Thursday, November 20, 2014

Kitchen whizz!

I spent most of this morning in the kitchen, getting food made and semi-prepared ahead of time so that everything would work well tonight and tomorrow night. Tonight I was having my neighbour, Frances, in for one of our regular dinners.  Tomorrow my visiting Arizona friend is coming home with me after we've had a day out and about together. She's a vegetarian, whereas Frances emphatically is not.

So today I gathered up from the fridge some mushrooms, bacon and the chicken thighs I bought yesterday. I turned all this, along with garlic, onion, herbs, vermouth and stock, into a nice little chicken casserole, which was going to become a pie later - because I had some leftover flaky pastry too, so that just needed rolling out and putting back in the fridge to chill.

While the casserole was in the oven I halved two big orange and red peppers and set them near the bottom to semi-cook, ready to be stuffed with rice, cheese and herbs tomorrow and baked a bit longer. Then I laid out rows of heart-shaped sliced strawberries on baking paper, sprinkled them with sugar and put them in to cook at a low temperature once everything else was done. There were enough for dessert tonight and tomorrow. (You can see the recipe here.)

While they were cooking, I made guacamole - again, enough to do double duty as an hors d'oeuvre for tonight and tomorrow.

I'm lucky that I now have the luxury of being able to do such things in the daytime. If I was still going out to work, I wouldn't be embarking on mid-week dinners like this. It's taken me years of experience to know how to come up with menus that are manageable in terms of time and effort, don't cost heaps because they make use of what I already have, and still look and taste really good and work well as a whole. I enjoy doing it, and I'm pretty sure my friends really like eating it all - I know I do.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Gingerbread time again

Some of you will have already had an email from me, or a message from Marsden Books, or seen the notice on my Facebook page, about Tuesday evening, 11 November (which happens to be Armistice Day, and also Sonja Davies' birthday). Marsden Books is hosting an evening for me and Helena Brow - two local Karori memoirists - at 7 pm, and I promised to make gingerbread for it. So today I got it done.

I last posted about gingerbread, and gave the recipe, in December 2010. In the second to last chapter of my book, I explained why I made it back then, and why I remember it so well:

"In November I made the Christmas pudding but not a Christmas cake – unlike most men, Harvey didn’t care for it and I wasn’t bothered. I’d taken to making a really good gingerbread in December instead, giving us something we both liked and that kept well to serve visitors. By the Wednesday before Christmas we had had so many visitors there wasn’t much left in the tin. I cut it up carefully and put it out for that afternoon’s arrivals, then went out to finish the shopping, knowing Harvey was well looked after. When I came home there were three small pieces left – his visitors had enjoyed it, but he hadn’t had any. I sat down with him for a late cup of tea and he asked for a piece, then the second and the third. I watched him eat with astonished delight. It was almost the last thing he ate at home."