Author Archives for Tracey O'Brien

About Tracey O'Brien

Devoted foodie, food blogger and traveller. Let me share with you the food I love to cook and eat and the places I've travelled to.

The Amalfi Coast on a plate . . .

You know how it is with holidays – a week back at home and work and your time away feels like nothing more than a distant memory.

Having said that, memories should not be underestimated. Life is so much about experiences and creating memories. My recent trip to Italy – Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast –  created so many wonderful memories I hardly know where to start. Perhaps that’s the reason I’ve been tardy getting back into posting. So much to tell!

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Italy is calling me . . .

For anyone following my blog you’ll know that I have a long held affection for Italy. It is my special place, the place where I always feel like the best version of myself.

Perhaps it’s because their whole approach to food and life resonates deeply with me. In Italy food is such an intrinsic part of their identity. It is how families come together; it is how they celebrate the bounty of the land and the sea; secrets are passed from generation to generation. They have a certain touch that I’ve not experienced anywhere else in the world.

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The Winter Salad – nutritious, comforting, delicious

The prospect of a salad for dinner is not always an exciting one in the middle of winter when you’re craving comfort food. But although salads are more a staple of the summer table, I don’t think they need disappear from the table during winter.

The trick, I’ve found, to enjoying salads in the colder months is to ensure there is at least one, perhaps two, hot elements. There is something about applying heat to a dish that instantly elevates it and gives it that comfort factor.

Last year I posted a recipe for homemade pesto. What I neglected to mention at the time was that it freezes well, to be used when fresh basil is not at its best. One of my favourite ways to use pesto is in a salad that is often on the menu in my house. I actually mentioned it in my post last year but didn’t give the recipe.

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The One Dish Tray-Bake – effortless cooking

I’ll start with a confession. I have posted this recipe before. But it was in the early days of my blog when my followers were few and I’m pretty sure most of you won’t have seen it. A great pity, I thought, because it’s a favourite and for good reason.

I cooked it the other night and as I removed the weighty dish from the oven, mouth watering, made the decision that it deserved a second outing.

If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know that I’m a fan of slow cooking. As much as I enjoy being in the kitchen, if a dish can deliver deliciousness with little effort from myself I’m immediately on board.

The tray-bake is one such dish. Something that takes minutes to throw together and then cooks slowly in the oven without a need for any further intervention from the cook.

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Italian Vegetable Stew with Meatballs

Although I’ll confess to being no vegetarian I do have a great love for vegetables. More than any other food group they bestow the colour that brings dishes to life and provide so much of the nutrition that a healthy diet needs.

My husband is trying to go easy on the carbs at the moment so I’m challenged with finding alternatives for the classic carbohydrates that feature in my favourite dishes. Not an easy challenge as I wouldn’t normally say there was an alternative (or one I’d be happy with) for pasta with meatballs or rice with a curry or crusty bread smeared with unsalted butter to mop up juices. My approach to healthy eating is more along the lines of moderation rather than elimination. But I’m happy to help my husband in this brief experiment to see if he can shed a few kilos before we fly off to Italy in a few weeks for a much needed holiday.

Yes, Italy! And let me tell you there will be no eliminating carbs on this holiday. Just let me at that first bowl of pasta!

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Chorizo & Bean Stew – the hearty flavours of Spain

It seems a very long time since I’ve written a food post – probably because it has been a very long time! But as I cooked this fabulous dish and then sat down to write the recipe it felt like coming home. Food has the ability to do that – it soothes, it comforts, it brings people together and it makes the world feel like a safer place.

This is just the dish to achieve all of the above. It’s easy enough to double or triple the recipe if you want to feed a horde, it’s hearty and full of flavour and perfect to chase away the winter blues – although I’d be inclined to make this at any time of the year. Currently it’s mid-winter in New Zealand and bringing a touch of Spanish sunshine to my kitchen helps to brighten the cold and dark evenings.

You might think it strange that for the feature shot of this post I’ve used a photo of the raw ingredients. There is a reason. I like to make an effort when cooking this type of dish (or any type of dish) to source the very best of ingredients. I made a trip to my local gourmet market and picked up some beautiful tiger prawns and authentic Spanish chorizo (the real thing).

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Florence, Italy – the jewel in Tuscany’s crown (part 2)

It hadn’t occurred to me when I started writing last week’s post that it would be a good idea to split the tale of this city into two parts. But I soon realised there was simply too much to tell to jam it all into one post.

So here I am with part 2 of my adventure to Florence and very excited am I to share it with you.

I talked last week about our visit to the Palazzo Pitti. Although the Uffizi and Accademia are the big draw cards in Florence, I urge you not to miss the Pitti. But on our last full day in Florence my husband and I decided to make a call between the Uffizi and the Accademia. I suppose we could have tried to do both but decided one bout of queuing was quite enough for one day. Fortunately the rain had cleared and it was a brilliant sunny day.

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Florence, Italy – the jewel in Tuscany’s crown (part 1)

A very big hello to all my lovely followers. I have an apology to make for being absent so long. Life has been busy and a couple of important personal projects have been swallowing up all my time.

A real shame as I haven’t yet had a chance to share my trip to England over the Christmas and New Year period. My husband and I also managed to fit in a short escape to Italy – definitely the highlight. So instead of ‘leaving the best for last’ I thought I’d start with the best.

Florence.

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Meeting Nigella Lawson

It’s a special moment when the opportunity arises to meet your idol, someone you’ve admired from afar for a long time. Of course, the small fear that niggles away is that disappointment may await you. I’m happy to report that on meeting Nigella Lawson there was no disappointment – only a lovely moment in time that I will always treasure.

I have been a fan of Nigella since my twenties. If Audrey Hepburn is my idol from a bygone error then Nigella is most definitely my modern-day idol. I love her style, her approach to food – and life in general, for that matter.

So when my friend Angela asked if I’d like to accompany her to see Nigella: In Conversation I immediately jumped at the chance. What? Nigella’s coming to New Zealand? Do I want to go? Is that a serious question? Of course!

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Long-haul flights and Christmas lights

It’s been a while since my last post, before Christmas actually. A post that was hastily written at the airport before my husband and I boarded a plane for London.

And when your departure point is Auckland, New Zealand it means you’re about to embark on quite a journey. Flying with Thai Airways our flight path was via Bangkok. So we’re talking 12 hours give or take to Bangkok and then another 12 hours to London. It’s a commitment, that’s for sure. But all worth it when you get to the other end. At least, that’s what I try to tell myself as I squirm in my seat trying to get comfortable (a useless endeavour) and trawl through the movies on offer hoping to find something that will slake the boredom.

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