Tag Archives: Moving

Sharky Oven Gloves turns two!

Guess what?  Guess what?  Today is Sharky Oven Gloves‘ second birthday (in case you haven’t read the title of the blog post…).  Exciting stuff!  And what the blog title doesn’t tell you is that this also happens to be my 200th blog post.  I can’t quite wrap my head around both of those facts.  Two years’ of blogging and 200 blog posts.  Goodness.  That’s a fair bit of procrastination…

A fair bit has happened since my first blog birthday , so here’s a little re-cap:

One tamarillo & walnut cake.

  • I managed to make some rather spiffing stollen, which I must admit is my only ever successful foray into baking with yeast, so I’m still pretty chuffed about that.

Drip drip drop, little caramel… uhm… drips.  Uhm, ya…

  • One of our technicians doesn’t eat egg, so I’ve ventured into occasional egg-free baking over the last few months, which is not something I’ve ever actively done before – most of the egg-free baking I’ve done before has been by accident more than an actual decision to make a recipe egg-free, so it’s been interesting.  Learning about the banana substitution trick certainly helped.
  • I won “best-tasting” in a baking competition with some “radioactive” lemon macarons (ok there wasn’t a great deal of competition, but still…), which was totally exciting.

The irony of a French person bringing in nuclear-themed baked goods to a baking competition in New Zealand is not lost on me.

  • Something I decided to try for my Kir macarons ended up sparking a minor obsession with swirly-shelled macarons, and I’ve since tried the effect out in my Mojito macarons, the non-radioactive version of my lemon macarons and my Leiter Fluid macarons.  So basically all of the macarons I’ve made since arriving in NZ.  Perhaps I should calm down on the swirly shells a little.  (But they’re so pretty…)

When you've run out of wine… fill the glass with macarons.  Sorted.

  • A few months ago I started my weekly Sunday Smiles feature, a weekly recap of things that have made me smile or laugh through the week.  It’s something a little different and all about focussing on the positive things in life.

Drinking gin out of an Edinburgh Gin glass is as close as I can get to real Edinburgh Gin here.  Sad times.

Now, today is also St Andrew’s Day, which I feel is largely eclipsed by Burns’ Night by Scots actually in Scotland, but celebrated by many Scots abroad (at least that’s the case based on my experience – it’s funny how as an expat you suddenly latch on to any excuse to celebrate your home country).  So to celebrate Sharky Oven Gloves‘ second birthday and 200th post and St Andrew’s Day, I decided that I’d post a Scottish recipe but with a Kiwi twist as a nod to my current home.  Hokey pokey is a crunchy butterscotch honeycomb type thing and very popular here apparently (especially in ice-cream it seems), so I thought it would be a fabulous idea to make hokey pokey shortbread.  Now, if I’d thought about it, I’d have realised that putting hokey pokey, which mostly consists of sugar and air, in the oven was not a good idea at all, but I went full steam ahead (I hope I get points for enthusiasm).  Result: the hokey pokey melted in the oven leaving unattractive cavities of caramelised sugar all over the shortbread.  Bugger.

Oh…  101 Dalmatians-themed shortbread anyone?  Ahem.

Of course, I could have just glossed over this particular experiment and pretended that it never happened, but you know, I figured I might as well give you a laugh.  And hey, sometimes I have kitchen failures.  Well ok, the shortbread wasn’t a total failure because it still tasted good, but it certainly wasn’t presentable…  Anyway, I even made a shark fin-shaped shortbread biscuit especially for the occasion, which sort of morphed out of shape a little – perhaps failed shark fins could be a theme for blog birthdays.

So I fed the failed shark fin shortbread to Toothy.  Obviously.

Anyway, giggle away at my recipe mishap, and here’s to another year of blogging, of both successes and failures (but mostly successes).

Enjoy the rest of your day, wherever you are in the world!

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Mint & ginger mini palmiers

Something terribly exciting happened on Wednesday – the Bookshelf Saga which has been ongoing since I moved into my flat at the beginning of March came to its conclusion.  To cut a long rant story short, my landlord didn’t consider a bookshelf to be a fairly standard piece of furniture and decided that it would “overcrowd the flat” (which is total nonsense by the way – somebody is clearly just being stingy).  However, since I really do need a bookshelf, I had to buy one myself, and it (finally) arrived on Wednesday.  Definitely the highlight of my week (I need to get out more) and now all my books, folders and DVDs are neatly arranged on shelves instead of being unceremoniously piled up in a corner.  And guess what?  The bookshelf doesn’t overcrowd the flat.  Not even remotely.  In fact, it has uncrowded the flat by freeing up all that space that the piles of books, etc. were taking up.  Just as well I don’t have my landlord’s email address or I would seriously consider emailing him a photo saying “I told you so.”  Not that I’m petty like that or anything.  Obviously.

My new bookshelf means that all my cookbooks are now neatly lined up – much more practical for choosing my Random Recipe entry than trying to count books scattered about in various piles.  This month’s theme is “first and last” which means randomly picking a cookbook and then making either the first or last recipe (or both, if you’re feeling keen). The random number button on my trusty calculator directed me to book number 5, which turned out to be Cusine Express, a French book full of quickly-prepared recipes.  I wasn’t too enthralled by anything on the first page of recipes, so I flipped to the very last page, where there were eight recipes to choose from (spoilt by choice, I know).  I opted for the mint and ginger mini palmiers, partly because I was intrigued by the combination of mint and ginger together, and partly because I’ve been a big fan of palmiers since I was a little girl, but never actually tried making them myself.

These aren’t quite like the slightly sticky palmiers you get in French pâtisseries, so I was a tiny little bit disappointed initially, but once you get past that, they are rather tasty in their own right, and I can’t wait to have a couple for my afternoon snack later.  The mint and ginger go together remarkably well – the freshness of the mint counterbalances the slight hotness of the ginger.  They’re missing that slightly caramelised covering that I loved when I was little (and still love) – next time I might try sprinkling some brown sugar over the top before baking, or lightly brushing a sugar syrup over the top as they come out of the oven.  I’ll definitely be trying these again – they’re so straightforward and hardly take any effort.  Except grating the ginger, which does take effort if you do it by hand, but it’s worth it.

Mint & ginger mini palmiers

Makes about 30
Adapted from Cuisine Express

You can, of course, make your own puff pastry, but I don’t really have the time for that, so I nearly always use shop-bought puff pastry, and I find that it works just as well, though make sure that when buying it, you choose puff pastry that has been made with all butter.  These make a wonderful afternoon snack, accompanied by a cup of tea.  These are best eaten on the day that they are made, but will keep overnight in an air-tight box (although they may lose a little bit of their crunchiness).

Ingredients

6 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint leaves (about 18-20 g)
4 tbsp finely grated ginger (about a 5-6 cm piece)
5 tbsp organic rapeseed oil
Icing sugar
350g all-butter puff pastry

Directions

1.  Mix the mint leaves, ginger and oil in a small bowl to make a paste.

2.  Roll the puff pastry out on a surface sprinkled with icing sugar into a rectangle of about 30 x 40 cm.

3.  Spread the mint and ginger paste over the surface of the pastry.  Fold or roll the pastry along a long edge to the middle, and do the same from the other side so that the two rolled/folded bits meet in the middle.  Press the whole “log” of pastry into a roll, wrap in cling film and chill in the freezer for 25 mins.

4.  Line two baking trays with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 210°C.

5.  Remove the puff pastry log from the freezer and cut into 10-12mm thick slices (don’t worry if there are little gaps between the pastry rolls – they pastry will expand in the oven).  Place on the baking trays and bake for 15 mins until golden.  Transfer the palmiers to cooling racks and dust with icing sugar.  Allow to cool fully.

Enjoy!

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Toothy’s Travels – New Zealand: Kiwi quirks, eh!

I’ve been in New Zealand for about two and a half weeks now, and you might have been expecting lots of posts about all the really exciting things that I’ve done.  Except that I haven’t really done a lot of visiting of things, and have been focussed on finding my way around, finding somewhere to live (minor detail), sorting out my research project (you know, the reason I’m here), and all the various other random administrative faff that moving and starting at a new university entail.  Oh, and attempting to make friends.  But I’ve made a bit of progress – I’ve explored quite a bit of central Auckland (see one of the many views from the harbour below), I’ve managed to find a flat, which I get the keys for tomorrow; I have a (perhaps slightly over-ambitious) research topic, which I’m now trying to iron out the details of; I’ve sorted out a phone, bank account, etc.; I’ve been given a desk in the postgrad lab; my swipe card to get into the Biology buildings finally arrived yesterday afternoon (although it doesn’t appear to work – sorting that out is today’s ongoing adventure); and well, I’m working on the friends thing (I’ll have a kitchen from tomorrow.  I suspect that the power of cake will help significantly with that one).  Until writing all of that out, I hadn’t quite realised how much I’ve managed to get done.  I’m fairly proud of myself actually!  So, as of today I’m going to end the blog mini-hiatus that seems to have imposed itself for most of the month of February and get back to blogging more or less regularly.

Actually, here’s a little secret (don’t judge me too much): I’ve always been slightly fascinated by the 29th of February , a date that only exists every four years.  When I was younger, my fascination revolved around the people born on this funny quirk of a day – imagine only being able to celebrate your birthday every four years!  I obviously valued the really important things in life…  Now though, I just think of it as a bit of a peculiar yet special day.  I quite like February the 29th actually, because it’s a bit of a quirky day, but there’s a very logical and scientific reason for it existing.

So because today is a bit of a quirky day (in case you think I’ve got the date wrong – it’s already the 29th in my timezone), I thought I’d write a post about a few of the quirks that I’ve come across in the process of settling into my new country (some endearing, some baffling).  Well, quirks might not be quite the right work, more the confusing little differences that I’ve noticed:

The curious lack of ovens – Whilst flat-hunting, I looked at a lot of flats online.  Now I know that space is at a premium in the centre of any city, so I wasn’t expecting huge kitchens, but I was surprised at the number of flats (perhaps around half) that didn’t have an oven.  Much to my bafflement, a large proportion of these oven-less flats did, however, have a dishwasher.  Now, up until now I have always considered an oven as a basic requirement, and a dishwasher as a luxury.  Especially in a small 1-person flat.  So how much washing up does a single oven-less Kiwi create?! And how do they bake cakes?

The sun, part I – I have an excellent sense of direction, but I rely heavily (and unconsciously) on the sun.  Which is fine in the Northern hemisphere which I’m used to, but in the Southern hemisphere the sun is suddenly in the wrong place.  Even though I knew this would happen, I kept going in the wrong direction by accident the first few days that I was here.  At least Auckland has the Sky Tower, which is remarkably handy for navigation.  (My previous encounter with finding directions in the Southern hemisphere was when I was doing boat work in South Africa.  That was seriously disorienting!!)  And my brain is slowly getting used to this whole sun-being-in-the-North thing.

The sun, part II – As well as being in the wrong place (for me), the sun is also deceptively strong.  Even though I read about it in all the guidebooks before I came, it still surprised me.  I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as in Australia, but it’s definitely much stronger than during summer in the Northern hemisphere.  Despite applying sunscreen, I’ve already managed to acquire a super-attractive t-shirt tan just from walking for 20 minutes down the partially-shaded main street in search of lunch the other day.  Luckily I don’t tend to burn easily, but if I did I definitely would have been caught out, even with sunscreen.

Seasonal confusion – It’s summer going into autumn here, which still confuses me a little, mostly in terms of trying to work out what fruit and vegetables are actually in season.  Seeing blueberries at the farmers’ market on Saturday briefly confused me until I realised that even though my automatic reaction was to consider blueberries in February a food crime, they’re actually in season here.  I need to find myself a NZ-specific chart of seasonal foods.   The trees still have all their leaves, too, which feels odd for February.  I also keep getting a surprise when I realise that it’s still daylight at 7pm, and then I remember that it’s summer…

Pedestrian crossings – The sound effects of the pedestrian crossings still make me feel like I’ve just accidentally wandered into some sort of computer game involving space, rockets and lasers shooting at aliens.  The green man is also animated and walks – in case you forget how to cross a road?  Or to remind people not to do alien impressions because of the accompanying sound effects?

The fauna – Auckland is much greener than I was expecting, and dotted with little parks and public spaces.  There’s a park just next to the university which has some beautiful oak trees (complete with acorns as it’s late summer) which lull me into a false sense of familiarity.  And then I turn the corner and there’s a palm tree, or other tropical fauna.  Occasionally you see a fir tree and a palm tree next to each other – I’m still finding that rather surreal.  Then of course there are all the plants and flowers that I’ve never seen before.

Talking Kiwis – As in the people, not the fruit or the bird, and this is in the endearing category (before anybody gets upset).  I don’t find the Kiwi accent particularly hard to understand, even though they do funny things to some of their vowels, but some of the slang is still throwing me a bit.  Some of it is very much British, and some of it really isn’t (jandals = flip-flops, and one I learned yesterday, chilly, short for chilly bin = cooler box).  The general rule seems that if you can shorten a word or phrase into a minimal number of syllables, then go for it.  A lot of Kiwis also seem to add “eh!” onto the end of sentences for no apparent reason, whether or not it’s actually a question.  I have a tendency to pick up accents and colloquialisms, so it’s only a matter of time before my accent starts changing (seriously, when I told Keely that I was moving to NZ, her first reaction was “oh, your accent is screwed…  Can we Skype lots – I want to hear it!”).

Kiwi attitude – Everybody is so friendly and relaxed.  Chilled.  I don’t know if it’s because it’s still summer, but the pace of life seems a little slower here.  Perhaps that sounds a little odd, but I mean that people seem to take the time to be outside, to stop for a coffee on the terrace, to enjoy an ice-cream, to go for a walk.  Studying is obviously important, but life and the great outdoors are important, too.  I could get used to that (whilst studying hard, obviously, don’t worry Maman!).

On that note, I should probably get back to my desk, eh!

Enjoy the rest of your day, wherever you are!

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Announcing an exciting new adventure…

I have some super-exciting news to share with you:  I’ll be starting a Masters in February!  I’m so excited!!!  This also means that I’ll be  moving out (finally!), which, as much as I love my mum, I cannot wait to do, because I really miss my independence…  I was actually given an offer back in October, but I had to sort out a supervisor, and have modules approved before I could pay my fees, as well as various other administrative faff, and I wanted everything to be finalised before I announced it, just in case I jinxed it and it all fell through or something (very scientific approach that, ahem).  But my visa arrived on Friday, which means that it is actually happening and that I can finally announce it!  Wait!  Visa?  What?  Ya, that’s right, I had to apply for a visa (which is why it took so long to be finalised) because I’m not only moving out, but moving country.  Moving hemisphere.  Moving to New Zealand!!!  I told you it was super-exciting news!

For those of you who are interested, I’ll be doing a MSc in Marine Science until December.  It’s all research-based, but I don’t know exactly what my research topic will be until I’ve met and discussed it properly with my supervisor (he seems really relaxed about it, which is good… I think!), but it should definitely be something to do with elasmobranchs (sharks and rays), which I’m obviously super excited about!

Of course, although I’m going to study, I’m a bit obsessed with food, so I’ve been reading various guidebooks and NZ-based blogs, all of which seem to agree that there is an excellent food scene.  So that’s all good, and has definitely increased my eagerness for this next adventure (if that’s possible).  Toothy has been helping me read the guidebooks, obviously, though he’s mostly been eyeing up the sea lion pictures:

Since I move in less than three weeks (!!), I’ve been quite busy procrastinating packing, so things have been rather quiet on Sharky Oven Gloves, and they will probably continue to be so, but now you know why…

Wherever you are in the world, enjoy the rest of your day!

PS – Apologies for the over-use of the word excited and the over-abundance of exclamation marks – I have a lot of enthusiasm to share!

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Goodbye St Andrews… But I’ll be back!

As the first Tuesday of the month, yesterday was Zoosday Tuesday, so I should have posted an animal-related recipe.  However, yesterday was also the day that I finally moved out of my flat in St Andrews, my home for the past three years (I was actually supposed to be moving out on Monday, but I had waaaaaay too much stuff to fit in the car.  So we had to do an additional trip yesterday.  Woops.).  This means that all my baking stuff is currently packed up in boxes and not exactly accessible, so there was blatantly never going to be any recipe-sharing yesterday.  I’m sure you’ll forgive me.

St Andrews has been my home for the last four years, but now that I’ve graduated (I will post properly about that soon) it’s time to move on to new adventures.  I’ve spent my entire life moving from country to country with my parents, but that doesn’t make it any easier to close the door one final time on a flat that has been my home for the last three years but has now been emptied of all my stuff and cleaned and scrubbed from floor to ceiling, ready for the next tenants.  In fact, I’d argue that it makes it harder, because I know how heart-wrenching it can be to spend four years making a home in a new place, loving it, and then having to leave it devoid of all traces of yourself.  That said, the fun in discovering a new country and culture, embarking on new escapades, eating new foods and meeting new people makes it completely worth it, and I wouldn’t swap it for the world.

Of course, some places are harder to leave than others.  No matter where in the world I end up, or how many other countries I end up living in over the course of my life, I know that my time in St Andrews will always remain very close to my heart.  I’ve met so many amazing people, made such incredible friends, had so much fun, shared so much laughter (not to mention the pure collective delirium whilst dissertating), and have so many happy memories to take away with me.  Consequently, St Andrews has proven to be one of the most difficult places to leave so far.  Though as my mum pointed out to me, contrary to Lagos (we lived in Nigeria when I was younger), at least I can go back and visit St Andrews fairly easily, because even if I end up living on the other side of the world, I’ll still be back in Edinburgh to visit my family.  That’s slightly comforting, though it makes me sad that St Andrews will never really be “mine” again.  From now on, I will always be a visitor, and that means that it will never quite be the same.  But that’s life.  And at least I have about 56 bajillion photos to remind me of the beauty of the town, stunning surroundings and most importantly, the fantastic memories that I have with my wonderful friends.

St Andrews, I will always love you, and I will definitely be back…

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