the art of alone time

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being a raging ENFP, I’m not terribly good at being by myself, especially for long stretches of time. the uncomfortable feeling I’m told introverts get after being social for too long is what i get when i’m alone for too long – insufferable cabin fever. this used to manifest itself hugely around exam time, where hours spent being silent studying in the library would drive me cuckoo. frankly put, i want to be around (friendly) others most of the time.

however, as I get older, i’m learning to appreciate time spent alone. this was put to the test when my mum and sister went away for the easter weekend, and i had the house to myself for 4 days. Now, i was working for two of them, (hence why i didn’t join the trip to my favourite place), but two days and three evenings is quite sizeable for this extrovert.
but anna! I hear you ask. just because your mum and sister were away, don’t you know anyone else in christchurch? well yes, i do, but easter is a time of going away/spending quality time with your family that i feel like it would be weird to try and arrange social activities during it – not to mention that my two days off were good friday and easter sunday, on which nearly everything closes. popsicle date at the petrol station, anyone?

so – what have i been up to? relishing my time! while typically i greatly dislike cooking for one, we had lamb shanks in the freezer, which i just love. I used a great annabel langbein recipe to make them and also whipped up baked apples with custard. i hadn’t made the latter before, but we had cooking apples and i was intrigued – and they turned out great! the skin of the apple gets crunchy and flaky, kind of like a baked potato, and the inside turns to pure tangy fluff. and i guess the custard doesn’t hurt either ;)

my mum, feeling guilty at abandoning me, also left me lots of other treats, so come monday i may have trouble fitting into my work clothes!

to accompany this supreme comfort food, i read a dear katie fforde book, who i can always rely on for a sweet heart warming read, watched nz bachelor (i’d saved two episodes expressly for the purpose), and discovered a new web series (to make up for the hole in my life after finishing the lizzie bennet diaries and emma approved).

……i would also like to point out that i did laundry, went for a few runs, cleaned my room and vacuumed the house for when my mum reads this post ;)

my alone time also doubled as learning time. it’s very easy to get by without knowing how to do maintenance things around the house when you live with a. parents or b. boys, and as I have spent my entire life with one or the other, i duly know very little about all this.

BUT! the gods evidently decided this weekend i would learn real life adult skills, when the gas (that powers our stove) ran out on me one day, and a fuse tripped the next. to youtube i turned initially, before admitting defeat and phoning my mum. however, next time these things occur, i will be equipped and ready – i’ll even volunteer to be the one to sort it out! i’m still a little hazy on the whole tire changing thing (despite observing it being done twice), but, as I’m still on my learners, I have no doubt the time will come the very first time I’m driving alone (when i finally get my restricted licence).

i also took the opportunity to give the fridge a going over. with my food bag, we use up the majority of our groceries at the end of each week, unless we have leftovers from the recipes or bought extra stuff. I found beetroot, broccoli and radishes in the fridge and decided a salad was in order. riffing on a couple of ripe recipes, and stuff i’d seen online, i made this creation for my lunches this week.

i really like it – i prepared the beetroot in both raw slim juliennes and soft roasted cubes, plus blanched broccoli and edamame, sliced radishes, toasted sesame seeds and a tangy dressing (pomegranate molasses is amazing). i initially planned to make quinoa to go in it, but then i came to my senses.
However, if you like quinoa (i just don’t), feel free to toss it in – i’ve seen quite a few recipes which include it.

now, i’m off to enjoy what’s left of my alone time before my family gets back – i’ve enjoyed my weekend off so much that it may be a blow to have company!

enjoy what’s left of the easter weekend friends – my love to you all.

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beautiful beetroot salad

five beetroot, peeled
4 radishes, finely sliced
1 head of broccoli, chopped into 1cm bits
1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
350g edamame beans, defrosted
optional extras that would also be nice: mint, kale, spinach, dried cranberries

dressing:
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp orange juice
2 tsp olive oil

preheat the oven to 180C. take two of the beetroot and dice them. roast in the oven with a little olive oil for 30 mins or until caramelised and tender.
julienne the three remaining beetroot. i used a mandoline – if you don’t have one, it may be easier just to coarsely grate them – it’s up to you. know that you will end up with red stained hands no matter what, and gracefully accept this. definitely make at least one bad joke about getting caught red handed (if you are alone while making this, there will be no one to groan despairingly at your lame humour).
boil the kettle. put the chopped broccoli in a large heat proof bowl and cover with boiling water. put a plate or lid on top and let cook for 3 mins or so. get a piece of broccoli out and taste to test the done-ness. if tender drain the broccoli, and try to get it as dry as possible.
to make the dressing, just mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.

toss together beetroot, broccoli, radishes and edamame. pour over some of the dressing – you don’t want to drown it. you can always add more later on if the salad needs it. scatter over sesame seeds and toss again to combine.

enjoy! i think spinach or kale would be nice, if you feel you need more greenery in your life. i’d be happy either way.
good served for lunch by itself, or dinner accompanied by chicken, fish or tofu.

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healthy eating on a student budget: two tasty salads

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hi sorry for my absence! uni is heating up and i have lots of pressing big assignments on at the mo along with tons of tiny ones too. however in better news, we have enjoyed stunning weather which has made everyone so happy! we got up to 23ºC (73F) the other day which is incredible for the start of spring. we had to celebrate so enjoyed a cheeky G&T sitting in the sunny backyard that afternoon – bliss!

although we seem to be back to arctic conditions again, i’ve been enjoying two tasty lunches that i wanted to chat to you about:
vegetarian soba noodle salad and falafel bowls!
the fact that i should be writing an essay right now has nothing to do with this haha …

they are both cost effective, filling, don’t involve much wheat, have protein and include a bit of prep upfront but easy after that! i was so sick of soup, roast vege salads were feeling too heavy and dense and one note. i was craving asian/middle eastern flavours and they can both be doused with chilli which i both love and find it satisfies my hunger really well.

noodle salad
150g soba noodles
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp garlic
1 tbsp ginger
1 tbsp oil (sesame would be nice)
2 tbsp minced chilli
1 tbsp honey/brown sugar
2-3 tbsp soy sauce
julienned carrots
2/3 head cauliflower, in small florets
red pepper/spring onions/broccoli as desired

cook noodles according to packet, blanch carrots and cauli. mix with dressing.

falafel bowls
2 tins chickpeas
juice 2 lemons
2 tbsp olive oil
good handful of parsley/chives
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander

blitz it together in food processor. to make, fry little balls of it for about 5 mins each side. i have them atop shredded iceberg lettuce, grated carrot and with a feta dip and sweet chilli sauce as a dressing. a yoghurt sauce would be super yum too.
note- remember the flour!! i forgot when i originally made them and ended up with stirfried hummus haha absolutely essential! 

i have also been heartily enjoying popcorn, which i just make on the stove. 1 tbsp of popcorn kernels in a little oil with some dried chilli, smoked paprika, and then scattered with little salt when popped is the perfect snack! all this talk of chilli is giving me the sweats- addict much!

also, a list of things to be glad about
(which i need to remember when i look at my planner and see all my assignments for the next few weeks!)

– pretty blossoms around campus
– warm weather allowing summery clothing
– the country being united and excited around the rugby world cup
….(except when its 4 in the morning and the tv wakes me up! time differences..)
– delicious coffees with fellow addict friends who require zero persuading
– beautiful new music and a gripping new podcast
– a fun new restaurant we need an excuse to try out
– downton abbey, mindy project and greys anatomy being back!
– …and possibly my favourite ever tv show being revived for another season!
– remembering that its my last 6 weeks living in dunedin and to just savour every bit of it!

…. i may even look back at the library with nostalgia.. or maybe not.

indian spiced potato salad

one of the attributes i imagine is useful in a blogger is a constant desire to find new and more interesting recipes. I’ve been like this ever since I began cooking, eschewing the classic recipes we had for things like chocolate biscuits in favour of recipes i’d never tried before. to me repeating the same recipe over and over was boring, especially if it was one that could be described as -shock horror- easy or quick to whip up!

this concept is so foreign to my mum, which i guess sort of makes sense when you’re a working mama with 3 kids ;).
But even as a harried mother I can’t imagine enjoying settling for easy, tried and true recipes – it’s just not in my DNA.  of course there are my favourite recipes but i’d always sacrifice a little extra time and effort on improving or jazzing up a dish. yes, easy for me to say – leisurely student with nothing but time on my hands and few responsibilities!

to this day, when i’m home and i decide to bake something and my family requests one of the classic recipes, i sulkily mooch off to scour food blogs and recipe books for a newer, ‘better’ edition… perhaps the maxim ‘if its broke don’t fix it’ is something i’ll learn with age ;).

however, the upside to this this wilful, stubborn streak is that it occasionally culminates in very perfect recipe discoveries. along with this wonderful recipe, there is also a  perfectly stunning rhubarb tart recipe i’m dying to show you!

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sorry, back to potato salad but not as you know it- no mayonnaise, spring onions or bacon here- i guarantee you won’t miss them! instead, we take waxy new potatoes, coat them in an indian spice mixture and roast until perfectly crispy. then we layer them with the fresh, zingy “chaat salad” of juicy cucumber, red pepper, mint leaves and lemon juice.
the garnishes though, in my humble opinion, are what really make it. you take a whole cup of coconut chips (the flakes, not the desiccated thread stuff) and toast it, you get amaranth and pop it like popcorn, unsweetened greek yoghurt, and make a tamarind sauce out of tamarind pulp.

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my meandering introduction was really just a longwinded way of telling you it’s complicated, and will take some time, requiring dirtying several bowls, 2 saucepans and a roasting tin. fiddly, but equally what elevate it from standard everyday stuff to a salad that’s pretty special.

I served it with my favourite sticky chicken, roasted asparagus and some sautéed silverbeet (aka chard), but it would be also very yummy brought along to a summer BBQ – you decide!

this recipe is slightly adapted from one in a wonderful recipe book called Ripe Recipes, after the deli in Auckland. this and the sequel A Fresh Batch are some of our favourite cookbooks and we’ve already made so many of the recipes – each one has been absolutely perfect. They are all unabashedly fresh, using beautiful produce and flavours you may not pick to be together but all work fantastically. i don’t expect the books are terribly well known outside of NZ, but they really should be – they rank up with the big names like Jamie Oliver in my eyes.

(psst: no fear of sponsored/affiliate links, i have no idea how to do that stuff!)

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anyway, here is the recipe – let me know if you make it! i promise you won’t regret it :)

indian spiced potato salad

potatoes:

1 kg (2 lb) new potatoes, cut up if large

1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tbsp garam masala

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp ground coriander

2 tsp salt (I used sea salt and it was lovely, but table is fine)

3 onions, peeled and finely slice

1/4 cup vegetable oil

toss ingredients together in roasting dish, then roast at 180 C/ 350 F for 45- 60 mins, or until potatoes are cooked and crunchy.

chaat salad:
1 fresh chilli, finely chopped

1 red pepper, finely chopped

1/2 cucumber, finely chopped.

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped

juice of a lemon

toss ingredients together, then set aside.
garnishes:

1 cup coconut chips, toasted in a pan

3 tbsp amaranth,** popped in a pan (optional if unavailable/undesired)

1 cup greek (unsweetened) yoghurt
tamarind* sauce:

1/4 cup tamarind pulp

1 1/2 cups water

5 tbsp brown sugar

bring ingredients to the boil in a small saucepan, then bring down to a simmer for 10 minutes. if your tamarind pulp is stringy/fibrous, or has seeds, strain sauce through a sieve.

to assemble, layer half the potatoes, then half the chaat salad, then about a third of the coconut/amaranth, some of the tamarind sauce and greek yoghurt, then the other half of the potatoes, the final half of the chaat salad, then the rest of the sauces, and the last of the coconut/ amaranth to finish.

enjoy!

*so whats the deal with tamarind, i hear you ask? well, it’s a delicious sour pulp that comes from the pods of the tamarind tree. you can either buy it as a pulp or paste (unless you live in a country where it is grown, i’m guessing – in which case, lucky you!)
From what i’ve gathered, the pulp is just that, while the paste has stuff like water, sugar and salt added. I went down to the local asian supermarket and was spoilt for choice, eventually opting for a massive vacuum packed block of pulp for just $2. I know it seems like a luxurious/exotic ingredient, but it can be used in so many asian recipes and is really deliciously sour – if you enjoyed sour worms or sour patch kids as a child, you will definitely enjoy it. i like it in my sticky chicken, in the dressings of thai salads, and i think you can even make cocktails with it! i reckon you could even sub it in for lemon juice in the right context.

**in regards to amaranth, i’m really not the best person to ask as it was just something we happened to have in the cupboard (family’s gone to the hippy dark side, remember). Sarah from My New Roots has a fantastic post on it over here. in terms of tracking it down, your local health store or possibly a well stocked supermarket should have it – don’t despair if you can’t track it down! toasted sesame seeds could also be a yummy substitution if you’re tolerant of them.