Gingko gold in Grey Street

The atmosphere in Grey Street, off Lambton Quay in downtown Wellington, is often thick with cigarette smoke – especially at lunch-time on weekdays. It’s a pedestrian precinct, with a water feature and abundant seating. It also offers access to my bank, among other things. And it has gingko trees.

A recent post on the |cross-ties| blog pictures the canopy of gingko gold on Lambton Quay, near Wasabi Sushi in the James Cook Arcade, where I like to eat lunch from time to time.

In autumn

autumn preserves

autumn preserves

Fairytale crescent
evening star twinkling
autumn sky windless

The brief experience to which this haiku points dates back almost a fortnight, but I’ve been waiting for it to crystallize – you know what I mean, don’t you? Having decided recently to release myself from a commitment to the 5-7-5 syllable count, I have nevertheless been fruitlessly attempting to reduce it. And it has been so long since my last post …

How would it be if I changed “sky” back to “air” (the way I had it at first) in the third line?

We’ve had heavy rain and some cool days lately, after weeks of Indian summer, but today’s forecast is for 23˚C in Wellington.

I ought to look out for some cheap fruit at the weekend market – I really enjoy bottling preserves and jam-making.

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The image comes from a piece titled Autumn Break on a blog called Foxs Lane.

Sticky moments

crab-apple jelly (07 June 2013)

crab-apple jelly (07 June 2013)

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My breakfast yesterday morning began with a toasted English muffin, spread with my new home-made crab-apple jelly. I’ve been trying to remember how many years it has been since I last got the chance to persuade a bag of these little beauties to yield up their unique flavour and gorgeous colour. It would be five years or more since I made raspberry jam – another of my favourite things – but how long  since I got my hands on a bag of crab-apples?

For several days I had revelled in the mere sight of the bowl brimming with red and yellow-gold fruit in my dining-room – and spent some time photographing it – but at last there was a clear morning and a clear evening.

In the course of trimming and quartering the fruit, I reserved a small bowl of attractive specimens to keep around for a few days. Even so, it was necessary to cook the prepared fruit in two batches. Each time, following Mary Wynne’s advice, I added “enough water to be able to see, but no so much that the crab-apples [were] floating.” Once the fruit was turning to pulp, I mashed it up a bit against the sides of the pan using a slotted spoon.

Both batches of pulp went together into an old (but clean) pillowslip, which was then strung up over a large bowl, while I went out for lunch, returning home in the early evening.

The strained pulp having produced twelve cups of liquid, I measured ten and a half cups of white sugar into a bowl, as per the instructions given by chef Jonny Schwass, whilst starting to heat up the juice. Setting the oven to 100°C, I put fourteen jars in to sterilize. Then, cup by cup, I counted the sugar into the pan. Just as well – I had measured out one cup too many!

It took twenty minutes or more to bring such a large quantity to the boil, and a further twenty before the jelly reached setting-point. There was sufficient to fill eleven jars, with a bit left over for breakfast – which I ate whilst eradicating all evidence of the previous evening’s sticky moments.

Last word: For an elegant supper, toast an English muffin, spread with a liberal layer of hot-smoked salmon, season with salt and pepper, and top with crab-apple jelly and a fresh basil leaf.

Looking forward to crab-apple jelly

crab-apples (02 June 2013)

crab-apples (02 June 2013)

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Crab-apples are even less likely than quinces to be available in retail stores.  A long-time lover of crab-apple jelly, I was delighted when a dear friend took the trouble to pick a lovely lot of them for me before she headed back to her consultancy project in Ankara, Turkey.

In my experience, the task of making crab-apple jelly is inclined to be a messy one, but it’s one I enjoy. The approach I take is similar to Mary Wynne’s recipe (on allrecipes.com). And, as the web site says, “No commercial pectin is required as crab-apples have high natural pectin content.”

Mary Wynn suggests adding a cinnamon stick when cooking the fruit.

Jonny Schwass, a chef who broadcasts on Radio New Zealand National, adds a few peppercorns to each jar when he wants to serve the jelly with duck.

The bowl of fruit was very photogenic, and I spent a few minutes taking pictures. I’m really looking forward to making – and eating – the delicious rose-gold jelly. Naturally, my friend will be back to collect a jar … but not until December.

Culinary fusions

A few nights ago, in the mood for a simple salad to accompany my chicken tortellini – to be served with a tomato and mushroom sauce – I added some Italian white wine vinegar and a double portion of Spanish olive oil to my almost empty bottle of pomegranate molasses (from Lebanon). The dressing that resulted was delicious on my bowl of red and green baby cos leaves. And it all went very well with a glass of Mâcon Lugny Chardonnay 2007 (from Burgundy, France).

making pomegranate juice at a stall in Turkey

making pomegranate juice at a stall in Turkey

Drinking pomegranate juice has been a regular part of my breakfast routine over the past year or so, but I’ve been stirring a little pomegranate molasses into my daily dish of yoghurt, fruit and custard for only about three months.

The woman behind the counter at Nahodkah – the suburban store where I buy my pomegranate juice (which comes from Azerbaijan) – recently praised pomegranate sauce (also from Azerbaijan), telling me in heavily-accented English how good it is as a dressing on a salad, and adding dolefully that  it was out of stock just now.

I’m looking forward to trying some pomegranate sauce, but in the meantime, I need a new bottle of pomegranate molasses … so I’ll need to take a trip to the OnTrays Food Emporium, run by Steven and Valda Scheckter (who come from South Africa).

Life, the universe and everything

Birthdays are, for me, always a good opportunity to celebrate “life, the universe and everything” — and I’ve recently been marking quite a significant birthday. Yesterday, a friend and I enjoyed lunch at Chow (in Wellington’s Woodward Street) — one of those smart establishments with a “fusion” menu.

untitled (08 June 2011)

untitled (08 June 2011)

The décor, too, is a fusion of elements from various eras: broadloom carpet, extravagantly patterned in red and gold, from the 1970s; screens of red-painted concrete blocks featuring classic Chinese geometry; minimalist furniture laid with very white china …

I especially enjoyed the wall next to our table, and (having gorged myself on a delectable “jungle curry” and salty-sauced greens) captured several interesting images. This is among my favourites.