You know winter and I don’t exactly… love one another (body of evidence one and two). I’d quite comfortably make like a bear all season and simply eat, grizzle and snooze. The idea of heading somewhere even colder hardly seemed like a solution. But Matt finally convinced me I might be wrong (no easy task) and we dutifully layered ourselves up in merino underwear, puffy mittens and headgear with ear flaps. The result of which had me wondering how I dared question whether New Zealand could deliver something to lift the spirits?
So, following our recent trip to the Queenstown Lakes District, here are my Five Sure Ways to Make Winter Better:
This part of New Zealand never fails to encourage overuse of the word – “Awesome”. The landscape in and around Queenstown and Wanaka (which B2 calls “Monica”) is so striking I found myself thinking in exclamation marks.
2. A great book.
Patricia Grace‘s first novel in ten years, Chappy, didn’t disappoint. The story of a grandson trying to make sense of the fragmented memories of his grandfather, in part to create an identity and direction for himself, was beautiful, honest and gentle, in that way that Grace’s writing always is. The narrative went off into various little eddies and swirls, but kept me spellbound the entire book. The kind of book you finish and start all over again. Immediately.
3. Realising that kids couldn’t care less about the cold.
Turns out that by simply adding a few extra layers and donning a hat with a generous pom-pom, the world is just as enchanting as when the weather is warm. With a few extra bonuses like crispy, frozen puddles, snow to make angels in and the way your warm breath looks like smoke in the frigid air; dragon-style.
4. Hot tub.
When all else fails, add hot water.
5. Warm pudding.
I know we have been spoiled. Our trip was something special and mountains and hot tubs aren’t always going to be an option. There are many days when finding the time to read a book is a luxury and near-impossibility. But a winter pudding like this almost passes as dinner (okay, maybe breakfast) and can be whipped up using basics – rice and milk mainly. There are hundreds of rice pudding recipes out there but this one is a revision of a recipe from ‘Vij’s : elegant and inspired Indian food’ by Vikram Vik and Meeru Dhalwala (The recipe book of our favourite Indian restaurant in Vancouver – Vij’s). I decided on flavouring it with kaffir lime leaves, because we have a kaffir lime tree in a garden and because I was dreaming of someplace hot. Thailand, specifically. This recipe makes an absolute TON (about ten cups) of pudding, so we alternated serving it with pieces of dark, sour-sweet Doris plums or adding slices of mango.
Kaffir Lime Rice Pudding
3/4 cup basmati rice
2 cans coconut cream
2 cups of almond milk
6 cups of regular milk
1 cup sugar
Approx. 3 kaffir lime leaves
Pour all the coconut cream, almond and regular milk into a large, heavy-bottom pot. Add rice and gently boil on a medium-low heat. Add kaffir lime leaves. Simmer, stirring gently and regularly for at least one hour and ten minutes. Never scrape the bottom of the pot while stirring otherwise you may get bits of burnt milk in your pudding. As the rice and milk cook the consistency will become more and more like pudding. If the rice begins to clump or milk stick on the bottom of the pan, stir more often and turn down the heat slightly. Once you achieve a pudding texture, remove from the heat and add sugar. Stir well.
But maybe you are reading this in the middle of a Northern Hemisphere heatwave. Sweating in places you shouldn’t while standing in front of the fridge with the door open. In which case, save this post for later or make the pudding anyway and eat it chilled. Whatever your weather – balmy hot or hibernation-inducing cold – I wish you pretty views, time with good people, a soak and somethin’ sweet.