Archive for the ‘Food preparation’ Category

‘Family is the most important thing in the world.’ ~ Princess Diana

Last weekend, I joined the extended Maori side of our family to celebrate the “unveiling ceremony” for a family matriarch. The unveiling is held a year after a person’s death, when the whanau (family) gather again at the marae – the general area outside their meeting house –  for a service and at the family cemetery to reveal the person’s headstone. It’s a time to bless the stone, to remember the loved one, to talk about them and sing to them, once more.

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I’d been invited to join my niece and nephews, to farewell their grandmother one last time at her “unveiling.” It was to be held at their family’s marae, on the banks of Lake Rotoma, which lies just beyond Rotorua. Lucky for me, I was able to coordinate my arrival with that of my niece, and I simply copied the protocol she displayed, so as not to do the wrong thing by mistake. I accompanied her when we entered the Te Waiiti Marae and followed in her wake, kissing the cheek of all those already there.

I felt out of my comfort zones, out of my element, and yet, it was okay. I was glad to be there.

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Outside the big kitchen where many women were busy preparing the food, there was a plastic bucket of Koura, or fresh water crayfish, which had been found in the nearby Waiiti stream.

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To the rear of the kitchen block, on a flat piece of lawn, the men were laying the hangi. They had dug the pit that morning. A bonfire had been lit much earlier and had burned down to coals. The rocks, which had been within the fire, were tipped into the bottom of the pit. Then the trays of prepared vegetables, pig, lamb and chicken were placed over the rocks.

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These were covered in sacks which had been soaked in water. Then, the men all pitched in to cover it in the soil. The hangi was then left to cook.

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An hour later, the ceremony began with the powhiri (welcome) when friends and family who had arrived were welcomed onto the marae.

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Everyone was seated outside the whare, (the house) where some of the women in the family sat with the photos of the deceased. The eldest male in the family then gave the mihi, or recitation of those family members who have passed, reminding everyone of the names of their ancestors.

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This was followed by waiata (song) and karakia (prayer), and then, the grandmother’s family lined up to greet the new arrivals. From there, everyone drove to the cemetery a mile or so down the road, where the gravesite had been prepared with decorations and the stone was covered by a traditional feathered cloak.

After more prayer, the headstone was unveiled and the inscription read aloud, before being blessed by the priest. There were readings, songs and everyone who wanted to speak was invited to speak, also known as ‘korero.’

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Finally, the whanau processed back to the marae in the afternoon, to dig up the hangi and eat a meal together (kai hakari).

I marvel at how lucky we’ve been in our family, that we have become forever connected – through marriage – to this Maori family. Because of this connection of whanau, we’ve been invited to attend a number of these traditional Maori events over the years, and have been fortunate enough to get a see a little bit of insight into their culture, which has been a real privilege.

At the same time, I still feel like an outsider looking in.

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I was very aware when I walked onto the marae, that morning, of being one of three other Europeans there. “Who’s that?” one of the aunties asked my nephew, indicating me. He said, “She’s my mum’s sister.”

Immediately, there were big smiles from the lady and all the other aunties sitting along the bench outside the dining room, and I went over to kiss her and each of the others on the cheek. I was welcomed with open arms.

The Maori culture is so rich and so steeped in tradition that it’s just a pleasure and an honour to bear witness and be a part of the lives of the indigenous people of this country. I loved every minute. It was a very special day to be part of, and it reminded me of everything that’s great about this country.

Te tangata, te tangata, te tangata! The people, the people, the people!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Nothing that happens to a writer – however happy, however tragic – is ever wasted.’ ~ PD James

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(and save money going organic)

For years, I’d intended to “go organic” but, somehow, I’d never managed to get around to it. Yet, with both my parents dying in the last two years, I felt life was catching up with me. So, I decided this year, I’d make the effort to improve our diet and our health.

After multiple car trips around the neighbourhood, comparing prices and availability of organic produce, I found a good local wholefoods store. And, I’m proud to say, we have now made the move over to eating (nearly) all organic food and it feels wonderful. We also make a few things ourselves. It’s a matter of trial and error as we go along. The wonderful thing about being connected via the internet, as I have been for the last five years, is that you can share your developments and discoveries as you go along, and (hopefully) benefit other people. So, here goes…

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I used to buy pre-made dumplings. Now, we make our own. Simply buy a pack of dumpling wrappers, some lean, free-range, ethically raised pork mince, and add a few diced shrimps and herbs and chives from the garden, a dash of sesame oil and soy sauce. Mix and dumplify. Then drop in hot water and freeze in batches. The ultimate dream would be to make my own dumpling wrappers as well, using organic ingredients, but, hey, one has to take one amazing step forward at a time!

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The first time we made our own dumplings, they lasted for weeks. It was a saving and they were tastier and better for us.

*Top tip: make your children do all the work. My kids love making dumplings!

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I used to buy a bag of mesclun lettuce for the kids at $3.99 and a fancy lettuce for me at $3.99 each week. Now, I buy two packs of multiple organic seedlings for $3.95 each from a wholefoods store and we grow our own salad greens for months.

I used to buy bean sprouts. One pack of organic alfalfa at $3.95 and one organic broccoli sprouts or chickpea sprouts at $3.95 from the wholefood supermarket a week.

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Now, I buy 100gm packs of alfalfa and lentil sprouting seeds at $6.90 and $3.95 respectively, from BinnInn, and we make our own bean sprouts. The bags last for more than a month.

I thought I’d share the steps of how to do your own sprouting, to show how simple it is. My son says the homemade sprouts taste better. And they’re obviously fresher which means they’re better for you. It’s a win-win all round!

Here’s how to grow your own bean sprouts:

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Start with your pack of seed, a jar and a preserving jar lid with mesh glued around the inside. We made our own sprouting kit, using a 1 kg peanut butter jar and preserving lid, adding mesh we bought at the hardware store. However, you can buy starter kits with the seeds included in most wholefood stores. In New Zealand, you can get them at Binn Inn,  for a reasonable twenty-five dollars.

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With the alfalfa, I use a tablespoon and a half of seed. With the lentils, I use two tablespoons. Cover the seeds in separate containers with filtered water by at least an inch. Screw the lid on top of the jar. Leave the seeds to soak overnight.

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Drain off excess water the next morning. Roll the jar onto its side and spread the seeds out a bit by shaking so that they all get a bit of space and air can circulate.

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Each day, water them night and morning, and drain off water. Repeat until the sprouts are to the size you want them. The alfalfa takes about four days to reach a decent size.  The lentils only take a couple of days, or they get a little ‘tough.’ Then move the sprouts to the lidded container of your choosing and refrigerate.

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I like to wash the sprouting jar and lid, and give them a day and a half at least of non-use in between batches. After that, cover the next lot of seeds with water and start again. It makes enough sprouts for our family of three for a week.

You’re welcome. Enjoy! And let me know how you go with your bean sprouting adventures.

I do feel improvement in my health and overall wellbeing, and it feels so good to do this for my kids. I hope these tips are of use to you and your family!

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“I don’t believe in ageing. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun. Hence my optimism.” – Virginia Woolf

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There is nothing quite like the smell of an extra spicy fruit cake baking in the oven, however, the Queen of them all is the old English style Christmas Cake. In essence, it’s a deeply rich fruit mixture heavy on the fruit and steeped in rum or brandy. Thick and dense, it bakes for up to four hours on a low heat, which is a nice long time for the smell to permeate the house. We love it.

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I come from a family of British immigrants to New Zealand, and despite the fact we have summer in the festive season, my parents continued the tradition of the “Christmas Cake.” I have raised my boys with our own version of the family tradition. At the end of November, my kids and I don our aprons and head into the kitchen for the labour of love.

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I think the secret to a good result is in soaking the fruit in orange juice and rum or brandy overnight. In the old English style, the ratio of dried fruit to flour is about four to one. Typically, there will be raisins, currants, sultanas and chopped dates. Most recipes call for glace cherries and crystallised ginger, but, as I’m not fond of these ingredients, I like to add chopped dried apricots and figs and extra blanched almonds.

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This year, my boys and I came up with a fun idea for a crafty gift. We only used half the batter for the traditional rectangular cake, which will be iced closer to Christmas with brandy butter icing.

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The other half of the batter, we fashioned into rough balls and baked in muffin tins. In this form, they take half the time, roughly two to two and a half hours at a low heat. They form a nice firm ball. Once cool, we dusted them lightly with sifted icing sugar.

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We wrapped the individual balls in baking paper, making neat little parcels with cotton gift ties.

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I had been collecting gift boxes and tins from the thrift stores the last few weeks. We wrapped the paper parcels in cellophane wrap to ensure they will stay fresh as long as possible and divided the balls between the tins and boxes.

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We wrote a personalised message on a gift tag inside each lid.

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We tied a ribbon on each box and there you have it, our Christmas Cake Balls as a gift you can make with your kids and give away at this year.

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Do you make your own gifts or have your own crafting traditions at this time of year? If so, let us know!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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It is never too late to start enjoying a happy childhood. ~ Joy Cowley

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Need to reduce some of the overindulgence in your diet and yet still craving some treats and “goodies” to look forward to? Me, too!

Recently, I had noticed a few stomach gripes after eating rich meals. I could see myself heading down a slippery slope to ill health if I didn’t start to make a few informed and wise choices with my diet.

Once you reach a certain age it pays dividends to start to think about things like healthy options which will support optimum blood sugar levels and hormone production. I gave my diet an overhaul as I needed to introduce some good fats and cut down on the not-so-good fats. My health professional suggested adding Chia seeds to my breakfast or in smoothies, as well as adding coconut oil in place of butter. She recommended increasing the healthy oils on salads too. Fat is required to make healthy hormones.

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She also proposed alternative snack foods like fresh fruit and vegetables. I used to buy plenty of fruit during the week for the kids to snack on and yet not eat any of it myself! I started buying more fruit and eating a couple of pieces daily. I started eating the fruit we produce on the trees in our own yard instead of giving it all away.

And yet, I still wanted to have a few yummy “treats” to look forward to after dinner. The desire for a bit of decadence has driven me to do a bit of experimenting in the kitchen of late. I always seek options to help alkalise the body too.

In my mission to cut bread from my diet about ten years ago, I had eliminated all bread and therefore all grains. When encouraged by my health professional to reintroduce bread, the first thing I thought of was spicy sultana loaf. I found Vogels make a beautiful wholemeal “extra thick fruit & spice” bread. However, mindful of trying to eat the right fats, I came up with a viable alternative to slathering my toast with butter.

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I experimented and found that if I spread about half a teaspoon of coconut oil on the toast first, and then all I needed was the lightest of touches of butter on the top. So you feel like you’re eating buttered toast when really it’s mainly coconut oil.

What delicious sort of drink would complement this dessert perfectly?

I came up with an utterly decadent drink which is simple to make: real hot chocolate. It’s purely two ingredients: milk and dark chocolate.

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Here’s the method:

Heat a cup of what I call “good” milk – I bought organic non-homogenised milk. Do not overheat! Aim to bring up the temperature to warm.

Slice a few squares of good dark chocolate and add to the milk. Stir.

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Heat further.

Remember, you’re aiming to raise the temperature of the liquid to near-simmer but without boiling. Once you boil the milk it loses all its goodness and changes consistency.

Once the temperature is right give it a whisk with a spoon. And savour.

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The warmed chocolate milk taken with the spicy fruit bread is the perfect healthy, yet decadent snack. Yum yum.

Do you have any recipes which seem so good they must be bad for you?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Keep clean, body and mind.’ ~ Sir Frederick Treves, 1903

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com