There is something seriously wrong

I found this article from a post on Lifehacker, this is the picture they used.

The MSN Money website has an article How to eat when you’re really broke“. Author Liz Weston reckons an average American family should be able to save about $3,000 a year and could save much more.


She offers some simple and easy advice:

  • Eat mostly at home (a no-brainer if you want to save money ;)
  • Skip the processing (another no-brainer, processed foods cost more because they cost more to make) but what interests me, and I’ll come back to this, is that she starts the paragraph like this: “Steer away from foods with lots of additives, chemicals and packaging; they’re often not as good for you
  • Demote meat (this one will save you less in NZ but even here in the land of cheap meat the cost of protein from beans and such is way less than meat)
  • Promote veggies – she notes that buying in-season and local produce will save you even more
  • Go for the grains – noting that “offer more nutrients and fiber

I’ll  hold off mentioning the last suggestion from the front page for a moment and comment more on the ones above. (I’ll return to the remaining suggestion below, don’t worry ;)

What strikes me about the suggestions above is that:

  1. they could only apply to Westerners and the rich in the majority world, no one else could afford to eat other than this way
  2. these suggestions are practically identical with the proposals Western governments are making in order to improve their populations’ health!

So, the long and the short of it is: The way most of us eat is expensive, bad for us, and unsustainable on a global scale. Something is wrong somewhere. (If you want more discussion on this issue, and some great recipes to help you do something about it try, as well as Google, our blog: Repentant Carnivores.)

Oh, yes, that final suggestion:

  • Watch the waste – “Americans waste up to 40% of our food supply. If that’s the case in your household, you could save hundreds of dollars a year just by patrolling your refrigerator, freezer and pantry each day so you can use stuff before it rots.” Frankly that’s disgusting, if the figure is anything like that high in other countries there is something seriously wrong.

One simple ‘secret’ of better coffee

This cup is TOO full! (by Bjb-de, via Wikimedia)

OK this post is not for coffee snobs. You either know it already or you are beyond such mundane trivialities in your aesthetic appreciation of the finner things of life. But for the benefit of all the others, especially anyone pulling me an espresso in cafe or home, or making a plunger that I’ll be sharing, and because of all the horrible cups and mugs of dishwater or bitter ground acorns I have drunk over recent days, here it is: The One Simple ‘Secret’:

But THIS cup is just right (by Berthold Werner, via Wikimedia)

Take a leaf from the book of nature. Follow the Creator’s example. Be generous!

That’s it, it is really simple, though not really a secret. More coffee in the plunger, within reason (or rather – for the Scots-in-spirit among us – only a step or two beyond reason), makes better coffee. Again, if you are entrusted with an espresso machine, since more coffee would mean pressing the grounds too hard, run less water through. Again, within reason, the same principle applies, being generous with the coffee makes a better brew.

There, I’ve done it, revealed the ‘secret’. Now I wonder how many more Scrooge-coffees I’ll suffer this week ;)

My favourite is fig and licorice, what’s yours?

Randal Rauser has yet another excellent post: “Why conservatism is often riskier than you might think (and other observations on losing faith)” in which among other sensible stuff (that you really should read, if you don’t already subscribe to his blog) he says:

A Christianity (liberal or conservative) which doesn’t present its adherents with a sufficiently rich range of belief to work out their own faith in fear and trembling is a faith impoverished. 31 flavors at Baskin Robbins (an ice cream shop for those who don’t know) is a good thing. So it is in a range of areas in Christian doctrine like atonement theory and theories of biblical inspiration. So I lament that so many Christians are given only vanilla or chocolate and then walk away thinking they hate ice cream when they really would have loved licorice had they only been given a lick.

My favourite ice-cream, at least at present, is fig and licorice (an improved variant of February’s Fig Ice-cream, and I suspect my faith is just as strange and tasty ;)


Kaimai Cheese Factory Cafe, Waharoa

My lunch yesterday was not Vegan, I was breaking the journey down to Tauranga, and eating out Vegan is seldom a rewarding experience (except at Cosset, and even there it is mainly the baking rather than a hearty meal that I expect).

I stopped at Waharoa, at the Kaimai Cheese Factory shop and cafe (thinking to combine buying nice cheese with a pleasant lunch). I chose the “cheese-lovers’ platter” thinking that a cheese factory platter should be superb – a chance to display their products at their peak.

The cafe is in the front part of one of the factory buildings with viewing windows into the factory. The space is pleasant, spacious and airy. The platter was a series of disappointments. It was presented crowded onto a small board, Cheddar, Brie (or was it Camembert?), a washed rind and some blue, also on the board were slices of bread and a few crackers, and a little bowl with pickled onions and some marinated Feta, and another with chutney. Nice, but overcrowded.

The cheddar was a pleasant enough young cheese. The Brie or Camembert was so young and hard that I was not only unsure which cheese it was meant to resemble (when it grew up) but wondered if the cheddar was softer. It did get better, the washed rind had begun to develop some flavour (what a shame I did not come a few days later, and what a pity the cold of the fridge tried to mask what flavour was developing) and the blue was soft and sharp. The pickled onions were lovely, and the Feta fine… but overall what a disappointment! I almost did not stop to buy cheese for home, but remembered that I could ripen that and allow the flavour to develop before eating.

Someone, at least if anyone who is a professional in this business reads this, is sure to say: But they are only giving customers what most want. Kiwis on the whole like their cheeses immature! If that was the case why not offer a choice Cheese-lovers’ Platter (Fresh or Mature). Then everyone could be happy!

If your experience differs plase let me know, as I have had other meals here and enjoyed them, and the coffee is not at all bad usually. (I did not have coffee yesterday as I was meeting someone over the hill for coffee a bit later.)

Canapés au bout danois

Photo and original idea from MacSween

Here’s a simple, fairly quick, impressive finger food that foodies will love, and will convert (most) Black Pudding skeptics.1


  • Slices of precut grainy bread (about one per person)
  • Black Pudding
  • Tomatoes (small ones you’ll need 3-4 slices for each slice of bread)
  • Blue cheese
  • Walnut pieces (not too small, but not whole halves)


Take a few slices of grainy bread2 wipe with garlic3 spray with cooking oil4 sprinkle with salt and toast5

While the toast is popping from the toaster slice your black pudding into enough thin rounds. Fry them, having ensured the fry pan is hot, so a water droplet dances, before spraying the pan with oil.

Meanwhile cut small tomatoes into slices.6

Cut small lumps of blue cheese, Kaimai Creamy Blue is ideal, a softer blue works better than the Stilton sort.

Cut the toasts into rounds by pressing the cutter7 firmly. Assemble by placing one slice of Black Pudding, one of tomato on each round, and top off with a piece of walnut pressed into the blue cheese.

Voila Canapés au bout danois!

And more people converted into Black Pudding fans ;) BTW the left over bits of toast can be warmed in the morning in the pan as you fry more Black Pudding, and with any left over bits of tomato, and some blue cheese makes a fine breakfast, Breakfast au Bouts Danois8

  1. “bout danois” which would mean something like a Danish end or a Danish leftover but to most non-Francophones just sounds posh and mysterious is a pun on Boudin Noir = Black Pudding. []
  2. You will get about 3-4 canapés per slice if you use an eggcup as your cutter. Four slices made  enough for a starter for four hungry people, and leftovers for breakfast for one :) []
  3. I dipped a teaspoon in crushed garlic let the lumps drip off and wiped that over one face of a slice. []
  4. For you do surely have a plastic spray dispenser like they sell for misting flowers etc. for $5 filled with Soya Oil, or some such, don’t you? If you don’t you should, aside from spraying stuff to get a very light misting of oil it lets you fry with less fat! []
  5. Yes, they will go in the electric toaster, no worries. []
  6. If your tomatoes are too big do NOT despair, just cut the slices in half later. []
  7. Or egg cup ;) []
  8. No, do NOT add walnuts this time, that would be greedy, what are you a pig? []

Fig Ice-cream

It won’t win any ice-cream beauty contests, the texture is rough cast, parents will look askance at any spills, but Fig Ice-cream is just delicious. Of our table of four yesterday Fig was the clear winner of the taste competition, one wife had chosen Passion Fruit but on hearing her husband’s raving about the fig stole his.

Fig Ice-cream is simple to make and tastes both addictive and sophisticated.

Fig Ice-cream Recipe:

Ingredients (for about 1 litre):

  • 6-10 dried figs (I’m sure fresh would be better, but on the rare occasions I get fresh figs I will scoff them all in other ways, and for ice-cream dried figs are pretty good) I suggest about 6-10 but do experiment.
  • 4 eggs (you won’t be cooking them, so free range are definitely best as well as kindest to the chooks ;)
  • 300ml cream
  • sugar to taste


I do everything except final mix and freezing in my food processor bowl so the order matters, but if you like to use several gadgets just be sure the one you use for the egg whites is clean and dry.

Chop the figs fairly small, remove the stalks. Separate the eggs, whip the whites till really stiff (I then put them in the ice-cream container), whip the cream when the peaks are stable put the cream also in the ice-cream container. Now zap together the figs and egg yolks, add sugar till it is nicely sweet. Add to the ice-cream container and using a spatula fold the three mixtures together.

Freeze (if you are a perfectionist control freak who does not want a figgier layer at the bottom, or is afraid that despite the eggs ice crystals will form you will take it out of the freezer after an hour and fork it to mix again – however, I caution you not to, there won’t be crystals, the figgier layer is so tasty, and thirdly this extra beating just removes air and makes it more hard and solid – yuck!)


Exhibition by the Pool

Emerging Maori artists, live entertainment. Our Sarah is involved and it sounds like a fun afternoon :) but you have to be in ore near Auckland (which rules lots of you out :(

19th December · 14:00 – 18:00

Parnell Baths, Judges Bay Road

Parnell Baths
Judges Bay Road

Ticket entry only $20 (tickets for sale from the Beagle Cafe before the day and on the day or by emailing

Ticket entry includes 2x complimentary beverages (wine, beer or juice) and h’ordeuvres.

Come down and enjoy some art, music, good food and drink in the sun!

Web 2.0 and the profit motive

One of the local daily deal sites offered a $50 voucher for a restaurant in our city for $25. Sounded like a good deal, but we are new to the city, have no idea what the restaurant is like. So, I hit Google. The usual Web 2.0 users review the places sites came up. It really does sound like a great deal, all the top few reviews were excellent, saying things like: “All in all we had a fabulous evening. Next time we are around it’ll be our first stop. Fantastic service, fantastic fresh food and a fantastic atmosphere.”

There were three or four reviews in the same vein, and the next two sites were similar. Sounds a great deal, I wonder what such a popular restaurant gets out of it?

And then I spotted the fly in the ointment. None of these top reviewers had ever reviewed any other restaurant on the site. I looked further down the list. The next reviewer has reviewed a number of other places in the city, points out a number of failings, though is complimentary about the service, and sums up: “The overall food experience was poor!” The first few gave 5 or 4 stars, this guy gave one. But he’s the one that has actually written other reviews…

My conclusion? It looks to me as if the restauranteur has padded the “Web 2.0” collaborative review sites with puff pieces from their friends. Now, if the rev iew sites want me to come back they’ll need to start prioritising people who have done a number of reviews, and even more those with well liked reviews… as it is the sites are useless.

A country as small as NZ does not need half a dozen restaurant review sites. It needs one or two that actually attract real reviewers, till they get them its back to assiduously cultivating the grape vine in our new city…

Posh Nosh!

Extract from Nosh's weekly newsletter.

The posh Auckland foodstore Nosh sends out a weekly email listing specials, since these and other prices instore are often good (particularly for quality produce) I enjoy getting the mail. But this week I was floored by the bargain. Real quality Gorgonzola at half price.

What a shame I can’t afford it, at only $3,950 per Kg half-price there is no way I’ll ever taste the full-price stuff at $7,900/Kg ;)

Soul Bar and Bistro: Cuisine – Villa Maria Restaurant of the Year

Soul is on the waterfront overlooking the boats

Soul Bar & Bistro
Viaduct Harbour,
ph: 09-356 7249,
Lunch & dinner 7 days  (5-31 July) $70

Entrée Smoked salmon with salsa verde & toasted sourdough

Main Jerusalem artichoke  risotto with truffle, parmesan  & a poached egg
OR roasted Harmony pork chop, Puy lentils, silverbeet & apple purée

Dessert Tamarillo brulée
OR Kaimai Creamy Blue – Waharoa NZ & Soul’s oatmeal biscuits

Choice of two wines:
Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ihumatao Verdelho 2008
Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2007
Reserve Noble Riesling 2009

The starter again quaintly designated “Entrée” was simple and nicely balanced, understated elegance, with a tasty pesto and a strong olive oil drizzle that set off the salmon beautifully.

The pork chop was huge, but pronounced really good. The artichoke risotto continued the understated balance, with nice touches like the little crispy bits (I do not know the technical term, and the waiter understood what I meant) made from  very thinly sliced bread rolled thinner and deep fried. I would never have thought of using Jerusalem Artichokes in a risotto (starch on starch) but it went so well.

The Tamarillo brulée was a nice finish to a really good meal.

The wines were delicious, the Verdelho went really well with the risotto, but I was less convinced by some of the other matches, and also wonder if 2 from 3 is a cop out. It would have been a fairer comparison, and more fun for us to list the wines against the courses and then say 2 from  3 – after all food and matching is part of what it is about!

Again though a lovely meal, very good service and superb value :)

BTW in case you are wondering at two expensive meals in two days, the previous week Barbara was on holiday, and we were both sick and so hardly stepped outside the door, some holiday! This is part of the make up :)