Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Flooded with Feijoas: Feijoa Paste

When you are one of the lucky people with access to a feijoa tree, then for a month or two every year, you will be wondering what to do with your bounty. First you will eat some these fragrant fruit as is, then you will start to give some away, or freeze some for later, but eventually, you may find yourself faced with a problem: your freezer is full, your friends don't want any as they have too many of their own, and you are at a loss as to what to do with them all. There is a book and an entire website dedicated to feijoa recipes, and news media and magazines (not to mention bloggers and celebrity chefs) will publish ideas for feijoas every year.

A fraction of the fruit I collected recently.

I couldn't be bothered with recipes that use only 3 or 4, or even 8 or 10 feijoas. I needed the fruit to be used up in bulk, preferably in a way that I can easily share (a cake or pie is better than a crumble or ice cream), or something that can be kept without refrigeration!

The traditional way of preserving fruit is of course to make jam. But after burning a big pot of it and running out of glass jars, I wanted something different, something less fragile that I could mail to friends overseas. I remembered the success I'd had making quince paste some years back, and decided to give it a go with feijoa too.

Most of the recipes I found either included apples or liquid glucose (which I didn't have), or took more effort than I wanted to put in, so I just did things my own way.

Basically, I tried to speed up the process by not adding water to the feijoa flesh. It came with plenty of juice and I figured it would take less time to reduce it down that way. After cooking for around 40 minutes, I blended the lumps and didn't bother sieving the pulp before adding sugar.

Feijoa flesh cooking in its own juice.

Apparently, you need 300g sugar per 500g fruit. I prefer things less sweet, so I used less sugar, probably only 600-700g for my original 2kg of scooped out feijoa innards. Then I cooked it again for around an hour, till it went thick and orangey in colour, and poured it into a tin lined with baking paper. The feijoa paste set firmly as it cooled, and it was difficult to smooth it out on top.

A slice of feijoa paste.

I think the end result was even better than quince paste, with a beautiful, aromatic, even floral, flavour. Some people might not like the gritty texture that the seeds gave, but I enjoyed the occasional contrast. Theoretically, it wouldn't keep as long due to the lower sugar content, but my paste has survived being kept in a plastic container for a month at room temperature now. And it is still very sweet, so best enjoyed with cheese and crackers!

Feijoa paste is great with cheese and crackers!

This post is part of Our Growing Edge, a monthly blogging event aimed at inspiring us to try new things. This month, it is hosted by Jordan and Cindy from My Daughter and I.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

3 Places for Intelligent Bites in Auckland

A few days ago, it was announced that New Zealand's cultural treasure John Campbell would be leaving. Carefully timed with the Government's Budget 2015, we learnt that his signature current affairs programme Campbell Live, despite regularly becoming TV3s top-watched show, would be replaced by one with more of an entertainment focus, one that doesn't ask difficult questions.

As a person who simply writes about the fun and non-threatening topic of food, I have a huge respect for caring journalists like him, who help us to see news from a different angle, and fearlessly push to change things for the better. So, while staying on topic, I thought I would share some eateries in Auckland that feed the mind as well.

1) IKA Seafood Bar and Grill

In my last post, I wrote about a restaurant that featured in Metro Magazine's 50 Under $50 list. In part, we gave Ika a try at the urging of Nanogirl, otherwise known as Dr. Michelle Dickinson, a passionate engineer who freely gives her time and money to foster an interest in science, particularly in the young. She was one of a line-up of speakers at a conversation at the restaurant last week, and there is another talk coming up soon on a completely different topic too.

Previous Talk

Table Talk: Beneath the Ponytail: women, work, progress?

Tuesday 19 May – doors open 5 pm, discussion at 6.15 pm
Hosted by Lisa Owen, from TV3’s The Nation, with

  •     EEO Commissioner, Human Rights Commission, Dr Jackie Blue
  •     Senior Lecturer, UofA Engineering School, Dr Michelle Dickinson aka @nanogirl
  •     First Union Secretary, Maxine Gay
  •     Labour Party MP, Jacinda Ardern

Bar open from 5 pm, small & large plates served throughout evening
Showtime 6.15 – 7 pm

Next Talk

“Abba to Gaga: pop music as queer revolution” - an Ika Salon with Dr Kirsten Zemke
(Facebook event here)
Tuesday 26 May 
Dr. Kirsten Zemke is a Senior Lecturer in Ethnomusicology in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Auckland. She famously completed her PhD on New Zealand hip hop in 2000, and has been teaching, and talking, about popular music, race, gender, genre and identity since then. She currently has regular radio spots on bFM and Radio National. 
Despite its sometime silliness, shallowness, sexism and commercialisation, pop music has been quite a radical site for promoting queer identities. Genres of glam rock, disco, and eighties new wave all projected gender fluid identities and sexualities- mostly unheard of in the rest of the mainstream at those times. We’ll re-visit David Bowie, Boy George, Queen, Grace Jones and Abba, their ground-breaking gender bending and ‘gay play’. Then to contemporary artists & pop music that continues to represent minority identities, engendering validation and understanding.

$30 including dinner – with seafood, meat and vegetarian options.

Doors and bar open from 5, dinner served from 6 folowed By Kirsten’s presentation (approx 7.30). We’ll be open for drinks, dessert and conversation into the evening (dessert & drinks extra).

The Ika Salon is a chance to share food and conversation with others. We welcome single, double or larger bookings & will develop a seating plan with a great night in mind for you.

2) Ima Restaurant

Ima is another restaurant in Metro's 50 Under $50 list. Not only serving delicious Israeli and Middle Eastern food downtown, it hosts a monthly talk from The University of Auckland Faculty of Arts.

Previous Talk

Arts Café: Understanding the Ukraine Conflict
Wednesday 22 April 2015, 6:30 - 7:30pm
Professor Greenberg is a scholar of South Slavic Linguistics with an emphasis on ethnic conflict and nationalism. He has taught at Yale University, University of North Carolina and Georgetown University. His publications include numerous books and articles on South Slavic and Balkan topics, including language and identity in the Balkans, published by Oxford University Press. 
This talk is the first in a series of informal presentations by members of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Auckland. Arts Café will be held on the third Wednesday of each month. This series is co-sponsored by Ima Restaurant and the Faculty of Arts.

Next Talk

Arts Cafe: Algorithmic life and the “internet of things”
Wednesday 27 May 2015, 6 - 7:30pm 
Wednesday night lectures are back! This week, the 27th of May at 6pm, join us for $10 appetizers, $7 Ima Red & White wines, our famous fresh juice and be enthralled by Neal Curtis as he launchs our new ARTS CAFÉ with ''Algorithmic life and the “internet of things” 
This talk reflects on the role of the arts and humanities in the information age. This is an age defined by an increased use of algorithms that, amongst other things, define the nature of public knowledge, make calls about the next music hit, provide medical diagnoses, nominate “terrorists” for “kill lists” and make trades in stock markets around the world. We are also living through a paradigm shift in our relationship with computers and mobile media dubbed the “internet of things”, which promises to create “smart” rooms, “smart” buildings, even “smart” cities where every object can communicate with each other. Within an economy so dependent upon information, and where data directly equates to profit, it is imperative to think about the economic and corporate drivers behind these shifts and interrogate whose interests they best. 
Neal Curtis is a Senior Lecturer in Media, Film and Television at the University 
Stick around for more food and wine if you are still hungry afterwards!

3) Horse and Trap

The Horse and Trap is a pub in Mount Eden where the monthly Café Scientifique events are held (unfortunately these clash with the talks at Ima), as well as some of the talks organised by Nerd Nite Auckland.

Previous Talk

Musing on museums: …of ships and shoes … and many things
Wednesday April 29, 2015 
Roy Clare, CBE
Director, Auckland War Memorial Museum
Museums around the world are facing new challenges and are evolving to meet them. Auckland’s own War Memorial Museum, with its unique collections and place in the ongoing story of Auckland, is changing too.  Nearly four years after his appointment as Director of the Museum, and following the centennial ANZAC day commemorations on April 25th, Roy Clare scans the horizon and poses some questions for museums and the people who love them.

Roy Clare CBE used to drive an aircraft carrier for a living, before coming ashore to take up leadership roles at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich and the UK’s Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.  He was appointed Director of the Auckland Museum in August 2011.

Next Talk

A physicist and an anthropologist walk into a bar...
Wednesday 27 May 2015, discussion starts 6:30pm 
Network science was "invented" independently by a number of different disciplines. Sociologists came up with sociograms; engineers created wiring diagrams; while mathematicians have long studied graphs. 
At Te Pūnaha Matatini – “the meeting place of many faces” – researchers from very different backgrounds are using network science to gain fascinating, and sometimes non-intuitive, insights into New Zealand’s environment, economy and society. 
About the speakers 
Thegn Ladefoged 
Thegn Ladefoged is a Professor of Archaeology at the University of Auckland who has worked in Rotuma, Hawai‘i, Rapa Nui, and New Zealand. He is developing a network approach to investigate the connections between communities in pre-European Māori society. 
Dion O'Neale
Dion O'Neale is a Research Fellow in the Physics department at the University of Auckland. He is particularly interested in how the properties of innovation networks might help predict the future economic success of regions. He has been known to (mis)use network science for topics ranging from sports to soils to conversations.

Also worth a mention: Toto

Toto Restaurant's Montecristo Room is where Refactor inspires women in the tech industry. Formerly known as Girl Geek Dinners, the Refactor events are open for both genders to attend, though the speakers are always talented females. In the sessions I've been to in the past, there has been some mix-and-mingle time before the presentations, where the price of the ticket includes a drink and some snacks from the restaurant.

Previous Talk

Refactor May 2015

Wednesday 20 May 2015, 6:00pm  8:30pm
presented in conjunction with our sponsors Microsoft NZ, and Catalyst
Tickets $25 – open to both women & men

Next Talk

In July, speakers to be announced.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Meal in Brief: IKA Seafood Bar and Grill *CLOSED*

[Added 25 April: IKA has closed to transform into a "very special new restaurant"]

We came here because we had read good things about this seafood restaurant, including in Metro magazine's 50 Under $50. The previous restaurant O'Sarracino was a favourite of ours, and it took that kind of encouragement before we could bring ourselves to try the new place.

The menu had plenty of seafood, as you would expect, but also steak, ribs, and vegetarian on request. It offered a couple of dishes from some very different cuisines (Malay sambal stingray, for instance), which made us hesitate, the way we are generally filled with scepticism when we see a menu with a split personality (though we approve of the Vietnamese and fish and chips place in Wellington).

Seafood on display by the front counter.

The setting was trying to be casual, with handwritten blackboard signs, brown paper over the tablecloths and felt tip pens on some tables, but there were still ornate light fittings and other incongruous bits in this former funeral parlour.

Interior of the restaurant.

The service was warm and helpful. We knew Laila Harre was involved in the previous restaurant, because she helped bring in a living wage to O'Sarracino, but we didn't expect her to be taking our order at the table. She let us know that there was a persimmon mocktail not listed in the menu, and that a main dish would probably be enough to feed two because it comes with a selection of sides.

Fresh persimmon mocktail, and pot of felt tip pens behind the salt and pepper shakers.

What we ate included:
  • Warm Italian flatbread with garlic, herb, olive oil and rocket ($10) - this was hot and crisp, fragrant with plenty of garlic.
Freshly baked Italian garlic flatbread.
  • Scallops with mixed leaf salad and lemon herb dressing ($14) - fresh and flavourful, beautifully seared.
Scallops with lemon herb dressing.
  • Charcoal grilled flounder with potatoes and greens ($30) - who knew such a plain and simple dish could be so tasty? The fish was cooked with skill, the potatoes crisp; the seasonal greens were unexpectedly made up of choi sum, Shanghai bokchoy, green beans and bean sprouts.
Grilled flounder, skilfully cooked.

Overall, we can highly recommend the simple yet flavourful cooking we sampled. Chef Brendon Peterson clearly knows what he's doing, and we look forward to trying some more from the menu.

Restaurant Details

IKA Seafood Bar and Grill
3 Mount Eden Road, Mount Eden, Auckland
(09) 309 3740

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Auckland Diner's Diary: April 2015

Cafe Culture

Carts in the City

Burgers and More

The Ponsonby Central of Takapuna

Market lane Fortieth and Hurstmere has opened in Takapuna, made from bricks reclaimed from the Christchurch earthquake. With a similar concept to Ponsonby Central, it currently contains the following stores:

Ethnic Eats

Random Bits

Coming Soon
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