitchen delights- a casserole dish, a skillet and a little sauce pot. They are just so beautiful I had to keep walking into the kitchen to look at them! They are an incredibly generous wedding present from some family friends in New Zealand, and so we had a special dinner last night to honour them. DSCF3338

Chicken in a New Pot
4 chicken thighs, bone in
2 onions
8 cloves of garlic
2 tomatoes Handful of cherry tomatoes
Big handful basil
8 little potatoes
1 cup frozen spinach
A generous amount of olive oil
Salt and pepper to season

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This is a really easy recipe (I think it is based on a Jamie Oliver one I made a while back? Still waiting on my cookbooks to arrive). In a casserole pot or roasting tray, lay out your chicken thighs, the onions cut into wedges, the garlic peeled but left whole, the tomatoes cut into quarters, the cherry tomatoes halved, the potatoes halved, the spinach and the basil. Douse with olive oil, salt and pepper and put in the oven. Done deal. I left the lid on for the first hour, and then took it off for the second. This meant some of the liquid from the vegetables dried off a bit and the onions started to caramelise. My new oven is a gas one- new concept to me- so I am still getting my head around cooking in it. It seems a lot harder to make things nice and crispy, but I am sure I will master it over time, maybe with some tips from my dear readers?

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We shared some wine while we ate, and watched the fog roll in over the houses dotted on the hills opposite. This windy colourful city has kept me fuelled for another day.

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