Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hazel Restaurant - Marjoribanks St, Wellington

It was some time ago now that we went to Hazel restaurant on Marjoribanks Street, Wellington.

The occasion was a celebration of my exams being over, and we wanted to try something new.

The restaurant itself was nice, small, and located in one of those neat villas that line lower Mount Vic streets.

The restaurant had no vegetarian entrées, which I failed to notice on the sample menu I'd checked out before we came. However, once I asked if they could do something for me, and after the slightly taken aback waitress went off to check with the chef, it transpired that they were able to do a half size of one of the four vegetarian mains. Two of these mains were gluten free, so I had a buffalo mozzarella and spiced pear salad as an entrée, and a pumpkin and goats feta risotto as a main.

The salad was light and very tasty. I'd never had buffalo mozzarella, and this was tender and soft. Perhaps softer than it should have been in the middle, but I don't know how it should have been, because I'd only had quite hard mozzarella from the supermarket in the past.

The risotto, too, was really tasty. Not too creamy, and with nice tangy feta, I was glad I'd chosen this as my main. If I recall correctly, that was also served with some spinach stirred through.

All very yummy. I had ice cream and sorbet for dessert - a very generous serving - perhaps a bit too much, in fact. Two balls of icecream and two of sorbet, stacked on a plate.

Overall, a good meal out. The atmosphere was good, after getting over the initial apparent resistance of the waitress to provide me with something I could eat. It seemed strange to me to offer so many vegetarian options (four is a lot for that kind of restaurant!), but nothing on the entrée menu! Anyway... The food was definitely up there, though the desserts were slightly less exciting for some reason. Still, recommended for a meal out, and accommodating for gluten-free folk - even when vegetarian!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Instant Polenta is the new couscous

Instant polenta is the new couscous.

Back about a year ago, I was eating a lot of couscous. This was just before I cut gluten out of my diet. It was the ultimate easy lunch food - pour boiling water over it and stand while you heat up some baked beans.

I was a bit sad to lose that particular convenience.

I don't believe it took me so long to try instant polenta. I'd made polenta a few times from scratch, but stirring for 20 minutes is at the upper end of intensive for me. Recently, as in within the last week, I bought some instant polenta and gave it a go.

I didn't expect it to be so easy. Pour into boiling water with some seasonings, and stir until thick - about 3 minutes. Pour onto a plate to set. I could make this at work!!! It's ridiculous!

Instant Polenta

1 c water
62.5 g instant polenta
dash of salt

smoked herb salt mix (or other favourite seasoning)
fancy extra virgin olive oil

Boil the water and put in a pot (or boil it in the pot!). Pour instant polenta into the pot, stirring as you do so. Add the salt. Keep stirring until thick. Pour or spread onto a plate and let set.

Sprinkle seasoned salt liberally over the top, and drizzle with some nice olive oil. You could eat it as is, look at it:

Instant Polenta
Instant polenta with smoked salt and olive oil
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I served this one a few days ago with fried eggs on top. Today I had it with baked beans, in a fit of too-lazy-to-cook, and with a nod back to my baked beans on couscous days.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Cobar Restaurant

While my menu plan had us eating leftovers that night, I thought it would be nice to go out to eat to make use of Neil's 'new' car that he'd picked up that day. After calling a couple of places to scope out options, I booked at Cobar in Day's Bay.

Excellent service. Not busy at all - suspect they would be in summer. They made me an entrée salad that was apparently new to the menu with a blue cheese cream that was seriously tasty. The vegetables were baby veg and were perhaps marinated in some sort of vinegar. Very strong and tasty making the small portion much more satisfying than I expected. The main I had was an adapted dish as their menu vegetarian main was not gluten free (perhaps it was a soufflé, which seems to be the trendy vegetarian main this winter). The dish had some really nice polenta cubes, and jerusalem artichoke which I love. It was also very tasty. Though I had wanted dessert, by the time I'd had an entrée and a main I was actually full! (I also had a sore back so was keen to get home.) They also had gluten free bread rolls on the starter menu, which I will definitely try at some stage. This was a really tasty dinner and I highly recommend Cobar!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Gluten Free Goodies' Pancake, Pikelet, and Waffle mix.

To go back in time a little, I'll make a post about Gluten Free Goodies pancake, pikelet, and waffle mix. It was also the first time using my enamelled cast-iron skillet for pikelets, so it was a bit of a learning curve!

This was the last one cooking - also the most photogenic one
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There were only a couple of blueberries in that one, as it was the bottom of the bowl.

Here's the pile of pikelets in the background, and frying bananas in the foreground.

Pikelets & Banana
Frying banana
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I served them with maple syrup, but we ate them too fast to take photos of everything together on the plate... !

They were pretty good, though a couple were a bit tough - I think it's because each batch was cooked a bit differently. I'll have to learn how to get the right temperature, and I think they'll be fine.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cheese Toasties and Birthday Tulips

One day last weekend I was not feeling much like cooking, and I happened to have some bread leftover from a Birthday lunch at my grandmother's. She was serving soup, and as I knew she usually served up hot crusty bread, I baked a gluten-free loaf to bring along as well.

I used Bakel's multi seed bread mix, which I wrote about in this post. We were a little late to lunch, as even though I had the temperature a bit higher, it still took longer to bake than it was supposed to! Oh well.

Flowers and Cheese Toasties
Cheese Toasties, plus flowers!
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I grilled one side of each piece, then turned them over, topping one with 'Festive Relish', one with Tamarillo Chutney, and one with jalapenos. I added a couple of slices of parmesan (it's all we had, but was a good choice because it gave good flavour without too much cheese), and grilled until bubbly and ready.

Here's a closer look at the toasties, in case you're not already hungry enough:

Grilled Cheese
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And a closer look at the tulips. My grandmother gave these to me for my birthday (along with a couple of other very thoughtful gifts - I felt very spoilt).

Tulips on the table
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This is them a couple of days later, it was such a simple joy watching them open, and seeing them each time I passed the dining table.

Tulips, closer
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Aren't they pretty?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cereal Post - I wish I could think of a worthy pun!

All I could think of was 'OMG, srly?', but Neil did not approve. (Get it? Get it?)

Anyway, moving on.

I burnt my cereal this morning!

This sounds like a slightly unusual statement to make - I was toasting puffed millet and amaranth under the grill, but got distracted by something on the internet and forgot I was toasting cereal until I wondered what the strange popping sounds coming from the kitchen were.

Burnt Cereal
Burnt Cereal
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No great catastrophe, a wee bit black on one side, but I ate it anyway as I hate to waste. (Also, I don't mind things a little bit dark sometimes.)

I guess this could be a good opportunity to talk about cereal. Man gluten-free cereal can be expensive! And some of it's pretty uninspiring, as well. I've always been a fan of nice toasted muesli with crunchy oats and lots of good bits and pieces. Most gluten-free 'muesli' is basically just some blend of different things that I consider 'cereal', such as puffs or processed bran flakes - things that don't hold their crunch in the face of milk. Other so called 'muesli' has turned out to just be rice bubbles with a very sparse sprinkling of seeds and fruit. I know I shouldn't be sucked in by the pictures on the boxes, but I am still disappointed every time they exaggerate the proportion of delicious to boring ingredients.

The cereal/'muesli' I buy most commonly is Healtheries Apricot and Coconut Muesli. This is generally one of the cheapest products I can find in the supermarket without completely giving up on the type of thing I like to eat for breakfast. At $7 a box it's still not actually cheap, but it's often got a small discount, and it's way better value than the $10 or $11 that most boxes of similar products seem to be.

I did once find a small stone in my cereal - but I was happy with the response from Healtheries, who sent me a courier bag to send them the stone for analysis, as well as a voucher for free cereal. Yay!

Not having that voucher with me one day when I went to buy cereal, I decided to try a new and very fancy looking product: Brookfarm gluten-free macadamia muesli. This Australian cereal had two silver medals and a bronze medal stuck on the front (well - not the medals themselves, but icons that represented them), and I could see (and taste!) why. This was some seriously gourmet muesli. It did cost about $13 for a mere 350g, but I am still sure I would buy this again. Actually, I tried to, but the supermarket only had two gluten-containing varieties.

The macadamia muesli has buckwheat (puffed and not-puffed), rice (bran and puffed), and amaranth, as well as cranberries, currants, and sultanas, macadamia nuts, and pumpkin seeds. These were tastily toasted and crunchy - and I fell instantly in love with the crunch of the buckwheat, which sunk to the bottom of my cereal bowl for me to enjoy at the end! My only half-hearted complaint about the taste of the cereal is that it was really a bit too sweet. At 14.3g of sugar per 100g, it's actually lower sugar than my regular cereal (19.9g!), but it certainly tastes sweeter. Actually, because rice milk is so sweet by itself, I prefer a somewhat less sweet cereal to go with it.

Actually, I'm surprised that the macadamia muesli is lower in sugar, higher in protein and fibre, and though higher in fat overall, it's lower in saturated fat!

My plan is to combat the sweetness (and the price!) of the almost perfect macadamia muesli by mixing it with some plain grains to tome down the sweetness and make it go a bit further. That's why I was toasting puffed millet and amaranth - I had bought both for this purpose and I was testing out ways to give them a bit more crunch. It occurred to me that this might not save money, given that the millet and amaranth were about $6 a bag each - but perhaps I can get them cheaper elsewhere. I do hope I can source the macadamia muesli again, even though the puffed cereals alone make quite a tasty breakfast.

So that's me on gluten-free cereals. Apart from hot cereals - I haven't perfected those yet. I currently mix rice flakes and cornmeal, but they don't match the flavour of good old hearty porridge (don't forget the salt)!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cookbook Case Study - Food Legends of the World

The third book I have chosen to review is 'Food Legends of the World: Traditional Tales with Recipes of Today', by Linda Bremford. More information on this book can be found at this address.

I bought the book from a local craft market, directly from the author. A storyteller by trade, the author tells the legends of 25 ingredients, following each one with a recipe. I loved this concept and was tempted to buy the book.

While not all the recipes are suitable for my diet, I was able to choose some recipes that I could play with. My choices were:

Potato Pepper Bake
Tomato chilli with marinated mozzarella
Beans tijuana
Maple syrup, ginger, and rum ice cream
Egg and milk in a baked ice cream dessert

Saturday, August 8, 2009

One80 Lounge Bar Restaurant

One80 Lounge Bar Restaurant is associated with Copthorne Hotel on Oriental Parade.

Their menu is impressively both vegetarian and gluten-free friendly, leaving me two dishes to choose from which were both. (Actually, it's that the only two vegetarian options were gluten-free - these were available as either an entrée or a main.) Those who are gluten-free but not vegetarian had a much wider choice. There were no vegan options on the menu.

After debating whether I should order a main and dessert, or two entrées and dessert, my sister and I decided to order one main each, and go half and half. She ordered Stilton Stuffed Mushrooms (after recently discovering her love for blue cheese), and I ordered Arancini with Buffalo Mozzarella.

Arancini are essentially crumbed risotto balls. These were served on a plate of a red pepper sauce that was, quite simple, yummy! Each vegetarian dish had three 'pieces' so we swapped plates twice during the meal. The stilton stuffed mushroom was also tasty, for those who like the strength of the cheese at least, but I was pleased to start and finish with the arancini - it seemed a more filling meal.

The size of the mains was such that we were happy without having had an entrée - though we'd started with an olive and almond platter. Neil and my mum both had the fish of the day, I think with fennel and a leek purée. Most of us just had space for dessert.

The dessert I had was butterscotch crème brulée. Truly my favourite fancy dessert! This was served with chocolate-dipped gingerbread which I palmed off to mum for a work snack the next day. The crème brulée itself, I have to admit, was not the best I've had. It was very thick, and a bit heavy for my liking. This could well be a result of using actual double cream, which is difficult to find in NZ (if even possible!) Or it could have been a result of the butterscotch perhaps being too buttery. Apart from the sugar on top, it wasn't particularly sweet, either. It was probably nice, but not quite they way I would have liked it!

Neil and mum were twins again and ordered cherry chocolate crumble. This looked pretty good, but both of them said they probably wouldn't bother with it again. The crumble topping did actually look a bit breakfast cereal-y, and I guess the inside just wasn't quite right?

The service throughout the meal was good, the people were friendly. They apologised for the wait for food, but we hadn't even noticed. (Perhaps they were used to hotel patrons who want to eat quickly before going out - whereas we were having a dinner event so were happy to take our time, chat, and look at the old family photos my grandmother sent with a birthday card!)

The cost was fairly high, but not unreasonable considering a main dish was enough for a meal, rather than tiny serves where you need the whole three courses to have enough. The atmosphere was good, as was the shiny view of the city from the 7th floor location.

Given that their menu could accommodate me without adjustment, and I was impressed with the arancini, I'd definitely go there again. We'd just go without desserts!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Restaurant Frustrations

In a fit of dread, I got my sister to call around restaurants to book for my birthday dinner tonight. I couldn't face the constant 'vegetarian AND gluten free?? nothing', or 'we have a green salad' that I inevitably get. Luckily because it's my birthday I got to delegate the booking responsibility, yet I still found the process stressful. Marika reported the results back to me as the following:

No. 1 Upland Rd - No.

Plate - No. (Though maybe a salad.)

Herd St. - Answer machine.

La Belle Histoire - Nothing on menu, but kitchen staff suggested chef should be able to do something. (Chef wasn't in yet.)

I finally got her to call one of the few places in the Entertainment Book who had some items marked as either (v) or (gf), so I thought they may be able to do something that was both!:

One80 (Copthorne Hotel) - Yes! Summary of options was: Starters - olive thing. Entrée/Main - stuffed mushroom or risotto ball. Dessert - crème brulée. So we've booked. This was the priciest of our options (and the one review I've read said excellent service, average food), but hopefully everything will work out okay!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Mushrooms and Mash

Mushrooms and Mash
Originally uploaded by bezajel

How to serve mash that's less boring than just mash.

On the left we have: Mashed potato and broccoli, with bok choi.

On the right we have: Mashed potato, kumara, and chickpeas.

Both mashes include liberal salt, pepper, olive oil, and rice milk.

Topped off with sauteed mushroom.


Only - don't try and use mash as a way to sneak chickpeas in for someone who doesn't like chickpeas - even though you can't taste them, the person who doesn't like chickpeas will!

(I wasn't really trying to sneak chickpeas in, just boost the protein!)