It's a whole year since Kiwi Family went Down Under which is very odd. It doesn't seem like a year although they have produced a whole new person since then which plots out the passage of time quite forcefully! We had a celebratory meal with the Ecos to mark the occasion since Kiwi Family are enjoying their new life so much and meanwhile we are a year closer to seeing them again :)
Of course I wanted to make something distinctively Kiwi to eat, but it's quite hard as an outsider to find things that are particularly Kiwi rather than antipodean more generally. New Zealand lamb would have been an option but since meat and air miles were off the menu that was a non-starter. I thought of a vegemite pie or stew, but apparently Kiwis tend to prefer our own Marmite (though tell that to Kiwi Sis, who has been missing her fix). When Kiwi Family first arrived Kiwi Bro's school organised a welcome ceremony with a meal cooked in a traditional pit oven or hangi, but I'm afraid I baulked at digging up the garden. However, I went to New Zealand myself in my gap year after university (when The Scientist was still far off the radar in The Other University in the Fens) and I do have some particular food memories of it, namely of sweet potato and pumpkin (and spirulina - green milkshake that tastes of banana - strangely addictive though it helps if you shut your eyes as you drink it). I don't think I'd ever had sweet potato (or kumara as the common variant there is called) before going to New Zealand and then we found it often in cafes, served as baked chips with sour cream and paprika. Yum. And I'd only had pumpkin once or twice before then as well, but met it often enough on my travels that my friend and I cautiously bought a wedge and made it into something or other one night in a hostel. This time I fancied something new on that theme and settled on a focal point of pumpkin gnocchi.
I must apologise now for the lack of photos of the gnocchi. They weren't too photogenic and I wouldn't want to put anyone off trying them themelves - they looked much better in real life :) I also wasn't very scientific in my method of making them. I defrosted the pumpkin and then heated it gently in a pan to drive off the excess moisture. I also added a bit of ordinary cooked potato to bulk it out. Then I added enough plain flour to turn it into a dough, and seasoned it with salt, pepper and some fresh herbs (I happened to have a winter variety pack which contained oregano and sage so I used that). I rolled the dough into balls and then put them in boiling water for five minutes or so until they rose to the surface. So far so good. The dough was, however, extremely gluey, no matter how much flour I added, and the best way to describe the cooked gnocchi was 'dense'. They certainly filled you up and I'm glad I'd only done five each. I served them with a cold sundried tomato dressing and it was nice to have something cold and fresh to lighten them up a bit. We also had sagey beans with them, some braised tofu which one of our hosts over Christmas had bought to feed me and donated me the leftovers, and some braised cabbage with caraway. None of those were particularly Kiwi - just the contents of our veg box this week. I would work on improving the gnocchi before serving them again but it was an interesting and varied meal :)
Dessert was easier to settle on - although there I was spoilt for choice. I chose a pavlova for two reasons. One is that it is quintessentially antipodean, although it almost certainly originated in Australia rather than New Zealand. It does, however, feature in the classic Kiwi Edmonds cookbook. The second is that it was also serving as a birthday cake for Eco Bro, and since they had a truly amazing pavlova at their wedding, I thought it was a nice personal link to them as well as Kiwi Family. I used a recipe from my Good Housekeeping cookbook and it was *really* good. Just make sure you give yourself a bit of time as the meringue cooks quite slowly and it needs to cool before it's topped. I was going to halve the recipe to feed four but we polished off the full sized one with no effort at all, to our calorie-laden shame. It's just a big meringue base topped with cream (I used half whipped double cream and half low fat Greek yogurt) and then fruit. Kiwi fruit would, of course, have been the obvious way to go but they are completely out of season here and I couldn't find frozen ones, so I used frozen fruits of the forest instead. They weren't completely defrosted when I served it up and we all agreed that we liked it that way. Eco Sis wants the recipe which is always a good indicator of a popular meal!
And so we enter the second year of Kiwi Family's Antipodean Adventure (and hence also the second year of this blog). I'm sure that their own celebration was a bit sunnier than ours but we think Vitamin D is over-rated anyway. Give us arctic windchill any day (are you missing Britain now?!)
Pavlova (from Good Housekeeping Cookbook)
3 egg whites
175g caster sugar
1 tsp cornflour, sifted
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
Line a baking sheet with non-stick baking parchment and draw a 23 cm circle on the paper. Turn the paper over.
Whisk the egg white in a bowl until stiff. Whisk in the sugar a third at a time, whisking well between each addition until stiff and very shiny. Fold in the cornflour, vinegar and vanilla essence. I was a bit worried about using a whisk to beat in the sugar for fear of losing the air in the egg white but it was fine and I just changed to a metal spoon for the cornflour etc. I used golden caster sugar which gave the meringue a very slightly darker hue.
Pile the meringue on to the marked circle, making a hollow in the centre. Bake at 130C/Has 1/2 for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours or until slightly browned and dry but a little soft in the centre: press lightly with a finger to test. Mine was already quite brown at 1 1/4 hours and wasn't soft in the middle but it tasted just fine. Leave to cool slightly, then peel of paper. At this stage the meringue may crack and sink a little.
300 ml (1/2 pint) double cream or half Greek yogurt (I used low fat) and half double cream
450g mixed fruit, defrosted (or mainly so) if frozen. Kiwi and passionfruit are traditional, but any seasonal fruit would work ok.
Whip the cream until thick, and if using, mix with the yogurt; spoon on top of the meringue. Top with the fruit, and chocolate curls if you like (I would have liked, but forgot. Sigh).