Water Cooler: homemade drip irrigation, the best cheese roll, how to make steamed bao buns, The Moon and the Room review and identifying stars
This week in the water cooler, we bask in the deliciousness of the cheese that Nadene brought to the Christmas party, put some garden watering hacks to the test, try to avoid bun fights, and gave into the starry, starry night.
Earlier this year I had a freak accident in my kitchen that was like something out of an insurance commercial. A hose that was hooked up to a defective irrigation system turned on during the day while I was at work. The hose snaked its way up to the window before resting on a cat flap. The hose then proceeded to gush water through it for hours. It completely soaked the floorboards and ruined the brand new kitchen that had been installed the week before.
Not surprisingly, I don’t trust running my irrigation system on a timer when I’m not home over the holidays.
This summer I’m going old school by making this simple, homemade drip irrigation using a plastic bottle. The bottle is half-buried in the soil near a plant to allow water to drip through a tiny hole in the top into the soil. The dripper has an open top to collect rain water, although it may lose some water through evaporation.
To make it:
- Cut the bottom out of a soft drink bottle using scissors.
- Screw the lid on the bottle as tight as possible.
- Use a drawing pin to punch holes in the lid – the more holes in the lid, the faster the water will soak into the soil.
- My advice would be to only prick one hole in the lid. The video above shows how fast the water spills out with four small holes in the top.
I didn’t read the instructions properly.
You would think after three decades of following recipes, I would have learnt to stop, slow down and read carefully. But no, in my slightly tired state, I completely missed a crucial second part of a recipe. The part that states to let buns rise for a further 90 minutes.
This tale of tears and triumph began several weeks back when I purchased a bamboo steamer in a 50%-off Black Friday-induced frenzy on the Farmers website. Its arrival meant that I had to prove to my husband that this wasn’t a silly purchase and would be put to good use.
A few google searches later and I had a grand plan in mind: steamed bao buns, pillow soft and hugging a warm chunk of sticky, twice-cooked pork belly. What a wonderful idea, right? This would be a great thing to do on a Sunday afternoon.
It is NOT a good thing to do on a Monday night. Who knew steamed buns took three and a half hours of rising and resting?
I used this recipe from the BBC Good Food website, but there are plenty of other options. The recipe itself is easy to follow and doesn’t require anything particularly unusual: flour, caster sugar, salt, yeast, oil (we had to use olive oil instead of sunflower), milk, baking powder and rice vinegar (available from most supermarkets and Asian grocers).
Top tip: the recipe is correct – you do use salt, rather than sugar to activate the yeast. This will hopefully save you from arguing with your other half about whether the recipe is incorrect. Also, make sure you read the rising instructions carefully as there are several different stages. We ended up cutting the final rise short in order to save our marriage, but it didn’t seem to have too much of an effect on the final product.
There was a lot of pressure on these poor little buns. As the clock approached 9.15pm and the husband was about the eat his left arm in hunger, there were some prayers said. They were thankfully answered. The buns were light and fluffy but held their shape when filled with pork belly and pickled vegetables.
We’ve already made plans to create an Asian feast over the summer break, and these buns will be pride of place. But prepared WELL in advance.
Insider’s Guide Editor
WISH UPON A SLOW MOVING STAR
Our weekend guest was very excited about all things lifestyle block: the dogs, the goats, the horses.
But she was most excited about what would happen when it got dark. She would get to see the stars.
The lack of street lights and other houses around here means there is a panorama of stars across the night sky at my house, but it’s something anyone who lives in the city rarely gets to see.
I pointed out the two constellations I know. Find Orion’s Belt (three stars in a row) and it points to the Southern Cross.
While we were doing this, we spotted a ‘star’ moving slowly across the sky. It was flying at a constant speed but every so often it appeared to jerk. Both of us rubbed our eyes. ET? UFO? Optometrist?
My first (correct) thought was satellite, or maybe the international space station. But why was it jerking?
It turned out to be for the same reason that stars ‘twinkle’. As the light from the star (or satellite) passes through our atmosphere it is distorted by whirling pockets of air. This makes bright objects far away appear to twinkle; those closer appear to jerk.
If you spot something odd in the night sky, you can use this easy (and funny) flow chart to work out what it is. If anyone waves at you, do let us know.
NZ Lifestyle Block Editor
A CHILDREN’S STORY WITH A DIFFERENCE
The Moon and the Room tells of a brave little girl and her array of friends. It’s a children’s story by former Cuisine publisher and editor Julie Dalzell and illustrated by her son Patrick Dalzell Fay.
The Moon looks over them all as they bound around sharing adventures in rhyming prose. Molly the Dolly, Teddy the Bear and Robert the Robot are joined by the more elaborately-named Finickity Pickity (who goes lickity splickity) and Louis the Fish who has a splendid blue dish.
The book’s quality will delight adults and the mesmeric words will, no doubt, intrigue the children.
Julie Dalzell has been writing, editing and publishing in the arenas of education, design, food and wine for over three decades. She was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Magazine Publishers’ Association of New Zealand in 2011. Patrick Dalzell Fay designs, paints and illustrates on a wide landscape of surfaces with an equally wide use of inks, paints, materials and styles.
The Moon and the Room is available now from selected booksellers and from themoonandtheroom.com ($45 incl. shipping).
NZ Life & Leisure Editor
NOT YOUR USUAL CHEESE BALL
My aunt found this recipe a few years ago. To her disappointment, no-one at our family gathering would go near it. Blue cheese scares people.
We decided to market it to her guests as a cream cheese log instead. It was demolished in minutes and people commented on the fabulous tang. That’s the blue cheese people.
If blue cheese scares you, I suggest trying this ‘training wheels’ blue from Mainland.
It’s a little expensive for a tiny block but this multiple award-winning cheese makes a big impression on the tastebuds and is creamy enough that the mild blue flavour is… mild. Tangy but mild. It’s worth every cent.
This cheese is so good, it won me a bet with four burly fishermen who insisted blue cheese was “disgusting”. I bet them a beer each they’d like it if they tried. Despite being big beer fans (especially free beer), they all grudgingly admitted I was right.
BLUE CHEESE LOG
The cheese centre
- 180g blue cheese
- 200g cream cheese
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 1/2 tsp curry powder
Mix these ingredients – I took the cheeses straight from the fridge so I used a fork to mash up the blue, then put everything in the mixer. Note, this combo turns a blue-green. Roll out into a log, wrap it up in foil and put it in the fridge.
The nutty crust
- 40g butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp curry powder
- 1/2 tsp dry mustard
- 1 cup of pecans, chopped
Melt butter, then mix in above ingredients. Put in the fridge to cool. Spread it out evenly on another piece of foil so it’s the length of your log. Place the cheese log onto it, then roll the foil up so the nut mix covers the outside, seal, then put back in the fridge. This tastes best if made the day before.
NZ Lifestyle Block Editor