how to be a kiwi

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed from my barrage of sunny, beach-time photos that I spent the weekend at a friend’s wedding.

The setting was idyllic; sunshine and sand, a driftwood alter and rustic décor, a warm breeze carrying the salty air, and a beautiful bride to boot.

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It was a real international affair; visitors from all over the globe settling into this sleepy little beach town. And with some many of the guests having recently returned from their lives abroad, it was a perfect occasion for an overload of Kiwiana.

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Here are some of the things we did that sum up what it’s like to be a Kiwi.

Hokey pokey ice cream

I think it’s safe to say that New Zealanders class hokey pokey as its own food group. These tiny, amber coloured droplets of golden syrup are worth their weight in (actual) gold in my eyes. Not only are they excellent in keeping my constant sugar cravings at bay, but they offer a satisfying crunch to accompany the smooth velvetiness of almost-melting vanilla ice cream. As kids, we would pick the little sugary globes out of our ice cream as we went and save them till last, the winner was the person whose ice cream had the most hokey pokey balls. The prize was never more than bragging rights, but that’s the best part of winning anyway.

Steak and cheese pies

I can understand how the idea of a mince pie sitting in a warming oven could sound all kinds of horrible. And I partially agree. It’s not something that I have often; less than once in a blue moon, but when I do indulge, it’s one of the most nostalgic experiences that exist – it just tastes like home. Gooey cheese on top of a mountain of steak chunks, drowned in an ocean of thick, rich gravy, all encased in a petite parcel of warm pastry. It is by no means gourmet, but it is definitely an ideal meal for enjoying as you walk along the boardwalk, cradled between two icy cold hands to help warm up after a dip in the not-quite-warm-enough ocean.

Beach cricket

Speaking of activities that are well complemented by swims in the “refreshing” surf; beach cricket. I wasn’t much of a sporty child; I wasn’t blessed with much in the form of hand-eye coordination, so I’m not well versed in the rules of actual cricket but that’s never stopped me from enjoying a round of beach cricket where the rules are far simpler. Someone bowls the ball (underarm of course), you thwack it as hard as you can and run to a stick poked in the ground and back as many times as you can. If someone catches the ball, you’re out, if not, the cycle continues until they do, or until someone gets mad and hurls the bat at someone else or into the ocean. But that only happens if you’re playing with my family.

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Don’t even get me started on fish and chips, that’s a story for a whole other post!

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wanted: blogging buddy

Like the task from the other day, today’s task is about growing your blogging network. On day 7 we focused on widening our horizons on who reads our blogs and today we are looking at growing that network in regards to who we are writing with, rather than writing for. Which brings me back to what I’m looking for: a blogging buddy.

I think it is important to have a network of people following your blog who know you in real life, seeing a friend and being told that they loved that post you did on chocolate, or the quote you posted was really funny, is thrilling. As much as I love the blogging community, nothing beats a little face-to-face interaction! I also find it so helpful to have friends who are contributing to the blogging world at the same time as you; being able to talk about things that you are planning on writing about and when your next post is coming out is a really great motivator.

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And then there is taking it to the next level; a blog contributor. Deciding to have someone writing on your blog, on your baby, is a big step, albeit a relatively easy one in comparison to the tasks that come next. How do you decide what kind of blogger you want to feature? How do you find them? How do you build up the courage to ask them? Memories of shy 12-year old you, too shy to ask someone out, so getting your friend to do it for you flood back. Oh, the adolescent agony and uncertainty!

What should you look for in a blog contributor? It is obvious that you need to choose someone who shares some vague common interests with you; after all, you want your readers to want to read it. But they have to be different enough to make it interesting, or what is the point of their contribution – you could have just written it yourself?

I have been pondering all morning about variations of things I like to talk about that I think my followers would still enjoy in hope of creating the draft of my idea blog contributor.

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Travel
Slightly budgeted and slightly off the beaten track à either extreme; really budgeted and off the radar, or something unimaginably luxurious!

Food
European, Middle Eastern, chocolate, experimenting on classics à Asian, South American, Health-focused or a variation on any of the current food fads

Culture
I don’t often post about culture as a whole, while I do try and integrate aspects of it into other things I do, I don’t find it particularly easy to write about on its own, I would love to include someone who has some great things to say about it!

I suppose looking for a blogging buddy isn’t going to be the worst job in the world; I can spend hour upon hour browsing interesting topics and claim its ‘research’!

brioche à la praline

Why, hello there, 2015! How are you? Exhausting, that’s how. We are a mere four days in and I already just want to curl up into a ball and sleep for a week. But seeing as that is not possible, I instead just daydream about all the delicious food I ate a Christmas-time.

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This year, Christmas breakfast was accompanied with homemade brioche laced with sugar-coated almonds. The morning was unusually humid so the dough didn’t rise as well as I would have liked it to, but it was still really delicious and rather easy to make.

Easy to make and not too time-consuming, however, should not be thought as two of the same, especially in this situation. Regardless of when you want your bread to be ready, you will need to start the day before; the dough is best when refrigerated overnight.

To make this delicious beauty, you will need…
240grams of flour
25grams of sugar
5grams of salt
7grams of instant yeast
70milliltres of milk
2 eggs
125grams of softened butter cubes

Mix your dry ingredients together before adding the milk and eggs. Use an electric mixer at a low speed for a couple of minutes before moving to a medium speed for another eight or so. Or use your own arm strength like me until you have an elastic dough like this.

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Mix in the butter a cube at a time; I find that this way the batter is smoother. Cover the dough with cling film at chill overnight, if you cant wait that long, a few hours should suffice.

DAY TWO
Roll your dough out into a large square on a surface dusted with flour; it should be about a centimetre thick. Brush the dough with egg wash and cut into 16 evenly sized pieces. Sprinkle about two thirds of almonds overtop, fold each piece in half and arrange them in a loaf tin. Brush again with egg wash and sprinkle the remaining almonds overtop before leaving in a warm place for 45 minutes to rise.

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Bake for 30 minutes at 180°C or until you can poke a knife into it without any dough sticking to it.

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The food colouring used in the almonds will run through the dough as the sugar coating the almonds melts giving it a beautiful marbled effect.
This is a perfect sweet snack to dunk into your coffee, and having divided the dough into pieces before baking, it is so easy to break into chunks and share with loved ones.

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mama mia i’m melting

It’s official. Summer is definitely here. And although I am very grateful to be getting a second summer in a row I don’t think I was at all prepared for this. To me, a ‘hot’ day in summer is about 25°C (77F), so I was more than happy when it hit 28°C last week. The last three days have been 34°C (93F) and I actually feel as though my face is going to catch on fire, and that’s only a bit of an exaggeration.

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Luckily, the beach is not too far from our place and it’s lovely. On a beach excursion yesterday I was able to cool off in my first swim in the Mediterranean and as I lay on the sand catching the last of the sun’s rays at 8pm I thought how nice it would be to be on a nice beach island in this perfect weather (surrounded by cool trendy locals [see above] as apposed to throngs of tourists).

Apparently fate is a bit of a fan of mine because whaddya know,  the next day my friend in England told me that we are planning a high school reunion in September in Greece! So, I will be able to settle myself on a nice little island for a few days and do whatever you do on a Greek island with your best friends. Sing and dance along the hills like Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried? I think so.

In light of this little bit of destiny I decided to celebrate with a little cooking, obviously. Baklava is a tasty Greek treat originating from the Ottoman Empire and eaten basically everywhere around the Mediterranean. I have been in love with it ever since my Turkish uncle introduced me to it, it’s a combination of nuts with sweet pastry and syrupy sugar and is one of the easiest things to make. I made it for the first time last Christmas and I was a little bit anxious because every blog or recipe I looked at made it sound so complicated, they were lying big time!

IMG_3488You will need a packet of filo/phyllo pastry, about 450 grams of walnuts, a cup of butter, a teaspoon of cinnamon, a cup of water, a cup of white sugar, half a cup of honey and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. With this amount of butter and sugar it obviously goes in the ‘eat occasionally’ category!

First off, turn the oven on to 175°C, butter the bottom and sides of a decent sized tray and toast the walnuts in a frying pan with the cinnamon (DO NOT add oil or it will all turn into the world’s biggest disaster). You don’t want to burn them but you want to keep them in the pan until the have darkened, they should be crunchy the whole way through. If you have bought pre-toasted walnuts a guess just mix them with the cinnamon but that is less fun and will make you feel a lot less authentically Greek. Remember that when you’re at the grocery store.

Next you want to chop the nuts quite finely, or use a blender because it will take about 5 seconds instead of way too long.

IMG_3492In the buttered tray layer the pastry one sheet at a time with a layer of melted butter in between each sheet, be generous with the butter because the more butter the better it will taste! Add the chopped nuts when you have layered half the filo and then layer the rest, continuing to butter each sheet. Now cut diagonally from two of the corners, the slices should overlap to create diamond shapes, each cut should be about 4 inches apart making four rows.

Now it’s time to pop it in the oven for 50 minutes and start or the syrup.

Boil the sugar and water together until the sugar has dissolved and add the honey and vanilla. Bring down to a low heat and simmer for 20 minutes. To add another element, I added a teaspoon of chilli powder with the honey and vanilla to make it a bit spicy because I love dark chilli chocolate and I thought that this would work; it did! So feel free to borrow my secret ingredient.

When the baklava is finished baking, take it out of the oven and pour the sugar syrup along the lines you cut into it before baking, this way the pastry and the nuts will absorb the sugar and become sticky and moist and delicious. Unfortunately you have to leave it to absorb properly before you can eat it; probably the hardest part of the whole thing. Between 5 and 8 hours is what most recipes would recommend but if you have the self control to leave it overnight then that would be best.

This is what you should be left with in the end!

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Just thinking about this makes me so excited to be sitting on the beach, in Greece with the largest plate of baklava ever. But in the mean time I guess I am just going to have to satisfy myself by enjoying it on my tiny balcony and spending my days looking at the beach and searching for Greek looking people.

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