Monday, September 27, 2010

Breakfast Tostada

With the arrival of Spring we have developed a renewed interest in all sorts of new foods. Fresh new local veges are making their ways into the market bag and strange and interesting new products are finding their way to our grocery store shelves. So we've been able to play with all sorts of great things.

Last week after a delicious meal of enchiladas the night before, I was left with some uneaten corn tortillas and some salsa and beans. This could only mean one thing, Mexican-inspired breakfast . . . . or beans and salsa in a tortilla. But where was the excitement in that, so I fried an egg, cut up some avocado and sprinkled on some cilantro. Delicious. Especially with a little extra kick from some special sauce I picked up in Antarctica. I give you - the breakfast tostada (like a burrito, only the tortilla lies flat a the bottom instead of being rolled up).

Erin's Breakfast Tostada

1 tortilla per person (corn are extra yummy if available)
1 egg per person
some delicious Mexican beans (I had canned black beans in a spicy sauce, but homemade would be better)
homemade salsa (recipe at bottom)
cheddar cheese (or queso fresco if you have it) - grated
1/4 avocado per person - sliced
1 tbsp. cilantro - chopped
Hot sauce - as much as you want

Heat up your tortilla as directed. If it is a corn tortilla this usually means frying it in a little bit of oil in a hot pan for about 30 seconds on each side until the middle puffs up a bit. Take it out of the pan and place in some paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Turn down the heat on the pan to medium and crack your egg into it. Splash some hot sauce into it if you so desire and cook it up your favorite way - sunny side up, easy over, crunchy.

Once all your ingredients are prepped you can begin constructing your tostadas. This can really be in any order you like, in fact you could just serve the individual ingredients as is and each person could construct their own tostada at the table. My preference is for the cheese to be in between the egg and the tortilla to get all gooey and melty from the heat. Then I pour on a good 1/4 cup of beans, a good spoonful of salsa and top it off with some cilantro. Sprinkle on some hot sauce and serve with the avocado on the side. But like I said, you could pile it any way you like.

Simple Homemade Salsa

2-3 tomatoes, the fresher the better
1/2 an onion (white, yellow, red, whatever)
chillies (to your taste)
1 lemon or lime
1 tbsp. cilantro, chopped

Slice your tomatoes across the core and take out the juicy seedy bits. Chop up your tomatoes and throw them in a bowl. Chop up your onion a little smaller than your tomato pieces. Then slice your chillies down the middle to expose the seeds. You can either leave the seeds and pith in or take them out, since this is where most of the heat is found in chillies its up to how spicy you want your salsa to be. I usually take out the seeds and throw in two chillies, this makes a pretty mild-medium salsa depending on the chillies I'm using. Chop these up pretty fine and toss them into the bowl. Squeeze in the juice of the lemon or lime, toss in the cilantro and mix it all up. The longer you let this sit, the more the flavours will have a chance to meld. I try to make this at least a few hours ahead of the meal, sometimes even a day.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Broken River Ski Club

Over the past week there has been a storm "the size of Australia" off the West Coast of New Zealand. It dumped enough heavy snow down in Invercargill to collapse the roof of the local sporting complex, it blew hard enough in Wellington to ground airplanes scheduled to leave from the airport and it dumped a whole heap of snow in the mountains. Just when we thought the end of the ski season had arrived.

On Sunday morning, we woke up early and decided we just had to partake in this fresh dump. And we knew the perfect field at which to enjoy it at its fullest - Broken River. Located in the Craigieburn Mountains with a parking lot for about 30 vehicles, Broken River was just hopping that day. We were lucky to arrive early enough to grab one of the last parking spots in a snow bank (despite making it to the edge of Christchurch and having to go back for my wallet and student ID - gotta get that discount). After slipping and sliding into a spot, we threw on our gear and headed for the "Inclinator".
[The jam-packed parking lot - our car is the little silver station wagon in the bottom right corner]

The inclinator is a little cable car used to access the chalets way up the hill towards the tree line. After the 10 minute rumble up the steep rails, you get out onto wooden decking surrounding the ticket house. Here you buy your tickets, grab a nutcracker and head up the stairs. Lots and lots of stairs. There are two lodges tacked to the side of the beech forested hills, with decks and stairs connecting them together.

Finally you emerge from the trees and climb one last set of stairs up the ridge to just below the first lift. Broken River has only nutcrackers. Now if you ever go skiing in New Zealand, nutcrackers are an essential part of the kiwi ski experience. They are at most club fields and are, well, a challenge to learn. You have a harness with a rope coming from the front. At the end of the rope is a hunk of metal in the shape of, you guessed it, a nutcracker. So you stand beside the rope as it's towed up the hill grab onto it with your inside hand, then use your outside hand to quickly flick the nutcracker over the rope and hold onto the handle. This allows the rope to travel through the various pulleys along the tow without crushing your fingers. A good thing really, it's just a challenge to get the nutcracker over the rope before the first pulley eats your hand.

Deep, heavy "powder" covered the mountain. This stuff is unlike any powder I have previously encountered. I'm used to the light, fluffy stuff that can easily be plowed through, not this heavy, wet stuff that constantly wanted to eat my skis. It was soft though, which was a good thing for all the falls we suffered. And the energy required to turn was phenomenal. I felt out of shape after just 2 turns and had to take a break. But the day was beautiful and the snow was plentiful, so there was not much to complain about. Despite the unusual number of falls.

[Resting at the top of the ridge. Behind me is the Cass valley where we tramped and stayed at Hamilton Hut]

After a glorious day of skiing, falling and shaking snow out of our jackets, we sat down at the chalet and enjoyed a beer (well, I had a beer, Stephen had an L&P, being the responsible driver that he is). The sun shone down happily on us and we quietly nursed our bruises and bangs with smiles on our faces. Eventually, we got ourselves together and made our way back down the multitude of stairs and into the car. We stopped at the swimming pool on the way home for a well-deserved soak and tried not to think about having to go back to work the next morning.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

And now for something completely different. . . .


The weather is turning. The birds are more and more raucous. And the flowers are popping up everywhere.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Christchurch, New Zealand Earthquake

[Stephen picking up the washing from the rubble]

[And the chimney that is still up there, threatening to come down in any of the aftershocks or perhaps the gale force winds tomorrow]

[All our clean water burst from the water main in front of the house]

[Standing knee deep in one of the cracks that appeared during the earthquake]

[The worst damage inside our apartment - cracked plaster and dust everywhere]

[The water was quickly boring its way under the road towards the river - a very fast underground torrent racing its way through the new cracks]

[The road outside our building was really bad - it's now dead quite out there with no traffic, making it somewhat otherworldly when you step outside onto the street]

[Some houses fared worse than others]

[Just before our BBQ dinner the firemen came and took some of the worst rubble off the roof. We're still waiting for a crane crew to come and take down the other two chimneys]

It's a funny feeling being in a disaster and I have to say the worst part of it is not during the actual event itself (though that was pretty horrible). No, its the hours and days (and presumably weeks) afterwards when everyone has to live with limited services; no water or sewage and gather up the pieces of their broken homes and try to put them back together. Tension runs high and people are apt to snap at the smallest thing. Yesterday, after the earthquake people were open and friendly and willing to talk, now they seem to be more on edge and snappy and frustrated. It's hard when everyone deals with this in their own way.

Stephen and I are fine. Although we have no water or sewage, we have been left with many liters of fresh water from friends and our landlords and there are porta-potties not too far away. The cat is finally out from under the stairs and we are about to head off to the grocery store to see what is left for our dinner tonight and possibly the next few. Lots of knitting and sewing time I suppose.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hiking at Hanmer

On Sunday, after a good sleep in and big bowl of oatmeal, we headed into town for a round of mini golf before parting company and heading up into the hills. We tool the same road we had the day before for our ski trip, but this time stopped at the summit of Jack's Pass to hike up the mountain to the West of the road (I believe it is Mount Bain, from my extensive research while playing mini golf). We gobbled down a quick lunch before leaving the car and headed down the muddy trail.

Despite not being marked on any map we had seen the trail continued along the saddle we were parked in and up the ridge towards our intended destination. With no real rush or need to get anywhere in particular we wandered along the track as it wound its way between protruding greywacke spires, the newly emerging buds on the manuka, the thorny tumatakuru, and the wispy pygmy pine.

[miniature moss garden tucked safely beneath the shrubs]

[the view back to the car]

[Taramea or Wild Spaniard which is both stiffer and sharper than it looks]

[a tiny skull we found along the trail, we decided it was most likely a possum]

[walking along the ridge with the snow]

[the view from the top, well actually, it's just us]

[heading for home]