fascinating foreign films

so the foreign film festival is always a big deal in my household, and i usually manage to toddle along to at least one. this year, however, i surpassed myself and went to 4! (2 of which i didn’t pay for, but still!)

i think what stops people from going to these films is that they can be a bit hit and miss, but i enjoyed all my films enormously, in quite different ways.

i put the trailers with each one, because i personally adore watching trailers and can idle away a good hour watching them on youtube. even films that i know full well i wouldn’t go to, i still heartily enjoy the trailer, so i hope they amuse you!

our little sister
we watched this in dunedin’s beautiful regent theatre, such a treat! this was just lovely. the story of three sisters and how they take in their half sister. visually stunning, a very sweet, gentle film. i loved the inclusion of japanese culture, rituals, food, traditional houses and plenty of stunning scenery: it was one of those films that really immersed you in a country- it felt very ‘japanese’. it’s definitely put japan on my travel list – such an interesting country!

go if: you feel like spending two hours in japan, or you have sisters!

this was a freebie, and to be honest i don’t know if i’d recommend you go if you’re paying for it! there were definitely some funny bits though: a slow moving story of a gym and the owner, one of the trainers and a pretty messed up client – there was some super cringe inducing humour.

go if: super awkward humour is your thing

city of gold
this was gorgeous! a documentary about Jonathan Gold, an LA times food critic. he writes these lyrical reviews of tiny, predominantly ethnic restaurants all over Los Angeles and it showed him dining at his favourites, the stories of the proprietors and about him and his family. don’t go hungry! this was very sweet and touching and he seems like the most marvellous and truly empathetic man. LA has never been a city really on my travel radar but this film changed that! it seems like a fascinating city with all the different concentrated populations of all sorts of people and of course, incredibly diverse variety of food!

go if: you are at all interested in writing or food

saint laurent
this screened in the isaac theatre royal, which i was very excited about as it was the first time i’d been in there since it had been restored after the earthquake, and they did such a good job – it really is a stunning theatre! the actor who played (young) Yves was incredible – i believed him completely. a masterful portrayal of a troubled individual, with plenty of incredible clothes to stun you. plenty of nudity, alcohol and drugs so it definitely merited its R16 rating. I walked out of the theatre feeling quite overwhelmed but in a good way – i think it would be impossible to be unmoved by it.

go if: you like fashion, france or superb acting

bonus: trainwreck!
ok, clearly not an arts festival film haha but i went to it in the break and was so impressed by it! i went in having seen the very funny trailer, and it was very funny, but it also had more depth that i wasn’t expecting. the male lead was so sweet, amy was hilarious and her family dynamic was really touching. the frequent cameos of LeBron James were also great! highly, highly recommend.

go if: crying with laughter sounds appealing

ps i’m really proud of my embedding haha! how pro am i?? just call me lisbeth salander ;)


rhubarb butterscotch layer cake


so i’ve noticed on instagram this year there seems to have become this trend of making ridiculously beautiful layer cakes, strewn with flowers and glazes and gorgeous garnishes, that i just hadn’t seen before! a couple of student acquaintances have started up selling their services for 21sts and the like, and are really producing such stunning delicious creations!

me, i’m a home cook – i would never pretend to amazing, beautiful presentation skills – but these talented chicas inspired me to get ambitious during my time at home and make something that looked as good as it tasted!

my grandpa kindly obliged by having his 83rd birthday while I was home during the break, so a beautiful cake was in order.


if you haven’t noticed, i really like rhubarb, and baking with rhubarb especially! it has such wonderful sour, tart quality that marries so well in baking, as you’re basically guaranteed to have it temper out however much sugar you throw at it! it goes well with custard, in crumbles, in cakes and muffins, in tarts, just any which way.

speaking of throwing sugar around, the sugar fast has clearly ended – with a bang huh! I am really glad i did my fortnight of no sugar and i’m definitely going to try moving forward to avoid the stuff.

i think i will continue to cut out drink sugary drinks (ie juice, hot chocolates, chai’s, sweet teas etc) because that’s how i often consume sugar in a flatting/day to day context, as we don’t really bake at the flat and i’m pretty good at not buying chocolate and lollies at the supermarket. a hot chocolate or heavily sweetened milky tea is thus how i get my sugar hit, so having a blanket rule against those will hopefully cut most of my sugar without feeling hopelessly hard done by and neglected!

this really is a beautiful cake: moist fluffy cake layers, creamy butterscotch icing, tart tender hits of rhubarb, and of course smooth luscious caramel. i adapted it from a lovely ripe recipe: i really adore these cookbooks and angela never steers me wrong! this was enjoyed by my grandpa and the rest of my extended family last night, and i’m currently eyeing up the last piece in the fridge as we speak!


rhubarb butterscotch layer cake 

250g butter, very softened
100g caster sugar
160g brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
225g self raising flour
2 tbsp milk
250g rhubarb, chopped into 1cm pieces (5 stems for me)

preheat the oven to 180ºC. prepare two 22cm springform cake tins with baking paper. blitz the butter, caster sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and eggs in the food processor until fully combined and creamy. Add the flour and pulse to combine. add 2 tbsp milk and blitz again. fold through rhubarb bits (i took the sharp blade out and stirred the rhubarb in) then divide between the two cake tins. i weighed them to make sure they were equal, but you don’t have to! place in the oven and bake for 20-25 mins or until a skewer comes out clean – they will still feel fairly soft on top. allow to cool completely.

roasted rhubarb 
750g rhubarb, chopped into 2cm pieces (this was 9 stems for me)
2 tbsp sugar

line a baking sheet with baking paper and place the rhubarb on it. sprinkle over the sugar and bake for 15-20 mins or until tender.

300g caster sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup cream
place the sugar and water in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. don’t stir, just tilt the saucepan to swirl the mixture. bring it to the boil and then let boil for another 10 mins or so – it will be a light golden, then a darker golden brown, at which point remove from the heat immediately. slowly drizzle in the cream, whisking the whole time. it will make a thin caramel sauce. set aside to cool

250g cream cheese
1/2 cup caramel

beat the cream cheese until smooth and then add the caramel. beat again until fully combined and no lumps remain.

note- the original recipe called for 400g cream cheese with 1 cup of caramel, we only bought one block of cream cheese so i scaled it down and nobody missed it. however, if you would like a really indulgent, decadent helping, feel free to make the original amount!

cut the two cakes in even halves, using a long serrated knife. assemble, using 1/4 of the icing and rhubarb and a little of the caramel each time. when you get to the last layer, swirl the icing over the top, mound the rhubarb in the centre of the cake and then drizzle the caramel on the edges as well as the centre so it drizzles down the sides. this would be lovely served with greek yoghurt. enjoy!


brussels sprouts skillet pizza


hello! we are still in the depths of winter, though i’ve noticed some of the blossom trees around campus starting to bud which as you can imagine, cannot come soon enough for me! blossoms just make me so happy!

the mid semester break is coming up and i’m hanging out for it, really looking forward to being home and warm and good food. crazy to think this is my last time I will go home before i leave otago for good – what a strange thought. I’ve found out that my graduation date for next year will be the 21st May! I’m already looking forward to graduation, and coming back down to dunedin for that; i think it will be a very happy, celebratory culmination of the last three years. jess and clara will graduate with me too which is really lovely and will make for a joyous day and night!

update on no sugar – it’s hard! but the cravings are definitely starting to ease, thankfully! one thing that i’ve noticed is that i’m getting to sleep much more quickly – I hop into bed and i’m asleep after maybe 10 minutes, whereas it often takes me much longer  – an interesting development, that’s for sure!


this pizza, which i made last night for flat dinner, was marvellous because it was such a treat yet sugar free!! – ok, eagle eyed readers will see that the apples are accompanied by some brown sugar. in my defence, i ate less than a fifth of the recipe so it would have only worked out to 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar, and since i was exerting so much effort making dinner I really wanted it to be something very special. i had a clear idea in my head what i wanted all the components to be like and tangy caramelised apples were one of them!

well, then so what was it like? in a word, supreme! such a delicious combo of savoury, salty pork sausages, crispy, slightly bitter brussels sprouts, sweet tangy apple, crispy yet chewy pizza base and of course lots of gooey cheese. i loved the brussels sprouts element – really made the dish. my flatmates also commented they really liked the apple as it gave the sweet component similar to pineapple on a Hawaiian pizza, but the texture was much nicer – not stringy and grainy like pineapple can be. well, when boys are complimenting and commenting on texture, you know it has to be good!

the dough recipe is inspired by serious eat’s skillet pizza dough recipe – i took it as a starting point and then adjusted quantities and proportions to get what i wanted. It is a very liquid dough – not something you can knead at all! so don’t stress about that. it does, however, make a terribly delicious pizza base – it tastes quite a lot like focaccia bread, with a beautiful moist, air pocketed inside, and super crispy outside, thanks to our ‘pre cooking’ on the stove. the toppings are inspired by a donna hay magazine recipe, which, again, i changed quite a lot. quite a labour intensive recipe, but very very worth it and tasted like a beautiful restaurant meal for a much lower price! ok, i’ll stop talking myself up and get on to the recipe ;)


brussels sprouts skillet pizza

pizza dough
6 1/4 cups flour
1 sachet instant yeast
4 tsp salt
1 litre water

500g brussels sprouts, finely sliced
600g good pork sausages, removed from casings in small balls
1/2 a (700g ish) bottle tomato passata
around 300g cheddar cheese, grated (more if you like)
25g butter
2 apples, peeled and sliced finely
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Make the pizza dough the night before: Whisk together flour, yeast and salt. Add the water and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and leave overnight on the bench. In the morning, it should have risen – punch down and let it rise again. it will be a very loose, liquidy consistency. Leave to rise again.

Brown the little sausage meatballs until cooked. Remove from the pan and cook the brussels sprouts in the remaining sausage fat, until a little wilted down. Remove from the pan, add the butter and let it melt, then add the apples, brown sugar and apple cider vinegar. cook over a medium heat until the apples are soft.

Preheat the oven to 250C. Find a stove-proof and oven proof pan and place on a high heat. If prone to sticking, grease with a little oil. When very hot, ladle some pizza dough into it and using a knife, scrape the dough to cover the pan. You can make it as thin or thick as you like – we like about a 1cm thickness. Allow it to cook for about 30 seconds then top it- starting with a couple of tablespoons of tomato passata, then a couple of handfuls of brussels sprouts, then sausage, then a few slices of apple (be sparing with these), then finally topped off with an even coating of grated cheese. Allow it to cook on the stove until the edges are quite firm, then pop into the oven on a rack near the top and let cook for about 10 mins or until cheese is sizzling and the toppings are browned. Remove from the oven, slip out of the pan – careful, it will be very hot – and onto a chopping board.

Repeat until dough and toppings are exhausted. I got 5 large rectangular pizzas out of my dough, but the last couple were very thin – I would say that the dough ideally makes 4 large rectangular pizzas or 5+ circular pizzas (depending on the size of the pan).

goodbye sugar!


i’ve been struggling with sugar cravings for days and i’m really over it! so i’ve decided that monday starts the beginning of a sugar free fortnight.
I went sugar free for the month of october last year and had a really fantastic experience with it: I cut out all cane sugar plus honey and dried fruit (i also didn’t have any artificial sweeteners, but these are not part of my diet anyway).

although i definitely missed sugar the first couple of days, cravings soon disappeared and i was amazed at how sweet the taste fruit and herbal tea became – even roast pumpkin was a revelation! the first time I had a sweet treat following my no sugar month it tasted sooooo tooth achingly sweet and really one dimensional flavour wise, so actually not enjoyable at all! however, of course, i got used to sugar again and its addictive properties put me back under its spell.

so i’m excited to begin my fortnight of no sugar, because although i like to think i eat a pretty healthy diet (very little junk food etc) sugar is definitely a weak area, and something i only realise how much i have of it when i start to cut it out.
ideally i would like to restrict my sugar intake to special occasions like birthdays or when i bake something really special, as opposed to regularly, mindlessly eating mediocre sweets. additionally, post my behavioural eco paper where we learned a lot about what sugar does to us physiologically, i know that the less of it I have the better!

so, this is an announcement to keep me accountable. why only a fortnight? because i’m going home for the mid semester break in a fortnight and i’ll be baking at home and catching up over food with friends, and so i’d really rather not set myself up to fail! also, after 2 weeks there is definitely nothing keeping me from staying sugar free, so i’ll see how it goes.

instead of porridge with dates for breakfast, i’ll be having eggs with spinach, i’ve already begun appreciating the taste of black tea sans sugar (pro tip – it’s all in the strength) and fortunately i never have sugar in coffee so i don’t have to give that up (because a world without coffee is a world i don’t want to live in!)

if any of you would like to join me for this challenge that would be fantastic! anyone can quit sugar for 2 weeks, it’s a totally manageable goal and i find when i’m healthier in one section of my life the other parts like sleep and exercise tend to slot into place.

here’s to two weeks of healthier living! and now, i’m off to get a kapiti icecream to finish things off with a bang.

7QT: barre, bollywood and the bachelor


^^^ throwback to that time in the holidays when i got my makeup done at Nars and then made Sarah take a million photos of me ^^^


1. just adoring this song right now: it feels really familiar in the sweetest way! i am known for my very easy listening-y, downbuzz taste in music (with some mainstream pop thrown in for good measure) hence i am never put on music duty at the flat! i was flattered and vindicated to see that my taste is linked to empathy! oh yeah, how’d you like me now.

2. oh man the last season of Downton Abbey is coming up!! ahh how will i cope; all i ask is that they find a gorgeous man for Mary, please!

3. I was enjoying my read of Hello! magazine waiting for the checkout on our flat shop the other day and my flatmate commented, upon seeing the big picture of kate and george on the cover “I don’t know what’s worse, your D rate taste in television or adoration of that dreadful family” i responded pointing out that really i only followed Will and Kate and their kids, which was followed by the retort “oh so you’re a basic royal watcher then”. can’t win! in unrelated news (lol) the bachelor australia is back! i have to say, i find the antipodean versions of these shows refreshing compared the american originals – everyone is much more likeable and down to earth.

4. i’m also missing game of thrones and wondering if i should start reading the books? my brother owns them all so it’d be easy to do. BUT i usually hate watching the film after reading the book as all the changes stress me out so surely it’ll be just as bad the other way around? also i have a limited capacity for large numbers of characters (lord of the rings haha NO) and I’ve heard that its all quite complex. i think i’ll just stick to satisfying my GOT cravings by looking at the cast’s instagram feeds haha.

5. we are doing bollywood next week in my asian studies paper! can’t wait! the bright colours and beautiful ladies and happy singing and dancing, it will be great!

6. i’m going to barre class tonight with clara! i’m so excited to see what it’s like, i feel like i’ve heard it mentioned so many times and it’s really cool that classes have started up in dunedin.

7. i’m making teriyaki chicken from this gem of a book tomorrow night and i’m excited! i hope it tastes delicious! if so i will defs have to blog about it. our favourite sushi place in christchurch has such good teriyaki chicken sushi – the sauce all sweet and gooey with big hunks of tender chicken … mmm!

and a picture of my puppy dog cause i miss her!