January 2012

Well, this is an interesting one.

“Chasseur” means a sauce containing mushrooms and shallots. it can be a sauce for many meats. Here we have allied it to chicken for a dish with rich, superb flavour. Serve with hot rice or mashed potatoes, crusty bread and separate green salad. Serves four.

In French chasseur means ‘hunter’, and this makes sense when the most important ingredient in this dish is actually mushrooms. I think that means you could likely make a vegetarian version by dropping the meat and adding beans, or perhaps paneer.

Anyhow, the list!

  • 1.5kg chicken or similar
  • 30g butter
  • 2 tbsps oil
  • 250g mushrooms
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • salt, pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon tarragon (I had none, so substituted sage from the garden)
  • 2 large ripe tomato (I used a tin of Italian tomatoes)
  • 6 shallots (or use the pre-prepared fried Asian ones, they’re pretty good)
  • 2 tbsps chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsps tomato paste

For the brown sauce

  • 125g butter(!!)
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 chicken stock cubes (I just used 3 cups of chicken stock for this and the previous ingredient)
  • salt, pepper.

We made an executive decision after the tedium of the Beggars’ Chicken to get a little creative with the ingredients. I’m trying to stay true to the recipes in the book, but we need to actually be able to eat these things! I’ll admit that this may also have been prompted by Second Chef asking, “Why are all these recipes soooo boring?”



Masala potatoes are a dish I’m making a lot these days to accompany a curry I take to work for lunch. I had to cut bread out of my diet, and needed something starchy, but not too starchy to keep me awake during the afternoon. These are basically just ghee, spices, and par-boiled spuds, so they’re an easy something to whip up on sunday night before the week starts.

So, you’ll need:

  • some parboiled small or new season spuds
  • a couple of tablespoons of ghee (or just plain old butter if it’s all you have)
  • tbsp of tumeric
  • 2-3cm of ginger
  • tbsp-ish of cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp of chilli powder, or a couple of fresh chillis
  • a pinch of asafoetida

From here it’s easy (more…)

This recipe isn’t in the Aussie cookbook, but is something we make pretty regularly here. The idea was initially to save a little money, but over time it’s mostly become about making a meal that isn’t jam-packed full of sugar. Plus, oats! What’s not to like.

You’ll need:

Oats, maybe four cups

Dried fruits, pretty much whatever you’re into (and won’t break the bank)

Dried coconut

Seeds; pumpkin, sesame, sunflower. You get the picture

Vegetable oil

A sweetener. We use a golden syrup, but you could use honey (if it wasn’t so damn expensive), or malt. Even brown sugar could do.

So this recipe is pretty straightforward. Toast the oats in the oven, toast the seeds on the stovetop, and chop the fruits. Here we go. (more…)

And here in the first of the ‘How to cook from an 80s cookbook’ series is Beggar’s chicken. To be honest I’m surprised they didn’t call this something dodgy, but there you go. Apparently PC was alive an well as early as the mid-80s. And so we begin:

This is one of the renowed dishes of the Orient. The chicken was originally wrapped in lotus leaves, then in clay, then thrown into a hot fire. Supply chopsticks for four lucky people.

You’ll need:

1.5kg chicken

3 shallots (I used a small onion, which was probably a mistake)

2.5cm piece green ginger

1 tsp sugar

3 tbsps soy sauce

2 tbsps dry sherry

1 tbsp water

1/4 tsp five spice powder

2 extra tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsps oil

extra oil

1kg cooking salt (!!)

4 cups plain flour

1 1/2 cups water (approx)

The recipe itself is pretty simple, the first thing to do is to mix all the dough, then stuff the chicken with the surprisingly limited amount of spices, wrap the whole shebang in foil and dough, and cook that thing for a total of FOUR HOURS. You’ll need to pay attention to that last bit.


I thought I’d take the easier of the two options and renovate the Master Bedroom. Of course I was wrong and this was by far the more difficult room.

The problem I’m addressing is that the walls of Newlands Manor are concrete, so in Winter they soak up a lot of the heat we put into the bedrooms, and the air becomes *very* cold at night. In addition the old pasterboard on the walls was damaged after 60 years of use, and we needed to replace it. So, in comes me with my trusty hammer and chisel.

The first task was to carefully remove all of the covers off the windows and doors, and to lift off the skirting boards. These are made of very old rimu (a native timber now protected) and are very brittle, so it was quite a long and careful job. Then, I demolished the old fibreboard cornices. I’d seen a professional cabinet-maker unable to take these off cleanly, so didn’t worry about that myself, just dragged them down.


Once I’d exposed the studs and dwangs I carefully looked them over for rot or borer. They weren’t in bad order, and were pretty well-laid out. They looked to be a rough-sawn hardwood of some variety, as the house-building plans had requested, and they seem to have lasted well since construction in 1951. Once everything was exposed and cleaned, I put in some polyester/fibreglass insulation.

Our main hope is that the insulation slows the heat loss to a minimum. This will help keep these rooms drier as well.

Next, I put up the first of the new panels. I was originally planning to use pine. Someone suggested cedar, and while I was looking into it I discovered an Indonesian wood called meranti. This was a pretty expensive option though, coming in at around $NZ85 a sheet. Pine retails at around $NZ60, and I needed at least a dozen sheets. While looking for a cheaper source I had a conversation with the guys at Mitre10 Mega in Petone about a wood they have there called Okoume. I went home a googled it (to be sure it wasn’t manufactured from Panda bones or something…), and discovered that it is a popular marine ply from West Africa. And only slightly threatened. Furthermore, it has a finely-grained texture and a very light salmon colour. Even better, I think it cost around the same or less than the pine! Win.

Pretty soon I was throwing up panels.

Before you know it I had all the panels up, rimu batons cut to size and nailed up, the old rimu skirting boards put back on, and some rimu cornices I made up installed. The lighting adds nicely to the marine feel of the room. This week we’ve a sparky coming in to check the wiring, install a ceiling light etc.

The floorboards in the photo below are also rimu, and as you can see they come up a nice colour. We’re hoping the rimu I installed comes up as nicely, and we’ll likely polyurethane the floors so they can be exposed without scratching. The okoume we’re thinking we want to tint to a light gold/orange to complement the rimu.

Here’s another corner of the room along with a window stool that was a casualty of the renovation, as was the right window cover. Thankfully that was it for major stuff-ups.

We’re planning to strip the window frames back to bare wood, so the poor damaged stool will likely we swept up in it, and I might have to replace all the covers on this window because the new cover to the right and the old covers are different depths!

And here’s a shot with some furniture and the curtains.

It makes me think that the interior decorating can’t come soon enough. The walls need the depth that a decent stain will give to make them look less industrial.

All in all the whole shebang came in reasonable but not cheap, and we saved a huge amount in builder’s fees. Took me a week of getting out of bed at 7am, and working till the light failed (I will admit to pausing to watch a few sci-fi films!), but I got it done.

Oh, and in my spare time that week I built a fence.