Monday, May 25

I Loved this Resturant So Long

Despite what Mr D promised, we didn't win $16 million on the lotto this surprising. So it was rather clever of me to have booked The Engine Room in Northcote for our tenth wedding anniversary, you don't need to take out a second mortgage to have a really fabulous meal there. Why are their not more restaurants like this in Auckland??
It is always a good sign if I can peruse a menu (and this one was not huge, maybe six options for each course....), and struggle to choose just one of each dish. In fact despite my not insignificant marital weight gain, I often struggle to finish 3 courses. But everything looked so tempting I threw caution to the wind (and a Losec down my throat...) and went for it.
I only discovered after the event I had chosen the exact menu described in Metro, on awarding The Engine Room best local bistro in their annual awards...........the excellent waiter must have thought "what a saddo".
I enjoyed Twice Baked Goats Cheese Souffle , which was a light delight, with just the right amount of "goatness". To follow a delicious Steak Frites, complete with a lovely herby butter sauce. I only ate half my steak, in preparation for the Churros and Chocolate to follow. Natalia Schamroth, who along with partner Carl Koppenhagen own and run the restaurant, then whisked the rest away, and returned it at the end of our meal, to the absolute delight of a certain fat furry feline....
Mr D had a tangy Prawn and Lychee salad, followed by the Duck, which was an evening special. Both produced scraped clean plates and curious lip-smacking sounds, need I say more...
We have spent quite a bit of time in Spain, and I cant go past Churros, deep fried donuts traditionally eaten at breakfast with hot chocolate. Eat these my friend, and you will laugh in the face of muesli, ha ha!
They arrived hot and coated in sugar, to be broken up and dunked in my cream topped chocolate, which had a real hit of orange. Terrys Chocolate Orange for grown-ups. Mr D's Nougat Glace with Turkish Delight was just that, light, packed with pistachios, with a real hit of rosewater. Needless to say I was only quick enough for a small spoonful.
All this , with a couple of wines each came in at $230 incl tip, if you find somewhere else in Auckland with this level of food,service and ambiance, I want to hear about it:) If you get the chance visit,

Briefly, I have seen two good French films recently, The Grocers Son, which is playing at the Lido, and I Loved You So Long, with the fantastic Kristen Scott-Thomas at the beautifully refurbished Capital on Dominion Rd. If you have the chance, go and see them. Neither will blow you away with action (they are French after all.....), but both are excellent character studies.

Must away, homemade Chicken Noodle Soup for dinner, and you know Monday is Midsomer Murder night........x

Tuesday, May 12

A real French Terrine

It was my birthday this week, ( on a school night, I am of an age when that actually matters....)so I have been out and about and not really keeping my blog here I am.

We had a family 80th at the weekend(actually Uncle Laurie looks closer to 70 than 80...), and I was gagging to use my new/old birthday present. A beautiful French terrine dish, which belonged to Anne's in-laws (Anne runs the Antique shop in Paihia, in the beautiful Bay of Islands, go and check it out if you are up that way)

Anyway this lovely dish had spent many years in the production of delicious terrines, a course country-style pate, made from various cuts of meat. My recipe used minced pork & venison, but as I had no luck at all finding venison I used minced Angus beef instead. Along with streaky bacon, juniper berries (I love that Gin sharpness), peppercorns, pistachio nuts, mace, thyme and wine, yummo. The mace was especially interesting, this is the outer covering of the nutmeg, which has a really intriguing flavor, a touch of nutmeg, but spicier yet less medicinal. Yes, you obviously need to go & find some to have any clue about the joy of mace...........

So this is all marinated together, then pressed into my beautiful dish, covered and baked for a couple of hours on low, sitting in a Bain Marie (a water bath, sounds so much better in French non?) If you dont have a terrine a loaf tin will work just as well.
I then popped my beauty in the fridge with a couple of tins of beans on top (which I felt bad about not using before now....) to press it down.

Next day an hour or so out of the fridge and it is ready to roll with some lovely crusty bread, and a little dish of my Spicy Apple & Walnut chutney............I hope I am eating like that on my 80th


Sunday, May 3

It was carnage!

I have come to the conclusion I am just not a very good gardener..........all I seem to grow really well is caterpillars. This would not be quite such a problem but they are one insect (on a long and fairly substantial list) that I find completely gross. They have a purpose (to produce White Butterflies, the point of which I must say does completely elude me), I just wish they would pursue life in someone elses garden. It isn't just that they eat , nigh INHALE any brassica their fat little bodies can wriggle onto (and don't even get me started on the eggs, ugg), but they are so squishy & green & just foul about it, yuk yuk yuk! I will use an exclamation mark on that one, and another, yuk!
As you can probably tell I have had a big session in the garden today, mainly removing ALL my lovely Cauli's, Cabbages & Broccoli to the green bin. If I am honest they were anything but lovely, fully or half eaten, hiding icky green eggs among the minute foliage actually left, but it was still extremely upsetting. Even worse the little buggers had also stripped my parsley and mint plants bare. Now garden is one thing, but to touch the Herbs, that is a wriggle to far buddy, there is a line in the compost and you crossed it. So after a dumping of Derris Dust a napalm bomber would be well impressed with, I systematically remove every last brassica, along with my depleted herb garden.
I have come to the realization I am a cook who gardens (badly), not actually a gardener. Which is ok, the first step to recovery being the ability to self-analyse. So I have scuttled back into the kitchen, and made Leek & Potato soup (nope, neither the leek nor potato originated in my patch) and bread rolls. The rolls I have high hopes for. I have added what herbs I have left standing, thank you hardy Rosemary & Thyme, and also Saffron, which smells gorgeous, and makes the bread a lovely buttery color. The soup is a Darina Allen recipe I picked up on a cooking course at Ballymaloe in Ireland (name dropping, moi?), which I love not least because when I cant actually find the printed version in my tin, even my memory can locate, 1 part onion, 1 part potato, 3 parts vegetables and 5 parts stock. Tonight's is Leek & Potato, so I have upped the potato to 3 parts (3 cups in this case) to two cups of leek, 1 onion, and 5 cups of chicken stock from the freezer (if you are scoffing, please return immediately to Post number Three)
So much easier if you have a stick blender, it always put me off soup, having to put the liquid in a blender, which I then had to clean while nursing the inevitable burn gained in hot-liquid transfer..........a stick blender does the job in the saucepan, genius.
Anyway, the soup is garnished with a scattering of crispy bacon. If I was posh it would be pancetta, if I was more organised it would be Chorizo, I am neither, but have bacon in the freezer, hooray.
I thought I should add a new challenge to my "new ingredient/recipe from the tin thing", as looking back at my posts I can see how I have put on nearly 20kg since I got married (10 years this month, hence I am feeling reflective....), how much do I love cream/bacon/cheese, let me count the ways....?
So I will also be endeavoring to follow Michael Pollan's dictum of "eat food, mostly plants, not to much"....real food, lots of vegetables, watch the portions.
Lets see how we go x