Food

In praise of red

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“Here are all my needs gathered in one drink: bitter, medicinal and cleansing.” Fergus Henderson

Bracing, bittersweet, and captivating crimson, the Bicyclette is quite possibly the best cocktail ever. It’s simplicity itself. A wine glass, some ice, and whatever combination of dry white wine and Campari tastes best to you.

It just works.

It especially worked for me last night, being the drink I chose to end my month of alcohol abstinence.

It was… intoxicating.

All in all my efforts for FebFast raised just under $600 – my small contribution towards a grand (but not final) total of $80,319.

Thank you to all of you who cheered me on. Ya did good.

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Hurtling down the home straight

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What a difference a week makes.

Half-way through my FebFast journey I was doubtful of reaching the end sober.

But now, one week out from the finish line, I’m feeling far more confident.

Admittedly, my daydreams are filled with gin. However aided by no more than gingerbeer and willpower, I have successfully navigated more than one boozy party, a raucous work do, and a family dinner – as well as the usual daily drinking temptations.

So yay me. And a big thanks to my lovely sponsors, who are helping no end to stiffen my resolve.

I’m not alone in this. Around a thousand New Zealanders have come together to give young people with alcohol and drug problems a second chance at a healthy life.

Between us we’ve managed to raise almost $70,000 so far.

At $421, I’m still a wee way off my $500 goal. But guess what? It’s not too late to do your bit by making a donation to the cause.

You can read more about the recipients and sponsor me via my fundraising page: http://www.febfastfundraising.co.nz/lisa_wilde

Every little bit helps.

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A pinch and a punch for the first of the month

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Trolleyed: preparing for FebFast

As in, no booze for a month? Pinch me someone, I must be dreaming. And punch? Well, it won’t be spiked like the vile concoction at my sixth form ball, that’s for sure.

So, today’s the day. After gathering my willpower and ridding the fridge of temptation, I’ve pressed pause on my alcohol consumption for the next 28 days.

Intoxicating beverages are – temporarily at least – a thing of the past.

And so it begins.

Big ups to all of you who’ve sponsored me so far. It means a lot and your cash is going to a great cause. Other than forcing me to stay on the wagon, your donation will be used for a bunch of much-needed programmes to help Kiwi teens battling with drug and alcohol addiction.

If you haven’t sponsored me yet and you’d like to, you can do so here: http://www.febfastfundraising.co.nz/lisa_wilde

And if you’ve got a fabulous, thirst-quenching virgin cocktail recipe you’d like to share, please do. I’d love to drink it.

Bottoms up.

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Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder

So, I’m giving up the grog for a month in an effort to be good to myself and DO some good. Or at least raise a bit of dosh for some great community organisations working to make a difference in people’s lives.

I’m fairly fond of a tipple but abstaining for 28 days will show my liver that I love it, too. Not to mention my waistline and my wallet.

All the money raised by the FebFast challenge goes to support young people with drug- and alcohol-related problems.

My pledge means no chink-chinky gin to announce the cocktail hour, no frosty ale to slake my thirst when I’ve been toiling in the garden, no pink wine to perk me up after work… no wine of any colour. And most definitely no hard liquor.

I’ll be saying no to it all. No. Thank you.

It won’t be easy. February may be the shortest month but let us not forget, people, here in Zild it is also the hottest.

Please help me to stay on the wagon. You can support me and kick off your good deeds for the year by visiting my fundraising page and donating the price of a drink or three towards my fundraising goal.

C’mon. Show me the love.

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It’s got to be good for you…

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Food, Recipes

…and lashings of ginger beer

Every now and again I get a craving for an ice-cold sugar rush with a kick of heat and spice. So I’m having a go at making my own ginger beer. So far, it’s as easy as (eating) pie.

I remember Mum making it when I was a kid, using a bug a friend had given her, feeding it and tending it daily like a sourdough starter.

The recipe I’ve found seems to involve considerably less faffing about. As you’d expect from Alison Holst. And to prevent the other thing I remember – random bottles exploding in the garage, it’s decanted into used plastic softdrink bottles rather than glass.

for 4 1.25l bottles
1 teaspoon dried yeast granules
2 teaspoons sugar
half a cup of tepid water

5cm piece of fresh ginger root
1 large or 2 small lemons
half a teaspoon of citric acid
2 cups sugar
2 litres hot water
2 litres cold water

Stir together the first three ingredients in a glass and leave them to stand in a warm place while you get everything else ready. The yeast will start fizzing during this time, so you can be quite sure it’s active.

Cut up the root ginger roughly, skin and all, and put it in the food processor with the zest of the lemons, removed with a potato peeler, the citric acid, and half the sugar.

Process, using the metal chopping blade, until very finely chopped, then add the lemon juice.

Measure out the hot water. Tip some of it into the lemon mixture, then tip the lemon mixture into a clean bucket. Use the rest of the water to rinse out the processor bowl. Add the remaining sugar to the hot lemon mixture, stir well, then add the cold water, to bring the temperature of the liquid in the bucket to lukewarm.

When you have checked that the mixture is lukewarm and cannot possibly kill the yeast, stir in the yeast mixture. Cover the bucket loosely and stand in a warm place for 24-48 hours. The beer should bubble during this time. Leave longer in cool weather.

Mine didn’t seem to bubbling at all, and it is winter, so I left it five days. The finished brew tastes great, but was so fizzy I lost a third of it down the sink. So I guess it doesn’t need to be too bubbly after all. Though… the fizziness could also have been due to me forgetting to strain it at the decanting stage – I don’t recommend you do the same. Chewy.

Strain into four thoroughly clean 1.25l plastic softdrink bottles, topping each bottle up to within 3cm of the top with extra cold water. Put 1 teaspoon water of sugar in each bottle and screw on the well-washed tops. Shake to dissolve sugar.

Leave to stand in a warm place until the bottles feel absolutely rigid when you squeeze them. This will take from 1-5 days, depending on the temperature, yeast etc.

Refrigerate the bottles for at least two hours before removing the lids. Plan to drink all of the brew within 3-4 weeks.

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A bit of a squeeze

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Are we there yet? The question would be repeated, a high pitched whine, at 10 minute intervals between Palmerston North and Hastings.

First the winding road through the Manawatu Gorge, waving out to the train as we spotted it on the other side of the river, speeding in and out of tunnels, high above the rushing water. Then Dannevirke, Norsewood, Waipukurau … all manner of one-petrol-pump, one-pub towns … on and on until we got to Hastings.

Grandparental hugs and kisses followed, washed down with glasses of Nana’s homemade lemonade; the painted pop-art patterned glasses as integral to the experience as the syrupy tart cordial within them. Ahh. Bliss. We’d arrived.

Sheila’s lemonade (who says happiness can’t be found in a bottle?)

zest of six lemons, taken off in strips with a potato peeler

1.2 litres water
1kg sugar
600ml lemon juice

Add lemon peel to water and sugar and heat gently until sugar is dissolved, stirring often. Strain and add lemon juice. Mix well and pour into bottles. Dilute the lemon syrup with water, sparkling or still, depending upon how festive you’re feeling. If you’re a grown up, a tot of vodka wouldn’t go amiss. If there’s a nip in the air, substitute whisky and boiling water for an instant lemon toddy.

The very thought of lemons is a promise of summer to come – a glimpse of that sunny yellow on a dark day takes me back to an idyllic week house-sitting for my sister, who is fortunate enough to possess a backyard lemon tree – for five blissful days I gave in to the impulse to do nothing much other than laze in a shaded spot in the garden, buried in a book, gin at the ready, listening to cricket on the radio.

I couldn’t help myself. The lemons made me do it. Their charms were irresistible. And while I daydreamed, their scent carried across the lawn towards me, whispering sweet nothings of curd and meringue-topped pies and sticky semolina cakes drenched in syrup and pancakes and other, more savoury delights … mussels, roast chicken, risotto …

A bit of a squeeze, you see, is never a bad thing.

But back to Hastings again. At the end of the journey, there would be lunch. Which always meant pudding. Sometimes it might be icecream and Nana’s bottled apricots. More often it would be something hot. Lemon Delicious was a firm favourite, the mixture magically separating into a light sponge with lemony custard underneath.

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three large eggs, separated
half a cup of self raising flour
one cup of sugar
grated zest of one large lemon
quarter of a cup of fresh lemon juice
four tablespoons of melted butter
one and a half cups of milk

Preheat oven to 180C. Separate eggs. Beat whites until stiff. In another bowl, beat together the yolks, flour, sugar, lemon zest and juice and melted butter. Gradually stir in milk. Slowly pour lemon batter onto beaten egg whites, folding through lightly. Pour into buttered casserole. Stand dish in a roasting tin or cold water and bake for about 1 hour. Cover loosely with foil during the last 15 minutes if the pudding is browning too much. Serve warm with runny cream. Makes enough for four to six people.

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