Monthly Archives: February 2011

Baking for Christchurch – from the heart

Fresh out of the oven

In the minutes, hours and days since the earthquake struck Christchurch last Tuesday we have all felt powerless. The desire to help in some way, in any way,  is huge.

Facebook has come into its own in spreading messages and love far more effectively than any other medium.

Last week, the call came out via Facebook to ‘bake-off for Christchurch’. A page was created for the event and details were updated as necessary. Bake on Sunday, pack into ice-cream container and drop-off on Monday from 7.00am – 9.ooam at any one of three designated points.

At last an opportunity to do something from the heart.

So I baked and baked and baked – one slice – lots of it!

This morning I dropped off my container. As I walked down the street, busy with people making their way to work, I was struck by the number of people carrying containers. Smiling faces … a sense of purpose, at last being able to do something, being able to contribute.

An athletic looking young girl walking alongside her racing bike bike strode past me and asked if I was going to the bake-off. Her accent was european – possibly dutch. I watched as she went up to the table, opened her backpack and unpacked her baking. Her smile was huge.

A steady stream of people (including young children) made their way to the table. Two young girls, one with a tulle skirt were carrying parcels wrapped in decorative paper and ribbon – cards were attached. As they put them on the table a photographer spotted them – we’ll see them in tomorrow’s Dominion Post.

Smiles all around as gifts are given

On another table people were invited to queue up and write messages for the people of Christchurch on a huge calico banner.

We love you Christchurch

I turned on the radio when I arrived home. Over 7,000 containers of baking had been received …  love and care shown though one simple act.

Loss of dreams

A poignant reminder

While striding out this morning I saw this pretty little baby’s shoe lying in the gutter. I felt instantly sad … tears welled.

A reminder of the tragic loss of life from Tuesday’s earthquake in Christchurch. To date there have been 123 confirmed deaths … the names of six have so far been published. Two are babies.

In a few brief seconds, the dreams parents had for their lives are gone. They have been dealt the cruelest of blows.

We can accept death more easily when it’s in the natural order of things. It’s more difficult, unbelievably difficult, when death strikes the young. As a mother, my heart aches at their loss and I can only imagine the pain parents and families are having to endure.

Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with the community in Christchurch.

Heartfelt message

Christchurch Press building was damaged beyond repair in Tuesday’s earthquake.

In the wake the quake Press reporter Vicki Anderson, who was at work at the time of the quake, wrote these words:

(Although the message is addressed to New Zealanders, it applies to everyone)

“New Zealand, we need you. Aside from your practical support, which we thank you for, we need you to understand how draining and anxiety-causing these aftershocks are. We need you to give us your strength, kindness and support to help is get through this disaster.

Wherever you live, whatever you do, hold your loved ones close, tell the people you care about what they mean to you, and please, no matter where you are in New Zealand, pack your survival kit – I used to watch those ads and think they didn’t apply to me.

Life is fragile. I stood on the edge of the abyss and peered into the darkness today. People of New Zealand, let your love be our light.”

If I could have anything to eat right now

Not recommended for diabetics - but we were doing huge amounts of exercise!

If I could have anything to et right now – with my coffee – it would be this best pastry every from Il Pirata cafe in the little town of Vernazza – on the famous Cinque Terre walk in Italy. Light and crunchy pastry with a gooey lemon ricotta filling.

Then a couple of hours later I’d like to sink my teeth into the peach we left behind in the fridge in our room. The peach we had bought to savour on our long train trip to Milan. I still dream about it!

Unbelievable sadness in quake aftermath

I don’t live in Christchurch, I live on the fault line in Wellington far away from the scene of yesterday’s terrifying event – a 6.3 magnitude earthquake that struck the city just after mid-day.

Since then I have followed the tragedy on radio and television – thrilled when I hear news of a successful rescue, saddened with reports of others who haven’t made it. So far 75 have been confirmed dead, a further 300 are still missing.

My heart is heavy.

Though feeling relieved that my friends in Christchurch are safe and well, my heart goes out to those who have not been so fortunate. Television news has been bringing us reports continuously since the quake struck – they show images of the city’s destruction and of a community banding together to help each other through this disaster. Power is out in about 80% of the city, water is scarce, and people have been asked to not flush their toilets – but to bury their waste. Stories are being told of miraculous escapes, while anguish shows on the faces of others waiting in hope.

Search and rescue teams have come from elsewhere in New Zealand and from Australia, Japan, USA and Britain to help dig through the rubble in the hope of finding survivors.

Hearts are huge and generous.

And I sit comfortably here feeling powerless. I want to help … I so want to help.

Another quake rocks Christchurch

Wellingtonians stop to listen as news of the horrifying earthquake breaks

Just before 1.00 pm this afternoon (New Zealand time) Christchurch was hit buy another earthquake – 6.3 magnitude at a depth of 5 kms with epicentre estimated to be 10 kms south of the city.

The first earthquake of 7.4 rocked Christchurch and surrounding areas at 4.30am on 4 September 2010 causing significant damage. The whole region since then has been subjected to crippling aftershocks with people living in fear of the next big one.

Reports from today’s event suggest multiple fatalities and injuries, they talk of massive amounts of damage to the city and its infrastructure. The spire of Christchurch’s magnificent Cathedral has fallen, as have several buildings. An unknown number of people are trapped inside buildings, rubble and debris have flattened two crowded buses and countless cars, roads are buckled, water mains have burst, power and telephone have been disrupted, and liquefaction is running through the streets. Christchurch Hospital is being evacuated and civil defense emergency centres are filling fast.

People are terrified as the aftershocks keep coming.

The city is in shock. The whole of New Zealand is in shock.

Cooking with Julia Childs

All trussed up and ready for the softened butter

I really enjoyed the movie Julie and Julia.

I’d never taken the time to look at Julia Child et al’s famous book Mastering the Art of French Cooking so when I went into Borders this morning armed with my voucher and a ‘must use’ directive, I spent some time flicking through the pages. I decided that I’d buy  it – for the narrative alone. It’s delightful and Meryl Streep playing Julia Child made enough impact to intrigue me!

With no time like the present to try one of her famous recipes, I scanned the index then checked the list of ingredients needed for the Roast Chicken (stuffed) recipe on page 243. Mastering the Art of French Cookery has no glossy pictures, you have to read carefully and use your imagination. I was thinking crispy golden brown. With a fresh free range chicken sitting in the fridge I only needed to get a couple more items. Gizzards proved impossible, as did heart. Sorry JC – our fresh chickens don’t come with all their bits any more.

The recipe uses a stuffing made with those missing bits, plus the livers, cream cheese, butter, bread and herbs and smells delicious once made…we have to make concessions to the French who obviously love their butter and cream. Dieters beware!

Instructions (with line drawn diagrams) for trussing the chicken are found on page 237. Well, I’d never trussed a chicken correctly before, and because I didn’t happen to have a 10inch large-eyed needle on hand (to insert through the widest part of the chicken) – I still didn’t. But I did get close – I learn something new every day!

Once sealed, slathering butter over the plump bird wasn’t a problem – undoubtedly very good for my skin. Getting my hands into the task, messing about in all that soft butter was delicious feeling … the way it squishes through your fingers is like playing with wet clay.

I followed the cooking times, basting it every 15 minutes with the pan juices, and then with cream during the last ten minutes. I made the sauce as instructed, and … hey presto, you see big bird below.

It tasted as good as it looks ... even better actually!

What to try next?

No, I won’t be producing a daily diary of my efforts. That’s been done!

Masterchef NZ – sacrifice for the dream

Presentation and flavour - exquisite!

I love Masterchef. I love the food, the competition, the creativity, the challenge and I admire the contestants.

I was watching the first episode on New Zealand’s 2011 Masterchef tonight – the elimination round where 25 contestants were selected from a field of about a thousand.

One of the entrants was a young man who’d cooked a vegetarian dish for the judges. He confessed to being vegetarian, saying that he didn’t have a problem cooking meat, but wouldn’t eat it. One of the judges described his dish as being a bit oily, but they looked impressed.

They asked him how far he would go in order to be selected. What would he be prepared to eat. The young man replied that if a sausage was put in front of him he’d eat it. Judge Chef Simon Gault left the room and returned a few minutes later with a plate – on top of which was a lump of  cooked brains.

I felt for the contestant. There’s no way I’d eat it – and I’m not even vegetarian. It looked disgusting! But the brave young man sliced a bit off the portion and popped it in his mouth. I thought he’d be sick … I could feel him gagging. He swallowed it and was then asked what it tasted like. He didn’t look too happy and said that it tasted like fat.

He was in, accepted as one of the successful 25 … he made the ultimate sacrifice for his dream. He ate meat – and to make matters worse, offal!

I’m not a fan of the game shows, Fear Factor for example,  where contestants have to eat grubs, worms, beetles and other live creatures for the sake of the spectacle. I could never never never do it. Likewise I would never lower myself into a tank filled with anything other that crystal clear water. No way …

I wonder what sacrifice I would be prepared to make for my dream?


Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home

New Zealanders are a fairly well-travelled bunch of people.

Our land is small, and very isolated … along in the Pacific Ocean with out closest neighbour (Australia) about 2400km distant. Visiting other countries not a matter of getting in the car and driving over the border – its a long flight the shortest being three hours. We’re curious, we want to see and experience what’s out there, we want to know what we’re missing.

So we travel.

Most of us return … it may take a number of years, but we always do.

You see, New Zealand has clear azure blue sky, majestic snow-capped mountains, gushing rivers and waterfalls, miles and miles of stunning coastline, lush green native forests where bird calls fill the air – and space. Only four million people live here. Once you’re out of the city – green pasture and hills stretch as far as your eye can see.

New Zealanders, after travelling, working and living overseas, return home – it is our refuge.