Archive for June, 2011

Helping the Mama

I changed our bed today. Yoshi helped…

No – I do NOT iron the sheets… pillowcases – yes… sheets? NO!

His tail was swishing, his eyes wild… and I wish you could hear the noise he was making!

All tooth and claw! Everything quivering!

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Shaker Lemon Pie

My sister brought me some lemons. We have a tree, but it wasn’t well last year and though it looks much better now, there is not much in the way of fruit on it. Sue’s tree is struggling to cope with all its fruit.

I love lemon desserts and I had read about Shaker Lemon Pie on Tom’s blog here : www.tallcloverfarm.com/848/shaker-lemon-pie-recipe-sweet-sour-delicious, which sounded really good and I wanted to give it a go.  I had bought this pastry some time ago. On my new Primal diet, grains are not a good thing (nor is sugar!), but as you know, I can’t bear throwing away good food …

At least, I hoped  it would be good! 🙂

I sliced the lemons thinly with my mandoline that Kyoko had bought for me in Japan, then, after I picked out all the lemon pips –  I added the sugar and salt and left the mixture overnight to soften.

Because I was using gluten-free pastry and I wasn’t sure how long it would take to cook, I blitzed the lemons with my hand-held blender, then added the eggs, butter and flour (I used cornflour).

I rolled the pastry out – or rather I tried to roll the pastry out. It didn’t really want to roll, so I ended up pressing it out with my fingers… I filled the pastry shell with the lemon mix and splodged bits of flattened pastry on top.

I had too much lemon filling, so put it into a dish and cooked it as it was…

The smell as it cooked was amazing!

And it tasted WONDERFUL! 🙂

The pastry is not like a flakey pastry with gluten in it. It isn’t even close. But I’ve been doing this long enough now to know better. As something to put a pie-filling in – it’s pretty good really! It cooks up crispy rather than flaky, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing 🙂

However, the real star is the filling. Thank you Tom! I’m sure I will make this again, but next time I don’t think I will bother with the pastry. The custard cooked up beautifully ‘naked’ – if you know what I mean. I didn’t grease the dish I put it in – I would do that next time. Tom describes it as sweet-sour-delicious, and he is quite right! The most difficult part of this recipe is picking the pips out of the lemon slices 🙂

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What would you do?

Our smoke alarm went off early this morning. 12:45am.

No smoke, no fire – perhaps a battery going flat? Whatever…

The firemen who helped me fit the alarms said – if the alarm goes off, you have maybe 9 seconds to get out.

What would you save?

Assuming, of course, that my darlings are safe…

Other people have pictures of their children – this is what we have…

From left to right: Mooch, Newk and a pottery model of Newk, Newk, Newk (short for New Kat), Bella and Yoshi as babies, Mooch, Yoshi, Bella and Newk, Bella – my darlings

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Percy turned up at our house a couple of years ago. We had just lost our Bella – to cancer that hit so fast and was so furious that we were shocked and horrified.

We were not looking for another cat.

I tried to shoo him away. “Go way pussy cat – you don’t live here!”

He’d run, but not far – ducking under our house and coming back as soon as I was gone.

He was – and still is – a very big boy. But I soon noticed that he looked like a man who was sleeping rough – all crumpled and a bit smelly looking.

So I stopped shooing and started to make friends. At first all I could do was just sit outside on the deck – not make eye contact with him. I’d just talk to him quietly. I figured, if I could make him trust me – perhaps I could find him a new home.

Then I started feeding him. I left the food mid-way between us. He would dart out to get it and take a lump back under the house with him, then come out for another lump. This went on for weeks.

He had a really strange habit. He would blink his eyes really fast. I found out that when a cat loves you it will half-close his eyes at you. So, I looked at Percy and blinked slowly at him. He nearly fell over backwards in surprise. At last! Someone who understood that he was a good boy and worth loving. Our first breakthrough.

We made friends. I had him neutered and vaccinated. He moved into the house. We decided to call him Percy – Pussy Cat was  just not a suitable name for a boy of such dignity.

The first time he came and sat on my knee I was so thrilled. He sits on me every day – I brush him and he likes it. He never stays on my knee for long – and he has never been keen to be near Rick (unless there is food involved) – though he always sits in Rick’s chair, when Rick is at work.

We were watching tv last night. Rick got up to get the tv guide – quick as a flash, Percy got into his chair – and nearly got sat on!

Usually Rick just pushes him off. This time he picked Percy up and took him onto his knee – stroking his head and under his chin – which he loves.

Percy stayed there for half an hour – another breakthrough 🙂

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1 cup dry white wine

36 mussels – washed

625ml cream

4 garlic cloves

3/4 tsp salt

freshly ground black pepper

40g (3/4 cup) parmesan cheese

parsley to serve

Put the wine into a large pot and bring to the boil.

Tip in the mussels and steam uncovered until the shells open and the mussels are cooked.

Remove from the heat and tip into a large sieve, discarding the liquid.

Take the mussels out of the shells, keeping one half of the shell. Discard the beardy bits.

Put the cleaned, cooked mussels into the half shell and put the shells into a low-sided baking dish.

Pre-heat the oven to 200c.

Put the cream, garlic, salt and pepper into a small pot and bring the pot to the boil over a medium high heat.

Turn to a simmer and cook until the cream is reduced by half.

Use a potato masher to mash the garlic into the cream.

Put 2 – 3 tsp cream onto each mussel shell and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Bake 3 – 4 minutes (or you can grill them for a couple of minutes)

Serve sprinkled with fresh chopped parsley.

I’ve written this recipe as if you were going to have these as a nibbly thing. When I made this for dinner tonight I didn’t bother with putting them onto the shell. I just piled the cooked mussels into a shallow oven-proof dish, poured the cream over, sprinkled the cheese on top and bunged them in the oven.

We had these with rice and a green salad with a simple vinaigrette dressing.


These are rich and delicious, but also inexpensive. We are so lucky to have great mussels in NZ.

I’m a bit squeamish about shellfish sometimes – there are always bits in there that look pretty manky – it takes courage to eat them 🙂 – this recipe is good for wimps like me, because the creamy topping disguises the icky bits.

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I’m really enjoying wordpress. Some of the blogs I lurk on have been metioning that there are still problems with blogger not allowing comments. The only pest with wordpress is that I had HEAPS of draft posts on blogger, that didn’t transfer to wordpress when I shifted. If I’d known that I would have changed the ‘drafts’ to ‘posts’, switched, then edited them all back to ‘drafts’ again once they were here. HOWEVER, if that is the only thing I can find to complain about…

Talking about lurking – I found this blog www.tallcloverfarm.com via Ina’s (http://glutenfreedelightfullydelicious.com).

Tom writes about his garden, his beloved bulldogs and his life on Vashon Island in Washington State, USA. Tom’s blog is lovely – he writes so well. I’ve been lurking there lately – reading some of his past posts. He probably thinks he is being stalked – poor man! Anyway, reading one of the comments I realised that a book I had loved as a child had been written about the author Betty MacDonald’s life on Vashon Island. So I borrowed the book (Onions in the Stew) from Dad and have just finished re-reading it. Then I wanted to know more about the author and so googled her. I found that she had died very young (of cancer at only 49) and that made me so sad. Google has a lot to answer for!

To cheer myself up I looked at this for quite some time…

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This recipe was published recently in a newspaper – I forget which one. It looked good, so I put it aside to try later… as you do. Or as I do anyway!

The marinade blitzed up easily and smelled really good – fresh, citrusy. I thought if it tasted as good as it smells, we’re onto a winner…

4 cloves garlic – chopped

6 shallots – chopped – I used a small onion

4 tbsp finely chopped ginger

1/2 tsp ground aniseed – i used ground star-anise (I’m not sure if that is the same, but it was what I had)

2 stalks lemongrass – white bits only – sliced  – I used the stuff in a jar that comes pre-sliced

1 tsp ground turmeric

100ml coconut cream

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp grated palm sugar, or dark brown sugar

5 whole chicken legs, cut into half into thighs and drumsticks

Blitz everything except the chicken until smooth.

Combine chicken with marinade, mix well and marinate at least one hour, or overnight

Shake off the excess marinade, but reserve it.

Grill, bake or barbecue the chicken, brushing it with the reserved marinade as it cooks, until it is well browned and cooked through.

Serve with lime wedges, cucumber, tomatoes and rice – or avocado and home-grown coriander. This is a photo of the leftovers I ate for breakfast (it’s 10:30am). It is good, but needs a little more salt and sugar for my taste (or perhaps a little less turmeric – I don’t really like that stuff).

We” ll make it again! 🙂

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Promises, promises…

We are sitting here in the cold, remembering what we were doing last week… it rained…

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I love cool weather.

I love my slow-cooker.

I missed my spice cupboard when we were on holiday.

The original recipe, Spicy Beef, Potato and Capsicum Stew comes from Gourmet Stews and Mash – by Family Circle.

I changed it quite a bit.

SPICY BEEF STEW – I didn’t have capsicums…

1.5kg beef – I used a topside roast, which I cut into quite big chunks

4 cloves garlic – peeled and chopped

onion – peeled and chopped. I used the green part of two leeks – it hurts my feelings to throw away the green parts.

3 tsp paprika

1 tsp fennel seeds

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1 bay leaf

1 tbsp honey

1/2 cup red wine – I used Kim Crawford 2006 Pinot Noir (because we had it, and Rick doesn’t like Pinot Noir – so I was allowed to cook with it :-))

I put everything into the slow-cooker and mixed it with my (impeccably clean) hand

I cooked it on low for 4 or 5 hours, then I thickened it with a cornflour slurry (cornflour is not Primal – because corn is a grain and grains are not Primal – next time I would try using ground almonds to thicken it) I also added salt and pepper when I thickened it. The beef was cooked already, but Rick was late home, so I left the cooker on low.

We ate it with potatoes that I mashed with cream and butter, and a steamed cabbage/silverbeet combination.

The stew tasted as good as it smelled – all warm and comforting on a cold night. The spices were ‘warm’, rather than ‘spicy’.

The orginal recipes also called for 2 tbsp of brandy – which I forgot to add!; and suggested serving the stew with a splodge of sour cream on top – which would have been nice too.



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Before we left I did some research on eating gluten-free in Rarotonga… the results were not encouraging.

That is why we decided on the self-catering villa – so that, if it was too hard to find gluten-free food, that we would be able to buy food at the local supermarket and cook for ourselves.

A view of our Villa - taken from the hammock

It wasn’t difficult at all.  All the restaurants we ate at had at least some knowledge of what it meant to need to eat gluten-free. We cooked breakfast at our villa – bacon, eggs and most days fried potato – all cooked in butter.

Then we would go out for lunch. We always ordered a fish dish – tuna, waho, mahi mahi. My favourite was a dish called Ika Mata – fish marinated in lemon juice until ‘cooked’, then served in coconut cream with chopped up salad ingredients – delicious, fresh and zingy. We really enjoyed going out for lunch – the restaurants and cafes are almost always in a beach setting, so the views are so gorgeous – white sand, sea so blue you would just not believe it. It seemed a shame not to enjoy the views, which you can’t really do at night because it is too dark to see anything! 🙂 It doesn’t hurt that lunch meals are usually a little cheaper than dinner. The servings were huge – Rarotongans are large people 🙂 , and I was usually not able to finish my meal. I don’t usually eat breakfast – let alone a cooked breakfast, but Rick just loves a cooked breakfast.

We found we were unable to buy fish at the supermarkets which was disappointing – apparently fish is pretty scarce around the Cook Islands – most of what is caught goes to the restaurants first. So for dinners we bought mostly steak. The steak comes from NZ and is export quality. It is FABULOUS – it really sucks that we can’t get this quality of beef at supermarkets here. Food is expensive in Rarotonga, because most of it is imported from NZ – most of the usual crappy processed food is available and there are a few gluten-free products available.

For dinner we would fry the steak and have it with salad leaves and potatoes. We didn’t have any salad dressings – I didn’t think to bring any with me and we couldn’t bring ourselves to buy a huge jar of mayonnaise which we would then have to leave behind. We didn’t really miss the dressings at the time.

I didn’t make any attempt to follow my Primal diet. I was happy to just eat gluten-free. However, because we were eating simple food, I found that I was pretty much following the diet anyway. I ate some chocolate (Whittaker’s 72% Ghana Peppermint) and drank a couple of glasses of wine each night. I did not expect to lose weight – I ate an awful lot of food.

HOWEVER – when we got home and I changed out of my drawstring summer trousers into my winter-weight trousers that have a proper waistband, I found they were a bit looser… I measured my waist and I have lost another INCH!!!!!

I have decided I am never going to weigh myself again. I’m going to track my progress through the measurements. I am simply astonished that I have had this result. I’ve bought Mark Sisson’s book The Primal Blueprint and have just started reading it. This diet works. That is all I can tell you.

It is not a diet where you feel deprived. All the blogs about it say that if you feel like eating a piece of cake – eat a piece of cake. It won’t hurt you. Then for the next meal, just eat meat (or chicken or fish) and vegetables again. I love the idea that if I want it I can have it, and I don’t need to feel guilty. Mark Sisson has an 80/20 guideline – if you eat 80% Primal and 20% not Primal, the diet will work just fine for you – I can live with that 🙂

Salvador - having a drink

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