Posts from — September 2017

An Abundance of Spearmint 2

September 21, 2017

 

I recently put out a plea on Instagram, asking what I should do with my spearmint. I planted the spearmint a long time ago and suddenly it is everywhere. Reaching, spreading, thriving, abundant. I’m new to gardening and this is how my growing goes. Nothing, nothing, nothing, SO MUCH OF SOMETHING. It’s either drought or overwhelm. It’s as though my garden is channelling my particular brand of enthusiasm: ALL!!!! or nothing.

 

You, good people, gave me some stellar ideas for utilizing my spearmint. Ideas for drinks and sauces and baking, just to name a few. I put several to the test and came up with a winner to gift back to you…

 

 

Abundant Spearmint – The Winner:

 

Chocolate & Spearmint Slice

Adapted from Chelsea Winter’s Peppermint Slice recipe, this slice uses fresh spearmint and is topped with a silky smooth dark chocolate ganache. The use of fresh leaves will make you look a bit fancy, but it’s not a difficult recipe to make, despite the three steps.

 

Ingredients

Base
225g butter, at room temperature, cubed
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 large free-range egg
1 cup plain flour
1/3 cup dark cocoa
1⁄2 cup fine desiccated coconut

Fresh spearmint cream filling
3 1⁄2 cups icing sugar
50g butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup cream
1 tsp pure peppermint essence
1 big bunch fresh spearmint leaves, finely chopped

Chocolate ganache topping
150g good-quality dark chocolate (at least 60% cocoa)
2 Tbsp cream

1tsp peppermint essence

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Grease a slice tin.

To make the base – cream the butter and sugars together, then beat in the egg until well incorporated. Sift in the flour and cocoa and add the coconut, if using, and mix until combined. The mixture will be sticky so press it into the tin in an even layer with a moistened spatula (or your hands)

Bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin.

To make the spearmint cream – beat the icing sugar with the butter and cream until very pale and fluffy (about 5-8 minutes). Add the peppermint essence and fresh spearmint, and beat to combine. Spread over the cooled base and smooth out with a warm knife.

To make the ganache topping – break up the chocolate and melt in the microwave in short 10 – 20 second bursts, stirring in between bursts. Once just melted, add the cream and stir together until completely combined. Add the peppermint essence last and stir again until all ingredients are combined and silky smooth. Cool slightly, then pour or spread over the peppermint filling.

Cover the dish with cling film and set in the fridge for at least 1 hour. When set, cut into squares with a sharp knife. It’s pretty rich so you’ll want to cut the squares small (approx 1.5 inch x 1.5 inch).

Keeps in an airtight container in the fridge for about a week.

 

 

Abundant Spearmint – The Runner Ups: Spearmint & Rosemary Jelly, Spearmint Tisane, Mojitos and Mint Chutney

 

Aside from the delicious slice I really enjoyed making a spearmint and rosemary jelly, using this recipe. I substituted the mint for spearmint and added about ten big sprigs of rosemary during the final ten minutes of boiling. It is so good with lamb or served with quick-boiled peas – yom. A spearmint tisane shouldn’t be ignored either – simply soak in boiling water, like a tea, and voila. This is such a refreshing drink, my kids love it and the colour is a vibrant lemony-green. As an alternative beverage you could always make mojitos (and invite me over. Or else). Lastly, this recipe for a traditional mint chutney (pudina) was recommended to me, which I haven’t yet had the chance to try but is firmly on my list as the spearmint continues its relentless rampage.

 

All your great ideas for using my spearmint got me thinking about reaching out much more often when something in my garden gets presidential ambitions. I can ask you what to do with it, you can tell me your tips and tricks, then I can cook, mix, test and report back. That way you can check here when it’s your garden’s turn to get abundant and I can check back when spearmint is once again going bananas and I’ve completely forgotten what to do with the pervasive little beauty. Hey, look at that, it’s almost like a club! We both win! Well, apart from the spearmint.

 

Thanks again for all your tips, do keep ’em coming,

With love, in abundance,

Hannah

 

P.S. Thank you to author, John Green, for his book “An Abundance of Katherines” which inspired the title for this post. Mr Green, if you ever need more spearmint in your life please let me know.

In: From Hannah, Includes a recipe!

Baby’s First Roux 2

September 7, 2017

 

 

This is what happens when you brazenly bake and cook and concoct and discuss food around your children: they become mini foodies. They ask to take cooking classes. They announce plans to become bakers when they grow up. They want to create masterpieces in the kitchen using only water, Cheerios, salt and herbs snipped from the garden.  (I had to taste that one.)

Lately Little e’s been asking to bake things, by which she means stir some ingredients in a bowl and see what happens in the microwave. There’s been a lot of congealing and rubberiness. She’s been delighted.

 

 

So the other day I decided, when asked the same old question–can I bake something today?–to try to slot in a cooking lesson (disguised as fun, of course).

I told her we’d make a white pudding. That sounded AMAZING to her, so off we went…to make a roux.

I know one of the things she likes about cooking–that we all like, I imagine–is the magic, the alchemy of it. We take separate substances and combine them, heat them, change their structure or size, and–abracadabra!–we have a whole new substance. A combination that’s more than the sum of its parts and is, hopefully, tasty.

 

 

I never think about this anymore. I’ve made too many hundreds of dinners, lunches, cakes and puddings to think about what’s actually going on. There’s an end result to get to (before everyone gets hangry). But cooking with kids slows you down, brings you into the moment.

We forget all that we know. All that we take for granted. Butter and flour, heated together into a paste, then slurried with milk? Yeah, that’s a roux, but look what happens! The hot butter cooks the flour, coats it with fat, so that when you add the milk, the flour expands and thickens the liquid evenly, into a smooth sauce. Or in our case, with less milk, a thick pudding. It IS magic. This is wheat and animal fats combining in a way never found in nature. Some ancient human alchemist-cook stumbled upon this strange bit of edible science and we’ve been making it ever since. It’s miraculous, and to my five-year-old, it’s that and more. It’s a symbol of all that she gets to discover, these small and bright secrets of the world.

A tadpole becomes a frog, a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, teeth sprout from the smooth, pink gums of a baby. These are some of the things she’s witnessed, and now she’s seen how flour and fat can thicken into something delicious. She knows how to make a roux.

And eat it like pudding.

 

 

What recipes do (or did) your kids like to make?

XO

Ria

In: Food, From Ria, Kids and Parenting

(Happy Fathers Day to) Our Guy. 7

September 2, 2017

I am not a grown-up. Surely I can’t be a grown-up if I sulk at having to fold the laundry or stack the dishwasher. I can’t be a grown-up if I still don’t quite understand the stock market. I mustn’t be a grown-up if I can’t change a car tyre or properly control my own heating system and regularly go about with odd socks on. Right?? And yet, here I am, grown. And with three whole, smallish, growing humans I am responsible for. Ahem. Co-responsible for.

 

 

Matt and I met when we were even less grown-up than the faux (hahaha no way, really?) grown-up we are now. We met, we married, we made a family. I became a mother and he became a father and we fell neck-deep into impersonating adults. Parenting is an insane thing to share with another person I’ve discovered. It’s terrifying, exposing and incredible. It’s an experience of love so elevating mixed with fear so searing and banality so deathly dull it cannot adequately be described. It certainly cannot be prepared for. Through parenting Matt and I have never been more tested. Parenting has torn us apart and soldered us back together, a scrappy, patched-up mess. Our marriage, our grown up-ness, if you could see it, probably looks like something ungraceful and tattered, made stronger from its tears and scars, robust and delicate, worn and hopeful. At this point, almost ten years in and with three madcap daughters in tow, the love and laughter we share is earned and hard won. Magic and luck has run low and hard graft has had to make up for the shortfall.

 

 

As parents Matt and I are utterly imperfect. I shout too much and lose my cool too quickly. We are often on our phones when we should be paying attention. We say and do the wrong things, all the time. Except, of course, when we manage to the right thing, which does happen too. Before I had kids I thought that loving them would be enough and that loving them would see us through everything. I had complete blind faith in loving as the clear and simple answer to absolutely everything. Now I know that loving isn’t always enough. There are things that loving cannot miraculously, instantly fix. But it is something. It’s a big something.

 

 

Matt loves our girls and me; he loves us like crazy. Sometimes, when he’s staring at one of our daughters, I can see the love in his face, in his eyes; love so fierce and explosive he could spontaneously combust. Into rainbows. He is perpetually cuddly and steadfastly protective of us. He is probably more optimistic than I am, more likely to think that things are fine even when they are a bit not-fine. He works doggedly and in earnest, with unfailing integrity. He believes in us all madly; is completely convinced we are the best people on the planet. Even when he comes home grumpy or distracted he can still make us laugh, can still act like a huge, charming (somewhat irritating) toddler and have us in stitches. He looks at us like we are the most beautiful beings he has ever seen. He is, undoubtedly, a good Dad.

 

Matt wasn’t very keen on being interviewed but I persevered and eventually he paused the Netflix. That’s right, take note, he paused the Netflix for you guys. So you’d better read his answers and comment and make him feel good, or you might never hear from him again…

 

Hi Matt. So, who are you (other than what you do for a job)?

 

I’m a man who loves his family, who wants to enjoy life to the fullest and see amazing places and watch my children grow with my wife beside me.

 

What are some of your favourite things?

 

The ocean, the snow, my children, my family, markets, farms, meat, barbecue, soup… I have this idea lately of cooking heaps of onions and making a French onion soup.

 

What are some of your least favourite things?

 

Selfishness, egos, judgmental people, balloons, wind, Auckland winters – being hot one minute and cold the next.

 

What’s the best thing about your kids?

 

They are thoughtful with each other. They respect each other. They are kind people.

 

What do you wish for?

 

To see my children’s children, with my wife by my side. To travel places with my wife by my side. For my wife to take up skiing and love it.*

 

How did you meet Hannah?

 

She worked with me in my first job in NZ. She came into my office and I remember thinking “Wow.”

 

Tell us something funny about your love story…

 

Something funny about it? I’m not sure it’s really funny but we did snog at a Christmas party. I shared with her that I’d had lightening bolts about her. That seemed to do the trick. We got married two years later.

 

Describe your marriage in three words

 

Love, laughter and gratitude.

 

Anything else you’d like to say

 

I believe you get one life and you should live it how you want to, don’t listen to anyone else. Be nice to people. Be polite. Love a lot.

 

 

Thank you, Matt. You are a good Dad and bloody decent grown up. We love you a lot. Happy Fathers Day to all the great Dads out there, being imperfect, being great.

 

Hannah x x x

 

* Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! No.

In: From Hannah, How She (or he) Does It, Interviews, Kids and Parenting