Today’s about the last day that I can stretch out my birthday “week” but I’ve been super spoilt and have already eaten hoards of junk food so it’s probably time to give it up anyway.
This is my first birthday overseas and when you’re millions of miles away from friends, family and home there’s only two things you could possibly want – a box full of your favourite NZ confectionery and a Skype date with Mum.
Here’s my haul. Not too bad huh!
And if that wasn’t enough, I spent the second half of my day wandering through London’s Southbank Christmas Markets with a friend, getting into the spirit of the festive season with mulled wine and homemade fudge. I’m already excited enough about my first white Christmas but these sweet little markets just increased it ten-fold. There’s just something so romantic about Christmas lights and carols when you’re wrapped up cosy and warm in a scarf, gloves and coat.
We stopped for lunch at one of the pop-up burger bars in the market and had Angus beef burgers with homemade relish. They were big, fresh, devilishly greasy and just plain tasty – it goes to show that simple food is often the best food.
I came home to a big bunch of my favourite flowers (Gerberas), homemade fish and chips and MORE chocolate (somebody stop me!). A relaxing night at home opening presents with Si made for a perfect end to a great day. And anyway, we were saving our pennies and our energy for Friday when we went for our first proper English High Tea at the Charing Cross Hotel.
And finally, a birthday can’t be complete without a proper get together with good friends and of course… birthday cake! A special thanks to Cally for picking this out for me. The berries and white choc worked well together and I was surprised at how fresh and yummy it was for a store-bought (bakery) cake. We devoured this along with dinner and drinks at a pub and then headed along to Death of a Maiden at the Harold Pinter Theatre in Soho.
I’m now recovering from my exciting week, and also a filling that my dentist graced me with this morning (definitely wasn’t on my birthday wish list). My face is still half numb, my tooth is sore and I’m being tantalised by this pile of birthday treats sitting next to me. Yes, very ironic. Anyone would think there’s an underlying message somewhere here huh..
A big thanks to everyone who has made this time so special – you all rock my world xx
If there’s just one reason why my boyfriend won’t leave me, this is it.
We’re both mushroom fanatics and this isn’t just our favourite weekend brunch but one of our most favourite meals in general. It’s requested at least once a week and sometimes makes it onto our table both days of the weekend. Anyone who is a mushroom fan won’t be disappointed.
As per usual with me, this dish didn’t come from a recipe – it is completely improvised. So, I’ve listed below some approximate measurements. Feel free to treat them as a guideline and add more/less depending on your personal taste.
We often have them on their own, but they’re delicious with bacon and/or poached eggs. Note, this recipes makes about the right amount for two people.
- 25g of butter.
- 400g white button mushrooms, chopped in half.
- 1 heaped tsp of finely chopped garlic (The stuff in the jar is fine *gasp*).
- 1/2 teaspoon of dried mixed herbs (or a few sprigs of fresh Thyme).
- 1 cup (250ml) of fresh cream.
- 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (To mix things up a little I sometimes use basil pesto instead).
- Fresh ciabatta loaf or dark rye bread (Freyas Dark Rye is perfect).
- About 2 tablespoons worth of grated Parmesan cheese.
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Throw the mushrooms, garlic, butter and herbs into a frying pan. Cook on a medium heat until the butter is melted and the mushrooms have softened and soaked up the flavours.
Pour in the cream and balsamic vinegar and gently mix together with the mushrooms until all are combined.
(NB: It’s about now that you want to put some bread on to toast)
Turn the heat up to high and keep the mixture bubbling, stirring occasionally to stop it from sticking to the bottom and sides of the pan. You want the sauce to reduce and thicken – as you would do with a pasta sauce.
When ready, ladle the mushrooms and sauce over the toasted bread and then sprinkle with grated parmesan and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Serve with myhomemade onion relish on the side.
Just be warned, nothing else will ever suffice for weekend brunch!
“All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.” ~ John Gunther
New Zealand really does have some of the best food in the world – anyone who tells you differently needs to get their tastebuds checked. I’m no patriot - New Zealand was, to me, always a place that I would someday leave. A place to eventually branch out from; to discover bigger and better places. I know it’s cliche, but it wasn’t until I started travelling that I began to appreciate it for what it is, particularly in terms of the food culture. Wellington, especially, has helped mold me into the foodie that I am today and man do I miss some of its restaurants and cafes.
In three words, much of UK’s restaurant food is: bland, simple and overpriced. A bad restaurant will rarely survive in NZ; we like to hold people accountable for all kinds of things (just look at the politics section of the NZ Herald!) and food is no exception. People won’t go back to a bad restaurant and they’ll be quick to tell their friends not to bother. The biggest difference I have found over here is that in a city of 12 million people, bad restaurants can survive; if every patron visited just once there’s still enough business to keep it going.
There are some excellent restaurants over here too, but they’re more of an investment rather than an affordable night out. What I most love about NZ is that you don’t have to spend a fortune to eat high quality food at nice restaurants (you can even enjoy a pre-theatre set menu for two at Logan Brown for under $100). We also have some of the freshest, tastiest ingredients in the world and we’re not afraid to be inspired by textures and flavours from other cultures.
I’m craving some of my favourite Wellington dishes and can already foresee a good six months worth of regular dining out when I get home to make up for what I’ve missed (I also forsee a lot of gym visits in that six months to counteract it!).
But instead of sitting here fantasizing about what I’ll be ordering, I thought I’d share Wellington’s best places to eat with all of you.
My recommendations are far from pretentious: it’s all good, decent food at reasonable prices so do check out some, or all, of these places xx
The best place to…
Share some tapas: Duke Carvell’s. This place is an absolute gem. The food, the restaurant interior and even the waiters all fit the Spanish theme (I’ve even seen some of the waiters grow and style their moustaches appropriately). If the menu is a little above your normal price range I urge you to check it out on a Monday night instead: all dishes are 2-4-1. (Chow comes a VERY close second here, and they also do 2-4-1 Mondays, so try both if you get the chance).
Get a coffee: Mojo. A large trim vanilla latte at Bond Street Mojo specifically. Half of NZ will be shaking their heads reading this, because everyone has such varied tastes for coffee. If you prefer strong, bitter coffee you should head to Havana, but I’m not going to claim I’m a fan. I for one like smooth, rich, sweet textures and flavours so I’m sticking to my guns with Mojo.
Stop for cheap eats: Satay Kajang. The food is flavoursome, the service is fast, it’s BYO so you’ll also save money on drinks and their servings are massive – I’ve got some friends who are really big boys and they always leave full and happy after one $11 plate of Mee Goreng. ‘Nuff said really.
Have a boozy BYO: Istanbul. I was a little reluctant to include this in my list because, in all honesty, it’s not one of my personal favourites. I find the food over priced for what it is and have been to better Turkish places in Wellington. However, it’s a massive favourite of all my student, or ex-student friends and it’s a hugely popular BYO venue; especially when there’s a big crowd. And I’ll give them extra snaps for the atmosphere, the belly dancers and their leniency toward drunk anarchy.
Have a leisurely weekend breakfast: Cafe Tart, Petone. They have all your standard favourites; big breakfast, mushrooms on toast, balsamic avocado and tomato on toast, pancakes, and more. I just love the atmosphere of this place – it’s lively and bustling, is filled with the delicious aromas of coffee and cooked breakfast and is just a stones throw away from the Petone esplanade (what’s a better way to start your day than a leisurely breakfast followed by a walk along the pier). Just grab a magazine or newspaper when you arrive and settle in for a small wait – half of Petone and the Hutt will be there to do the same thing.
Find good food for fussy eaters/vegetarians/kids: One Red Dog. It’s pizza and pasta, but it’s really good pizza and pasta and their menu is so vast you’re bound to find something that appeals to you. I took some of my best friends from New Plymouth here one weekend and now they insist on going back every time they visit. I highly recommend their antipasto platter if you like that kind of thing – they’re so choc-a-block full of goodies that the restaurant actually only breaks even on them.
Go for cocktails with friends: Motel Bar. Done up like a 50s New York Jazz Club this award winning bar is voted one of the world’s best. They regularly change their cocktail menu and come up with new twists on old favourites based on their latest theme: you’ll find concoctions based on the likes of France’s Bastille Day or Tijuana’s Dia de los Meurtos. You’ll also find menus for cigars and bar snacks – I especially love their $4 bowls of “bottomless nuts”, where you get free refills for as long as you’re there.
Try my ultimate favourite in Thai food: Ayutthaya. My boyfriend introduced me to this place just a month after we met and ever since I’ve been a total convert. Before he met me he frequented the place once or twice a week and was on first name basis with the owner (he lived in a typical flat full of 20-something boys who never cooked), but I don’t blame him – the food is just delicious. It is out in Petone but it’s well worth the drive (or bus ride if you want a few wines – it’s BYO). It’s owned and run by a lovely family from Ayutthaya, Thailand who work hard for all but two months of the year when they travel home. It’s just simple, authentic, tasty Thai food that’s great value for money.
(For any internet rookies: The words in bold throughout all of my blog posts are hyperlinked, so you can click on em to take you straight to the referenced website).
Two years ago someone who holds a special place in Simon’s heart passed away – his Grandma, also known as the beloved “Mama”. It was just over one month after we’d met and the same night I was scheduled to meet his parents for the very first time.
Needless to say, I didn’t meet the parents that night, and it’s much to my regret that I will never get to meet Mama. Of the many loves we would have shared the most prominent would, without a doubt, have been our love for baking. I’ve heard many stories of Mama’s baking, particularly her self-saucing chocolate pudding. When we first arrived in the UK and were staying with Simon’s cousin Jason, it was a mention of this dessert that provoked fond childhood memories between them. This inspired me to track down the recipe and make the pudding for our little UK family on this very special day.
This post is for Mama, for whom I’ll never meet but whose recipes will continue to live on for as long as her grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren request them xx
150g butter , 1 1/2 cups flour, 2 tsp Baking powder, 1 cup Castor sugar, 3 Tbsp cocoa, 1/3 cup milk, 2 tsp vanilla essence, 3/4 cup Brown sugar, 5 Tbsp cocoa, 2 cups boiling water
Melt butter in bowl. Stir in flour, baking powder, sugar, first measure of cocoa, milk and vanilla essence. Do not overmix. Pour mixture into cake tin or baking dish. Mix brown sugar and second measure of cocoa together. Sprinkle over mixture in dish. Carefully pour the boiling water over the mixture (pour it over the back of a spoon onto mixture.) Cook at 170 celcius for 40 minutes until the centre is firm.
When I finished up at my last job, my colleagues bought me the Frankie MagazineSweet Treats recipe book as a departing gift. My first thought was “aw bless, they know me too well!” My second thought was “can I go now? I want to get home and be alone with this divine creation”.
It’s retro, it’s funky, it’s unique and it takes you back to your childhood – think toffee apples, candy hearts, chocolate crackle and marshmallow cones. Oh the nostalgia!
Everything in the book looks and sounds delicious, which made it a hard task to decide what to make for this blog. In the end, I settled on the Brown Cow Caramels. They were mouth-wateringly moorish and looked great in a jar with ribbon as a gift:
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup caster sugar
- 3/4 cup glucose syrup
- 3/4 cup condensed milk
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- Pinch of salt
Line a plastic rectangle container with greaseproof paper.
Combine all ingredients in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, stirring for about five minutes or until mixture comes to a boil. To prevent sugar crystallizing, brush down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush.
Increase the heat to medium and cook mixture until temperature reaches 115 (soft-ball stage). This will take around 12-15 minutes. Keep stirring as the mixture sticks easily to the bottom of the pan.
Remove from heat and pour mixture into prepared plastic container. Cool completely at room temperature. Best to leave overnight.
Turn caramel on to a chopping board and chop into squares.
Makes approximately 24 squares.
The book is “a must for anyone who ever lined up excitedly in the tuckshop line or rushed to a cake stall at the school fete”. I recommend it to anyone who wants to impress at the next bake sale or for any parent who wants to make or share their favourite childhood treats with the next generation.
I missed out on the milestone of my little sister’s 16th birthday last month; which she celebrated with a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.
She’s entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.
It’s times like these that you wonder if living overseas is all it’s cracked up to be. I just hope they’re still as mad as hatters when I get home (and that Mum will re-make all of this delicious looking food for me!).