This week’s small pleasures #320

No doubt many of you will have seen pictures of the dreadful flooding up north in Auckland. There are red rain warnings out for the city Northland and The Coromandel tomorrow (Tuesday), so it looks like more flooding is inevitable. A colleague in Auckland has 60cm of water in the ground floor of her house, but had to smile when her granddaughter turned up with her bucket and spade to help clear up – as she said, that will be the memory she wants to keep. Meanwhile here in Wellington we are having humid and sticky weather which isn’t particularly pleasant, but seems to be the way things are this year.

But to this week’s small pleasures…..starting with Friday evening and…

An evening with Ottolenghi

I make no apologies for this week’s small pleasures post for having as it focus food. It has just been one of those weeks with interesting produce, a dinner out and the highlight of the week, an ‘in conversation’ evening with Ottolenghi. A man who, if you are at all interested in food, needs no introduction. If you don’t know him, through his restaurants and books he has radically changed how lots of us cook in terms of ingredients and approaches to flavours. During the evening, we learned about his early life, his approach to food and shopping habits (I feel better now for picking up foods that look good even though I am not sure how I will use them). There was even an interactive quiz, with four lucky winners getting to taste a couple of dishes. It was such a lovely evening and made a lovely end to the working week.

Shopping and cooking

So to what I picked up this week and what I did with some of it at least. I found some scallopini or patty pan squash in Commonsense Organics on Wednesday, along with a lovely bunch of colourful carrots and some expensive but gorgeous heirloom tomatoes which I had for lunch on some miche, a type of sour dough bread, from Shelley Bay Baker. I also picked up this jar of Thai lime salt with sesame and coconut (yes one of those ingredients…) and a new plate (pictured below) from Orient that matches a serving bowl I have already. A poor excuse but I do love the bowl and my new plate.

I made Peter Gordon’s patty-pan squash, roast olives and potatoes, girolles and sherry-vinegar currants which I featured in a post back in December 2021. Like then, I used shiitake mushrooms and this time stirred in some baby spinach leaves. I served it with chicken stuffed with sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella for our dinner on Sunday. Left over chicken will form the basis of my Monday lunch and we’ll have the rest of the potatoes with venison sausages tonight (Monday).

In Saturday’s basket there were some green beans, the mushrooms I mentioned, a Lebanese cucumber, lemons, plums, blueberries, potatoes, rocket and two figs because who can resist? There was also more feta and a piece of sheep milk curado from Thorvald. On Sunday morning I made a fresh batch of granola, adding dates and dried mandarins and enjoyed a really good just perfectly ripe avocado at breakfast sprinkled with red bell pepper flakes.

Eating out

On Saturday night we went out to celebrate not only Karl’s name day but also us being in New Zealand for 10 years. This also means my blog is 10 years old as I initially started it to talk about our move here. Anyway, we celebrated with a lovely dinner at Ortega Fish Shack. Apologies for poor pictures but they were taken in restaurant lighting. I started with half a dozen Te Kouma Pacific oysters with a champagne vinegar dressing on the side, while Karl had the duck liver pâté, Though you can’t see it in the picture, we enjoyed a chardonnay with our first courses. I then opted for the snapper with an aubergine, sauce romesco, sweetcorn and basil, and Karl of course had a steak. We shared green salad on the side and enjoyed a glass of Craggy Range syrah. For a change we actually had dessert, and I had sticky date pudding with a toffee sauce and Calvados ice-cream accompanied by Clearview ‘Sea Red’ dessert wine and Karl had the crepes with an orange caramel sauce and vanilla ice-cream with a glass of moscatel. A real feast and celebration!

Simple things

  • Watching a bee, darting in and out of the nasturtiums.
  • Receiving a surprise NZ$5 voucher off my next cookbook purchase from Moore Wilson’s.
  • Pilates starting up again.
  • Getting the all clear from the vet about Charlie. His eye is slowly getting better.
  • Knowing that Charlie has a good human friend a few doors away who lets him sleep on her bed.
  • Spending Sunday afternoon reading a book.

So that is it for this week. So, what were your small pleasures this week? Here are some other blog posts from a few fellow bloggers looking at the good things in life. 

Also entered in the weekend coffee share hosted by Natalie the Explorer.

Thistles and Kiwis is a Wellington, New Zealand based blog written by Barbara, who likes cats, summer, good food and pretends to garden.

You can find Thistles and Kiwis on Facebook, and also on Instagram @thistlesandkiwis. If you want to get in touch, email me on or


  1. I always love seeing what you are eating and cooking. After all, food is at the center of life. It fuels our body, and what we eat plays a huge role in how healthy we are. Wonderful to celebrate ten years in New Zealand, Karl’s birthday, and the anniversary of your blog. Those desserts sound especially delicious. Hope the rain stops and the flooding isn’t too bad. Very glad your area escaped the worst of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We look at Ottolenghi recipes in our newspaper and sometimes think that one would be good to make if only we could get the ingredients, which we can’t. It is a bit frustrating.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Honestly, this week sounds like a dream! Not only seeing Ottolenghi who is a food-lover’s god but your visit to Ortega Fish Shack could have been my highlight of the week! Plus, the bonus of Charlie getting better!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a fabulous foodie week you’ve had Barbara! I enjoyed seeing all your purchases and what you do with them and hearing from the man himself would have been a real delight for you 🙂 Well done on the 10 years of your blog, it’s a huge milestone and worth celebrating along with name days!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your foods look and sound divine. I haven’t seen patty-pan squash over here; what a cute name and appearance. Congrats on your 10 years of blogging! It’s a special milestone and worth celebrating along with Karl’s name day and your 10 years in NZ. I’m glad Charlie’s eye is getting better. Thank you for the mention and your weekend coffee share.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You always share such delicious food! I almost don’t dare to look, it always makes me hungry 🙂 Great photos to go with your post. Have a Wonderful rest of your weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. We always try to get to Ottolenghi’s places of food in London when we visit. Even if it’s just to drool at the window display. Taken the kinds a few times just to pick one of the cakes as a post visit treat. Change my perception of what a take away salad could be. Thanks for coffee

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have not heard about the flooding, yikes. I also haven’t heard of the chef you mentioned but probably because of where I live. How fun to be there in person. The food looks yummy, well, except the oysters…I have not developed a liking to them.

    Liked by 1 person

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