Thursday, June 30

Paris and Dining and Being Cooked For.

An afternoon of ambling. Mixed and matched stones was the footpath I pottered on; Bon Iver sang to me as the Eiffel Tower, tall and respectable and proud stood up ahead; and the Seine on the right directed me down along its edge of wide pathways tunneling under bridges. And then suddenly there is a man, and he is on his knees, down on those stones of all different shapes and sizes, and something is in his hands. He rises and looks in to my eyes, “pour vous,” he says with intention, but the words are relaxed there, in the air that smells like fresh water and cigarettes and that bouquet of foreign place that only comes about when the wind moves.

I flit my wrist because there’s something strange about this. I don’t know this man. I walk on curious and flattered at the same time. And then turn around because I remember something my father told me before I moved to Paris. “All the time,” he said, and he said it like this, as if the only criteria for this sort of behaviour was to be Parisian, “people will pretend to pick up jewelry off the pavement and give it to you as a present. But don’t take it from them because they’ll make you pay for it afterwards.”

Typical Parisian Park

As I turn, a woman in a long skirt with crinkled hair and gold dangling earrings is mouthing, “a petit cadeau” (a small present). She is on her knees in front of a group of tourists and has in her hands a twenty cent piece of treasure, which the tourists are thanking her for. I smile a little, wanting to warn them. If only they could hear the words of my father. I walk but then turn around again. The tourists have moved on but are looking down at what is in the small boy’s hands and the gypsy and her curled lips is coming back. One of the tourists reaches for her purse and takes out a few coins.

I face the river; a city filled with copious pockets of fools and then I realize something. I could have been one of them and in that moment, once again I knew, I was not out-of-the-ordinary.

In a city that doesn’t want to know your name; even amongst all the unwanted attention, the comments that may appear to be about you but are actually a message for every woman in the city telling them who to avoid; the lady down on the canal who wears sandals but holds high heals and if you look at her feet she will yell, “dégage!” and when you work in a job that never allows you to dine with the people you cook for, you can think you will fade away.

But then there is this reason for people living in and out of each other’s lives. Especially the living in. There is no way to fade when you come home to an apartment smelling of the lamb that roasts in New Zealand; another person who wants to dine with you; and this someone who understands that beetroot will always go well with French goats cheese.

And all I can think is that there is so much to introduce you to.

Sunday, June 26

A Breakfast Sweetened with Raspberries

Somewhere amongst the “hour’s [of] culinary employment” this week, I have had very little to do with the process my own food has undergone. It’s like that you know, when you work, breath, live and make your days amongst food in an industrial kitchen. At the restaurant this week I ate a small bowl of Japanese curry made with a shot of espresso and chocolate; a cold fillet of salmon left over from the plat du jour; green beans bathed in white sesame; home-made granola with raspberries; my new favourite salad of grated carrot, toasted sunflower seeds and vinagrette and the most all consuming, smooth and entirely unexpecting Italian dried, then soaked, then cooked beans called Borlotti. There will be more on these at a later date.

And then to top it all off, flatmate and I went to Les Enfants Perdu where we had a dish I have eaten twice now. It consists of prawns, cabbage, mushrooms and a nutty tomato sauce, and I tell you, every single flavour that touches the tongue was intentionally chosen to inspire its consumer. The combination of the bisque and sautéed cabbage leaves you in a space where all you desire to do is create something in your own kitchen, perhaps a little less complicated than a bisque, and that in an amateur’s sense, something that reflects the hands-on process in the creation of food.

Our menu from Les Enfants Perdu

This week could only leave this fellow eater in a state of there is only so much food one can eat, which has been prepared in an industrial kitchen, until food becomes a little less than engaging.

Considering I am a lover of the work involved in getting the results imagined from the preparing and cooking experience, there has been yearning for that process to occur in my kitchen this week.

With leftover tofu in the fridge last night, I got out my hand-held-processor and whipped up white sesame tofu mouse again to have on a slice of grilled aubergine and a bed of rocket. And then this morning, in a tumultuous desire for my hands only to be amongst my own food, I created this:

You must be a lover of sweetness in the morning. You must be a lover of working for your food. You must be lover of grating apples and chopping almonds and you must be a lover of the whacking of different fruits together to create new combinations of brilliance.

If you are one who doesn’t enjoy, or on this particular morning can not be bothered, tackling a hand-held grater with a green apple, which is surprisingly hard to conquer well, you could of course keep the raspberries but substitute everything else for fromage blanc or natural yoghurt. And without using your hands nearly at all, you can still get something as beautiful as this:

But in a desire to use your hands and work for your rice bowl, I give you this...

A Breakfast Sweetened with Raspberries

½ granny smith apple, grated
1 Tbsp desiccated coconut
6 almonds, roughly chopped
a handful of fresh raspberries
½ banana, thinly sliced
1 tsp, freshly squeezed orange
2 semi-dried or fresh dates, roughly chopped

Bang that all together in a bowl and mix very well to ensure the apple does not clump but is surrounding everything.

Monday, June 20

Making French food in France

It was Sunday. Enough said really. Except that it was colder than usual and there was rain, a lot of rain. And when the café downstairs doesn’t open until midday for brunch, making it impossible for you to hear knives slicing on plates or the chatter interrupted by sips of coffee, it doesn’t really encourage a morning of productivity. It has been through conversations I’ve had with home recently that has made me wonder if a decrease in productivity on at least one day of the week is rather necessary.

It is because of this that we found ourselves in a small square in the fifth, surrounded by someone playing music and bistros filled with people and espresso cups. There was a linking of arms, a sigh of relief, a comment of, ‘this is why we are in Paris,’ followed by a phrase I have used often, “Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon,” which is always followed by the response of friends licking their plates. There was a butcher, 200 grams of pure beef, a chorus of “Bonjour Mademoiselles,” and a slow walk back to the metro.

There is eating together and then there is cooking and eating together.

It is just big enough for two, this Parisian kitchenette. But she chopped in the dinning room anyway, and I browned the meat on the stove and we both stood over the casserole of simmering sauce and a couple of glasses filled with red wine four hours later. And then there were pistachio nuts, Roquefort, more red wine, whole roasted courgettes, and our casserole was out of its thick navy shell and on our plates to enjoy an evening with us of conversation and dancing. There will always be dancing when flatmate of the year and myself are living together.

This particular Sunday was Making French food in France and because we are on a budget here and forgot to buy bacon to make lardons out of, there was definitely the frequent absent minded holler of, “Never apologize!” in the spirit of the one who essentially initiated this evening for us.

Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon (for two)
Adapted from the original recipe

She calls for bacon fat. Essentially that is what you cook the rest of the meal in, the bacon rind melted down covering the base of your skillet. Because we forgot the bacon on our way home, almost creating a terrible situation of a nonfat, non-flavour-filled meal, we used the next best thing, French butter. There isn’t a ‘light’ option to this meal. If you don’t want to use fat well, then don’t make this because you’ll only offend a ridiculous amount of people; flatmate of the year, myself and Julia included.

The rule in my house (when I come to have my own house) is that licking your plates is entirely appropriate. It can only ever be considered as a compliment. I made this for a dinner party of six about a year ago and I had my entire table of guests holding their plates up to their mouths. I was a happy woman that day.

200 grams bacon, cut into lardons of 2cm squares. )If you don’t have bacon, the substitute is the 1 Tbsp of butter added at the end of cooking)
200 grams quality beef
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, cut in thin circles
1 Tbsp thyme
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp tomato paste
4 garlic cloves, diced
2 tsp flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 cups red wine

2 onions, cut in thin rings
10 mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp butter

Pre heat oven to 180°

Cut the rind off your bacon and sauté the rind with bacon until the bacon is no longer raw and a thin layer of fat is covering the bottom of your pan. With a slotted spoon take the bacon and rind out of the pan and place it in your casserole.

With a cloth or paper towel, dry each piece of beef. This is important because it encourages the meat to brown. In batches if necessary, brown your beef in the bacon fat. Using the same slotted spoon, lift the meat into the casserole. Sprinkle over 1 tsp of flour and ½ a tsp each of salt and pepper.

In the same pan, sauté the diced onion and carrot until just cooked. Pour the vegetables into the casserole dish. Sprinkle another tsp of flour and ½ tsp each of salt and pepper on top of the vegetables. Add your bay leaf (very important for flavour), 1 ½ Tbsp thyme, tomato paste and garlic. Pour over the red wine and top up with water until everything is just covered. Place in the oven for 2 ½ hours.

Regularly check the Bourguignon because every time I have made this I have needed to add more liquid near to the end of the cooking time.

With an hour and a half of cooking to go, start your onions and mushrooms separately.
In a wide pan add 1 Tbsp of butter, a splash of extra virgin olive oil and ½ Tbsp of either fresh or dried thyme. As the majority of you know by now, mushrooms need to be cooked in batches, somewhat like meat, otherwise they won’t brown and in a way, no caramelization occurs. Once the butter is foaming, add the mushrooms and toss to coat with the butter and thyme mixture. Sauté on medium heat until the mushrooms start to release some liquid, this is when you know they are cooked. Repeat until all the mushrooms are cooked and set them aside.

Heat oil in another or the same pan and once the oil is hot, and add the onion rings. Turn the heat down slightly and sauté the onions for around twenty minutes. They should be translucent and very limp. If they start to burn, turn the heat right down. Once ready, set them aside.

With 45 minutes of cooking to go, take the casserole dish out of the oven, check liquid levels (add some more water if it looks as though it is drying out) and add the extra onions and mushrooms. Mix well and return the dish to the oven for the last 45 minutes.

Take the casserole out and check to see if the meat is tender and close to falling apart. This is when you know it is ready. At this stage you can either take the vegetables and meat out of the dish and set them aside to continue with the sauce. Or, to reduce the quantity of dishes, keep the vegetables in the dish. Just make sure they don’t continue to cook on the stove for too much longer.
Add 1 Tbsp of butter to the casserole and simmer on the stove until the sauce has come to your desired consistency. Taste and season accordingly.

Friday, June 17

My Paris in the rain. Oh, France, you just don’t understand.

It’s my fault really. I should have remembered from the last time I lived in you France. That there’s this way people talk about you. It includes sayings like, “Not everything has to be that hard,” or, “It actually doesn’t have to take two months to open a bank account.” I’ve even heard, “Seriously, just call The States and ask them how they do it. Call China.”

You are a special kind of foreign. Part of me is pleased, that you don’t ever want to fit in. But then there’s this other part. I am so exhausted by you. By all the weird people you create. There’s only so many rough slanders one woman can take, there’s got to be a limit to the leering men sitting down on the park benches, eyes fixed on you. Why are you all rambling? Stop saying things that make others feel uncomfortable, stop walking past me and swaying into me as you grin and bare your yellow teeth with that fag hanging out of your mouth, don’t let your dogs near me. France, there’s only so long that you will get by on this myth that the rest of the world, who has only visited you for no longer than three weeks at a time, has believed.

And there’s more than that. I like your pastry, I do, you really know how to use flour with your hands, you get the necessity of chilled dough, it makes sense to you to use almond and sugar and butter and then to add raspberries, you really do get that and I’m not taking that away from you. But have you heard of cake? And I’m not talking about gateau; that thin brownie-like-sponge you make in a tart tin. It’s cake. A moist, dense, gluteness mass of flour and oil and sugar covered with a quality butter infused icing.

This is why there is a place here that must have read that New Zealand Woman’s Weekly cake book that every New Zealand mother in 1982 bought. The one with the butter cream icing and the cake train on the cover? Except that they are American at Sugarplum and they call icing, frosting, which is ok considering there is moist coconut cake with caramel butter cream icing layered through it three times. And you can get it with a coffee filled with milk and you can sit there for as long as you like and France, you just don’t get that.

But then there are times when you let it rain and the sky kind of turns a silver grey and there are less people on the pavement, the Seine starts to rush a little faster, the honking increases, there is a slight breeze and for some reason you draw very few people to walk along your river. And it is in these times, like today, that I see again how there actually isn’t a myth at all, that you really do possess something of what you claim to, that there is actually something about you that made us all flock here, to a city that doesn’t understand cake or efficiency.

Sugarplum Cake Shop
68 rue du Cardinal Lemoine,
75005 Paris

Wednesday, June 15

A special kind of passion

They don’t really tell you about this when you start. Perhaps they don’t consider it very significant, as if it doesn’t really matter if you loose a wee bit of the passion you had before you started. I have heard people talk about a special kind of passion. But no one is ever specific about what that passion actually is. Is it the experience of explosive flavour combinations in your mouth? Using your hands to make food? The creating of something new? The whirlwind of standing in a kitchen, every day, and then going home, putting your feet up and reminiscing on how quickly you moved about the pots and pans? Is it seeing people enjoying your food, them experiencing something new? Challenging people’s taste buds? What were they talking about?

Very good cheap cheese available from Franprix

Sometimes I just wish you could experience it. This feeling similar to no other, as if entering an industrial kitchen and staying there all day at that stove is actually a different world. Working with ingredients you can’t buy from a supermarket. And here in Paris; working with vegetables you can’t even buy in New Zealand. Choux roux; you either peal this with a knife, dice it and eat it raw through a salad or create a paste by using a food processor and then mixing it in a dish to add a hidden flavour. It’s fresh, not tart, the flavour a combination of celery and raw broccoli. But it’s good.

Sorry the picture is so small

These days are not drawn out, there is a clock on the wall above the knives but it is glanced at only from time to time with the response, “I can’t believe it’s already…” It makes home life a question of “couch or floor?” My legs have never been so tired in all my life. And more than that, you are surrounded by food every minute of the day. Your hands, elbows deep in water filled with small white button mushrooms, your hands covered with the dirt from which your vegetables grew in, and the juice of cucumbers and red peppers cling to your now soiled apron. And then everything is combined and cooked or mixed, plated and presented to the people who will pay for the experience of great taste in an environment they enjoy.

Baked croissant of soft cheese and tomato

Before I had entered this world, when I assumed the presence of food in my days to be something I would consistently take pleasure in and when there was no one to tell me about this bizarre way of life, I didn’t expect to loose interest in any one of my meals. I almost want to say it in a whisper, as if it’s not really that true, that it is only a reflection of this world sometimes, but there are moments when the thought of food leaves you a slight nonchalant. Which I still can't believe considering food can be displayed like this in France:

Perhaps the special kind of passion is a love, regardless of how many hours you are surrounded by food, you will always look forward to what you will next slice with your knife or pick with your fingers and pop into your mouth.

But it’s not gone. It’s still all inside of me. The desire to come home from that day of cooking things that I didn’t feel like eating at the time, and sitting down to a home-made meal, a me-made meal, has not gone away. Sometimes the desire for that next meal comes threaded through the desire for things to be just a little bit more simple.

Sunday, June 12

Imaginations, yearnings and hopefulness. And tofu.

It’s colder here. Last week never let us in on what these few days would hold. Pants, scarves, boots. Parisians have brought all these things out of their wardrobes again. I can see layers. We were waiting for summer. And we believed it was close. Ever since we were little we were told that that was how it was supposed to happen, that summer followed spring and so there is disappointment in the city this week.

This morning while I was watching the leaves outside my window, which were inappropriately green, I remembered how you told me the other day that you were exhausted from living in waiting. It was more than hanging around in front of an oven for a cake to rise; you were lingering for something that you wanted to come next. Yearning for this unknown that you believed would make you feel more grounded, feel more happiness or at least would just make you feel ok about everything that has happened and that is going to happen.

White Sesame Tofu Mouse hidden under aubergine

I think I had forgotten the day we spoke, that it is true about our imaginations, that we are very human in our thinking-things-up that seem wonderful, all-including and more definite. I am certain that somehow our imaginations are connected with this notion of waiting, because one follows the other. We imagine, sometimes we make steps towards its existence, and then we must wait for its reality to take place. But this waiting is for something that is so out of our control, that our yearning and pining for it to become real can sometimes create a small amount of pain, because in this moment, at this time with all that is happening around us, it is only our imagining.

Some one very amazing the other day reminded me to attain hopeful habits. And so what I am saying is that even though there are some spaces in life without any particular assurance, for now, as you live still waiting for those things which you already love, those things which are right and good, but the reality of them still remains unknown to you, in every sense, perhaps you could live in a way that would complement them if they were to become real. Perhaps discontentment does not have to be a reaction to this tension.

I told you I wanted to cook for people, to have discussion in my home, to encourage you into a space of hopefulness and not deficiency. It’s not quite summer anymore, as I thought it may have been, but at least I can still practice the food that I would love to accompany those pending days with.

And I wish I could have reminded you the other day, that if you do have some assurance in the impending reality of the things you are hoping for, then protect the knowledge that even though they are not-yet-now, one day they will be outrageously-here.

White Sesame Tofu Mouse

White Sesame Tofu Mouse in a Stack of Vegetables

150 grams momen tofu (from good Japanese stores)
1 Tbsp white sesame paste (")
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 pieces of quality whole meal sourdough
1 aubergine, chopped vertically into 1 cm slices
2 large white asparagus, sliced vertically in half
a bunch of rocket, washed
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
squeeze of lemon juice

Pre-heat the oven to 200°

Momen Tofu

In a bowl place the tofu, sesame paste, olive oil, salt and pepper. With a magic wand (hand-held processor), process the mixture until to becomes smooth and well incorporated. Taste. You may want to add more sesame paste. Season to your desire.

Place the sesame seeds in an oven tray and toast until lightly golden. If they are all black then toast for about 8 minutes.

On an oven tray spread out your aubergine and asparagus. Pour over some olive oil, salt and pepper. Make sure you rub all the vegetables with a good amount of seasoning. Bake until cooked through (about 20 minutes).

White Sesame Paste

Lightly toast your slices of bread.

To assemble, place the bread on a plate, cover with one slice of aubergine, topped with the tofu mixture. Then interchange layers with rocket and vegetables. Drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and sesame seeds.

Sunday, June 5

Inspired peanutbutter, banana and chocolate pie.

There is this desire isn’t there?

There’s got to be this desire.

You know... To add something to someone in this place. Not only to live our daily lives in enjoyment (even though this is important and filled with meaning in its own way). But I am certain there is this other thing.

Because we all have seen it, this world and how it has been made and filled with things that are good, even if those things often seem small or require our pursuit. And then some how there is this other stuff as well, things which are awful and that make people feel suffering, sometimes even on a daily basis. And so this contradiction, this existence of two things at the same time that seem to oppose each other, as if they could not be related in any way at all, actually manage to find common ground (and I don’t mean in a good way). They can exist at the same time and all the while we still live in this place where it is going on.

And then there are these people. All the ones who you know and then some others that you don’t know either. And they are with you in this, experiencing the contradiction in their own lives. Perhaps at times they may be living in some of the awfulness, more than you are, but then at other times they may see the wonder and they may feel joy all the way through them because for instance, they just got home and found a bouquet of pink and white peonies in their bedroom (thank you wonderful flat mate!).

And so, we are living our lives with people. Every day they are here and it is a good thing to be convinced that it is harder to enjoy your life without them. And then to realize that this would mean it is more ideal to enjoy life with people. And part of that, that with people, could mean making someone feel like one hundred dollars by elevating that person’s feelings above our own. Because imagine making someone feel as though you have chosen that they are more important to you than yourself. I’m telling you: one million dollars.

Of course being realistic about this means that we realize this is not how everyone thinks, ourselves included, and so boundaries are essential, but if it’s just us getting over the fact (even though this can be incredibly hard at times) that I would prefer something different, then aren’t we adding something to someone?

A small way, that should not be overlooked, to add something to someone is by making this pie for that someone.

We call this pie; Inspired. That is because when we were talking about what we should make for a friend of ours who was coming over for dessert, there were several moments of pure inspiration.
  • Firstly, at some point within the discussions of the night my flat mate had named, SarahPie, we both thought of peanut butter, which is a challenge in Paris. My peanutbutter hunt became successful after 5 supermarchés. 4.16 euros. Not a bargain.
  • The second burst of inspiration happened a few days before SarahPie when my flat mate called out from her bedroom, “we should put chocolate ganache on the base!” Followed by, “Inspiried.”
  • Then there was this last minute inspiration when we were both standing over the tart shell looking down at the biscuit base with its set chocolate layer and we both knew something was missing. Peanutbutter…. Creamcheese…. Chocolate…. Biscuits… And then after a silence someone said, ‘Banana.’ Just one word and we knew we had a pie worthy to be made in a country that doesn’t indulge in pie, let alone seriously good tarts. And Charles, this is not a time to make a joke.

Inspired Peanutbutter, Banana and Chocolate Pie

1 packet of Anzac-type biscuits with chocolate on them
½ packet of super wine/petit beurre biscuits
¼ cup butter, melted
1 king sized block of chocolate
1 banana
250 grams cream cheese, room temperature so it has softened
150 grams peanut butter
1 cup icing sugar
1 Tbsp milk
optional: vanilla ice cream accompaniment

There are two options to make the base. Either put all the biscuits in a processor and process until they are all broken up and resemble rough crumbs. However, you don’t want them to be really fine like flour. Pour the butter into the processor and process briefly until all the crumbs are wet. Or, if you don’t have a processor or you can’t be bothered cleaning it after, you can put all the biscuits into a plastic bag and beat the bag with a rolling pin until they like look like rough crumbs. Then put them in a bowl and add the butter mixing really well to make sure the butter has soaked every crumb.

Butter and bake-paper-proof either a tart, pie or cake tin. Pour in the biscuit mixture and with a wooden spoon or dessertspoon pack down the mixture on the bottom and about an inch up the sides of the tin. You will need to make sure you have pressed it all down and up the sides very well so it is compacted. Meanwhile, melt your chocolate and once your base is nicely compressed (it will come together more once refrigerated), spread half the chocolate over the base of the tart. Put your tart shell in the fridge for around an hour for it all to solidify.

Get your pie shell out of the fridge and slice your banana onto the base of the pie.
In a bowl mix the cream cheese with the icing sugar until it is well incorporated and no longer lumpy. Add the peanut butter and mix until it has all combined. Add the milk just to loosen the mixture up a bit and mix well. Pour and carefully spread the peanut butter mixture over the banana, making sure you reach the sides of the pie shell.

With a teaspoon, drizzle the rest of the melted chocolate over the peanut butter mixture and refrigerate until the chocolate has solidified and the pie has chilled.

Goes super well with a quality vanilla ice cream.

Friday, June 3

Setting the table for one

Fourteen squared meters.

There is a lifestyle in this world that challenges the practice of eating being about the process of sitting down around a table together.

When there is actually only one chair at the table because the place on the other side is filled with the space where you stand to cook from, and when you turn away from your hot plate and place your meal on the table and then shuffle into the chair to eat it, there is not really any room to be together with anyone.

And so sometimes, sometimes, perhaps more often than desired, one has to eat alone.

This is the fate of a fourteen squared meter apartment in Paris, a life from August onwards, which we can only be constructive about. And not for any moment at all does this mean that we cannot eat well in these times.

When you’re standing there in your kitchen (or beside your kitchenette), and you realize that you don’t need to consider how your brother dislikes broccoli, the fact that your best friend finds a plate of only green a peculiar sight or the absolute insanity that your sister can not stand the texture of mashed food; a weird sense of creativity is absorbed into the parts of your mind that categorize food. And for a brief second you imagine a luscious plate of pureed avocado mingled in with blanched broccoli.

Viola! Brilliance in your mouth.

Broccoli with Avocado Mousse

1 broccoli head
1 avocado
juice of ½ lemon
½ tsp extra virgin olive oil

Simply cut the broccoli into florets. Blanche the broccoli.
Blanching is the process of cooking something in salted boiling until that something is tender but firm. Run the cooked food under cold water until it becomes cool. If the food remains hot, it will continue to cook, becoming soft and undesirable (in my opinion).
In this case, blanche the broccoli for 2 minutes, drain and run under cold water until cool. Set aside.

Peal the avocado and remove the stone. At this stage you can either mash the avocado into a bowl with a hand held masher, or you can put it through a food processor. Personally I think a hand held masher is sufficient, unless you are making this for a mass amount of people. Once the avocado is at a mousse consistency add the rest of the ingredients and mash or process until fully incorporated.

Place the avocado mousse and broccoli into a bowl and mix well until the mousse is woven into every piece of broccoli.


Mexican Mince

For those times when you just want protein and you just want flavour…

beef mince
1 onion, diced
3 garlic gloves, diced
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 can crushed tomatoes
½ tsp mild chili
½ capsicum/red pepper, chopped small
1 carrot, grated
corn kernels (cut off a fresh cob or from a can)
sour cream
fresh mint

Heat a teaspoon of oil in a heavy based saucepan. Add onion and garlic, making sure the garlic doesn’t brown. Once the majority of the oil has been absorbed by the onion, add the red wine vinegar, making sure to continually mix while it bubbles rapidly.

Once the bubbling subsides, add the mince and brown for 1 or 2 minutes. Then add the tomato can, chili, capsicum and carrot and allow to simmer until the sauce starts to thicken and no longer holds a consistency resembling water. This is your time to season with as much salt and pepper as you desire.

Once it tastes good to you, spoon the mince into a bowl. Top it with the corn, a dollop of sour cream and some fresh mint.

Grilled Beef Pattie with Gruyere and Guacamole

beef mince
½ white onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 egg, lightly whisked
a form of bread crumbs (I only had crackers so I put them in a bag and crushed them. But you can also use dried bread or store bought bread crumbs)
1 tsp grated cheese (gruyere, parmesan, cheddar)
herbs (I only had mint sauce in a jar so I used 1 tsp, but fresh chopped mint, basil or parsley works best)
2 tsp of any chutney or tomato puree
my sister Rachael once suggested adding chopped olives, which go incredibly well
sliced gruyere or any hard cheese for the top

1 ripe avocado
¼ red onion, diced
¼ tomato, diced
lemon juice
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200°

For the patties, add all the ingredients except the sliced cheese into a bowl. With your hands mix it all together very well. Shape the meat mixture into balls, the size of a fist.

For the guacamole, in a bowl mash the avocado, tomato and onion together. Season and add a little lemon juice and oil until it is at your desired consistency and taste.

Heat some oil in a skillet (very important: the skillet must have an oven proof handle). Once the oil in the pan has just started to smoke slightly, add the patties and press down with a fish slice. Brown each side well, then put the skillet into the oven for around 6 minutes. Using a tea towel remove the skillet from the oven and top the patties with sliced cheese. Put the skillet back in the oven until the patties are cooked through, probably only 2 or 3 more minutes.
Use the tea towel to remove the skillet and place the patties on your plate with a side of guacamole.

I made three patties and only cooked one for that night, freezing the other two for a later date.

Lemon and Avocado Salad

1 egg
½ avocado, diced
½ tomato, diced
½ carrot, grated
lettuce leaves, whole or chopped
¼ red onion, diced
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp cider vinegar

Bring a small pot to the boil. Add the egg carefully, not to break it on the bottom of the pot. Allow to boil for 10 minutes. Drain and run under cold water until the egg is cool. Peal the shell off, slice in half and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, place all the other ingredients into a plastic bag, including the liquids. Seal the top of the bag and mix the salad together by juggling the bag with your hands to incorporate all ingredients well.

Carefully pour the contents of the bag into a bowl, top with the egg.

This is seriously a good time.