Autumnal treats

My internal clock tells me that October is the autumn, and I should be eating pumpkins, cranberries, and baked apples.  In New Zealand, it’s spring time, but I did some autumnal baking last week anyway.  Me and my office mates ate everything too quickly to get any photos, but I have transcribed some of my recipes.  Here they are for you to enjoy.


Kiwi Pumpkin Pie

Vegan muffins


This has become my “go-to” muffin recipe.  If I don’t have soymilk on hand, I use regular milk, which works fine.  To make my autumn cranberry pumpkin muffins, I followed the recipe  as written, however omitted the rolled oats and coconut, used 1 cup mashed pumpkin instead of banana, and added about 1/2 a cup frozen cranberries (you should probably cut the berries in half before adding them to the mix, though I was lazy and didn’t), and about 1/2 cup of dried cranberries.


tofu laap (or laab, larb, larp, etc.)

Twice a year a group of government officials from Southeast Asia come to Wellington to study English for about 3 months with an NZAID/VUW scholarship.  I have gotten involved in the programme as a “conversation buddy” to several students.  I really enjoy meeting all the students, but of course, I have a special place in my heart for the ones from Laos!

The programme administrator normally organises about 4 or 5 different functions during each study term for the students and their conversation buddies.  This includes 2 potluck dinners.  The most recent potluck I attended I brought a large container of tofu laap and sticky rice.  They were both gone within minutes. The Lao people were amazed and surprised that I had made the laap.  Several of them said to me “You made this?!  I thought it was a Lao person!”.

Most of the Lao people had never had tofu laap before.  Usually laap is made with pork, chicken, or fish.  Sometimes it’s made with raw water buffalo meat.  However, some restaurants in Vientiane, mostly catering to tourists, do have tofu laap on their menus.   So, that is where my inspiration for this dish came.

You need:

  • 2 blocks of firm tofu
  • 4 tbs of oil
  • 2 tbs of fish sauce
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro/coriander
  • 2 cups fresh mint leaves
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass, minced
  • 3 cms of ginger, grated
  • 1 fresh Thai chili, minced
  • 1 tbs sticky rice powder
  • the juice of 1 lemon

Cut up your tofu into very small cubes, about 1 or 2 cms in length.  Heat your 4 tbs of oil and then gently fry the tofu.  You want to cook it only lightly.  Then, set it aside to cool.

Coarsely chop up your herbs, and mix them together with your fish sauce, lemon juice, chili, sticky rice powder, and ginger.  Add the tofu and toss gently.  Taste it and adjust the seasonings, adding more lemon juice,or fish sauce if needed. Serve right away or the herbs will start to wilt.

This dish is excellent with sticky rice, and should be served at room temperature.

self preservation

The autumn harvest is upon us here in New Zealand.  That means baby root vegetables, new season apples, and the end of summer fruits.  As the last of the summer’s peaches, nectarines, apricots pears, and plums have been coming in, I have been bottling them for winter treats.

I also did a few jars of preserved lemons, after a preserving workshop at Moore Wilson’s, where that was the main recipe demonstrated.

In addition to bottling, I made a batch of pickled beets, and a few jars of lemon curd, which are long gone by now!

But, my most exciting (and tasty!) accomplishment on the home-preserving front thus far has been my fire roasted tomato and chipotle ketchup!

How did I do it?

Well, I started out by cobbling together my own home-made charcoal grill from bits of scavenged garden and kitchen supplies, including, an old terra cotta planter, a rusty brazier that has been holding a bucket of clothes pegs since we moved in, and the grill rack from the broiler (which clearly now needs a good clean).

homemade grill

I threw some balsamic-marinated tomatoes on the grill, let them char a bit, and then peeled off the skins once they were cool.  I also threw on a few jalapeno chilies I had picked last weekend at the chili pepper patch in Kapiti, and let those get nice and smoky for a few  hours.

Once it had cooled a bit, I blended up one chili, one can of chopped tomatoes, about 1 cup of the fire roasted tomatoes, 1/2 a white onion, 1/4 cup cider vinegar, 2 tbs white sugar, 2 tbs brown sugar, some salt until it was fully pureed.  I then added a few cloves and pepper corns, and let that mixture cook on a very very low heat semi-covered for about 3 hours.  After it had thickened up and there was not too much liquid left in the pot, I took it off the heat and let it cool. It thickened up quite a bit after that, and I pushed the whole thing through a sieve, which was very messy and a lot of work.  But the taste… was worth every minute of effort.

Below are some pictures from my trip to the chili pepper patch last weekend!

Wellington earthquake

Just when you thought it was safe to put a teapot on the top of your kitchen cupboards…

a 4.5 magnitude earthquake shakes your kitchen!

Ok, not exactly.  Yes, there was an earthquake in Wellington on Monday night.  Yes it was 4.5 magnitude.  Yes, a lot of people felt it.

No, I did not feel it, and no, it did not shake my teapots.

In fact, I probably would never have even known there had been an earthquake if Ticker hadn’t called me from work, where he informed me that the entire kitchen at Maria Pia’s (the establishment where he is employed) was shaking.  Thanks to that call, I barely slept a wink all night.

Now… should I take the wine bottles and teapots down off the top of the cupboard?

Oh, in unrelated news, I also wanted to mention that I recently participated in Wellington’s “Round the Bays” 7-km fun-run, my first time ever participating in an organized sporting event.  At a pretty slow jogging pace I completed the 7 km run in just under 52 minutes.  I am certainly proud of myself.  Will I go for a 10 km or half marathon next?  Pretty unlikely.  Running more than an hour is pretty boring.  I’d rather stay at home and knit while watching Louis Theroux documentaries.

Speaking of knitting, I have been on a rampage lately!  I finished a tea cozy last week, and am about 75% done with my first ever pair of mittens!  I shall post pictures time permitting.  I have also been doing quite a bit of sewing and baking, much to the detriment of my progress on my research.  My most recent interest has been in savoury muffins.  A sample recipe follows – spice it up with your own personalized additions!

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 tbs baking powder
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese (colby or cheddar are nice)
  • 1/4 cup toasted seeds (sunflower or pumpkin are nice)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley and sage)
  • a pinch of salt
  • pepper
  • 2 tbs sweet chili sauce
  • 1 tsp crushed dried hot chili flakes

mix and match your favorite savoury ingredients, including stuff like:

  • spring onions
  • walnuts
  • blue cheese bits
  • bacon
  • ham
  • olives
  • sauteed mushrooms
  • corn
  • fresh tomatoes
  • chopped spinach
  • goat cheese
  • a handful of chopped sundried tomatoes
  • 1/2 an onion, finely sliced and carmelized

Whatever you throw in, don’t over do it, remember “less is more” when it comes to flavours, and just be careful not to overmix your batter, or the muffins will come out tough and rubbery.  Mix everything together with a few swift strokes of a spoon or knife, until just combined,  Spoon into greased muffin tins, sprinkle a bit more cheese on top, and bake at 375 F/180 C for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden brown.

They’re great on their own, or served with a nice bowl of soup.

Hrm… now I’m hungry.

holloway road food blog

So… my housemate has created an official Holloway Road Food Blog – that all of us can update.  That means in the future I will be posting my culinary adventures on that site, rather than this one.  Which leaves me to wonder – What will I put here?

Anyway, in the meantime, here are some pictures of my curry and curry paste, and the pumpkin cheesecake pie I made last night (with low-fat cream cheese!).


yummy curry
home made curry paste
ginger-pumpkin cheesecake pie!

and… I bought a sewing machine on!  As soon as I go to Island Bay to pick it up I’ll get back to sewing!  I can’t wait!

I also got some furniture at some second hand shops in Karori.  Here in New Zealand resale shops, thrift shops, second hand stores, etc. are called “op shops”, which is short for “opportunity shop”.  There are also a fair number of “vintage shops” on Cuba Street, which my housemate Emma calls “Op Shops”, and a number of overpriced junky “antique shops”, that she also calls “op shops”, though I would disagree.  I tried to buy a small 2nd hand lamp from the guy in one shop – he wanted $15 for it!!!  You can buy a NEW lamp for $15 at the warehouse.  JESUS!!!  The guy’s store was so crammed full of junk you could hardly walk.  I wanted to buy a cute polka-dot tie, thinking it’s be a dollar or two.  No – he asked for $10 !!!!  I won’t be going back there again… except maybe to sell some junk when I move!

cooking classes

I taught my housemate’s younger sister Alex how to make black bean burritos on Friday.  Her concept of burritos was very different from my own, but I educated her in the finer concepts of mexican cuisine, of course, the secret ingredient being CUMIN! (and love!)

black bean burritos

For the meal, I taught Alex how to make:

Salsa Fresca


Mexican Rice

Refried Beans

and Black bean filling!

I also made whole wheat tortillas the night before, though i don’t recommend it.  Just buy them for $3 and save yourself 2 hours of work.

The basic recipe for the black bean filling is as follows:

2 cups dried black beans, soaked overnight & boiled for 1 hour in salted water.

Drain the beans, reserving 1 cup liquid.

Sautee 3 cloves of garlic, 1/2 an onion in 2 tbs or so oil for 2 or 3 minutes.

Add the beans, plus the 1 cup liquid, plus 2 tbs of cumin powder, plus salt & pepper, and chili to your taste.  Let cook uncovered about 5 or 10 minutes, until liquid is mostly gone.  Season to taste with more cumin, salt, pepper, or chili.

Dead easy!

Last time I made these burritos, I also made a sweet-potato apple puree that was inspired by Burritoville.

To make that, I basically boiled up a sweet potato and an apple chopped up, drained it, then mashed them, with some cumin, salt, pepper, and a bit of cinnamon! YUM!

Me & my sous-chef

I like being a cooking instructor!

(That ugly red mark on my neck/chest are the remnants of the worst sunburn I have ever gotten my first Sunday in Wellington.)

My housemate & I have discussed starting a bit of a Holloway Road food blog – since we’re always eating the most delicious meals.  I live in a house of 4 awesome chefs!

beans beans, the magical fruit

My goal for the next 5 weeks, before I leave Montreal on March 3rd, is to eat all of the dried beans I have in my cupboard.  This includes large quantities of:

  • Black beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Navy beans
  • Kidney Beans
  • Split peas
  • Brown Lentils
  • Red Lentils
  • Chick peas

And a few cans of other types of beans.  This is indeed a daunting task – how many beans can 1 girl eat, or feed to her friends?

Some recipes I’ve used/invented/modified to use these beans include:

Black bean burritos with refried pinto beans

Salad composée with kidney beans

Minestrone soup (I usually make this without the pork, cabbage, or kale, though of course it’s up to you!).

Tuscan-ish navy bean soup

Harira chick pea soup

Lentil burgers

Black bean salsa


Some tips for preparing beans:

  • Soak them in water for a few hours before you want to cook them.  Alton Brown says to use cold water and let them sit for 8 hours.  This apparently makes the beans more tender or delicious or something.  If you have a life and don’t plan out your meals a week in advance, you can just add boiling water to your beans and let them soak for 1 hour.  Throw in some salt or stock to make them yummier.
  • After they have soaked a bit you boil them with enough water (and salt or stock) to make sure they are completely submerged for about 1 hour.
  • Keep the heat low and check on them every once in a while to make sure the beans aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pot and the liquid hasn’t all evaporated.
  • Lentils and black eyed peas don’t really need to soak and don’t need to cook as long.
  • Just taste your beans to see if they are soft enough.
  • If you want to make hummus with chick peas, you really have to boil the sh*t out of them until they are very soft and mushy.
  • Apparently the water the you boil kidney beans in is poisonous or gives you stomach cramps or something, so you should soak them, drain them, and then boil them in fresh water, and then be sure to cook them thoroughly, and then completely drain them and rinse them before serving them in something like a salad.


I welcome recipes that will help me use these beans!

I have to admit, eating all these beans has had some negative consequences… they don’t call me “Gassy Gaston” for nothing!