30 October 2012

A few of my favourite things: Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking Class

Rain drops on windows and sweet treats with whipped cream,  bright smiling flowers all caught up in this dream, brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favourite things.

Unlike the past two years where the sun had shone brightly on the warm Kapiti soil, today Mother Nature spent her tears all about us. They fell onto the already lush green ground, and the rain pattered gently against the windows, as we sat chatting in anticipation of this year's cooking class commencing.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Upon arriving, a beautiful array of delectable goodies was laid out before us. The Galette de Rois served with vanilla whipped cream the perfect accompaniment to a long awaited morning coffee after the hour's drive up the coast.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

I was intrigued to see how this year's theme The Discreet Charm of a Country Christmas would play out both with the menu and the themed dinner to finish off the day. But I was also equally happy to sit and take everything in, letting the day unfold moment by moment.

Listening to Ruth, a consummate storyteller, weave her magic through the class is something you have to see and hear to believe. One particular story that stayed with me was that one staff member spends four months of the year day after day making the hundreds of Ruth Pretty Christmas cakes that are bought to be enjoyed or given away with love. This year one had even been sent off to a Captain in Afghanistan, and I can imagine it would be one of the tastiest treats someone could hope to receive so far from home on Christmas Day.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review
The famous Christmas Cake

We were fortunate enough to taste that famous cake during the morning tea break, and I savoured each mouthful knowing more of the care and attention with which these cakes have been so lovingly made. 

Time spent wandering leisurely around the kitchen shop during the break is always a visual feast. It's hard to know where to look with so many beautiful preserves and amazing kitchen implements, and this year, Ruth's newly published book was also on display to tempt many a purchase. I couldn't help but notice on the front cover were the mouth-wateringly tasty savoury tarts we had enjoyed as a starter at last year's class.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

We returned to class in time for the traditional bubbly and nibbles to begin appearing. I sipped my bubbly, from time to time catching a glimpse of the grapevines silently giving up their water laden gift from Mother Nature outside the kitchen window, as Ruth entertained us with more stories and handy hints for the perfect Christmas dinner.

The bubbly this year too, was rather special. Any wine from Margain Vineyard in Martinborough would be so, but upon learning that the bubbly La Michelle, a very small vintage, had been made especially by the owners for their daughter Michelle's wedding, every sip thereafter was somehow all the more to savour.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Mother Nature's timing was impeccable. Just as the class finished the rain ceased, and we stepped outside the kitchen to inhale the sweet smell of the country as if it had been all freshly washed down just for us. The grass was still damp underfoot as we stepped gingerly between the cowpats on a little tiki tour through the grounds to the 'staff bar' where Ruth had promised a light refreshment.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

The market stall alongside the outdoor bar was just the right touch of country to go with the lavender lemonade and bountiful wine and beer selection.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

And then, just as were getting comfortable in the now almost tropical outdoor air, the doors behind us suddenly opened onto a scene of rustic charm, so country and yet so quintessentially Kiwi at the same time.

From the Christmas tree - a punga fern glittering with baubles and lights, to the barely opening buds of agapanthus adorning the table, and the intricate screenprinted hessian about the walls, it was an absolute delight for the eyes.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

We sat at tables each named after a famous racing horse, framed by row upon row of flax flowers sprinkled with the odd glittering bauble reflecting the hue of party lights.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

And the best was yet to come.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review
Bacon Wrapped Turkey and Parmesan Sausages

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review
Irene's West Coast Whitebait with Tarragon Cream Cheese and Salted Olive Oil Crackers

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review
Roast Leg of Lamb with Lemon and Oregano
New Potatoes with Honey Mustard Dressing and Crunchy Sprinkle
Legumes with Minted Butter
Asparagus with Tomato and Caper Vinaigrette

My heart had skipped a beat at the beginning of the day when I saw lamb on the menu, my all-time favourite roast. Add the glorious flavours of the meat stuffed with garlic, rubbed with lemon and oregano and then roasted all wrapped up in a brown paper package tied up with string, well quite simply these are a few of my favourite things.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review
Christmas Icebox Cake with Roasted Pineapple

I'd never heard of an icebox cake before but there is a definite appeal to making a no-cook cake that you can prepare in advance this Christmas. With layers of chocolate hazelnut biscuits held together with a soft chocolate ganache and a hint of Christmas mince, all delicately wrapped up in cream, marscapone and Frangelico, well let's just say it was just right combination to end a magical day on.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Bokeh and lillies, the fresh scent of sweet peas, a fern drenched in blue light, committed to memory, a day in food heaven where my tastebuds sing, these are a few of my favourite things.

29 October 2012

Encouragement for the week

It's climbing the stairs one step at a time, and having the courage to open the door and see what awaits us on the other side.

26 October 2012

Things I'm Loving 26.10.12

I wholeheartedly believe that no matter what is happening in your life, there is always something you can be thankful for..no matter how simple it is.

The Naki in Instagram 
From the Instagram archives on our trip a couple of week's back. Loving the ease of capturing moments of life without always having to have the big DSLR slung my neck!

We were loving: pre-flight treats at Donut King, a surprise from Fly Buys - a wall of gobstoppers at Wellington Airport and if you swiped your Flybuys one would come down the chute, boys loving hopskotch, light filtering through trees, a very marmalade bush, beautiful lake at Pukekura Park, coffee and muffins at Elixir, and my gorgeous mountain coming out to say hello!

Magnetic nail polish
Last week I discovered an amazing new concept - magnetic nail polish. It's hard to describe but the video below shows a good illustration of how it works. Basically, you paint 1 coat, wait for it to dry, paint another coat and then immediately after finishing the 2nd coat, you hold the magnetic strip contained in the top of the lid near your nail and you get this funky nail salon-worthy effect.

The Sally Hansen range at Farmers has some cool metallic colours - I branched out and went for electric emerald. You like?

Just don't look too closely at how well I managed (not) to stay on the nail with my paint job!

Super foods
So in recent times, I've been on a bit of a up and down journey with my health as you know. On the whole I have been feeling better eating gluten free but still not really back to my old self. But lately, what's been helping more are what I call my super Super Foods. A teaspoon each of black sesame seeds and LSA (linseed, sunflower, almond) sprinkled on my breakfast each morning. Banana, berry and spirulina smoothies a few days a week either for breakfast or after dinner in the evening.

I have felt better these past few weeks than I had been feeling for months, and I'm now not having to take the additional fibre/laxative supplement I was before starting on the seeds for breakfast which is a great leap forward in my opinion. Long may it continue!

The discreet charm of a country Christmas awaits
On Sunday I'm heading up the coast an hour to enjoy a day of delectable food and entertainment at Ruth Pretty's Christmas Cooking Class. Because I've been fortunate enough to go before, I know what an amazing time awaits me. Squee, I can't wait! Here's what I've got to look forward to!

The Discreet Charm of a Country Christmas
The Discreet Charm of a Country Christmas With Ruth Pretty 

Ah, nostalgia ... it’s not what it used to be. In reflective mood, Ruth is taking a ‘down home in the countryside’ look at Christmas this year, creating some of those ‘funny, familiar, forgotten feelings’ of yesteryear, within today’s contemporary setting.
The global trend of artisan foods, telling the stories of the food we eat and who produces it, has always been part of Ruth’s own culinary story, alongside her own piece of beautiful and productive countryside.
She says "Christmas is all about stories: from the very first Christmas to family tales re-told over the table and supplemented by new stories shared as the clan expands. As much as the food, this is what people remember and treasure from Christmases past”. But these are modern times, so Ruth is creating a Christmas feast with one nostalgic eye to the past and the other in the practical here and now. She shares advance prep ideas and techniques while telling her own Christmas food stories.

Love Bombs: The Latest
Remember that cookie drop back in September? Well the latest round of Love Bombs are in progress, and I for one, knew I didn't want to miss out on being part of the blessing to the ladies who have been nominated. Last weekend I visited Spotlight, found me some just right for the job spice jars, rustled up some sweet orange sugar scrub to go in them and also made up some cutie-pie snowmen cards, all the while praying that when these unexpected gifts arrive in these wonderful womens' hands, they will be the blessing and encouragement that is needed.

And it's not too late if you want to get involved, find out how here.

Operation Christmas Child
Inspired by Miriam and Ange's recent posts on Operation Christmas Child, and having been in the zone last weekend creating Love Bomb gifts, I decided to rustle up 2 boxes for Operation Christmas Child too. I'd supported this great cause a few years back, and it really is a lovely way to bring joy to children in less fortunate parts of the world. The basic premise is that you pack a shoe box full of a variety of gifts for a child in different categories like (something to love, something for school, something to wear, something to play with, something for personal hygiene etc)

It's a great way to introduce your kids to the idea of giving to those less fortunate than us, and you can even track what country your box will end up going to through the website too. You have till the end of October if you still want to be involved. Here's a list of all the drop-off points in Australia and NZ here.

 It truly is blessed to be a blessing, and more blessed to give than to receive.

And that my friends is that. Happy Friday to you all!

P.s. Don't forget to enter my giveaway for Blue Gnu here. Entries close Tuesday.

Here's how you can join in this week:

Link up below with your blog post telling us what you're loving, and grab the Things I'm Loving button below for your post too. Don't forget to share the love by visiting all the other lovelies who have joined in - the linky is open till same time next week!


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