secrets and cake

Jason had a birthday, I made a surprise cake to bust out at a pot luck later in the week. It was a comedy of errors that mostly worked out in the end, thanks very much to help from my friends. Let’s just say I am not a natural baker, or a natural secret-keeper. No more baking or secrets for me, deal?

butternut, black bean and silverbeet chili

I made you a recipe. Eat it on a crisp, autumn weeknight and eat the leftovers for lunch all week.

butternut, black bean and silverbeet chili with chipotle
adapted from Bon Appétit

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium onions, diced
2 chipotle chilis, from a can, minced*
1 tablespoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground chili
1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/3 bunch silverbeet** (approx), stalks chopped small, and greens ribboned, keep separately
1 can diced tomatoes
3 cans blackbeans (I substituted 1 can of kidney beans, chickpeas would also work)
2 stock cubes
2 cups water
optional trimmings: avocado, yoghurt or sour cream, cheddar, coriander, jalapeno

Heat the vegetable oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot at a medium heat. Saute onion and garlic for five minutes, then add silverbeet stalks and continue to cook for a further five minutes. Add chipotle, cumin, chilli and butternut, and cook while stirring for 2-3 more minutes. Add tomatoes, 2 cups of boiling water and two vegetable stock cubes, stir and simmer for about 8 minutes. Add 3 cans drained beans and cook for a further 10 minutes. Add the silverbeet leaves, and add extra water if it seems too dry. Cook for a further 5 minutes, until greens are softened and bright. Season with salt and pepper if required, and ladle into bowls. Top with your choice of trimmings like avocado, yoghurt or sour cream, cheddar, coriander, jalapeno. Serve with rice if you like, I didn’t bother.

Makes about 8 servings.

* For me, 2 chipotle chillis and 1/2 tsp ground chilli was the perfect amount for a good light burn, but feel free to use only 1 chipotle or leave out the ground chilli if you can’t handle too much spice, or add more chipotles if you want more heat. As long as you have lots of cooling agents like yoghurt, avocado and cheese, you can always cool it down later.

** Also known as swiss chard

what I’ve been up to

Reading books
1Q84, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Claudine At School, Hunger Games (x 3), A Sense of an Ending, Bossypants, and now Bonjour Tristesse.

Planning and scheming
About Europe, and a few other exciting things that are a long way off.

Walking up small mountains (this trail leads up there), and also getting 3/4 of the way through couch to 5k (and I’m going to finish). I’m shocked and appalled to find myself actually enjoying it.

I tried a 30 day drawing challenge on instagram and gave up after about a week, but have continued drawing bits and pieces. My friends and I had a couple ‘drawing clubs’ and they were basically heaven.

Zoo sleepover
I slept over at a zoo with about 27 other people. The sleep was horrible, but the early morning time we spent wandering before the zoo opened made it more than worth it. Above: important sleepover paraphernalia.

People (and pet) time
Easter days were gloriously spent with several groups of amazing gals (and a few lads) eating, drinking, dancing, playing games, decorating easter eggs and cookies, and toasting to Blumphrey. The first of those days was at my lovely friend Amie’s place and she just has the most amazing pets. So jealous.

Always eating.


Long Weekend Lunch

A long weekend lunch of caramelised garlic tart, pesto potato and green bean salad, ribboned asparagus salad, club sandwiches, and plum yoghurt cake for dessert.

Ottolenghi’s caramelised garlic tart, from Plenty. It’s a wee bit of work but very, very worth it. I subbed the hard goat’s cheese for some grated cheddar.


  • 13 oz/375g all-butter puff pastry
  • 3 medium heads of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup/220ml water
  • ¾ tbsp fine/caster sugar
  • 1 tsp chopped rosemary
  • 1 tsp chopped thyme, plus a few whole sprigs to finish
  • 4 ¼ oz/120g soft, creamy goat’s cheese
  • 4 ¼ oz/120g hard, mature goat’s cheese
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • ½ cup/100ml heavy/double cream
  • ½ cup/100ml crème fraîche
  • salt and black pepper

Have ready a shallow, loose-bottomed, 28cm fluted tart tin. Roll out the puff pastry into a circle that will line the bottom and sides of the tin, plus a little extra. Line the tin with the pastry. Place a large circle of greaseproof paper on the bottom and fill up with baking beans. Leave to rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/Gas Mark 4. Place the tart case in the oven and bake blind for 20 minutes. Remove the beans and paper, then bake for a further 5-10 minutes, or until the pastry is golden. Set aside. Leave the oven on.

While the tart case is baking, make the caramelized garlic. Put the cloves in a small saucepan and cover with plenty of water. Bring to a simmer and blanch for 3 minutes, then drain well.

Dry the saucepan, return the cloves to it and add the olive oil. Fry the garlic cloves on a high heat for 2 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and water and bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Add the sugar, rosemary, chopped thyme and ¼ teaspoon salt. Continue simmering on a medium flame for 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the garlic cloves are coated in a dark caramel syrup. Set aside.

To assemble the tart, break both types of goat’s cheese into pieces and scatter in the pastry case. Spoon the garlic cloves and syrup evenly over the cheese.

In a jug whisk together the eggs, creams, ½ teaspoon salt and some black pepper. Pour this custard over the tart filling to fill the gaps, making sure that you can still see the garlic and cheese over the surface.

Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C/Gas Mark 3 and place the tart inside. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the tart filling has set and the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little.

Then take out of tin, trim the pastry edge if needed, lay a few sprigs of thyme on top and serve warm (it reheats well!) with a crisp salad.


But not today

One day I’ll learn to take photographs of things other than food. In the meantime, here’s more food! I’ve also started a tumblr, and am enjoying using it as a place to catalogue what I’m eating, reading and making, without worrying too much if the food is ugly, or if the photos need editing.

Dinner tonight was Yotam Ottolenghi’s soba noodles with aubergine and mango, but with avocado instead of mango, and also with tofu (online here or here). It was unbelievably good. The recipe is from Ottolenghi’s book Plenty, graciously lent to me by Laura and Tim. Everything I’ve tried from it has been excellent, will be getting my own copy quick smart.

We had this fabulously garish cake for Kim‘s birthday celebration (as well as a million other great foods). I was about to say I made it, but actually no. First I declared to Kim that I would make her a birthday cake, then informed Jason than we would be doing so, and as usual, he just went ahead and made it while I was busy doing other things. Story of our lives, poor Jason! It was strawberry layer cake and other people seemed into it but I’d have liked it a lot better without the fake strawberry flavour, ick.

That weekend Jason made brioche french toast from his Bouchon cookbook and it was amazing buttery crispy melt-in-your-mouth goodness. We also went to high tea at Martha’s Pantry, which was perfect aside from forgetting my camera, and the hangover that caused me to forget it. After four weeks of mild detoxing, healthy food and no alcohol, it was all a bit much indulgence and I’m still not quite over it! More green things, please.

I’ve been drawing and playing about with making things more than I have in a long while. Maybe I’ll show you a few more things, and tell you why that is sometime soon.

black bean and lime quinoa salad

Who’d have thought a quinoa salad would be one of the best things I’ve made in an age? I stole it from Kim but had to share it any way because it is too damn good.

I’d only eaten quinoa before once or twice and had never cooked it myself, so I can’t be entirely sure of what the texture is supposed to be like, but the flavours in the salad are so good I don’t think you can go too terribly wrong.

And the best part is that this recipe is endlessly adaptable. Use feta instead of avocado, add capsicum, red onion or grated carrot, use tinned corn if it’s not in season, use any flavour of beans. Even use brown rice or couscous instead of quinoa if you like. If you want to be healthier or make it vegan you could swap out the butter for more oil, but I highly recommend keeping it in for the silky texture and extra depth that the butter adds.

Black bean and lime quinoa salad
adapted from epicurious

zest and juice of one lime (or most of a small lemon if you live in NZ and limes are $2 each and you bought one anyway but it was so dried up it produced not a drop of juice!)
2 Tbs butter, melted
1 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1 cup quinoa
one ear of corn, microwaved for about two minutes
1/2 punnet of cherry tomatoes chopped in half or two medium tomatoes, chopped
1 avocado, diced
1 tin black beans, rinsed and drained
2 spring onions, chopped
2 Tbs fresh coriander, chopped
salt and pepper

Wash and drain quinoa, cook in rice cooker with two cups + 2 Tbs of water.

Whisk together citrus zest and juice, butter, oil, sugar and 1/8 tsp salt in a large bowl.

Add cooked quinoa to bowl and toss until dressing absorbed, add in the remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste.

Tastes great cold or warm, so you can either eat it right away or leave to sit so the flavours mingle all nicely.

Makes 4 side dishes or 2-3 main meals.

Lovelorn Vintage Store Opening

You may or may not have noticed a new link on the right hand side bar of my blog, to my new little vintage store. It’s not currently very full, but there are many exciting things to come in the next few weeks: lots of pretty dresses, oxford shoes, cute bags and satchels and even a wacky cape or two.

I’m excited that it’s finally all go! I had my first two sales over the last couple days, before I’d even told anyone about it! Here they are, ready to be posted:

So I hope you’ll check it out, and I’ll let you know when it’s restocked. Also, if you live in Wellington I can deliver in or around the CBD or Miramar free of charge. 🙂

Dinner and a Movie: Days of Heaven (1978)

Every Sunday my flatmates and I, plus one or two good friends, have a movie night. We gather, enjoy a film, and take turns cooking for each other. It’s terribly wholesome! I thought I might share with you the movie and meal that I last chose.

I picked Terrence Malick’s ‘Days of Heaven‘, which I’d been meaning to see for ages, especially since one of Lover‘s dreamy recent collections ‘The Harvest’ was inspired by it.

I’d been waiting for corn to get cheap at the markets so I could make creamed corn, and this was the perfect opportunity. Combined with black beans, rice and corn bread (that Jason made in a cupcake maker we got for Christmas, lawl), I thought it made a pretty choice peasant meal. Then, of course, I watched the movie and realised they were working and frolicking in wheat fields, not corn. Duhh.

I used a black bean recipe from Homesick Texan, and for the corn I turned to one of my favourite’s, the Lee Brother’s Southern Cookbook.

Creamed Corn
Adapted (just barely) from the Lee Bros

8 ears fresh corn
6 tablespoons butter
just over a cup of milk (I used super trim & it was delicious but not very thick, you could use whole milk or even cream if you’re feeling extravagant)
salt and plenty of pepper to taste

Cut the kernels from the cob and scrape the cobs with the edge of a spoon to get as much from the cob as you can.
Melt the butter in a large skillet or pot. Add corn and stir constantly for one minute.
Pour in the milk, add salt and pepper. Simmer for about 12 minutes, until the liquid has thickened and yellow. Adjust seasoning if you need to.
Turn off the heat, cover and let steam for two minutes.
When you serve, be liberal with the sauce because it’s GOOD.

This recipe makes lots, so you could easily halve it if there’s less people (I served it as a side for five and there was leftovers) or you don’t want to chop the corn off of eight whole ears, which takes some time.

The film was stunning, filmed almost entirely in the ‘golden hour’, the first and last hours of sunlight in a day.

Set in the early 1900’s, it centres on Bill and Abby, poor lovers who pretend to be brother and sister to avoid gossip. While working on a farm in the Texas Panhandle, the young and sick farmer takes a shine to Abby and the temptation of a better life proves to be too much for Bill to resist.

The film focuses not just on plot points but on the day to day and seasonal routine of both the poor and the rich. The scenes of leisurely days at the river and croquet games in the golden light of the farm really does seem like the idea of what days of heaven might have been to these poor migrant workers.