Category: Musings

Saturday Morning in the Dogpatch

On Saturday morning we got in the car and headed across town to the Dogpatch, an area we haven’t explored yet. We had read about the opening of The Minnesota Street Project a couple of weeks ago,  and were keen to have a look. A old warehouse is now a gallery and studio space offering ‘affordable and economically sustainable spaces for art galleries, artists and related nonprofits.’ Check out their website to read more, or if you are in San Francisco, head on over. It is a beautiful space.

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I would also recommend going for lunch at Piccino afterwards, it was absolutely delicious and they have highchairs that screw onto the bar. Three happy Hewitts indeed.

Now a recipe, or more just an idea. We eat this meal a bit, especially in the warmer months. It is so easy and quick to put together, but packed with flavour and fun to eat.

Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Hummus and Salad
Serves two

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Mix together some ground/minced (depending on what country you live in) lamb with salt, pepper and about a tablespoon of garam masala. Roll into balls, about half the size of a golf ball. Fry in some oil on a hot heat, moving around every couple of minutes.

Chop one tomato, three radishes, half a peeled cucumber, 1/4 small red onion and some fresh parsley and mix in a bowl with some olive oil, salt and red wine vinegar.

Once the meatballs are cooked through- this shouldn’t take very long- place on a dish that has a thin covering of hummus and sprinkle some roasted pine nuts over the top.

I like to serve this with some greek yoghurt made better with lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt and fresh mint, plus some grilled pita bread, hot sauce and a cold beer.

Perfect for the balmy weather San Francisco has been having lately. Long may it continue!

 

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A fresh look for spring

With spring in the air and finally at the market, plus our move into the new apartment and Lilias turning one in a couple of weeks (!!!) it feels like a everything is refreshing and new things are happening. So I cut my hair short again, and then followed up by redesigning the blog.

It is coming up two years since we moved to San Francisco and I started this blog. I felt like things needed an update so I called on a certain someone with some rather fabulous design skills, Catherine.  An old English student of mine and a good friend’s little sister, Catherine quickly became a good friend to me as well. After talking to her about the blog, she very kindly did the calligraphy for the header. Isn’t it gorgeous? Thank you Catherine x

I am starting off with a fresh, spring salad as per Catherine’s request. It is crunchy and zingy as well as being strangely comforting. We ate it warm, but I think leftovers the next day would be pretty good too. Pity there weren’t any…

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Spring Noodle Salad
Serves four

Soba noodles (according to appetite)
1 cup frozen, shelled edamame beans
Small bundle of asparagus cut into quarters
Four spring onions finely sliced
A handful of snap peas cut into thirds
A large handful of fresh coriander
1 lime
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp sunflower oil
Salt
A small handful of peanuts
3 tbsp of sesame seeds

Cook the soba noodles according to the instructions and put aside in a large bowl.

Gently fry the finely sliced spring onions in a little sunflower oil until softened, then add the parboiled asparagus and edamame beans to fry for a few more minutes. When these are cooked but still have some bite, add them to the noodles with the roughly chopped coriander, the juice of the lime, sesame and sunflower oil, rice wine vinegar, salt, peanuts and sesame seeds. Toss it all together and eat while it is still warm. I would recommend an accompanying cold beer for balance.

We added hot sauce to ours afterwards because we were eating with Lilias, but you could definitely add the chilli at the beginning when you are frying the spring onion.

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My next post is an easy rhubarb and strawberry cake because you have to enjoy both the sweet and the savoury sides of spring. Also because anything with rhubarb makes me happy, especially if you can eat it with a cup of tea.

Spring time and new beginnings.

It is funny how quickly your expectations can change. Living in a one bedroom apartment with a baby is completely normal in this crazy expensive city. I was talking to a mother just yesterday who lives in a two bedroom with three children. All of a sudden, having a child in its own room seems like an unnecessary luxury. Having a spare room for friends to come and stay? Madness.

Currently we live in a one bedroom apartment. Looking south through the big windows, you get beautiful views over the hills of San Francisco and the Sutro tower comes and goes as the infamous mist rolls in and out. We moved to this apartment as a couple coming to work in this city and soon became a family of three with a baby who sleeps in a converted cupboard where the vacuum cleaner and suitcases used to live.

Nearly a year old, Lilias is well and truly on the move. She crawls at a scarily fast pace and climbs anything she can find. All of a sudden, a cupboard doesn’t seem quite big enough for her bedroom. The fact that it is off the living room is not great for having people over in the evenings. The nine flights of stairs are starting to feel steeper and steeper as she gets heavier, and I won’t get started on not having a laundry.

So we are on the move! We love the neighborhood so much we are just hopping over the other side of the park, a huge move of four blocks, but it is big! It has TWO bedrooms. And a kitchen with room for a table to eat at. And it is only up one flight of stairs. And I am beyond excited. We move next Sunday, so who knows? Maybe my next blog post will be from my brand new kitchen, sitting at my table looking out towards the park.

It feels like just the right time for a move and a new adventure. Springtime in the San Francisco.

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Menu Planning and Spaghetti Fridays

I am not a planner. Life can take me where it wants, and that is just fine. I feel this way about cooking as well, never having been one to plan what I am going to cook at the beginning of the week and do one big shop in preparation. Part of my day with Lilias is going to the deli/market/grocery store a few blocks from us and choosing something to take home and make for dinner.

But lately I have been in a rut. A very deep one that has made me not look forward to either the shopping or the cooking. I don’t know whether it is because we used to eat out quite a bit at exciting and inspiring cafes and restaurants and I got ideas from them? Or that now I have a nine month old to think about cooking for as well as us? But I felt like I was making the same stuff over and over. And not enjoying it.

So I decided to do the unthinkable. Menu planning. Sitting down in the weekend with cookbooks and planning what we are going to eat for the week. And I have to say, it has been working a treat! It means I actually cook to a recipe from cook books I may not have looked at for a while, I can look at the week as a whole and make sure we are eating a variety of foods, there is no waste of food that looked good at the market and then was never actually used, and it means I am trying a whole lot of new recipes in the kitchen. I don’t know how long I will keep it up, but for the moment it is getting me out of the rut.

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I still cook seasonally by only picking recipes that use ingredients that I know I can find at the market at the moment. And if something looks really good when I am out, I will pick it up and find a way to incorporate it into that night’s meal. It has been making things a whole lot easier and given me more time for adventures further afield with my little Lilias. We have been loving going for long winter walks on the beach- there is something so beautiful about a grey cold day and a stormy looking ocean. Makes me not mind the cold wind in my face and leaves both of us feeling fresh and new and ready for a big dinner.

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I may be cooking all different styles of food from all different cook books, but it is nice to come back to your favourites. So on Fridays? Not going out for an after work drink and getting home at 3am, nope, those days are over… for now. Instead? Spaghetti alla puttanesca. Red wine. Bliss.

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
Serves four (or two very hungry people)

A very generous pour of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic finely minced
1 dried peperoncino/ generous pinch of chilli flakes
5 anchovy fillets
400g red, ripe tomatoes or 1 tin tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
100g pitted black olives
1 large tbsp capers
roughly chopped parsley
spaghetti

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Firstly, pour yourself a glass of wine and put your pasta water on.

Put the olive oil, minced garlic, chopped anchovies and chilli into a frying pan over a very gentle flame to let the garlic soften and anchovies melt down into the oil.

Peel, deseed and roughly chop the tomatoes if you are using fresh ones, otherwise open the can and add them to the pan. Raise the heat a little so the pan reaches a bubbling simmer and then finally add the capers, tomato puree and the olives.

By now, the water should have come to the boil. Salt generously and add the spaghetti.

Allow the sauce to bubble away and reduce a little and then add the parsley and finally the cooked pasta.

Serve with a sprinkling of fresh parsley. Buon appetito and have a good weekend x

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And I’m Back

I have spent a while considering Flowers in my Hair and whether I should get back into it, going back and forward trying to decide if it is something I want to do. I have been reading far more of other people’s blogs recently, and with that, I have been made aware of the over saturation on the internet. I mean, is it really necessary to have another food/this is my everyday (rather mundane) life for you to read about? I feel it is rather narcissistic for me to believe you would even want to read about what I have been doing and cooking in my little San Francisco apartment.

But I have had some words of encouragement from good friends, a few writing projects started and planned for the coming months, and it has got me wanting more. I have a gap to fill being at home with Lilias and not working. Plus it feels like spring here, the blossom is coming out, the air feels soft and warm and the days are getting longer, just the right time to resurrect the blog and make a fresh start. Isn’t that what this season is all about?

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I will begin with dinner last night- a risotto made with really good chicken stock from the carcass of the chicken used for pollo alla cacciatore the night before. It comes from Jamie’s Italy, with a few alterations because I am the worst at following a recipe.

Fennel and Ricotta Risotto
Serves two with leftovers, or four as a starter

1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds
2 cloves garlic
1 big bulb of fennel, or 2 small bulbs
2 celery stalks
1/2 onion
1 large cup of risotto rice- about 200g
1 glass of white wine
Chicken stock – about half a litre
chilli flakes
4 tablespoons of ricotta
1 lemon
parmesan
olive oil
salt and pepper

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Start with a couple of splashes of olive oil in a pan and fry the garlic until softened, then add the fennel seeds and sliced fennel (save the feathery tops for later). Add a pinch of salt and pepper, pop the lid on and it turn down low. Now gently fry the finely diced onion and celery in olive oil for about 10 minutes. When the vegetables have softened, add the rice and fry until it is slightly translucent. Next add the glass of wine and stir until the smell of alcohol has disappeared and the wine absorbed.
You can now start adding the stock (I used chicken stock, but you could use vegetable stock if you wanted a vegetarian recipe) bit by bit, little by little. The more you stir, the creamier it gets. Continue until the rice is soft, but still has a bit of bite. Remove from the heat and stir in the ricotta, zest of the lemon and lovely, sweet fennel mixture. Place a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 2 minutes. This lets the rice get really creamy and thick and all the flavours will jumble up together. Check the seasoning and balance the flavour with as much lemon juice as you feel it needs to work with the fennel. Divide between your plates, sprinkle over your finely sliced fennel tops and dust with the chilli flakes and grated parmesan.

Living Small

We were recently featured on the amazing blog Living Small, where a fellow New Zealander interviews and photographs those who are making small apartments work for their families. In a difficult renting market such as San Francisco, these stories make up every day conversations at the playground, cafe or bar and it is fascinating to hear how many people you can fit in a small space (family of four in a studio apartment anyone?). Yes, it is difficult not having a laundry and having to carry a baby and stroller and groceries up nine flights of stairs. But I also think it is wonderful for our daughter to have this beautiful city as her back garden. You never know who you may walk past on the street or what may be going on in the park; there is always something to see or do.

Speaking of which, we have tickets to go and see Yotam Ottolenghi in a couple of weeks. I am so excited- he really has changed the way I cook and I can’t wait to hear what he has to say. So after flicking through his cookbooks, I mixed a few ideas together and made this- an Ottolenghi inspired salad for your weekend.

Kumera and Eggplant Salad

Serves two with enough for lunches the next day, or four for dinner with a nice piece of meat.

1/2 cup of quinoa
1/2 cup wild rice
2 large Kumera (sweet potatoes)
1 large eggplant
1 large handful of baby spinach
1 small handful of fresh coriander
Feta
Pistachio nuts
Sunflower seeds
1Tbsp pomegranate molasses
Juice of one lemon
Olive oil
Salt

Cut your kumera into wedges and your eggplant into cubes. Put these in to roast with some olive oil and salt for about 45 mins at 180/350 or until they are beautiful and golden, a bit crispy on the outside but soft on the inside. Now cook your quinoa and wild rice and leave aside to cool. Finally, roughly chop the spinach and coriander.

The great thing about most of Ottolenghi’s salads is that you can eat them at room temperature. This means that you can make them when you have a minute and then come back to them when it is time to eat- ideal for entertaining or if you manage to get your baby to have a sleep during the day!

So, when you are ready, combing the quinoa, rice, vegetables and herbs in a big bowl with the dressing of pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, salt and olive oil. Crumble some feta and sprinkle some shelled pistachio nuts and sunflower seeds on top for a bit of crunch. Voila! You have a delicious and satisfying dinner all ready to go.

While the baby sleeps, we eat

Lilias Madeline arrived early on Wednesday the 15th April. A San Francisco spring baby with a raging appetite, legs and arms always on the move, she has won us over completely. Her smiles and giggles are enough to make up for her disdain for sleeping during the day and she never fails to make us laugh with the faces she pulls.

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Her arrival has meant a return to basics in the kitchen. Meals that can be thrown together quickly, or put together earlier in the day to slowly cook in the oven over hours at a low heat. The first few months it took hours to get her down at night- rocking, feeding, crying (sometimes me as well as her) until finally she was out around 10pm, when we would eat something quickly before falling into bed ourselves. Recently though, I have managed to have her in bed and asleep by 7.30, perfect timing for me to prepare dinner and feel like a normal person.

Last night we celebrated a sunny couple of days and a baby who went down to sleep without crying for the first time ever, with a crisp, cold glass of white wine and spaghetti alle vongole. This is a dish I first really had with my friend Marco on holiday in Naples. He told me I had to order it, and so I did. It was divine. This one I made wasn’t bad either.

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Spaghetti alle vongole
Serves four

1kg clams
Olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
Pinch of chilli flakes
10 cherry tomatoes
Small bunch of fresh parsley
Glass of white wine
Spaghetti
Salt and pepper

A couple of hours before dinner, put your clams into the sink with cold, salted water. This will clean them and remove any sand. When you are ready to get started, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Finely slice the garlic and parsley stalks, and quarter the cherry tomatoes. (Side note, it is very controversial topic in Italy whether you should use tomatoes in this dish or not. I personally think that the sweet and fresh taste they bring is the perfect compliment to the salty, fleshy clams, but it is up to you.) When the water comes to the boil, salt it well and cook your spaghetti. Now glug a generous amount of olive oil into a pan with a lid. Add the garlic, and fry gently until it has softened. Next add the tomatoes, chilli and parsley stalks and fry for a few minutes. Last add the clams and the glass of wine and put the lid on. It will begin to steam and spit, so give it a good shake so that everything gets cooked. (I was using quite large clams, so they obviously took longer to cook. If you are using the smaller sweeter ones – better for this dish – cook them closer to your pasta being done.) You will know it is done because the clams will have opened and the tomatoes softened and broken down. If any clams do not open, throw them out. Drain the pasta and stir it into the clam mixture when it is still almost, almost cooked so that it soaks up the salty juices from the pan to finish. Roughly chop the parsley and stir through.

You are ready to pour a glass of wine, dish up and take a break from reality pretending you are back in Italy on a balmy summer’s evening. Or just a proud mother in San Francisco with a happy, sleeping baby.

April and a sunny spring.

We have been welcoming April and spring time with lots of green meals. I have been coming home with bags of asparagus, peas, zucchini, spring onion, basil, fennel, broad beans and baby spinach. These have then found their way into, and been the stars of, pasta, risotto, frittatas, soups and tarts.

Spring has also meant fresh flowers all around our apartment- on tables, bookshelves and benches. Our $4 flower guy at the market brightens up any Sunday.

Now we are ready to welcome a new member to our family as well. Come on out little baby, we are all ready to meet you!

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Climb Every Mountain

A few weekends ago Ollie and I spent three days in Yosemite National Park, staying at in a tent at Camp Curry. It was cold and frosty, sunny and autumnal and we did some amazing hikes up and down the cliffs that make this National Park one of the most visited in the US. Over the three days we put away nearly 50km and a large amount of dried apricots, nuts and dark chocolate.

 

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Speaking of climbing every mountain, tonight Grace and I are off to a singalong screening of The Sound of Music at the beautiful Castro Theatre. Excitement levels are high…

Apartment Living

I have never lived in an apartment building before. Ours is certainly not a fancy one. It has carpet reminiscent of an English pub complete with the smell of old cigarettes lingering, there is no lift, and rubbish bins are lined up in the centre courtyard rather than a manicured garden. But I love buzzing in the front door and seeing the packages that have been delivered, checking to see if there is one for us, or post in the number 12 slot. I love walking up the four levels to our door, passing the smells and noises of other people’s life. Fried onions and garlic at number four, curry at number seven. Sometimes a door is left ajar and I can peak into a crowded hallway, strange to live so close to someone and yet know nothing about them. I look out our kitchen window, across the courtyard to two abnormally large cats who sleep in the sun on the outside stairs, other people’s windows, other people’s choices of lined up bottles and plants.

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We have been in this building for five months now. We know our neighbours on our floor. We have all our things from New Zealand and it feels a lot more like home. Books threaten to topple, art is on the walls, clutter is accumulating, and as of Saturday, we have plants growing on the fire escape.

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Five months on and Autumn has arrived. The lower sun means we have bright light streaming into the living and bedroom for most of the day making perfect spots for curling up with a book or a bowl of pasta. It also means finally bidding farewell to stone fruit and berries and welcoming more wintery apples and pears, as well as piles of pumpkins. I am loving the comforting, hearty food- lentils with pasta, chicken pie, soups and pumpkin ravioli which I will blog very soon.

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