back cooking...

It must have been a good period of holidaying if the number of postings on this blog is any indication.
We certainly haven't been the most prodigious bloggers but now we are back in business it seems we should let you know what has been going on.
The cafe opened on the 14th of September and we have scaled back our opening hours somewhat. Gone are the Friday night trade and Sundays are now a day for everyone at the cafe to enjoy at home.
A little indulgent you might think but all that time off has left us a little more receptive to less work.
We announced our return with a stall at the city market selling kedgeree, rhubarb tarts and Kelda's jams.
Then before we knew it we were opening the doors to the public and welcoming back customers.

Tips for great porridge

Use fine cut organic oats, and soak them in cold water overnight. For 3/4 cup oats, a medium size serving, use 1 1/2 cups water

You could soak them on the day if you are able to give it half an hour

Add 1/2 a cup milk and a pinch of salt before cooking

Stand over the porridge pot, stirring all the time until it boils. This,with the soaking time is the most important factor, the starch in the oats behaving just like the starch from the rice in risotto, binding the liquid into a creamy texture. Give it some love at this stage and it will all pay off!

Once it boils turn it down to gentle bubble, and you can walk away and make a cup of tea. Stir occasionally, letting it simmer for 5 minutes, adjusting the consistency with a little more milk or water before serving.

One further tip - ZanyZeus milk is the essential addition to a bowl of porridge.
I can say with complete confidence that this milk is superior in every way to others on the market in Wellington.

Sautéed apples

This is one of the many variations of what we secretly call our deluxe porridge.
Possibly an oxymoron.
In essence this is how I see Nikau food; humble things, made well. It’s surprising to me how ordinary things done with care can make our customers so happy!

Use any tart apple, be aware that apples like Ballerat, and Sturmer, while delicious, will not stay in nice neat slices if they are overcooked, but will turn into caramelised applesauce. Not a problem, and probably quite nice to eat on top of porridge. I quite like Cox’s Orange for flavour and ability to keep it’s shape. Braeburn is another that stays neat and tidy. Just slightly less inspiring as far as taste goes.

3 apples
20g/large tablespoon unsalted butter
4T sugar
2- 3T apple juice or water

Peel , quarter and core the apples. Cut each quarter into 2 or 3 thick slices. Try and make the slices an even thickness so they will cook in a similar time
Heat a heavy fry pan that can accommodate all the apple slices in one layer, put the butter in and wait till it sizzles. Put in the apple slices and toss to coat them in the butter. Once evenly coated distribute in one layer in the pan Fry on a brisk heat till until the apples have coloured to somewhere between golden and nut brown. Turn gently and cook the other side. Sprinkle over the sugar and toss with the apples, keeping the heat high for only one minute. Turn down the heat, pour the water or apple juice into the pan and cook gently, shaking the pan from time to time till the apples are just tender and the liquid and sugar have formed a thick syrup. Serve warm.

Waikanae crab

These little beauties were the prize catch from a weekend at Waikanae. Thanks to my wine selling friend Al who took me out for my first go at catching crabs on the Kapiti coast and got me hooked.

So off I went to Steve's fishing shop in Ghuznee St and armed with my new crab pot and some truly smelly old dog bones from the butcher I was ready to go.

The first set of the new crab pot had my knowledge of tides well tested when on my return to collect the pot I discovered it well aground and thirty metres down the beach from where I had set it.

Tide was going out - not coming in!

Despite all this we enjoyed a very tasty pre dinner bite of crab meat, lemon, chervil and aioli on crusty bread. Anyone who has extracted crab meat from the shell will appreciate the pleasure of eating it.

Stone Valley olive oil

For the last few years we have been using Stone Valley Extra Virgin olive oil as our premium olive oil. It's what you get when you order bread and oil, and we (used to) sneak dashes of it into all sorts of things. I'm looking forward to the day we can use New Zealand olive oil in everything that we do!

Stone Valley is run by Odell Sugrue, who planted her first trees just south of Greytown in 1997. A true food person. Last time I was there I was lucky enough to have lunch with her - the entire meal was from her land, down to the pork sausages! What a fantastic thing. She has a great palate, and an great approach to quality, using organic methods, taking out varieties she feels aren't working and replanting with others.

When I first tasted Odell's lemon olive oil in 2007 it was a revelation. She grows the lemons too - Villa Franca from memory- and presses the lemons with the olives. I really enjoyed using it with asparagus, as it's season coincided with the release of the oil. One of our dishes was a simple plate of steamed asparagus, poached eggs, lemon olive oil, pecorino and chervil. She added a mandarin oil in 2008. I love to use it to finish winter salads, in particular I remember a beetroot, orange and watercress salad that was much enhanced by a drizzle of the mandarin oil.

Last year Odell made a special blend for Nikau.
This is a blend of Koroneiki and Leccino, harvested and pressed on the 25th June 2008 from 60% mature fruit. The resulting oil has herbal citrus aromas with a smooth fruity, cut salad leaves flavour and a slight peppery finish. The oil is well balanced and medium intensity. I feel that it has a fruitiness that is sometimes missing in the other extra virgin oils I tasted last year.

Due to our little holiday, we have some extra bottles of this good oil to pass on to our customers. It's in 750ml bottle, for $45
This blend is different from the one on sale at Moore Wilson's, which is a 250ml for $20. This is a bargain! We only have 10 bottles, so be quick!

e mail me if you'd like a bottle -

a construction site.

The new extension to the City Gallery starts to take shape.
Meanwhile the cafe is having a little siesta.

starting to be that time of year..