Banana Pancakes for your Saturday Morning

On Saturday morning we made banana pancakes. My sixteen year old self wanted to put the Jack Johnson song on while we ate them, but much to Ollie’s relief, my thirty year old self won and we listened to Sufjan Stevens’ newest album of which I can’t get enough of, instead.

To my surprise (I am not a pancake aficionado) they were light, they were fluffy and the banana made them so sweet and tasty that they are definitely coming back to our table next weekend.

IMG_7605

Banana Pancakes
Makes enough for four

1 1/2 cups flour
2 Tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 banana (any old overripe brown one that needs using up  is fine)
1 cup milk
2 eggs
2 Tbsp olive oil

In a big bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
In a smaller bowl, mash the banana with a fork, whisk in the eggs and milk.
Pour the banana mixture and the oil into the flour mixture.
Fold the batter gently until just blended.

Fry them up and you have nine smallish pancakes- enough for the three of us with a couple left over.

IMG_7606

We served ours with fresh berries, natural yoghurt, maple syrup and big mugs of coffee.

Lilias thought they were pretty good too. I cut up the leftovers and put them in the freezer to defrost for baby sized lunch treats. I have found it is always good to have something to pull out when you can’t quite make it to the store in time and there is nothing fresh in the fridge. Our freezer currently has ice cube sized bolognese, braised lentils, tomato and spinach pasta sauce, cut up cauliflower fritters and pureed root vegetables in little bags lurking amongst the frozen peas, stock and ice cream.

I would love to hear what go to frozen treats other parent’s freezers have, I am always looking for inspiration.

IMG_7608

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.

IMG_7598

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.

IMG_7362

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

IMG_7604

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

IMG_7593

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?

IMG_7567

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

IMG_7581
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.

A Sunday Salad 

Italy has been on my mind over the last couple of weeks. I bought Rachel Roddy’s beautiful cookbook, FIve Quarters and have been happily cooking my way through it. Peperonata, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, grilled eggplants, pasta and more pasta- making the most of the sweet, ripe produce lying in the sun at the market on Sundays. We watched this episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix which reminded me of the absolute love and respect Italians have for food. And I have been storming through Eleanor Ferrante‘s engrossing Napoli series as I sit and feed and feed this hungry baby. She is taking me in to 20th Century Italy with a woman’s eyes- political control, marital control, family control. Passionate and powerful writing I would definitely recommend.

Sometimes though, you need a break from Italian food. Here is a quick and easy salad I made for dinner last night – fresh and tasty but still satisfying. We had it as is, but it would be great with grilled lamb. 


IMG_6061

Herby quinoa and rice salad
Serves two for dinner with enough left over for two lunches the next day

1 cup quinoa
1 cup basmati rice
1 large eggplant or 2 small eggplants
1 lemon
A handful of each- parsley, coriander, mint and baby spinach
4 spring onions
A handful of pistachio nuts
100g feta
1 green chilli
Olive oil
Sea salt

IMG_6062

Cut the eggplant into small cubes and bake on a well oiled oven tray until golden brown. While these are in the oven, cook the rice and quinoa then set aside to cool. Chop the herbs, spinach, chilli and spring onion and put in a large bowl with the pistachio nuts, feta, a generous slug of olive oil, salt and the juice and some zest from the lemon. When the eggplants have cooked, combine everything together and serve. We had this salad at room temperature which worked well and meant the heat of the eggplants, quinoa and rice didn’t discolour or wilt the herbs. Perfect with a glass of cold white wine at the end of a busy weekend.

IMG_6063

Tonight for dinner? Pasta of course!

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.

IMG_5957

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.

IMG_5939

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.

Pasta primavera

This is my version of pasta primavera, or springtime pasta. A deliciously easy way to enjoy all the fresh green things that this season has to offer us. With cheese. Obviously.

DSCF5025

Pasta Primavera

Olive oil
1 big garlic clove
A bundle of asparagus- try and find the young skinny ones
2 spring onions
A handful of baby spinach
About 8 basil leaves
A handful of freshly podded peas (or frozen ones if you can’t find the real deal)
Juice of half a lemon
A ball of mozzarella di bufala (or feta if you prefer)
Salt
Pasta of the short variety

DSCF2428

Start with golden, grassy olive oil in a frying pan. Add a fresh garlic clove and two spring onions, finely sliced, and a bunch of tall, skinny asparagus cut into fives. Slowly and softly fry these.

Next add your dark green baby spinach leaves, a squeeze of lemon, then the basil and finally the freshly podded peas. These only need a minute to bring out their colour and sweetness all ready to burst with sweet flavour in your mouth.

Finish the dish off with some creamy mozzarella di bufala broken on top and another drizzle of olive oil. This dish works best with a shorter pasta and is delicious cold for lunch the next day.

I added chilli flakes to the olive oil at the beginning of the cooking process, which is, like everything in cooking, entirely optional. I am just doing anything in my ability to encourage this baby out of me and into the world. Tonight? Super spicy tacos from the hole in the wall round the corner. Wish me luck!

DSCF2434

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!

IMG_5107

IMG_5117 (1)

IMG_5058

IMG_5062

DSCF5027

Waiting with Banana Bread

I have officially finished work and have two and a half week left until my due date. After hearing that more babies are born on the full moon, I am hoping for an early Easter arrival as I am getting impatient playing the waiting game. I want to meet the wee bub! The baby room/actually a cupboard is almost ready, I have washed all the tiny little clothes, and I am about to start cooking things to go in the freezer to pull out when I am also pulling out my hair over a crying new born.

DSCF4997

Today dawned so beautiful, I couldn’t bring myself to make a soup or a pasta sauce to freeze. I wanted to bake something fresh and tasty to enjoy at our sunny window with a good book. I came across Ottolenghi’s banana bread in his new book Plenty More and decided that it would be perfect, even though I had to modify it a bit due to lack of ingredients in the pantry. He says to grill it after cooking with fresh sliced banana, tahini and honeycomb which sounds absolutely glorious. Instead I just had it warm from the oven with coffee. Bliss.

DSCF4999

Banana and Pecan Bread

1 cup of pecans
3 large ripe bananas
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups of brown sugar
1/2 cup of full fat milk
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt of salt

DSCF5001

Preheat the oven to 175°C  and line a loaf pan with waxed paper. Toast the pecans in this for about ten minutes, take them out and roughly chop them. In a bowl, beat the bananas, sugar and eggs until combined. Next add the salt, milk and oil. Sift the dry ingredients in and continue to mix for a few more minutes. Finally add the pecans and pour into the loaf pan. Pop in the oven for about an hour ten and then put on a baking tray to cool (if you have one).

The result is a deliciously moist and tasty banana bread. I would definitely track down the full and proper recipe in Plenty More and try that, but for today, this one made me particularly happy.

DSCF5004

A Celebration

I had always been a bit negative about American style baby showers, but Sunday proved me wrong. My friend Kelly organised the most beautiful day for me with every little detail thought out- the room decorated, fresh spring flowers everywhere, waffles and fresh berries, champagne, lemon and lavender cocktails, games and fun. There was even a surprise arrival of two friends who now live in Los Angeles! As I looked around the room at all these amazing people I did not know even existed this time last year, it made me realise how I am not having a baby in a foreign city without friends or family, but in a beautiful sunny city Ollie and I happily call home, surrounded by amazing and caring friends. So thank you to everyone who helped make this day so special.


IMG_5001

IMG_5004

IMG_5013

IMG_5021

IMG_5018