Tag Archives: New Zealand

Sunday Smiles: A wee catch-up

Sunday SmilesAfter a wee breakSunday Smiles is back!  Well, sort of – I haven’t spent much time online in the last few weeks, so there aren’t any memes or random entries this week and it’s more of a little recap of what’s been happening since my last Sunday Smiles post.

Sunday Smiles (and the blog in general) will be back properly next week, but in the meantime, let’s go on what is essentially a little trip through my Instagram feed from the last few weeks:

  • So for a start, the world didn’t end (in case you hadn’t noticed).  Which is hardly surprising, but jolly good news nonetheless.

Good news indeed!  Also, free wine.

  • I mentioned that my mum and I went on a little jam-packed tour of NZ.  It was amazing.  To be honest, I’m still sort of processing everything that we saw.  I’ll go into more detail about various aspects of the trip in later Toothy’s Travels posts, but in the meantime, here a few photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • Just in case you live in a cave (with internet access) and weren’t aware, The Hobbit was released.  NZ is going all out – from banks

What about hobbits?  Are they welcome, too?

  • …To Auckland Airport.  I’ll be honest, I love it.  I also got to watch the Hobbit-themed Air New Zealand safety video on an actual aeroplane when we flew back up from Christchurch which was terribly exciting (even if it is rather silly and cringeworthy).

Guarding the… uhm… information desk.

  • Cherries are in season!!  My mum and I were able to get some straight from a producer when we were down in Central Otago, and they were so tasty.  Cherries are one of my favourite fruits but seem to be incredibly expensive here so I don’t think I’ll be eating very many this summer sadly.

CHERRIES!!!

  • Unfortunately, all holidays must come to an end, and after three wonderful weeks, my mum had to go back to Edinburgh.  We don’t know when we’ll next see each other, which is tough, but her departure was made a little easier by the fact that Kat arrived to visit for ten days (although sadly she leaves tomorrow) on her way to Australia, which was super exciting since I haven’t seen her since February.

Kat arrived, and so did the sunshine.  Our tans mostly come courtesy of the Instagram filter though.

  • We went on a little Hogmanay wine tour around Waiheke Island which I think might well be the best thing to do on Hogmanay ever.  Plus it was sunny and warm and the scenery is beautiful.  Oh and the wine was good.  And I got photobombed by a bumblebee, which I didn’t notice until we got home and I looked at the photos properly.

Bumblebee photobomb!

  • We watched The Hobbit, which was super exciting since we were in actual NZ (as opposed to not actual NZ…).  Have you seen it?  What did you think?  There were a few niggles and I’m not keen on the high frame rate and 3D thing – they seemed a little gimmicky to me and I’m not really sure what they actually added to the film – but overall, I loved it.

There was (good) wine involved.  And a cheese platter.  That's right – a cinema with cheese platters.

  • Having watched The Hobbit and re-watched the Lord of the Rings films, we had a bit of a geek-out and went to… Hobbiton!  I’ll write more about it in a future post, but suffice to say, it was a marvellous day out.

The ubiquitous Hobbiton shot.  Anybody home?

  • And finally, I’d just like to share this hilarious little gecko* that was just chilling out in his display case at Auckland Museum when we visited.  I think it sums up the wonderful NZ attitude pretty well.

What's up, bru?

What made you smile this week?

*So… I got so distracted by the actual gecko and its little pose that I forgot to note the actual species…  I think it might be a Northland green gecko (Naultinus grayii), but I’m not 100% sure about that.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Sunday Smiles, Travel

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!

16 Comments

Filed under Ramblings

Golden kiwifruit pavlova

New Zealand’s most renowned dessert is probably the pavlova.  Incidentally, Australians also claim the pavlova…  Awkward.  You’d be surprised at the amount of argument that goes on between the two countries about who invented pavlovas, although both agree that it was to honour the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova when she visited Australasia in the 1920s.  Since I live in New Zealand, I’ll run with the Kiwi version.  Now, I have a little confession: despite being here for eight months, I’ve never actually eaten a pavlova.  Shocking, I know.  The perfect opportunity to amend this terrible state of affairs came in the form of AlphaBakes, which is hosted by Caroline Makes this month.  The special letter is “P” – P for… pavlova.  No-brainer.  Since I’m upholding the Kiwi version of the pavlova story, I figured that I might as well go for the most appropriate-sounding topping possible: kiwifruit.

Now if you’re thinking that those kiwifruit are looking rather yellowish, then you’d be perfectly correct because I used golden kiwifruit.  I’d never heard of golden kiwifruit until I read my New Zealand guide book – I’d only ever come across the standard green ones before, and I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of green kiwifruit.  But golden kiwifruit, oh my goodness, they’re delicious.  I’m a huge fan.  I find that they’re much more flavourful than their green counterparts, and sweeter, too, which I much prefer.  I buy a box nearly every week, and am building up quite a collection of kiwi spoons (plastic spoons with a cutting bit on the handle so that you can slice the kiwi in half with the knife part and scoop out the flesh with the spoon part – genius).

Kiwifruit are one of the few fruits in season at the moment (that I know of), so I’m also submitting this recipe to Simple and in Season, hosted by Feeding Boys and a Firefighter this month.  It’s also a super-simple dessert to prepare – literally just throw all the ingredients (ok, maybe not throw them, but place them) into a bowl, let the electric whisk do all the work and then pop it into the oven (the meringue, not the electric whisk).  Then just top with whipped cream and fruit and ta-da, you’re done!  Simple as.  Slicing it, on the other hand, isn’t quite as straightforward.  I mean, whoever thought that slicing a meringue would be a good idea?  I found it difficult to make a perfectly clean cut through the fruit, whipped cream and meringue.  I think little individual pavlovas would be far easier to serve, so I’ll try that next time.  Thankfully, shoddy slicing doesn’t affect the taste, and this golden kiwifruit pavlova was rather scrumptious.  Extremely sweet though, so a small slice was enough for me.

Golden kiwifruit pavlova

Serves 8-10
Slightly adapted from A Treasury of New Zealand Baking

It’s very important for the mixing bowl and electric whisk beaters to be clean of any grease and thoroughly dry or the egg whites won’t cooperate.  If you’re not confident making meringue, age the egg whites in a jar in the fridge for a few days – this will increase the protein ratio which makes apparently makes the white whip easier.  The meringue will keep for a couple of days on its own so it can be made in advance the day before and then topped with the cream and fruit just before serving.  The pavlova won’t keep very well so is best eaten the same day.

Ingredients

For the meringue:
350g caster sugar
2 egg whites (I had about 65g total), room temperature
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp white wine vinegar
½ tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp boiling water

For the topping:
5-6 golden kiwifruit (or green)
200 ml NZ pure cream (or whipping cream)
1-2 tbsp icing sugar

Directions

To make the meringue:
1.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C and place a rack in the centre of the oven.  Line an baking tray with baking paper.  Draw a circle of 23cm in diameter in the middle of the baking paper and flip the baking paper over so that you can see the circle through it.

2.  Add all the meringue ingredients to a large bowl, adding the boiling water last.  Immediately whisk for 10-12 minutes with an electric whisk on high speed until shiny with stiff peaks.  Spoon into the circle on the baking paper and spread it evenly with a spatula, smoothing it as much as possible.

3.  Bake for 10 mins, reduce the heat to 150°C/fan oven 130°C and bake a further 45 mins.  Turn off the heat and allow the meringue to cool in the oven for at least an hour (overnight is fine).

To assemble:
4.  When ready to serve, peel and slice the kiwifruit and set aside.  Carefully peel the baking paper off the bottom of the meringue and transfer to a serving plate.

5.  Whip the cream and icing sugar together until stiff and spread it over the top of the meringue, smoothing the top with a spatula.  Top with the sliced kiwifruit and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

9 Comments

Filed under Recipes, Sweet Foods

Sunday Smiles: A last Olympic huzzah!

I spent most of this week rather wiped out from the tummy bug that ambushed me last weekend – an entire day of vomiting and not eating much for two days really does floor you.  I didn’t have enough energy (nor the desire) to cook something more complicated than plain pasta until Tuesday evening, and even then my energy only extended as far as chopping up some kumara and roasting it in the oven… and then adding it to pasta.  Being ill is miserable.  And if I barely had the energy to cook, I certainly didn’t have enough energy to bake.  No baking for an entire week.  Sad times.  Luckily, in an unusual fit of organisation, I had this week’s blog posts prepared, and there were quite a few things that brightened up the week.

Here are my Sunday Smiles for this week:

  • The third season of Downton Abbey has started!  Huzzah!  Yes, it’s rather ridiculous, and yes, some of the plot points are dubious, but it’s utterly addictive and I’m hooked.  I won’t give anything away in case you haven’t watched it, but it looks like Season Three is shaping up to be just as addictive as its predecessors.
  • I’ve heard whispers that strawberries are very nearly in season here…  I’m beyond excited.  I adore strawberries.
  • New Zealand offered the perfect antidote to any Olympics and Paralympics withdrawal symptoms this week with the Gold medal ceremony for Valerie Adams (women’s shot put).  The original winner from Belarus was caught doping, so Valerie Adams, who also won Gold in Beijing, was upgraded from Silver medallist to Gold medallist.  After some delays with getting the Gold medal back (apparently) and further delays whilst Valerie Adams was participating in other competitions, an official medal presentation ceremony was finally held on Wednesday evening here in Auckland.  The Sky Tower was lit in gold for the occasion.

  • But that’s not all.  This was the first ever Olympic Gold medal ceremony to be held on NZ soil, so the Kiwis went all out and ended it with seven minutes of fireworks simultaneously in Auckland and Wellington.  Can you imagine if NZ actually hosted the Olympics?!  It would be amazing.  Not to mention hilarious – my favourite part of the ceremony, which I must admit resembled more of a school prize-giving than the very official London Olympic ceremonies, was the part where the “MC” thanks Auckland’s mayor for having an easier to pronounce name than the Tongan royals present.  I kid you not.  You can watch the ceremony here in case you missed it or just want to listen to Kiwi accents (there are several speeches at the start, so the actual medal presentation part starts around 31:30, and the Auckland fireworks at around 45:00).  I bundled up warm and went down to the Waterfront to watch the fireworks, which were beautiful.

  • On a more sobering note, I heard about Operation Sugar this week, which aims to provide birthday cakes (baked by volunteer bakers) for critically ill children in NZ.  I think this is a fantastic idea, although from what I understand (I need to read the information email properly) cakes need to be able to feed 40 people which might be a little past my abilities, so I’m not sure whether I can really commit yet.  But I absolutely do want to spread the word!!!  So if you’re a baker in NZ and you’re interested, head over to their facebook page for more information.
  • The iPhone 5 and the new iOS release seem to have been the big tech news this week.  I haven’t upgraded to iOS 6 yet (I was going to but then got distracted and forgot about it), but from what I’ve heard the new Apple Maps app is dreadful.  There’s a whole tumblr dedicated to it (of course): The Amazing iOS 6 Maps.  Whilst very amusing, I’m not sure how keen I am to update because I use the Google Maps app a lot.
  • You may have noticed that I have a slight Instagram addiction…  If you also share my over-enthusiasm for Instagram, you might appreciate the Instagram song which Craig sent me this week.
  • And finally, this meme made me laugh about 56 times more than it should have…  Don’t judge my sense of humour.  Thank you Emma for brightening up my week no end – alpaca lunch next time we go for a picnic.  In the meantime, I think I’ll be printing this out on Monday and pinning it next to my desk.  (Not sure of the original source)

What made you smile this week?

4 Comments

Filed under Sunday Smiles

Tamarillo time!

I don’t think I’d ever encountered tamarillos, also known as tree tomatoes, until about a month ago.  I certainly don’t remember seeing them in shops in Europe, although I’ve never looked for them, so perhaps I just didn’t notice.  Much like feijoas, another fruit I’ve discovered since moving here, tamarillos are originally from South America but grow well in NZ and are very popular here.  They’re in season from April to November, so I’ll be submitting today’s recipe to the Simple and in Season blog event, which is back home over at Fabulicious Food! this month.  Tamarillos look pretty cool inside with red skin, yellowy-orange flesh and black seeds.  Case in point (you may recognise these if you follow me on Instagram), although these ones have all been skinned:

Pretty funky, right?  I first tried a tamarillo when one of my labmates brought a bag in from her garden several weeks ago.  Which is good because I wouldn’t really have known how to eat them or what to do with them otherwise.  They’re fairly bitter, so apparently they’re often poached in a sugar syrup before eating or very commonly used in chutneys.  That said, they are edible fresh, too, but I think that comes down to a matter of taste.  However you choose to eat them though, make sure to remove the skin because apparently it’s foul (I took everybody’s word for it).  Just cut them in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon if eating fresh (the seeds are fine to eat).

Back when it was feijoa season, I borrowed several NZ baking books from the library since I didn’t really know what exactly to do with them.  Conveniently, said books also contained tamarillo recipes which, in a moment of foresight, I also noted down.  When I was browsing through them to figure out what to do with my tamarillo impulse buy from the farmers’ market, a recipe for tamarillo and walnut cake jumped out at me.  I freaking love walnuts so I was all over this recipe.  The only problem: it was a fairly brief recipe.  The ingredients listed ‘cooked tamarillos’ which didn’t help me much with my fresh tamarillos, but after consulting the internet and a little successful experimentation, I ended it up with cooked tamarillos, which then turned themselves into a rather scrumptious tamarillo and walnut cake.

The not-overly-informative recipe also failed to specify the size of cake tin to use.  Just a minor detail.  I clearly picked one that was a little too large so the cake ended up a little thinner than I’d have liked, but that’s really just a pernickety presentation issue and luckily doesn’t affect the taste.  Based on their bitterness, I wasn’t too sure how tamarillos would work out in baked goods, but actually the tamarillo flavour wasn’t quite as strong as I was expecting, and there’s no trace of bitterness whatsoever.  I love that the walnutty taste comes through really well, and is well balanced by the lemon icing.  Basically, I really enjoyed this cake (and so did the lab, my trustee taste-testers) and if you happen across some tamarillos and are unsure what to do with them, give this a go!  I’m also submitting this cake to this month’s AlphaBakes challenge which is being hosted by Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker.  This month’s random letter is “T” like tamarillo, which is a rather marvellous coincidence since I actually bought the tamarillos before reading the challenge.

Tamarillo & walnut cake

Serves 6-8
Adapted from A fruit cookbook

Once the tamarillos have been cooked, do taste one to check that they aren’t too bitter.  If they are, drain them. sprinkle with a little sugar and sit for ten mins or so before using.  I used a 24cm cake tin but the came out much thinner than I would have liked, so I’d suggest using a 20cm cake tin, or even an 18cm one to get a thicker cake.  If using a 24cm cake tin as I did, do watch that it doesn’t over-bake.  The icing is optional, but adds a delicious touch.  You could also use a simple lemon drizzle icing if you prefer.

Ingredients

For the cooked tamarillos:
4 or 5 tamarillos (about 220g, gives about 200g when cooked)
½ lemon
2 heaped tbsp caster sugar (more if using red tamarillos)

For the cake:
50g shelled walnuts, plus extra handful to decorate
185g all-purpose flour
1¾ tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
2 eggs
100g unsalted butter
180g light brown sugar
40g mixed candied peel

For the icing:
55g unsalted butter
250g icing sugar
1 unwaxed lemon
1-2 tsp cream

Directions

To cook the tamarillos:
1.  Place the tamarillos in a heat-proof bowl and pour boiling water over them.  Allow to sit for 2-3 mins, then skin them, starting by lopping off the stalk with a sharp knife and peeling off the rest of the skin (the skin peels away very easily once started).  Slice the skinned tamarillos and place in a medium-sized saucepan with the sugar and lemon juice.  Add enough water to barely cover the fruit, cover the saucepan and gently simmer until the fruit is soft (this took about 15 mins for me).  Remove the cooked tamarillo slices and drain them well before chopping up (you should have about 190g cooked tamarillos).  Set aside.

To make the cake:
2.  Butter a 20cm round cake tin.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C.

3.  Roughly chop all of the walnuts and toast them in a frying pan over low heat until fragrant.  Toss frequently and be careful that they don’t burn.  Set aside to cool.

4.  Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into a medium-sized bowl.  In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork.  In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Whisk in the eggs until well incorporated.

5.  Alternate between stirring in some of the flour mixture and some of the chopped tamarillos.  Then stir in the peel and 50g of the chopped toasted walnuts.  Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake for 1-1¼ h, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean (if using a 24cm cake tin like I did, start checking after 45 mins).  Leave the cake in the tin for 15 mins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing:
6.  Once the cake is cool, make the icing.  Beat together the butter and icing sugar.  Once well incorporated, whisk in the zest and juice of the lemon.  Mix in the cream to reach the desired consistency.  Pour icing over the fully cooled cake, smooth if necessary using a palette knife or spatula and top with the remaining toasted chopped walnuts.

Enjoy!

16 Comments

Filed under Recipes, Sweet Foods

Feijoa & hazelnut muffins

One of the things that I love most about moving to a new country is discovering new fruit and vegetables.  I’ve spent the last six weeks enthusiastically discovering the feijoa, a fruit which is completely new to me.  Feijoas aren’t actually native to New Zealand – they originate from Brazil* – but they seem to grow very well here and are very popular and many people seem to have feijoa trees in their gardens.  I read somewhere that they are known as pineapple guavas in the rest of the world, but I’m not sure what parts of the world that would be, since I’ve never seen them anywhere else.  And nor have any of the other international students in the lab, including the South Americans.  Have you ever come across them before?

Feijoas fall off the tree when they are ready to eat – how convenient is that?  The flesh is quite firm, with a texture that reminds me a little of a grainy pear, but more pleasant, and the pulp bit in the middle is well… rather pulpy.  I’m terrible at descriptions (in case you hadn’t realised), and I’ve been struggling to describe the flavour, but I’ll do my best.  It’s like a slightly sweeter version of an apple, but with a subtle hint of strawberry.  Which I realise sounds a little odd, but I think that’s the closest that I can get (I would make such an appalling oenologist).  They’re utterly delicious.  To eat them, you cut them in half and scoop out the flesh and pulp, leaving the skin.  You can also bake and cook with them, so I borrowed a feijoa cookbook from the library (because I’m super cool like that) and decided to make muffins.

The only problem with feijoas is that they’re only in season from the beginning of April until the end of May, so you have to make the most of them whilst you can!  I actually made these muffins with the very last feijoas of the season, as I’ve been too busy concentrating on eating them fresh for the last six weeks.  Luckily, feijoas are supposed to freeze very well, so I’ve got some in the freezer to bake with over winter.  Perhaps that’s the best tactic – eat them fresh whilst you can, then bake with the frozen ones when you can no longer eat them fresh!  As feijoa season is only just coming to a close, I’m submitting these feijoa and hazelnut muffins to the Simple and in Season blog event for May, which is celebrating its first birthday this month!  The blog event was started by Ren at Fabulicious Food and is being hosted by Urvashi over at The Botanical Baker this month.

The muffins have a surprise dollop of cream cheese in the middle, similar in concept to the pumpkin and cream cheese muffins that I made a while ago, but the cream cheese didn’t hold its shape and sort of melted into the muffin, leaving a small cavity in the middle of the muffin (see the photo at the bottom of the post).  I’m not sure why it happened – perhaps the cream cheese here is different, or perhaps the oven was too hot – and whilst they were very tasty with the tartness of the cream cheese perfectly cutting through the sweetness of the feijoa, it looks a bit odd when you bite into the muffins and there’s a hole in the middle.  I made a couple without the cream cheese in the middle and they were just as delicious, so I’d say that the cream cheese centre is optional (though recommended if you can deal with them being slightly less presentable).  The flavour of the feijoas really permeates the muffins, which I love – you can taste their subtle sweetness, but it’s not overwhelming – and I also love the slightly crunchy topping.  I’m totally into hazelnuts at the moment, so I substituted them in for the walnuts that were in the original recipe, and the flavours worked wonderfully together.  So if you ever happen across some feijoas and aren’t sure what to do with them, I’d strongly suggest tasting one and then baking these muffins!

Feijoa & hazelnut muffins

Makes 13-14 muffins
Adapted from The Feijoa Recipe Book

To toast the hazelnuts, spread them out on a baking tray, place in an oven pre-heated to 180°C and roast for 10 min, until they smell toasty (be sure to keep an eye on them so they don’t burn).  Rub the hazelnuts in a clean tea towel to remove most of the skins, and allow to cool fully before using.  The cream cheese filling is optional, though I do recommend it if you can deal with having a little cavity in the middle of your muffins.  Frozen feijoas would work well for this recipe, although thaw them out before using.

Ingredients

350g feijoas
230g all-purpose flour
100g caster sugar
3 rounded tsp baking powder
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
40g unsalted butter
1 egg
185ml milk
½ tsp vanilla extract

Cream cheese filling (optional):
120g cream cheese
40g icing sugar

Topping:
40g toasted hazelnuts
60g soft brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Directions

1.  Line a muffin tin with 14 liners or set out 14 silicone liners on a baking tray.  Pre-heat the oven to fan 190°C.

2.  Prepare the cream cheese filling in a small bowl by whisking the cream cheese with the icing sugar until smooth.  Set aside.

3.  Peel the feijoas and finely chop them (the pulp can make this a bit fiddly.  They don’t have to look presentable though, so don’t worry too much as long as they’re in small pieces).  Set aside.

4.  Sift the flour, caster sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt into a large bowl.  Stir together.

5.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan on low heat or in the microwave.  Lightly beat the egg in a medium-sized bowl.  Add the milk and vanilla extract and mix well.

6.  Add the wet ingredients and the melted butter to the dry ingredients and fold together with a large metal spoon until just combined (the batter should still be a bit lumpy, with some flour still visible).  Gently fold in the chopped feijoas.

7.  Transfer about half a tablespoon of batter to each muffin liner or mould (make sure that the batter covers the bottom, but that there is still enough left to cover the cream cheese layer).  Add a dollop of the cream cheese mixture in each liner on top of the feijoa layer.  Split the remaining feijoa batter between the liners, making sure to completely cover the cream cheese layer.  For the topping, mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a ramekin.  Roughly chop the hazelnuts and sprinkle over the muffins, followed by the cinnamon sugar.

8.  Bake for 20-25 mins until golden and well risen.  Allow to cool in the tins for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!

* I have also read that feijoas originate in Chile.  But since the Chilean in our lab says she’s never heard of or seen them in Chile, I’m rather more inclined to believe that they’re from Brazil.  The word “feijoa” also looks more Portuguese than Spanish to me (though I am neither a linguist nor an etymologist).

3 Comments

Filed under Recipes, Sweet Foods, Travel

Anzac Day

Today (the 25th of April) is Anzac Day, the New Zealand (and Australian) equivalent to Remembrance Day in the UK or the Armistice in France.  97 years ago today the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landed in Gallipoli at dawn, which marked the start of a campaign that, like so many of the campaigns of WWI led to huge losses of life on both sides.

Since WWII, Anzac Day is associated with remembering all those who have lost their lives in military service for their country.  The commemorations began this past weekend with a projection of a 12-minute film of archival footage and photographs from the 24th New Zealand Infantry Battalion which was established during WWII, and served in North Africa, Greece and Italy.  The film was dedicated to the 522 men who lost their lives serving in the battalion between 1940-1945, and was shown on Saturday and Sunday evening, projected onto the walls of the Auckland War Memorial Museum, which was lit in poppy red for the occasion.

On Anzac Day itself, there is an outdoor Dawn Service held at the Auckland Cenotaph, which is just in front of the museum.  I think that there are Dawn Services all across NZ (and Australia), but Auckland is the largest in the country, and I think it is also televised.  This service is very much a military affair, with the flags of the three Forces flying on the Cenotaph.  After the service, the little paper poppies that many people choose to wear are then pinned to crosses or just lain on the Cenotaph in memory of family members who have served.  Later in the morning there is also a Civic Service where the military flags are replaced by the New Zealand and Australian flags and the Union Jack (because the ANZAC forces fought under the Union Jack), and wreaths are laid by community groups, religious groups, the various forces and many foreign representatives.  Veterans are present at both services, and march alongside currently serving members of the NZ military, and this year there were members of the Australian Navy present as well.  Throughout the day the museum is open to the public for free, and there are various tours through the war memorial galleries.

A friend and I decided to go to the Dawn Service, and we duly turned up at 5am in order to get a fairly good view of the proceedings, which started at around 5:30am.  Despite the horrific time at which I had to roll out of bed (I’m not really a morning person), it was definitely worth it – I found the service very moving – and we actually spent most of the day at the museum.  I don’t have any links to the NZ or Australian military whatsoever, but I wanted to go partially because I don’t really know anything about the ANZAC forces, and partially because it is an important occasion in the country that is now my home, but also as a mark of respect to those who sacrificed their lives in wars (both WWI and WWII) that didn’t really directly affect NZ (as far as I can tell).  These young men died so dreadfully far from home, fighting for the freedom that I have always had the luxury of enjoying without question, and which I often take for granted.  I apologise if this isn’t all that coherent (I was up at 4am after all…) but I hope you understand what I’m trying to say.  I’ve rambled more than enough by this point, so I’ll finish off this post with various photos from the memorial film projection over the weekend and today’s commemorations.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Lest we forget.

3 Comments

Filed under Ramblings, Travel

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!

7 Comments

Filed under Ramblings, Travel

How to unintentionally forget that it’s Valentine’s Day

You may (or may not) be glad to know that I survived my slightly epic 30h journey of over 20,000km without any problems (which is distinctly unusual), which means… Hello from New Zealand!!!

Small confession: being able to type that is really quite satisfying.  I feel that my first blog post from New Zealand should be something super exciting, but I’m afraid I’ve spent the three days that I’ve been here just finding my way around the area that I’m currently staying, familiarising myself with the university campus and doing really unexciting things like setting up a bank account and other admin-y type stuff.  However, trips to the bank don’t make for the most riveting of blog posts.  Alternatively, I could just upload some really pretty pictures of my new surroundings, but I’m afraid things are a bit limited in the pretty pictures department.  I’m finding the light quite difficult to work with here (look at me sounding all technical and like I know what I’m talking about.  I really don’t.) – it seems incredibly bright, even when the weather is overcast, resulting in some very over-contrasted photos.  Basically, I just need to get used to it (and maybe learn to use my camera properly), but in the meantime here’s a glimpse of the clock tower, a symbol of the University of Auckland:

I’m going to be unoriginal and talk about Valentine’s Day (please don’t groan and go off in the huff) since that’s today.  Which you totally knew, right?  You didn’t forget?  No?  Well, I did.  I totally forgot that it was Valentine’s Day today.  Not that I have any particular reason to remember, but since most of the shops in Edinburgh have had obnoxiously pink and/or red, heart-filled, fluffy vomit-inducing window displays since the beginning of January, it’s not something that I would have expected to happen.  My general view on Valentine’s Day is that it’s a completely overly-commercialised occasion that is stressful for everybody whether you’re in a relationship or not, and why does there have to be a designated day to declare your love for somebody anyway?  What about the rest of the year?  Some supremely awkward situations at school haven’t helped my general dislike of the day either.  So how does one go about accidentally forgetting?

  1. Move to a new country where you don’t know anybody, arriving four days before Valentine’s Day.  A country that involves a 12-13h time difference with the countries that your most pro-Valentine’s Day facebook friends live in is best (or just avoid facebook, but let’s be realistic).
  2. Get super distracted by the fact that it’s summer, which means that it’s warm (currently 23°C to be precise – please don’t hate me if you’re somewhere cold) and fairly sunny.  This is particularly effective if you’ve just moved from Scotland and haven’t seen anything resembling warm and sunny for… about four years.
  3. Schedule your very first meeting with your MSc supervisor for the morning of Valentine’s Day, in the hope that you’ll find out where you’ll be based so you can start looking for somewhere to permanent live.  Stress out about not having read enough papers, not having read them more in depth (it’s a well-known fact that the least read section of any paper is the methods section), not really understanding most some of the physics involved.
  4. Decide that you’ll need to get some basic physics books out of the library and revise electricity.  Remember that you can’t get books out because the International Office won’t give you your student card until you have a permanent address or if that’s really not possible, then a NZ mobile phone number.  Because clearly international students arriving and staying in temporary accommodation organised by the University itself until they’ve found somewhere to live must be a really rare case…not.  Get annoyed about the lack of logic.
  5. Get excited at the prospect of picking up your shiny new phone, knowing that it won’t freeze for two minutes whenever you open Twitter…  Get excited at the prospect of having a NZ phone which means you can access Twitter again whilst out and about (realising that you have a minor Twitter addiction is optional).
  6. Notice a huge gift basket that includes a large, very fluffy, baby pink, ugly stuffed toy being delivered this morning whilst people-watching drinking your coffee.  Wonder why somebody would have such bad taste and then finally remember that it’s Valentine’s Day.  Then get distracted and stress out a bit more about your upcoming supervisor meeting and potential lack of preparation.
  7. Go to the meeting with your supervisor, who turns out to be really nice.  Worry because there appears to be no door to the building, but then find it round the back.  Discover that “meeting” means a walk-and-talk as he delivers a piece of paper at the other end of the campus and then stopping at a café for coffee on the way back to discuss potential projects.  Whilst sitting on the terrace (I’m not complaining).  Briefly wonder if this is a legit university, then just go with it.
  8. Stress out a bit because you still don’t know where you’ll be based, although at least your supervisor is very comprehensive of the situation and agrees that it would be a good idea to just assume Auckland and start looking anyway.
  9. Go pick up new phone and get terribly distracted by it (ooooo shiny).
  10. Get rained on a couple of times, but saved by the habit of always carrying an umbrella in your handbag (thanks Scottish weather).
  11. Manage to convince the International Office to give you your student card (hurrah!).  See a girl with a rose in a brown paper bag – the brown paper bag looks like it should contain a bottle of gin rather than a rose.  Debate to yourself which you would have preferred: rose vs gin (the queue at the International Office was really long and I got pretty bored…).  Incidentally, as much as I love roses, gin wins (if it’s good gin).
  12. Realise that you haven’t seen a single shop display that is pink, fluffy or full of hearts, and that the gift basket and rose-that-should-have-been-gin are the only two Valentine’s-related things you’ve seen during the entire day.  Conclude that New Zealand is clearly the place to be to forget about/ignore Valentine’s Day, and that you love the Kiwis for their minimum fuss attitude towards it.
  13. Walk past a massive hibiscus tree (bush?) on your way home, after another rain shower.  Revel in that wonderful almost-tropical post-rain shower smell.  Be happy.

Enjoy the rest of your day, whether you’re a Valentine’s fan or not!

2 Comments

Filed under Ramblings, Student Life

So it begins…

I’ve said all my goodbyes (with more than one resulting in a rather awkward-crying-on-public-transport situation) and this afternoon I’ll be beginning my slightly epic trip to New Zealand.  Epic in that it will take me 30 hours so I won’t arrive in Auckland until Saturday lunch time (NZ time – which is super late on Friday evening UK time).  Not epic in that I’m swimming there or something terribly sensational like that.

I thought I should procrastinate from packing by writing a blog post probably show some signs of life, so here are some of the things that I’m super excited about:

Long-haul flights – I love flying (let’s just skip over the whole environmental impact thing, ok?), but I’m a particular fan of long-haul.  I love that almost every airline has individual TV screens now, even in Economy, so you can choose what you want to watch (assuming you’re not stuck with the only faulty screen in the whole plane).  Except then there are too many options and I’m terribly indecisive…  I’m hoping The Muppets are on, but we’ll see.  I bet I end up watching a whole series of terrible films that I would never consider paying to go see at the cinema…

Being an expat again – Aside from the last four years of university, I’ve spent my whole life as an expat.  As strange as it may sound, I feel much more at home whilst living abroad than when living in the UK, one of my “home countries”.  I’ve missed being an expat so much, and I can’t wait to discover a new country, new customs and a new culture!!

New foods – I feel this is pretty self-explanatory – I write a food blog, so of course I’m excited about the prospect of new foods!  I can’t wait to discover new fruits and fish and just generally new dishes…  The food section was obviously the very first section that I read when I acquired my guide book.  I have my priorities right, don’t you know.

Being a student again – I only graduated in June, but in the intervening months I’ve really missed being a student.  As sad as it may sound, I’m rather excited about all the reading and learning that I’m going to have to do (not so much the stats that will inevitably rear their ugly heads).  I think I need to get out more…

The scenery – NZ just looks utterly stunning in all the photos and documentaries I’ve seen.  The dramatically beautiful landscapes remind me very much of Norway.  The visa in my passport informs me that I’m there to study, but I hope that I’ll be able to visit some of NZ and see all the beauty for myself.  You can probably expect some Toothy’s Travels posts in the nearish future…

Rugby – I’ve wanted to see the All Blacks play for a long time (in real life).  Even if they beat France at the World Cup…  So fingers crossed that that happens!  I’m also hoping that the general love of rugby that seems to permeate across the country means that the 6 Nations matches are shown on TV.

Middle Earth – I’m quite enthusiastic about Lord of the Rings (I love both the books and the films), so going to NZ is totally exciting, even if Auckland wasn’t exactly the centre of filming.  Oh, you were under the illusion that I’m ultra cool?  Oh…  Well, that’s that illusion dispelled then.  Bonus points to anyone who spotted the LOTR reference in the title of this post, although I’d like to reassure you that I have no intention whatsoever of fighting orcs.  Or fighting anything for that matter.

NZ wine – I’m really not familiar with NZ wine, so I’m excited to discover it properly (because as we know, I’m quite partial to wine…), but whenever I say that to friends who actually know about wine they generally give me a pitying look that effectively says “good luck with that…”  Doesn’t bode too well…  I’m hoping that it’s just a case of NZ keeping its best wines for the domestic market and exporting the not-so-great stuff.  Any suggestions for wines to taste/vineyards to visit are obviously welcome.

And in the interest of balance (I seem to have come over all BBC), here are a few things that I’m rather less excited about, but still turning into positives:

The time difference – NZ is currently 13 hours ahead of the UK, so the impending jet-lag will probably be marvellous fun to deal with, I’m sure…  The difference will make watching the 6 Nations rather interesting – I can’t wait for the matches that are on at 4am on a Monday morning…  At least I won’t be late for wherever I’m supposed to be/whatever I’m supposed to be doing on said Mondays.  No promises for the rest of the week though.

Three winters in a row – It’s the end of the summer in NZ, so after winter in Europe, I’ll get winter in NZ, followed by winter in Europe again at the end of my course.  Planning fail.  Though on the plus side, winter = mulled wine…  And I feel NZ winters sound rather preferable to European winters.  In fact, they’re probably better than Scottish summers.

Downton Abbey – The problem with moving around is that TV series are always at different stages in different countries, so I don’t usually get too into them.  I’m totally addicted to Downton Abbey though – I rather hope that the series has made it to NZ and that it’s not too behind either.  Once again, I clearly have my priorities in the right place…

I don’t have anywhere to live (yet) – Because I won’t know exactly what I’ll be doing until I’ve met my supervisor (hopefully next week), I don’t know whether I’ll be based in Auckland or Leigh…  So I haven’t been able to look for anywhere to live yet.  Panic panic.  But I do have two weeks’ temporary accommodation organised when I arrive, so at least I won’t have to sleep under a bridge (for now).  Hopefully that will be enough time to find something decent…

So, on that wonderfully positive note, I’m off to Middle Earth New Zealand!  Exciting stuff!!  Needless to say, I’m not sure how much blogging will happen over the next few weeks as I sort out my living situation (minor detail) and settle in, but do bear with me!

Wherever you are, enjoy the rest of your day!

PS – Sorry for the lack of photos in this post.  I’m actually supposed to be packing, so ya…

7 Comments

Filed under Ramblings, Travel