Sunday, October 21, 2007


Today I made Cassata, because tonight I am going out to a friend's for dinner.

The friend is Emma, my ex-flatmate, and she was going to cook some food for another friend named Anke. Anke's Mutti is German. Anyway, Anke is living in barracks, which means she eats at the mess or she eats out so the offer of a home cooked meal was too good to resist.

Being a social butterfly, Emma didn't want to have dinner for two, and I was the next person to be invited. I was pencilled in for a movie/dinner/drinks with another friend on the weekend, so we arranged for the meal to be on Sunday night. I had caught the sight of a lovely looking dessert in my illustrated copy of the Edmond's Cookbook and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try it out. "I'll bring dessert" I stated proudly.

The next time I saw Emma, I learned our good friend Macchi and her husband Mike were coming too, and they were bringing the cheese board. Emma was in more of a dilemma now - Macchi is pregnant and Emma had to ask lots of questions to find out what foods Macchi will eat. During the course of the day I discovered that Anke (who is supposed to be bringing the DVD's) hadn't replied to Emma's text messages. It will be a surprise to find out tonight if Anke will make it after all. By the way, I don't care what Macchi can eat. She'll either eat it or not. Tough luck if not.

Anyway, I started out by tidying the bench and putting all the ingredients across the front in the order that I would need them, wiping the bench perfectly clean and having a neat stack of implements nearby.

Then I took a litre of chocolate ice cream and mixed it up with half a teaspoon of vanilla essence before smoothing it out to line the bowl. It was still pretty soft so I put it in the freezer and made a mental note to try again when it was a little bit firmer.

Next I had to turn 300ml of runny cream into stiff whipped cream. I don't have a whip, or an egg beater so I decided to pour half out of the bottle and shake it like a Polaroid picture,then repeat the process with the second half. After a while I realised that dancing round the lounge to Bowie's Jean Genie was not conducive to detecting when the cream was suitably stiff in time, and I discovered I had made - not whipped cream - but butter. Mmmm.
It was off to the dairy and $2 later I had 300 more millilitres of cream. This time Bowie was paused and I listened carefully to make sure I didn't over do it. And this time I was successful. Bowie was permitted to move on to his next song - Sorrow.

Now it was time to chop! up 1/2 cup of dark chocolate, 1/2 cup of toasted almonds (replaced with silvered almonds) and 1 cup of glace fruit. Well no one likes plastic cherries, so I replaced that cup with half a cup of white macadamia chocolate, and half a cup of walnuts.

Then these all were folded into the cream - along with 2 Tablespoons of icing sugar. About this point I realised that while this batch of cream was not butter, it probably was a little too mixed. Never mind - it can't be helped now!

Now I take the ice cream out of the freezer, touch up the shape, and put the cream into the hollow. Yum. Edmond's said I should cover with foil and freeze again, but there is no foil left in the house because my flatmates did not buy any on the last shop. My fault for not going I suppose. Anyway, I just put it in the freezer without the foil. What're they gonna do, huh?

And this is what it is supposed to look like! But I won't find out how good mine is, or if it tastes nice until tonight. Maybe - if you're lucky - I'll let you know!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Breakfast at The Brigham, with Jim

I have been intending to post this all week, but I lost my camera for a while. I wasn't worried as I knew it would turn up. And it did. Between the door and the seat in my car. Lucky it didn't fall out!

Last weekend my brother (nickname Jim) came up to Auckland to visit. He was flown in on Friday night and I drove him to Hamilton to meet up with another friend on Sunday. Saturday morning we went out for breakfast.

Now, as much as I love my brother (and I do, very much) this post isn't about his stay. This is mostly because he's not the sort of bloke to have a blog written about him. He's talented, but modest. He's a friendly guy, but this weekend a bit quiet - mostly because staying with me means he has time to relax and not do anything. I get the impression this is rare for Jim. So although Jim is my main character in this post, today I am writing about The Brigham.

The Brigham is a little eatery which used to be known as Serendipity and is nestled away behind some hedges and trees from a busy-ish, rural-ish road. Brigham Creek Road is the 'main drag' driven by most of my work mates as they make their way from Married Quarters in Hobsonville, to the operational Air Force base at Whenuapai. All the same, if you didn't slow down to have a gander at the sign - you wouldn't know The Brigham was there.

It is a quiet little place, possibly once a house, and the gardens are lovely. They hold weddings there. When it was Serendipity, it was one of the best places to go to for an all-day breakfast. The pancakes Jim ordered were a special for the day, now that the place is under different ownership. We sat out on the balcony in the sun and talked and ate at a leisurely pace.

Jim's pancakes with bacon, banana and maple syrup

Now, however, it caters more to midday-meals. I decided to compromise with my meal, and asked for the potato salad to be replaced with hash browns. Mmmmmm.

3 Chicken Kebabs with peanut sauce and potato salad.

I decided to respect Jim's privacy and did not even go so far as to ask to take his photo. Instead I copied the wonderful photographic talent of Merisi, and took a sneaky snapshot of his reflection in the window.

After the meal and some pleasant chatter, we made our way off the balcony and went for a wander through the gardens. But not all the way - it was a wild and untamed wilderness out there and we didn't want to get lost.

Entry to the wilderness

Keeping each other in sight...

Dangerous Swampland

Although there were sections where the garden and grounds catered to different tastes, there never seemed to be a solid border delineating one part of the grounds from another. Through the arch was a path to trees and grass, a dove cote, and plenty of dappled sunlight to wander or picnic within. Or directly outside the 'house' was a little cobbled courtyard with neat little rows of resine chairs and a lectern, waiting for a best man to come along sometime and give his speech. Down the side were rather dainty little citrus bushes. And between the two was the above water feature, which ended at the main grounds. Patrons could opt to eat here and alone, rather than with the others back on the balcony or inside.

We stood at the end of the water feature, and looked out into the lawns and trees, and Jim spotted a dotard*, a lone Pukeko amongst the ducks.

View from the above picnic table

We turned then, and made our way along the arduous jungle track towards the tiny shack, and I couldn't possibly resist taking a photo of that too.

And lastly, just before we went inside to pay our bill and leave forever, I caught side of a meticulously manicured piece of garden, which was within view of more outdoor eating spots.

Beyond - into the real unknown. Notice the top of the tree-fern in the mid ground, it is in a gully!!!

* FOOTNOTE: Word Imps may recognise the term dotard from the Imperfect lineup in September. It was my first entry, which happened to be my first winning entry too! For my definition you'll have to go here.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Captain James Feeds the Boys

I asked in my last post a tricky question and there were a couple of interesting answers. How did Captain Cook get his sailors to want to eat the sauerkraut he supplied for their health?

Lorenzo the Llama thought the cabbage would have to be soaked in rum;

Maalie thought the ships surgeon explained in graphic detail the effects of not eating the vitamin laden vegetable;

And Merisi suggested sauerkraut was delicious enough for anyone to clamour for a plate-full

Sorry Merisi, but the majority of sailors of the time didn't think eating sauerkraut was their idea of a good time. Captain James Cook did though.

He was pretty well known in nautical circles for coming home from months and months at sea without losing a single crew-member to scurvy. Quite a feat when you consider the food with all the vitamins (fruit) is the food that goes off and is therefore not worth carrying on a ship as you sail the seven seas.

(HM Bark Endeavour)

Sauerkraut was the answer - preserved with all its natural goodness (if not delectable flavour) it would keep his men healthy and fit for duty.

But is telling the crew enough? We tell people every day that cigarettes are bad for your health, and yet people still smoke. New Zealand puts a lot of money into advertising 5+ a Day as the best way to keep healthy (at least 5 servings of fruit and veg a day). Yet still people don't. I know I don't, and that's probably why I have a head cold right now. Weak.
And on the subject of rum? A good solution and probably one I'd try, but lets be honest - the crew would mutiny as soon as they found out you'd been puring their precious rations all over sour cabbage!

Now after all this hype I bet you are thinking "The real answer had better be good! or we'll mutiny!"
Well I think the answer is a good one. It's not spectacular, and it's not frightening or violent or wicked. But it is incredibly intelligent and I think it says a great deal about Captain Cook and how well he knew human nature.

To get his sailors to want to eat sauerkraut, he first restricted it to the officers mess.

Nothing else could have made it quite so popular, don't you think?