catlins calling

i’m in wanaka at the moment, which is definitely rates very highly in the nz pretty places list, but i wanted to backtrack to a day trip i took in the midst of exams with my very dear clara and jess.
we all had a significant break between exams which we wanted to exploit to do some adventuring, and the catlins topped our little bucket list.
a quick geographical representation of where all these towns i talk about situate themselves in nz:

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^^going anticlockwise, we have Christchurch, Timaru, Oamaru, Dunedin, the Catlins, Invercargill and Wanaka^^

the catlins, of course, are that picture the very lowest on the map, and are a drive down the east coast from dunedin.

our top picks to see were:

the purakaunui falls

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nugget point + lighthouse

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the mclean falls

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and we were more than content to allow for any other serendipitous occurrences on our way, which included a sheep traffic jam (only in NZ), a visit to a kitsch café with an alarming amount of frog figurines, a donkey sighting, teapot land (oh gosh) and two more waterfalls.

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we sure packed a lot into one day!

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happy new year!

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how are you? happy new year to you and yours, oh goodness it’s 2016. how futuristic does that sound?? given that i still read best before dates and think 2010, thats quite recent isn’t it … oh, that’s 5 6 years ago!

 

not terribly much to report since i chatted here last. i had a gorgeous family christmas complete with divine food and cute presents, and i’ve been working lots since then, back at my café job. it’s been lovely slotting back into a place that although much of the staff are different, the same vibe, procedures and environment are the same – much easier, i suspect, than this time last year when i was struggling along trying to learn everything and digest it as well as i could!

 

when i haven’t been working there’s been boating adventures, lots and lots of swimming in the lake, and the other day we zipped off to queenstown, which is just an hour’s drive. we visited the nz cafe of the year, bespoke kitchen, and had an extraordinary lunch of smoked salmon, poached eggs, rosti and salad, along with a shared chia pudding delight and some terribly healthy and delicious raw truffles which we devoured later on.

 

before i launch into this year’s intentions, i wanted to quickly check up on my 2015 ones, in the spirit of being accountable and reliable and all that 😉 (and yes, i did have to check the original post haha!) they were:
  1. consistent with running
  2. stop interrupting
  3. figure out postgrad
  4. give back to community
  5. blog
ok..
running – yes, i was good! i didn’t manage the half marathon because of a pesky injury but i have high hopes i’ll do one this year.
interrupting – ugh, i suppose i’m more aware of it now, so hopefully that will lead to a reduction? still a tough one, i have so many thoughts that i want to share!
postgrad – well, i’ve completely submitted my application for the course that i very very much wish to pursue, so it’s a waiting game now!
community – ooh, i did this! i helped to organise and MC a perfectly fantastic series of panels on an issue very close to my heart.
blog – yes, as my recent 50 post anniversary shows 😉

 

as for 2016:

 

i feel less fervent about my resolutions this year, i suppose because i know this year is going to be quite a different beast than any i’ve experienced before. last year i felt the year ahead was a predictable meander of uni, friends, parties, study, exams, and repeat. this year, i’m living at home for the first 2/3, working, and then fingers crossed i’ll be zipping off for some postgrad study in september somewhere quite, quite different from dear old dunedin! i think therefore, because i don’t really know what my life will look like this year, that it’s harder to pin down any particular self improvements or missions.
i do have a few flexible intentions, and these can of course be expressed by a collection of my much adored pinterest quotes:

 

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  1. stay ‘tremendously interested’ in my passions
– i adore chinese, french and economics (barring macro, naturally). while i hold out hope that my job will include any of these on some incremental level, chances are a typical workday for me won’t involve application of economics thought, a chat in chinese or an article in french, so i need to find ways to keep these alive in my everyday life. i would quite like to get a subscription to the Economist (and look super smart reading it 😉 , and absolutely keep up my languages via podcasts, articles and hopefully an obliging friend who’ll bear my dodgy grammar. just 30 minutes or so a day will surely have meaningful and positive effects so i just have to think big picture (when all i want to do is refresh instagram or blob in front of reality tv)

 

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  1. be brave
this year, as i’ve said, is going to be markedly different. there is going to be lots of change which isn’t something i generally care for. i am also most likely going to be in the position frequently where i don’t feel entirely comfortable, whether it’s because i don’t yet know the ropes, or it’s not an ideal situation. i really really want to be brave in these situations, not to stress myself out or worry or get teary (it doesn’t take much!) being able to remain calm and positive is so important in life, and it all comes down to me and my reaction. and if i can figure out at least some of that this year, and how i can help myself be this way, so much the better.

 

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  1. be a good friend
this applies to both friends in the same place and separated geographically, the latter unfortunately comprises most of my dear uni friends! staying in touch with these gems is very important, as well as nurturing friendships in christchurch so that i have more mates than my mum and my sister 😉 i’m hoping to establish standing weekly/fortnightly dates with some of those local friends, so that our busy lives don’t get the better of us now that friendship isn’t so convenient and effortless as it is when you’re an undergraduate student!

 

i think that just about covers it – i could add in things about exercise, or healthy eating, or projects, but i think i’ll leave it there. so, one last time, happy 2016! all the kissing heart emojis to you sweet things xx

19 days

..until Christmas!

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hello! did my title freak you out a little? just maybe? how is the christmas shopping going?

the christmas spirit is well and truly alive in our house. we put our christmas tree up on the 29th (first time ever in november!) and it is as pretty as a picture. we also have stunning spiky star ornaments in the entrance way, and new fairy lights in the outside area, plus our wonderful fabric advent calendar.

i’ve been working full time this week! it feels good being back into the swing of things and i’m enjoying the work i’ve been doing. plus it’s comforting finally having some money finally entering my bank account instead of just leaving it – paying rent on our flat in dunedin until 31 Dec is no joke.

my hair is getting longer hallelujah, and some careful application of fake tan has me a pale golden, so i’m feeling good at life. i’m also trying to eat better which is much easier a) at home and b ) in summer, with all the beautiful fruits and vegetables in season right now.

reading: just finished Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling and The Vacationers by Emma Straub. Mindy is just so great! i adore her (though danny on the mindy project is starting to stress me out!) The Vacationers i would give maybe a 3.5 star? not a book i would recommend shouting from the rooftops, but one i enjoyed reading on our visit to corsair bay the other week. need to get back to the library for some more books!

cooking: lots of salads from the ripe books – the two in the picture are gado gado and autumn brown rice. both delicious!

making: a book of my university experience! i just bought an art notebook with unlined pages and went to town. I was inspired by this book and this lady. here is a sample page! (except now i’m having second thoughts about the bagel decision – kiki beware does a sensational veggie bagel and bacon buttie bagel … qualms!)

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i just wanted something that was not a photo album and that recorded all the little details i would be likely to forget about my daily life for three years as a student in dunedin. having it pretty and funny (at least to me, low standards remember) was an added bonus! there are way more pages, so i can just keep adding to it as i think of more things to include. a lovely creative project for my last week or so of holiday.

lately

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how does that saying go, if you need something done ask a busy person to do it?

sounds about right: i’ve been the opposite of busy these last ten days and needless to say, i haven’t accomplished much. sorting my bedroom out, working on my CV and some application details for next year is as far as i’ve got.

i had grand plans of making a marvellous photo book of my three years at university, writing my sweet friends darling letters and doing masses of language study – but not enough time has passed for me to truly miss dunedin or have massive deep meaningful things to write in letters to my friends, and as for the last item, well i guess the fact that there are no deadlines or tests coming up for either language means i’m just not motivated to study them.

what, then, have i been up to? besides sitting on the couch and drinking coffee, that is…

running – verry determined to keep fit over the summer and managing to so far! it helps that christchurch truly is a gorgeous place to run around – the moniker ‘the garden city’ is very apt. trees line the streets and the new green leaves simply glow in the sunlight!

reading – always a treat to get back to fictional books after a long year of heavy textbook readings. i’ve read we are all completely beside ourselves (good) the girl in the spiders web (masterful) someday someday maybe (average) and currently alternating my time between bad samaritans (a book about economic development my dad’s lent me) and the world to come (a queer little story, reminiscent of a history of love, which i’m enjoying, but feel like it is to be read slowly and not in one sitting).

cooking – dinner for the family! adoring the beautiful asparagus and new potatoes the season has brought us. promise to bring you a fun healthy recipe soon – we have the cookbook plenty which i’m dying to make something from.

checking out christchurch cafés – trip to addington the other day which was lovely as always. we also went to laneway espresso yesterday and the caravan the dukes of sandwich, to celebrate my sister being 5 exams down! i had the most insane sandwich – strips of smoky, charcoal-y pork belly with an apple slaw, homemade gooey bbq sauce, salad and ciabatta bun – and for only $12!

back to work soon, so of course once that begins i’ll start doing much more exciting things in my free time! i’m already excited for christmas and my mum and i have been plotting the dessert we’ll contribute – we saw a stunning trifle recipe which might just pop up on the christmas table (maybe i’ll do a trial run so i can blog about it). only 35 days to go!

ps – while this has been an upbeat blog post, i just wanted to add that my heart has been very heavy with all the loss and sadness in the news lately. paris, beirut, the syrian refugees, the passing of beloved jonah lomu, and many more tragedies have meant that having my eyes well with tears while reading the news has been a daily occurrence. sending all my love to all those who are hurting around the world.

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it… always.” – Mahatma Gandhi

grub street diet

I stumbled across the ny times feature grub street diet when naomi from love taza was featured, and spent many study, uh, ‘intervals’ enjoying reading about the different people and diets they had. and it made me want to do one, and since the ny times is approximately 3 million light years away from asking a random girl from new zealand to write one for them, i figured i would just write one for the blog! self obsessed? narcissistic? never! (well i guess you have to be a little to blog right?)

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^^evidence i was at the farm!^^

so here we go:

tuesday 2 june

I’m staying at my grandparents farm for a couple of days away from Dunedin. my grandpa had made me porridge, so all that was left for me to do was reheat it on the stove. he makes good traditional porridge made with water, oats and a hefty dose of salt – i never salt my porridge at home, but i love his porridge. topped with some of my grandma’s stewed apple and a drizzle of creamy blue milk.
i then make myself a flat white on my grandma’s coffee machine – when town is a twenty minute drive, it makes sense to have your own espresso machine! I put my barista skills to good use with a cute fern latte art.

i reluctantly refuse a thick slice of homemade bread toast, as i’ve slept in rather late and i’m informed we’re going out for lunch.
while my grandma goes to yoga, me and my grandpa drive to riverton, a cute seaside village  interwined with plenty of family history. we’re visiting because my grandpa’s aunt: Sister Marion Brown, a nurse in WWI, is on display at the museum. Marion went to care for troops in WWI, and was killed when the ship she was on was torpedoed. the exhibit is very moving and it hurts my heart to think of how many people suffered and sacrificed so much for us: my life seems so breezy and lucky compared!

we go to the beach house cafe for lunch, and while i’m sad to see the announcement “no blue cod” on the blackboard (my very favourite food) my grandpa assures me that orange roughy, which is it’s replacement is just as delicious. he orders seafood chowder, as he is wont to do. our lunch arrives – mine an enormous piece of tempura battered fish on chunky chips and a lush salad, with homemade tartare sauce on the side. i am in heaven – orange roughy is delicious! apparently it was close to disappearing after over fishing but thankfully steps have been taken and it’s doing ok again. (ps i just googled and they live up to 130 years!!! wow!)
upon our arrival home, i put the kettle on and have a cup of english breakfast tea with milk and sugar, along with one of my grandma’s crispy crunchy biscuits.

we have a beautiful selection of nibbles – stewart island smoked salmon, blue cheese and an oozy brie, accompanied by homemade lavosh and homemade quince paste. i am in heaven.
dinner is a big piece of pork belly with lots of crackling, mashed potato, cauliflower cheese, runner beans and carrots, plus a lovely montana sauvignon blanc. it takes me a while but i manage to finish!

a sneaky cup of sweet milky decaf black tea as i sit on the couch with the cricket on in the background and the full cupboard of life on my lap, feeling very satisfied with life!

wednesday 3 june

alas, my time at the farm has come to a close and its time for me to head back to student land (dunedin) and the stuffy embrace of the library. i farewell the farm with another big bowl of porridge, with stewed apricots this time, a doorstop of peanut butter and honey toast (the honey from my aunty’s bees) and another fern topped flat white.

this keeps me going until i get back to the flat at 2 (flooding in dunedin causes delays) and feeling faintly nauseous from the drive, all i feel like is frozen peas, barely defrosted in the microwave. i top this off (figuratively) with a wedge of my grandma’s fruitcake.

sodden from my short walk to the library – the rain really is bucketing down- dunedin experiencing a tempest it seems, i console myself and my revulsion at being back here with a tangy cup of blood orange tea. arriving back at the flat for dinner, we enjoy slow cooker chicken with pumpkin, rice and more peas. i have a cup of english breakfast to pretend i’m back at the farm, and curl up with it in the armchair and watch the news of the dire weather conditions around dunedin – at least our flat’s not flooded, as houses in other suburbs are!

refusing to set foot in the storm again, i use the dining table for desk and have another cup of tea and some more fruitcake to power my economic modelling of tax evasion.

(the next 7 days were a blur of hardcore eco study, so i picked my chronicling back up the day of my third eco exam)

wednesday 10 june

feeling antsy at the thought of my 3rd eco exam in as many days, i decide that some protein is what i need for breakfast. i bought beautiful free range eggs at the supermarket the other day so i decide to have egg with soldiers. the egg is perfect – lovely and runny, a good 5 minute egg. the soldiers are less so as we’ve run out of butter so i have to use the manky pam’s budget spread which makes them soggy rather than buttery, but the rich, red-orange yolk makes up for them. Chased by a long black with a glug of cream, i head to the library to absorb some more knowledge before my exam that afternoon.

clara and i head to our favourite fluid by the library for one last flat white (for her at least, our exam today is her last exam!). they know us and our orders (thanks in part, no doubt, to our trendy keep cups) and we feel terribly flattered. i sip away on it at the library, learning terms which would ultimately turn out to be entirely useless (how is it that we made a list of 54 definitions and we somehow missed out 4 out of the 6 we ended up being asked??)

we head home for lunch after a stop at the language department (me) and the kitten cuddle area (clara). i’m still feeling nervous so i just have a couple of tart granny smiths with peanut butter – i melt it and drizzle it over them like icing!

the exam goes fine – we are miffed over the definitions (the terms she hinted during the semester are nowhere to be found), but long answer are more forgiving. i head home to cook a big comfort food fest – creamy beef stroganoff, garlicky potato gratin, homemade focaccia bread and green beans (i know, why even bother!)

i very much enjoy having the living room to myself while everyone is at the library and watch game of thrones avidly with nothing but a cup of silver tea in my hand (the classy way of saying hot water- still feeling very full from the double carb dinner!)

thursday 11 june

giddy at being close to freedom with just one exam left to sit (on tuesday), i sleep in until 10.30 after binge watching game of thrones until very late last night – my flatmates are up to date and i’m terrified they’re going to let something slip – i absolutely detest spoilers.
I reheat the last of the potato gratin from last night and top it with a crispy fried egg for breakfast, followed by a strong long black with a dash of milk, and sit enjoying the sunshine and relishing the thought of having a day away from the library.

after meeting up with nel who i hadn’t seen for far too long, i return home and watch the latest two episodes of game of thrones – i’m determined to get up to date now! i have another snack of peanut butter and apple and a cup of milky english breakfast.

my friend madeleine comes over with cold brew coffee and cashews in tow. we enjoy the cold brew in my glass mason jar mugs with ice and a little milk. i go to work and enjoy catching up with my coworker, then return home at 8.40 and eat cold beef stirfry that my flatmate made for dinner, followed by some blood orange tea and a couple of squares of the new peanut and pretzel cadbury chocolate. my flatmates get home from the library and we discuss our predictions for the game of thrones finale.

friday 12 june

upon waking up i hear rain on the roof, but thankfully by the time i leave the house it’s cleared up. I have scrambled eggs with some tangy homemade relish and a long black with milk, then i finally drag myself out the door and arrive at the library- not the same without clara’s company, and hanging out for jess to return on saturday.

after some half hearted study, i zip to the gym. oh drat, i’ve forgotten my ID – but thankfully i was at arana with the guy on reception and he waves me through with a smile. after the gym i head back to the library and have a couple of carrots with (the shame!) garlic lovers hummus. hoping the girl next to me doesn’t hate me!

i go home an hour later and have a shower then watch the final of greys with some tea and fruitcake. all this tv watching i’ve been doing in the last 24 hours has been blissful, but now i just feel disappointed to be up to date in everything! my flatmate bounds in the door after a very successful exam (it was basically the same as the last years practise one he had studied!) and we chat for a while then he goes to drop our friend off at the airport – she’s off home for the break. i reluctantly leave too to get back to the library. i complete online french quizzes while nibbling at some organic trail mix my mum sent me in a care package. i come home at 8.30ish and heat up the leftover beef stroganoff with some leftover rice, and eat it on the couch in the warm living room while my flatmates watch the highlanders (otago rugby team) slaughter the blues (auckland)!

~the following thursday: I am home! it is wonderful! i’m the happiest clam to be finished with exams and reunited with my sweet family. now that i have use of the home kitchen expect lots of fun recipes to be coming your way! back soon xxx

personality and paella

Can we have a brief chat about personality types? are you into that kind of thing? do you think they’re accurate?

I’m super into them! anything from myers briggs to buzzfeed ‘which disney princess are you?‘ to enneagram and back! for reference, i am an ENFP on myers briggs and a 7 on the enneagram (with strong 2 tendencies as well, so make of that what you will!)

I love reading the profiles and feeling so understood! of course some things are more relatable than others.

one thing that i have always read on the ENFP profiles and never been all that convinced by was that ENFPs have to be really passionate about something in order to do it well. umm hello, i detested level 1 physics but i still did it?? but i’ve come to recognise this trait in myself, especially in terms of big assignments and essays. i willfully, stubbornly find a topic that speaks to me in some way – even if it’s (DEFINITELY) not the easiest or most practical option.

prime example: when i was year 12 we had to do this big history internal on a historical mystery. now, basically everyone at that time and in previous years had done Marilyn Monroe or the Black Dahlia or Lee Harvey Oswald, but what did i do? Olof Palme! i doubt you’ll have heard of him- he was prime minister of sweden and was assassinated in 1986. no one had ever picked him as a topic before, so not exactly a safe bet. but i did it, and it was full on but so interesting and i got to become great mates with google translate thanks to all the swedish sources ;) ps how cool of a language is swedish! going on my language-to-learn list (the list is two miles long, i just want to know them all).

so having read this far, it’ll be of absolutely zero surprise to you that when we were given a 4000 mot assignment for french i immediately discarded all the reasonable ideas for a topic and settled on writing magazine profiles on the 5 spanish maids from the film Les Femmes du Sixième Étage (the women on the 6th floor), complete with 5 recipes which i would create, cook, photograph and write up in french. no probs at all. which is how i found myself in the supermarket on saturday afternoon trying to track down sweet smoked paprika, paella rice, prawns and tarakihi and many more ingredients for my paella that night!

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….disclaimer – by no means am i doing the most difficult project of the class – some people are doing way more impressive ones than me! super literary, stylised amazing creations that fill me with awe… just saying it was typical anna to give myself the added cost/time burden of these recipes to jazz things up a bit haha.

so let me introduce to you my spanish feast:

Seafood Paella
Chicken braised with lemon, garlic and white wine
Creme Caramel

they were all scrumptious! i was a bit dubious about how nice they would be (i’ve never even eaten paella before, for goodness sake, let alone made it!) but they were all beautiful! i made the chicken for my flat mates last night and they gobbled it up – we all had terrible garlic breath afterwards though, so potentially not first date material ;)

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the sauce was so delicious and complex and well balanced – the onion just melted down and the garlic got all soft and caramelised and the chicken was so crispy on top and juicy within – i’m salivating just thinking about it!

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the paella was yum too – expecially with lots of lemon squeezed over it, such a treat having seafood – my favourite.

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the creme caramel was so beautiful! its no secret i love custard and it was just heavenly, with the slightest jiggle in the centre and creamy custard and caramel syrupy outer. and it looked and tasted just like the one i had in paris, so i’m calling it a win.

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^^^ogling the french boys ;)^^^

so i’ve got the recipes in french i can give you (no big deal ;) but if you want the english you’ll have to wait a wee while. Here are some great personality links to amuse you while you wait: personalities at a party / version of hell / and my personal fave, a very cute infographic of job types … travel writer? oh, if you insist ;)

getting real

don’t you find that everything you study at school or university always seems to be super relevant in your real life situations long after the subject or paper is finished?
yeah, me neither.

pythagoras theorem? nature metaphors in Mean Creek? iambic pentameter in Othello? (no offence shakespeare, love you man)

well, imagine my surprise/delight/complete and utter bemusement when one of my papers started having an overwhelming relevance on my everyday life – no, sorry guys, it’s not French due to a devilishly attractive french petit ami called Jean Luc, (a girl can dream, right..)
but my behavioural eco paper which, you guessed it, is all about human behaviour!

finally, justification for all my… um… quirks: can’t stop at one square of chocolate or one m&m? the beta endorphin triggered by the sweet taste of sugar stimulates your appetite! make budgetary decisions which end up making you worse off (I won’t buy winter boots that i would wear every day, but another cocktail dress that i’ll wear once? yeah, why not!) and oh so many more! all explained! now i can’t figure out if it is reassuring or depressing that i’m so very ordinary and human in these matters – a bit of both i think!

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a lot of the lessons i’ve taken from school and uni are more likely not included in ncea curricula or lecture outcomes, and are as follows:

Don’t tell your year 11 english class that you and your husband are basically romeo and juliet incarnate and destined to be together, because when you come back to school next year with a different surname, it’s super awkward for everyone involved.

The last glass of wine at a byo is always the one that tips you over the edge. always.

Don’t flat with 4 boys if you’re vegetarian (i’m not, by the way, but this week i dared to make a red thai vegetable curry … they were highly unimpressed by the lack of meat)

always play croquet as your summer sport – the old people running the clubs will adore you and provide fizzy drinks and biscuits for your afternoon tea. croquet: the only summer sport where you put on weight!

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and many more.. I would love to hear what you’ve ‘learned’ from school and university in the comments!

One thing that i have learned is that puff pastry makes everything better (except in the chicken fettucine pie that my work sells… that’s just wrong). so butter chicken pies are always a good idea, and make your flatmates very, verrry happy!

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This recipe comes from the genius destitute gourmet, whose books have been invaluable in a flatting context (her book tasty $10 meals would make a great gift for someone who is going flatting!) Her recipes are always straightforward, appeal to boys and men and are always delicious!

My modifications were to up the spices for more of a kick, use the whole can of tomato paste, add in a tin of chopped tomatoes, and skip the cornflour, cream and poppy seeds. I just served them with green beans and broccoli, but a salad would be lovely or you could even have rice i guess, if you are feeding very hungry people! (I was but i had made apple crumble for dessert, so it worked out perfectly!)

The recipe makes 20 pies and i had a little extra filling which i just heated up and ate for lunch the next day.
Enjoy!

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Butter Chicken Pies
Makes 20 pies
Serves 4-8 – 2 each for regular people (me), 4 for hungry boys!

2 chicken breasts, skin off and chopped into 1 inch cubes (ish)
1 lemon, zest and juice
2 tbsp grated ginger
1 tbsp crushed garlic
canola oil, for frying
2 tbsp curry powder
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground chilli/cayenne pepper (all we had on hand!)
170g can of tomato paste (2/3 cup ish)
1/4 cup of flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 can chopped tomatoes

1 packet of puff pastry (5 sheets), thawed

Marinate the chicken with the lemon, ginger and garlic for at least an hour in the fridge. Heat a little oil in a large pan and add the chicken, sauté until sealed on all sides or thereabouts. Add the spices and cook for another minute or two. Stir in the tomato paste and flour, then when combined add the remaining ingredients. Simmer on a low heat for 15 mins or until chicken cooked. Turn off the heat and allow to cool.

Working with one pastry sheet at a time, slice into four even squares. Brush the edges of each square with a little water and spoon some of the curry into the centre of each square, after you fold a couple you’ll get a good idea of how much filling in each. Using your fingertips, fold in and press the edges together so that the filling is contained. Repeat with the rest. You can brush with milk or egg at this point, but i don’t usually bother. Poke a couple of holes in the pastry of each pie to release steam. Bake at 210C for 20 mins or until puffed and golden brown on top (our oven at the flat is quite temperamental, hence mine look a bit ugly – i’ve made these in other ovens and they don’t usually burst open!

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ps – please no hate on the pictures, turns out the short days that come with the all round stellar season of winter are not conducive to taking pretty pictures! who knew? oh wait, the whole blogosphere ;) xxx