Thursday, 28 February 2013

Galley Cooking on the Shenandoah

Our really good friends Ralph and Maerushia invited us to enjoy the magnificent Hauraki Gulf on their cruising yacht.  We couldn't have had a better introduction to Auckland - the city of sails.   This was my first experience of living on board a yacht.   Would I make a good sailor?  So with a Lemon Tipple Cake in hand and a little trepidation I boarded Shenandoah.
Ralph hoisting the sail
As we left we saw Prada coming in from a training exercise
Ralph and Maerushia tell us they will be returning home to Dunedin any year now, but while living here they enjoy what is truly great about Auckland - its harbour and the Hauraki Gulf.  Instead of a house they invested in a home on the water.
Peter at the wheel with Maerushia keeping a  close eye on where
he is taking her Shenandoah.  Maerushia was brought up around boats and
has a healthy respect for the sea so will not take risks with their home on the water. 
Ralph was born an inlander in Central Otago but you would never know it when you see him so
 relaxed and happy on the coastal waters.   Here he wears a momento from home, a
 Jimmy's pie t-shirt from Roxburgh.  Ralph says Jimmy's make the best pies in the South.
Being a "boatie" is like being part of a big seafaring family and I was amazed at the friendliness of people on the water. There is a fair amount of sailing jargon and etiquette you have to learn like calling, "permission to come aboard" when boarding a vessel and having a back of the boat bucket bath after swimming to avoid the salt from your skin attracting moisture to the upholstery.  
The galley looks larger in this photo than it actually is.
And then there's cooking in a confined space with food storage and water being limited.  I learnt a few tricks from Maerushia on how to make a lovely meal using minimum dishes.    Maerushia is of European decent and both the presentation and act of dining is an important part of the day.   

Our lunch was going to be a new recipe that Maerushia found in a magazine while she was at her you do!   This recipe can be made up in one bowl and a yoghurt dressing in another.   I am not that keen on the idea of minced chicken but I have to admit this was a very tasty lunch offering and easy to make.

Chicken Rissoles with Mint Yoghurt Dressing

Rissole Ingredients

800 grams chicken mince
1-3 cloves of garlic finely diced (whatever your preference)
1 cup stale breadcrumbs (60 grams)
Salt and Pepper
Lemon zest and juice of a lemon
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1/4 cup of finely chopped mint leaves
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup Greek style natural yoghurt
1/4 cup of thick mint sauce

In a bowl mix the chicken with breadcrumbs, add garlic, and egg.
Add grated lemon zest, salt and pepper and cumin.

Add mint leaves. Mix really well to evenly distribute the flavours.
The rissoles are now ready to cook.
To prepare the Yoghurt Dressing, first measure yoghurt into jug, add mint sauce (this one is Delmaine Thick Mint Sauce), lemon juice and mix in the easy is that?
The Yoghurt Dressing

Cook rissoles until brown on both sides  (approx 5 minutes per side).   I was in charge of cooking the rissoles and made sure that the temperature wasn't too high to avoid having them brown on the outside but raw inside.
Meanwhile Maerushia prepared a fresh salad of lettuce, tomatoes, radishes and peppers to accompany the chicken rissoles.    Ralph set up the table on the deck that cunningly fits around the compass and wheel.   Peter had bought a blast from the past to have with our lunch - Mateus Rose`from Portugal.   Some of you may remember those distinctive shaped bottles that in the 70's were often used as candleholders.  We were surprised how good it was.

I don't know how many yachts carry candelabra but Maerushia insists that Shenandoah must have an abundance of style.
Lemon Tipple Cake by candlelight
And that evening we enjoyed my Lemon Tipple Cake (see my previous posting for the recipe) made all the more special by candlelight.

I wondered why she was called Shenandoah - the name of a popular American song.   I have discovered the song was actually a shanty sung by sailors during lengthy tasks like weighing anchor, hoisting sails and winding the line around the large capstan.  These type of shanties are slow-paced and often have nostalgic lyrics because the sailors were either preparing to go home or docking somewhere far from home.  It's a perfect name!   
Our perfect breakfast view - Kawau Island looking out at Governor Grey's Mansion 
 There was no need for a sea shanty as we gently chugged into the bay on Kawau Island and anchored with ease in a spot where we had the perfect view while we ate our breakfast.  

With a nod to Shenandoah's American connection we prepared pancakes for breakfast.  I do make a particularly good oat hotcake or pancake but it does use two bowls, has quite a few ingredients and requires an egg beater.    All too time consuming and difficult on a boat.

Here is Maerushia's easy pancakes (well they are a cross between a crepe and a pancake really).

Well... yes you could say this is cheating using Edmonds Shaker Pancakes.   Sometimes convenience food has its place and with Maerushia's additions they were a delicious start to our day.  You shake the contents,  add water and shake again like mad.    First up I didn't add enough water so my pancakes were too thick for what Maerushia wanted to do with them.
These are the pancakes that are the more "cakey" American style
I added more water than was suggested so that the batter would pour easily and make a thinner pancake that could be rolled.

The magic touch is the addition of currants once you pour the mix.
Once a number of bubbles appear then burst it's usually time to flip them.

To serve you sprinkle with sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice and roll them up.

We later landed on Kawau island to visit Grey's mansion and to walk around the pine covered island thinking about what it would have been like in Governor Grey's time with all the exotic animals he imported.   Only the wombats survive.    The highlight was the giant American Redwood tree.  Peter showed us how to tell a redwood from a pine by knocking on the bark - its bark is softer than pine.

Giant American Redwood tree on Kawau Island
I learnt a lot over the weekend about living on board a boat in close quarters. There are a lot of procedures you follow for safety reasons, like keeping everything tidy so that you know where things are should you need them in a hurry.  I now know my port from my starboard.   It was a little scary to a landlubber like me when we experienced rough patches, but we also experienced an idyllic few hours with just the sails and no motor noise.   
This coiled rope on deck is not for decoration but for safety
to avoid tripping on rope and easily unwound when needed.  
Peter and I became part of the Shenandoah crew and we each spent  time at the wheel.

Shenandoah is an Indian word that comes from a legend and roughly translates as "daughter of the stars".    Our sleeping quarters were in the bow and we kept the hatch open so that we could look up at the stars on those perfect starry nights on the Gulf.

Thank you Ralph and Maerushia for sharing your Shenandoah with us.
Me a midships gazing to starboard!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Lemon Tipple Cake and Urban Composting

 Lemons...yes I am going to post again about lemons!  I'm going to let you into the secret of the best lemon cake ever according to all those that have tasted it - the Lemon Tipple Cake.
Lemon Tipple Cake dressed up for a birthday celebration
decorated with strawberries and icing sugar, borage and nasturtium flowers
It's a mix of two recipes from two of my favourite cooks; Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Lemon Trickle Cake and Lois Daish's Lemon Pound Cake with Gin Syrup.  From Hugh I use the cake recipe as it's a light Victorian sponge and I use Lois's Gin Syrup as the topping because this little tipple makes the cake so delightful.  I have taken the liberty of naming the cake the Lemon Tipple Cake.

Lemon Tipple Cake

This recipe is made in a loaf tin and the lightness of the cake will depend on the quality and quantity of beating.   You can do it by hand but for this cake I prefer to let Ken Wood do the hard work.   Use Ken at full speed to whip the butter and sugar, then add the eggs one at a time.   To avoid curdling add 1 Tbsp of the measured flour after the addition of each egg..and it helps if the eggs are at room temperature.
The butter, sugar and eggs should be beaten until light in colour  as above.  
This  is what makes the cake light.

175 g unsalted butter softened (I don’t always have unsalted butter)
175 g caster sugar
finely grated zest of 3 lemons
3 medium eggs
175g self-rising flour
pinch slat
A splash of milk (optional)

Grease and line a 1 litre capacity loaf tin with baking paper.

Cream butter and sugar until very pale and fluffy (at least 5 or up to10 minutes if you can manage it). 
Add the grated lemon zest and then beat in the eggs one at time, adding a spoonful of the measured flour to avoid curdling.  

Sift the remaining flour and salt into the mixture and fold in lightly using a large metal spoon.   Add a little milk if necessary, to achieve a good dropping consistency – i.e. the mix should drop fairly easily off a spoon when you tap it on the side of the bowl.

Spoon mix into tin, smooth the top gently and put in preheated 170 degrees C oven. 
Bake 45-50 mins or until skewer comes out clean.
With the skewer make holes all over the cake going quite deep but not hitting the bottom.

Gin Syrup - it also works using Tequila or Cointreau - try your own combination

Lois's Gin Syrup: 

juice of 2 juicy lemons
150g caster sugar
2 T gin
(make this syrup while the cake is cooking – just stir to dissolve the sugar no cooking necessary)
Spoon or slowly pour over the hot lemon cake so that the holes can fill up.
The surface of the cake once the syrup has soaked in.

It's a moist yet a light cake.  Does it keep?  Well in my experience it's the sort of cake that doesn't get the chance to hang around. I have had the fortune of having a piece the next day and it was still as good as the day before.
Hugh's original Trickle cake has a runny lemon icing/sauce
of 200g icing sugar and 75ml lemon juice 

Bokashi to the Rescue!

...On the other hand, compost usually does need to hang around for months before it can be used in the garden, but not with the system I have rediscovered.

Living in urban Auckland, space is limited for processing compost, but I still want to make compost for the benefit of my plants in my newly established raised bed.

Our raised bed garden 1 week old - everyone helping out;
daughter Tansy planting out Rocket seedlings and grandson Beau
at the ready with gardening gloves.
Auckland's daily summer temperatures of around 25 degrees give me an incentive to find ways of dealing with food scraps quickly, so as to avoid them mouldering away in smelly bins.

Luckily I had packed my Bokashi bucket when I left Dunedin. Bokashi comes into its own up here.   It's a system of composting that originated in Japan and means "fermentation". One of the best things is after fermenting for 10 days you can give it a shallow burial in the garden and in summer after another 10 days you can begin planting in that soil. 
Not one of my more attractive pictures!
But I wanted to show you what it looks like after being filled over 3 weeks.  
It will be covered  for 2 weeks and then buried in the garden
The environment in the bucket has to be anaerobic (the food is squashed down to squeeze out any air) which usually means in composting terms that it should smell really bad.  But it has an almost sweet fermentation smell about it, rather like it's being pickled.

The juice adds nutrients and good micro-organisms to your garden.  It must be diluted 100:1 (i.e. 2 Tbsp to 5 litres of water) to apply to bare soil.  For foliage dilute to between 1:500 to 1:1000 (1-2 tsp) to 5 litres of water and spray over foliage to form a film over the leaves.  
Juice that gathers in the bottom bucket should be used every 2 days.   The juice  indicates how successful your fermentation is.   It should be a light brown, not smell too pungent and could have a light white mould on top as above.

The fermentation happens because the sweet smelling bran called Zing has been impregnated with good bacteria.  Add a good handful (more in summer or if you have larger quantities of protein to break down) each time you add food scraps.  It's best to collect the scraps into a container and add when full - a 2 litre ice cream container is ideal.  Cut up the material to fit more in the bucket and to hasten the composting process.  Once filled up you leave the bucket closed for two weeks.

I thought I would let The Guardian's columnist Alys Fowler tell you about the next stage....
"What happens in those two weeks is fascinating. Your waste is zombified. It looks pretty much the same, apart from perhaps a little white mould and the whiff of fermentation, but something has happened internally: the good bacteria in the bran have got to work. Much like the undead, it may look similar on the outside, but inside decomposition is well under way."

Here are two other sites with some more information on the Bokashi system: 
The only no no is to put liquids into the buckets and its important to press down the food after each addition to squeeze out the air.

This is something I am keen to try as I intend on growing things in containers.
Zing Bokashi - Using fermented compost in Container Gardening

To set yourself up with a Bokashi bucket and zing it costs around $50-$55.    I now need a second bucket while my other one is fermenting.   I want to see if there is a cheaper way of doing it.
My first homemade attempt at making my own Bokashi Bucket.
Ideally the buckets should be the same size.  Mine aren't but I do like the colours!
I have managed with one bucket with a good fitting lid and drilled holes in the bottom and put it together with a cheaper bucket for holding the juice.   They seem to be working.
When first using the bucket put a good handful of Zing in the bottom.
The original  ZingBokashi bucket is in the background.
But I could do better and am on the look out for some buckets that are larger and stronger and I have a lead... kitchens have lots of buckets with lids and the best thing about this lead is that the plastic will be safe for food.   As Ponsonby Road has lots of kitchens, I will be doing the rounds!

In my previous posting I talked about preserving lemons.   I found my lemons and squeezed as many as I could into this lovely French glass jar I got for free from a second hand store.  I am now prepared for when lemons become scarce.

Preserved lemons with bay leaves and cinnamon sticks
Next weekend I am lucky enough to be invited by friends to go sailing on the Hauraki Gulf.   I will be taking a Lemon Tipple Cake because I imagine any cooking on board will be difficult because of limited space...or will it?

Friday, 1 February 2013

Lemon lipped of Ponsonby

I thought coming to Auckland I would be in the land of lemons.  Lemons I consider an essential in the pantry but I am surprised to find out that if I regularly consume lemon water I could also become more shapely - now that is good news!
A particularly healthy lemon tree in my niece Francie's backyard in Hawkes Bay
Here in Ponsonby people don't seem to have the citrus trees they do in Hawkes Bay.  But it's early days here and I will do more walks and keep peaking over fences.
The view overlooking part of the extensive garden at Waiheke - look at the colour of that sea! 
I wasn't surprised to find a delightful edible garden when we went for lunch at Cathy and Jens on Waiheke Island.   A garden that I would long for in Dunedin with peaches, nectarines, limes, lemons, fejoias, figs, loads of tomatoes and basil growing outside!   The few remaining lemons are treasured because they too love lemons.

We enjoyed some slices of a delicious Japanese fruit called Yuzu.   I think it tastes a little like a cross between a sweet grapefruit and a lemon.  Its bumpy skin is similar to someone suffering from an acne attack.  If you want to learn more about how the Yuzu is used in Japanese and Korean cuisine click here:
Wikipedia on Yuzu
To keep up a supply of lemons throughout the year then you have to either preserve them or freeze them.   My friend Christine gave me some valuable advice when it comes to freezing. I will no longer painstakingly juice lemons and freeze into ice blocks.  I will simply throw them in a bag in the freezer.  You can grate the whole frozen lemon into dishes or squeeze the juice out when thawed.   But there is something extra delicious about the preserved lemon in salt that is worth the effort.

Preserved Lemons

A preserved lemon is usually ready to eat after
2 months in the jar
Preserving lemons is easy and to buy them is costly. They look good in the kitchen as well as being a wonderful addition to dishes.  Anna Gare who is a household name in Australia from her series "Quickies in the Kitchen" has one of the best recipes. She explains everything you need to know...about preserving lemons.  I liked the way she stuffs the "nearly" quartered lemons with rock salt.  Click on this link below:
When I did my first preserved lemons I was a little unsure how to use them. My son Gus came to the rescue and showed me. My sister Kerry during a break while helping me clean up my Dunedin pantry turned the process into an artwork.
1. scrape away fruit and pith scraping as much of the white pith off as you can,
2. wash to get rid of the extreme saltiness,  3. slice or use as you like.

See more of Kerry's work on her Facebook page: /theartdept.dunedin
Using just the skin seems a dreadful waste at first but consider that the skin is supposed to have 5-10 times the vitamins of the juice.   By making that skin delicious you not only have lemons on hand all year but you are using the most beneficial part of the lemon.

Oven Baked New Potatoes with Lemon and Garlic

New potatoes are magic but it can be tiring having them the same old way. I have a way of cooking them with lemon and garlic in the oven that dinner guests have enjoyed this summer.   One of my friends pointed out how delicious the roasted lemon was to eat. I had prior to that thought of the lemon as just a flavouring agent.  I now also eat the roasted lemon and its delicious (thank you Leanne).
Potatoes ready to go into the oven a mix of  Swift and Red potatoes 

Fill an oven roasting dish with new potatoes scrubbed but not scraped.  Pour a slurp of olive or avocado oil over potatoes and mix up with your hands.  Sprinkle about 1tsp of paprika, salt and pepper.  Cut up a lemon into 8 slices and place amongst potatoes. I also add new season garlic with the skin still on, place 4-5 fresh bay leaves if you have them, and some sprigs of mint.  Cover with lid or foil to keep in moisture.  Put into an oven at 180C and cook for about an hour.   

The good thing is that these potatoes don't have to be so watched so carefully as those that you boil. Sometimes they can be quite browned but inside still a soft new potato.

Delicious Lemon Pickle

Our friend Robyn van Reenan is an excellent quilter and runs Christofer Robyn Quilts from her home just out of Wanaka.  Each year she organises the Wanaka Autumn Art School.  People can over a few days learn new skills from specialist tutors from all over New Zealand and Australia and at the same time enjoy Wanaka's autumn colours.

 Robyn gave me a jar of her Delicious Lemon Pickle.   The recipe came from "The Second Black Dog Cottage Cookbook" by Adie McClelland who will be a tutor at this years Wanaka Autumn Art School. Unfortunately Adie's class is full but look out for the 2014 programme for next year's cooking tutor.  If you are interested in other artistic pursuits take a look at the programme on

2 whole lemons, chopped and pips removed
5 large onions, roughly chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups white wine vinegar
1 cup lemon juice
3t salt
3c sugar
1t turmeric
1 heaped t prepared horseradish
Finely grated rind of two lemons
2t ground ginger
½ packet jam-setting mix (optional) – I didn’t use.

In a food processor add the lemons, onions and garlic. Process on the pulse button until you have a chunky mixture left. Do not over process or the onions will ‘let go’ of their liquid and you end up with a watery mess.
Place in a large pot with all other ingredients (excluding jam-setting mix) and bring to the boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for about 40 minutes.
Add jam-setting mix if you feel you need it. Cook for another 5 minutes.
Bottle while hot in sterilised jars.

Adie's receipes are Mediterranean and Asian inspired and you can find out more about the cookbooks and Adie on

Lemon Water

If you take lemon, sweetened with a little honey in warm water morning and night :

- your skin will improve
- it will aid your digestion and eliminate waste products from your body easier
- helps promote your immune system
- it purifies the blood
- gargle it to help a sore throat and cure bad breath
- the high potassium will benefit those with high blood pressure
- it can work wonders on the shape of your body by working on the body's accumulated fat.
- it's a fabulous antiseptic bestowed on us by Mother Nature.
For more info go to this blog: The Top 10 Benefits of Lemon Juice

Francie picking lemons for me
Today I got lucky. I found a 1 litre French preserving jar with a glass lid and rubber seal in a junk shop on K Road.  The seal was stuck so I was given the jar for free.   This weekend I am off to one of the Auckland markets to see if I can find the last of the season's lemons at a good price to preserve in my jar.

After reading up about the health benefits of the lemon, especially working wonders on the body shape, I truly cannot understand why everyone up here in the sunny north doesn't have at least one lemon tree in their garden.