Thursday, July 16, 2015

Birthday lunch at Orewa

We rarely went on holiday when I was little, but I do have a vivid memory of one holiday at Orewa with my mother and grandmother. We stayed in a kind of boathouse, one very large room with a wooden floor, right on the beach. I wore a pretty little sunsuit with shirred elastic, and a cotton sunbonnet. My mother would have made them both.
          I must have been about four, because I don't think my sister was there - she arrived when I was five.  A few weeks ago, she took me back to Orewa for a late birthday treat.  It's changed so much, I don't have any idea where those old beach houses would have been.
           But I was delighted to find we were going to meet the rest of the family at a rare survivor from the past that I didn't know existed: Walnut Cottage. It must have been there in my childhood, because it was built in the 1850s. It's been well designed to suit children as well as adults, with plenty of intriguing toys, room to play with them, a kids' menu and very friendly staff. My little great-nephew had a marvellous time, while his new sister slept on blissfully through it all in her pram.
           The family currently running it are German, so the adults' menu offered interesting dishes from schnitzel and knodel to pancakes and apple strudel. Our two chaps went for pork belly, my niece and niece-in-law had burgers, and my sister and I both chose what was described as "Our Famous Scallop and Bacon Salad". And very good it was too - four kinds of fresh lettuce (no manky mesclun here), crispy bacon, and a generous helping of nicely cooked scallops, with toasted foccacia on the side. So good to find a family cafe serving food that's different and delicious.

For dessert, of course we had to have apple strudel - but mine came with something extra. Thanks to my sister and her family, I couldn't have had a nicer day.

Walnut Cottage
498 Hibiscus Coast Highway (turn down the long drive - the cottage is set in a garden and overlooks the bush and the river)
Open for breakfast, morning or afternoon tea, and lunch, 9.30 am - 4 pm, Weds-Mon (closed Tuesday). I think it's also open for dinner some nights - check. For larger groups, make a booking: phone 09 427 5570.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Snow means soup

Absolutely freezing here. Oh, all right, not technically freezing - certainly nothing below zero, as it was down south last month. (At Tara Hills, near Omarama in the Mackenzie Country, it was -21C on 24 June, the coldest day in the country for twenty years.) But a top temp of 7C (for five minutes in the early afternoon) is about as cold as it gets in Wellington. There was snow on my lawn this morning, and it stayed there till lunchtime.
       I have an automatic reaction to cold weather: soup.  I haven't come up with any stunning new recipes this winter, but I've gone happily back to some old favourites, and I thought it could be handy to collect them up. So: here are four I made (and posted) earlier!

Classic pea and ham
The welcome advent of neat packs of bacon bones in Countdown sent me home to make this.
Bacon bones are better than hocks, there's less fat and they have a better flavour.

Cheap, easy, lots of variations. This Turkish one is lovely: Bulkabagi Corbasi.

But straight pumpkin with curry powder or stock is fine too. If I'm too busy (or too lazy) to start from scratch, I cook up and puree a nice piece and add it to a good commercial pumpkin soup or, if I'm feeling poor, a cheap can... not as good, of course, but a lot better than no pumpkin soup at all.

Leek and potato
(or, if you prefer, Potage Parmentier)
Simplest of them all, extremely healthy (though not if you put the recommended butter and cream in, of course, but I generally don't).

Minestrone alla Karori
The "biggest" soup of them all - with bread, and maybe a bit of salami, definitely a whole meal in itself. So that's dinner sorted.