Fennel grows wild all around our property at Maungaturoto. I read in the book Heat that it is the new "it" seasoning for foodies, so I cut some of the flowers and brought them home. I bundled them in rubber bands and hung them from a hook in a window to dry. They have a lovely fragrance. I spent a few bent-back hours hand-picking the pollen bits, which are pretty large. Funny to think that pollen is just like sperm. I did put some in a salad dressing, but it was overpowered by the balsamic vinegar, so I don't know if I've wasted my time or not. If you live in the states and want to try it, you can buy it here.
I followed up the reading of Heat with another book about being a chef, Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. This book is funny! I'll probably check out some of his other books eventually. After this I'm moving on to The Kite Runner, which has been on my library waitlist for a few months. Over the holiday break, I also read Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea, which was mildly amusing, but not great. I think someone compared her to David Sedaris, but I wouldn't put her in the same league.
We have been waiting for KiwiSpan to get our garage built on the Maungaturoto property. They managed to get the concrete slab done, and when there was some concrete leftover, Darin applied it to the drive past the pond.
The drive was a bit smushed by that big concrete truck going over it, so this reinforcement will help, for awhile, maintain the raving crossing/pond. The building itself was delivered just today, and we are still hopeful that it will be complete by this weekend.
Darin had the extreme good fortune to be invited to go gliding with our friend Adam on a spectacular day. The photo below shows Rangitoto Island, just off the east coast of Auckland, off in the distance. (We climbed up Rangitoto back in Jan '07). Darin was totally stoked to have such a great birthday gift.For his birthday dinner, we had a bottle of awesome old vine zinfandel from Lodi, California, Seven Deadly Zins. He wanted a steak to eat with this wine, so we went to the local steak joint in Henderson, Tony's. Unfortunately for us, the waitress didn't know how to take a cork out of a bottle, and tore the top of it off. I am pretty sure this restaurant doesn't have any bottles of wine that are not screw top. Darin had to help her get the remaining cork out so we could drink it. The rest of the meal did not improve. Unlike me, Darin took it all with calm good cheer. I desperately wanted to send his "creamed spinach" back, because it was only steamed with butter. At least we had my awesome, homemade, chocolate cake to satisfy our foodie lust.
I decided that since we have planted all these fruit trees, I should learn how to can. My friend Ammie has been a terrific resource, and we made strawberry jam together one afternoon. It turned out to be more of a dessert sauce, which was fine, since it went perfectly with Darin's chocolate cake. I found a good deal on tomatoes, and decided to try canning them. This was a learning experience only, because the cost of canned tomatoes is so low, it's not really cost effective to do it yourself. I had to borrow a jar lifter, cherry pitter, and a rack to put in the bottom of the pot to keep the jars off the bottom, so they don't crack while boiling for 45 minutes. The cherry pitter was for the bing cherries I got a screaming deal on. I made brandied cherries: 1 kg of pitted, halved cherries, 1 kg (nearly) of sugar, and 700 mls of brandy, combined in a 2 liter snap-tight lidded jar, and put away in a dark place until winter. I take it out now and then to shake, to help dissolve the sugar.