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The Pounamu Prophecy - birth of a book Two women, two cultures and an ancient Maori prophecy that will change their lives. That's the tag line for The Pounamu Prophecy - my first novel. It has been a slow process, interrupted by moving...

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Can I eat mussels if I have high cholesterol?Can I eat mussels if I have high cholesterol? The short answer is yes - you can eat mussels if you have high cholesterol. Mussels are low in kilojoules, cholesterol and fat. The little fat they do have is mostly healthy unsaturated fat with plenty...

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Bran MuffinsBran Muffins These bran muffins (adapted from a recipe by Alison Holst) are super filling - a great snack when you are trying to control your weight. Enjoy these muffins with a cup of tea but don't expect to absorb...

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Beat the flu with Chicken Noodle Soup It’s Queen’s Birthday holiday today in New Zealand and thank goodness, the sun is shining. I’m sitting in a sunny room writing this post, sheltered from the icy wind blasting up from Antarctica....

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My nanna's recipe for homemade Rewena (Maori) bread Rewena Bread Step 1 1 c flour 1 tsp sugar 1 potato Peel and cut potato into small pieces. Place in pot with 1 cup water, lid on, and simmer to mashing consistency. Mash, cool and when luke...

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Creative Writing in Chengdu, China

Posted on : 13-05-2017 | By : Cindy | In : Event buzz, Spices, The Pounamu Prophecy, Travelling, Writing

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‘It’s not the child I need to interview, it’s the parents.’ The principal of Beanstalk International Bilingual School in Chengdu had just finished talking to the parents of a prospective student and was now showing me around the campus of the newly opened school, complete with state of the art four hundred metre running track, brand new fifty metre pool, spacious grounds and beautiful classrooms opening into a central garden.

The school follows the International Baccalaureate curriculum which is vastly different to the teaching style of the local Chinese schools. The parents he had just spoken to, wealthy business people, wanted their child to move from the rote learning style of the local school to the more creative teaching style that BIBS offers. Unique to this international school is that it does not require the student to have an international passport and so the majority of students here are local, wealthy Chinese.

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The students were a delight to work with and eager to try out the creative writing exercises I set them. Some of the younger ones struggled to compose a story in English but I could only admire their eagerness to try writing creatively in a foreign language. It was better than I could do!!

With the older group of 14-15 year old boys we discussed historical fiction and the stories they wrote were amazing. I caught the beauty of the Chinese language spilling over into their English stories – poetic, evocative, and with some of the boys, very witty.

So often during this trip to China I heard people lament that the rote learning style produced incredible results for fact learning subjects but it stifled creativity. In this school I saw creativity unleashed, enabling these Chinese students to re-discover the beauty and imagination of this ancient language and culture.

Thank-you to Hugo for inviting me to his school, to Michael the librarian who coordinated everything and all the teachers who introduced me to the delights of the spicy, mouth numbing Sichuan peppercorns and hotpot.

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Shakshuka – the perfect weekend lunch

Posted on : 01-08-2016 | By : Cindy | In : Colourful taste, History of Food, My idiot-proof recipes, Spices, Uncategorized

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Each time I sit down to write a few thousand words of my next novel I am transported to the Middle East and a world of exotic flavours – pyramids of fiery saffron and cumin, bunches of fragrant herbs, dusky green figs, succulent grapes and golden olive oil. Admittedly shakshuka would not have been around in first century Samaria – tomatoes did not find their way there until centuries later – but it is certainly a popular dish of the region nowadays.

It’s easy to make and is a gourmet alternative to eggs on toast. The thick, harissa laced tomato sauce adds a healthy boost of antioxidants and flavour. I love the fun of cracking eggs straight into their little nests in the sauce and the amazing colours once you sprinkle a little feta and parsley on at the end. Truly delicious!

 

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 red capsicum, finely chopped

1-2 stalks celery, finely chopped

2 x 440g can tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon sugar (enhances the tomato flavour but you can leave it out)

2 teaspoons ras al hanout (from Herbie’s Spices)

1/2 teaspoon harissa paste (or more if you like more heat)

1 teaspoon paprika (for the colour)

5 – 6 eggs

Feta cheese

Parsley, chopped

Heat olive oil in large pan on moderate heat. Add onion, garlic, capsicum and celery. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring, until onion is clear. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and spices. Cook gently for 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. make slight dents in sauce and break an egg into each one. Cover pan with lid and cook for a few minutes until eggs are done to your liking. Remove from heat. Sprinkle over feta cheese and parsley.

Herbs for health – try fried rice with Thai basil!

Posted on : 08-01-2010 | By : Cindy | In : Colourful taste, My idiot-proof recipes, Spices, Vegetables

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Do you go through cooking phases? I do. My latest one has been Khao Pad Krapao, pronounced ‘cow pat’ which is rather unfortunate for us English speaking people. It’s fried rice with basil – that’s the ‘krapao’ part – and it’s delicious. What makes it so special is the Thai basil. I have a plant sitting on my kitchen bench begging to be used every few days, and I’ve been happy to oblige. Making this meal brings back wonderful memories of our numerous visits to Thailand although it loses some of its authenticity when eaten without car fumes.

Thai basil tastes quite different to the basil that goes so well with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and olive oil. But it comes from the same herb family. That’s right: herbs come in families just like vegetables. Basil belongs to the mint family (real name – lamiaceae). Its brothers and sisters include lemon balm, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory and thyme. No, I haven’t forgotten that other essential Thai herb, coriander.

Damson plum liqueur, olives with strawberries, world war airplanes & wwoofers – a taste of Hawkes Bay

Posted on : 22-10-2009 | By : Cindy | In : Organic, Peppers, Spices, Travelling, Wine

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france house“The food and wine here is as good as you’ll find anywhere in the world,” announced the Mayor of Hastings, Lawrence Yule, as he welcomed New Zealand’s food writers to his region. Three days of tasting and three kilos later, I think I agree! My pantry is now over-flowing with yummy Hawkes Bay food with not an added colour or preservative in sight. On my bench sits Damson Plum jam, paste and liqueur. The paste goes really well with blue cheese and the liqueur is the best product I came across during the three days. It brings back delicious memories of sipping walnut aperitif each night before dinner at the French farmhouse we rented at Mercadiol, a hamlet just south east of St-Julien-de-Lampon, in the Dordogne region. (If you want to see a picture look at Stephanie Alexander’s book “Cooking and Travelling in South-West France. She stayed there too! ) I can’t wait to re-create the memories on a warm, sunny Kiwi evening – if one ever happens!

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