Recipe: Kumara, chickpea and coconut cream curry


  • 4 cups worth of diced golden or orange kumara – it should be cut fairly small – chunks of just over 1 cm square work best (i.e. slightly bigger than the chickpeas but not by much)
  • 3 tins of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp of cumin
  • 1 Tbsp of coriander powder
  • 1 Tbsp of grated fresh or frozen ginger
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tin coconut cream (plus optional extra half tin if you prefer it more creamy)
  • Strained juice from a tin of tomatoes
  • 1 cup vege stock
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Water to add


  • Gently fry the garlic, then add the grated ginger, spices, and kumera
  • Fry, stirring frequently, until the kumera is well coated and starting to soften
  • Add the chickpeas, tomato juice, vege stock, lemon juice, and enough water to make sure it’s covered
  • Bring to a simmer, and stir frequently while cooking until the kumera is nicely soft
  • Add the coconut cream and stir through, then simmer for another five minutes

Serve on rice with an extra squeeze of lemon juice, and maybe some cashew nuts or fresh coriander on top.

If freezing and reheating, add a bit of extra water to prevent sticking. This will reduce off again during cooking.

Additional veges (fresh or frozen) can be added before serving also – especially good with silverbeet, spinich, cauliflower, broccoli, or peas.

Note this is NOT spicy – it’s designed so that my 18 month old can eat it too. A splash of Kaitaia Fire or Hoot on top is perfect for the grownups.

(makes 8 – 10 servings)

** variation – omit the coconut cream, add more vege stock, and smush some of the kumara against the side of the pot to create a thicker gravy


You’re welcome, the mum edition

Ok, ok, I see what’s happening here

We need to have an attitude change

Just so you know, here’s the deal

Hey, Adorable

Add some gratitude to your range

Open your eyes, let’s begin

Yes, it’s really me, it’s Mummy: breathe it in!

I know it’s a lot to think about

When you’re only just starting out

What can I say except you’re welcome

For the milk, the hugs, the chats

Hey, it’s okay, it’s okay

You’re welcome

I’m just an ordinary Mummy gal!


What has two arms to hold you when you cry

Since you were only yay high

That’s right

When the nights got cold

Who turned your heater on to low

You’re lookin’ at her, yo

Oh, also I grew you in my womb

You’re welcome!

Morning sickness was no fun

Also I changed your nappies

You’re welcome!

I’ve handled lots of poos and wees

So what can I say except you’re welcome

Just remember you came out of me

There’s no need to pray, it’s okay

You’re welcome!

Ha, I guess it’s just something you don’t see

You’re welcome!

You’re welcome!

Well, come to think of it

Kid, honestly I can go on and on

Can you come here and please put your trousers on

The chaos, the fuss, the noise, oh

Shitsticks I stepped on your toys

Know how you feel

It’s a kick in the guts

I’m sorry it’s broken but this mess is nuts

What’s the lesson

What is the take-away

If you want them looked after, put the damn things away!

And the stretch marks here on my skin

Is a map of how we begin

Look where I’ve been

I make everything happen

Look, you’re a mini-me, trust me and listen, eh eh eh?

Well, anyway let me say you’re welcome

For the wonderful world you know

Hey, it’s okay, it’s okay

You’re welcome!

Well, come to think of it, I gotta go

Hey, it’s your day to say you’re welcome

‘Cause I’m gonna need that break

I’m going to work today

You’re welcome!

‘Cause Mummy can do anything but flake

You’re welcome!

You’re welcome!

And thank you!


Recipe: vegetarian chilli (or as I like to call it, “bean whatevs”)

In my experiments making big batch cooking to freeze, I’ve tried a lot of variations on vegetarian chilli. This has become my favourite.


  • 2 tins of kidney beans
  • 2 tins of black beans
  • 3 tins of tomatoes
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp each paprika, coriander and cumin, or your favourite Mexican spice mix
  • 1 medium sized orange or golden kumera, grated (should be about 1.5 cups grated)
  • 3 tsp molasses
  • 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup corn kernels (fresh in summer, frozen or tinned in winter)


  • Drain the beans, and leave in a large bowl of cold water – this will help get rid of some of the briney taste
  • Fry the onion until soft, then add the spice mix and kumera and a slosh more oil, stir until coated.
  • Add the tinned tomatoes and stir some more until all the kumera is off the bottom of the pan and covered in tomatoes.
  • Drain the beans and add, together with vege stock and molasses.
  • Simmer for 15 minutes, then add the corn kernals and cook for a further five minutes.

Perfect nacho topping, or served with rice, or in burritos, etc.

Recipe: easy, freezable coconut dahl


  • 4 cups red lentils
  • 2 onions
  • 2 – 4 tsp each of cumin, coriander, and turmeric
  • a small handful of curry leaves
  • 1 tin coconut cream (plus optional extra half tin)
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes, or one drained tin of tomatoes
  • Lemon juice to serve


  • Rinse the red lentils until the water is no longer cloudy
  • Fry the onions, and add spices when onions are soft and translucent. Fry together so that the heat brings out the spice – but only briefly.
  • Add the lentils and curry leaves, stir, cover with water, and bring to a gentle boil
  • When the lentils are just soft, add the tomatoes and coconut cream and more water if needed to prevent sticking or to get the desired texture. Simmer until lentils are disintegrating and the whole thing is becoming a delicious comforting dahl.
  • Serve with lemon juice, salt and pepper,

My favourite go-to “non recipes”

1) Fritters with a hearty herby salad and dips

  • (any friable thing – e.g falafel, corn fritters, etc) + (any grain + any herb + any chopped vegetable) + (any sauce or dip)

2) Noodle bowl with tofu

  • (Any type of noodle) + (tofu fried in chunks) + (any fresh vegetables chopped or grated) + (herbs) + (dressing or broth or satay sauce) + (optional chopped nuts)

3) Roast vege salad with hummus

  • (Any starchy veges, chopped and tossed with spice mix and roasted) + (green salad) + (hummus or other dip) + (roasted nuts) + (optional eggs)

4) Delicious mezze selection

  • (bread) + (dips) + (slow roast non-starchy veges, e.g. eggplant, tomatoes) + (any other yummy things in your fridge, e.g. olives)

5) Vegetable soup with white beans and herbs

  • Chopped veges + stock + herbs + white beans



Writers retreat loose thoughts

I’m glad I had practice bringing the kids away before this retreat. It’s so much easier to enjoy things freely when you know the constraints beforehand.

Best intentions of kids being looked after by others (at an on-site childcare programme) might rub against the toddler’s absolutely hysterical screaming on the third morning when he realises I’m dropping him off – and that’s ok, new plan, he can sit on my knee for the novel-writing workshop. The older one will possibly reject all of the catered meals and live mostly off bananas and muesli bars for a few days. Sleep will be more broken than home and they’ll both want to be in the big bed with me and bedtime will be all over the place. The toddler will nap best in a pushchair, and it might take a bit of a walk to get him asleep.

I look back on previous times we’ve taken them away, and the stress points where my expectations were too high – thinking they’d nap and go to bed much the same as home, they’d be happy to be looked after by others. I could have enjoyed those holidays more if I’d had a realistic idea of how kids respond to being in an unfamiliar environment. Kinda don’t know until you try, and slowly realise, oh yeah – this is how it is.

I went for a long walk on Waikanae beach on Tuesday morning. Something I used to do regularly. This was maybe the second time since I’ve done it since the kids. It was lovely – space to think, a wonderful uninterrupted solitude.

Almost four years ago my husband and I walked along the same stretch of coast, while I was pregnant with D, full of anticipation for the next chapter. I can’t believe how long ago it seems.

It’s been a busy four years, but really, it’s been a busy life. The difference is the last four years we’ve been less able to use our established techniques for creating space amid the rush. A long walk under a wide sky, a half hour sitting under a tree with a book, a morning to potter aimlessly with no pressure to get stuff done. All helps fill the tank for the day-to-day pressure of the week.

Previous holidays, I’ve been desperate for those recuperation pockets and disappointed that they’d been so hard to get – or they’ve been discoloured by feeling anxious about leaving the kids, or they’ve been outweighed by the extra stress of travel.

It was amazing being in a space with only other mothers, and our crew of kids. Everyone got it. There was no background stress of worrying about how other people would react to your kids, of feeling socially awkward for leaving a conversation half-finished because the toddler tripped over and was crying, or the older one was disturbing the peace and needed some redirection. Perhaps surprisingly, given part of the point was to make connections with other writers, it felt like there was no pressure to socialise, which was very freeing. The company was enjoyable, but we were all there for solitude as well. There were no “shoulds”. It was an instantly comfortable community.

These early years, I’ve felt like there’s been a lot of rough edges around my sense of myself as a mother. The mother I was at first didn’t feel as competent or as relaxed at parenting as I had expected to feel (which looking back is inevitable!!). I didn’t know how to handle the unexpected things, didn’t have a good grip on how to balance my needs with the demands of parenting. At the retreat, I saw myself as the mother I am becoming – the mother who takes two kids to a writing retreat, and makes it work, sort of.

The venue had a classic New Zealand outdoor hillside water slide. I saw it on the website and really hoped it’d be open already for summer, because that’s totally the sort of thing I love doing. Yup, the people at the office said we could use it, just had to turn on the tap and wait five minutes. D scampered up the hill to the top of the slide, with his new friend, very excited, and as I went up the hill I felt the muscle-memory kick in – I know how to climb a hill in bare feet, I know that feeling of mud and roots under my toes, I know how to help D climb without overbalancing. In that moment, I felt a bringing together of my parent self, my younger adult self, and my childhood memories.

D went down the slide on my knee – I thought this would be awesome and he’d love it – but as we got to the bottom of the slide, the splashback got him squarely in the face. He was not keen, but we dried him off and jollied him out of the upset, and he went back to the childcare programme to make a picture of a waterslide. I went down a few more times. Later he asked me to tell him a story about a magic water slide that when you go down it, it turns you into a fish and then a bird.

And I told him this story:

The water slide is called Wairere, and it’s a magic waterslide, because it is actually a taniwha.

People think it’s just a smooth hollowed out tree that happens to be lying on a hill, in such a way that water runs down when it rains, but that’s because people don’t look closely. If they looked closely they’d notice two of the knots in the wood might actually be eyes, and they’d notice it moves sometimes, as if trying to get more comfortable. If you were to go down that waterslide, you’d get quite a surprise – because Wairere likes to tease people who bother her, and her favourite way to tease people is to turn them into something else.

One day, ētahi ra, a little boy was walking past and he saw the waterslide set into the hill. He didn’t look closely, because no-one ever does – he just checked to make sure the waterhole at the bottom was deep enough, and it was, so he climbed to the top of the slide and zoomed down. Wairere smiled to herself, here was someone to play with! He was going down so so fast that he made a very big splash when he got to the bottom, and the water sprung up into his eyes. But something was strange. The water didn’t sting his eyes. Not even a little bit. And his skin felt silvery and shimmery and he tried moving his tail and it flicked. Wait. Little boys don’t have tails. He must be… he must be – a fish! He ika ia! Āe, he was a fish! He swam around in circles in the water hole for a while, e kaukau ana ia, then he tried to jump out of the waterhole to see if he could do that – and to his great surprise, he jumped so high that he started flying.

His skin didn’t feel silvery and shimmery anymore, and his flippers felt like they needed to stretch out and flap, and he felt the wind skim over his feathers, and it was thrilling. But wait. Fish don’t have feathers! He must be… he must be… a bird! He manu ia! Āe, he was a bird! And he flew round and higher and higher, kei te rere ia, all the way to the top of the water slide. When he got to the top, so high, he looked down. With his bird eyes he could see clearly that this was no ordinary hollowed log.

He tilted his head and said “tēnā koe, Taniwha”, and Wairere the Taniwha looked back at him and said “e tama, tena koe”. They smiled at each other. Then Wairere the Taniwha and the little boy who was a bird talked and talked, e kōrero ana rātau. Wairere told the boy that she was mokemoke, she was lonely, she wanted a friend – all her old friends had gone so long ago, and she was all alone now. That’s why she turned the boy into an ika and then a manu, so that the boy could recognise her and talk to her. She asked the little boy to stay with her and be a manu forever and ever so that she could have a friend, but the little boy said no – he had to go home to his whānau.

“Auē”, said Wairere, “kei te tino pōuri au, I am very sad that you won’t stay with me.” She started to cry.

“Kaua e tangi”, said the little boy, don’t cry. “I need to go back to my family, but I still want to be your friend. I have a plan, whakarongo, listen to me. I need to go back to my family, but I’ll come back – ka hoki mai ahau. I just need to be able to turn myself into a bird again so I can fly up and talk to you! Then I could come and visit!”

The taniwha stopped crying sad tears and started crying happy tears.

First, she turned the bird back into a little boy. Second, she taught him how to whistle in a special magic way that would turn him back into a bird again, the same kind of whistling the taniwha remembered learning from the patupaiarehe who used to live near her in days gone by, i ngā rā o mua. The boy practised and practised until he could do the whistle just right, and then he flew all the way home, only turning himself back into a boy when he arrived at his bedroom window.

Now, whenever the boy wants to hear one of Wairere’s stories or has something he wants to tell her, he turns into a bird and flies straight back to the ngahere to visit his friend. There, he sits on a branch of a tree right next to Wairere, and they tell each other stories all night.

When the little boy grew up, he taught his daughter the magic whistle, and she taught her daughter, and so on and so on, so that Wairere would always have a friend who could visit, forever and ever.

At a writers retreat

Two children, sprawled in the king-sized bed. The older one was hopped up on marshmallows from the bonfire and kept disturbing the exhausted baby, who dreamily and stoically tried to nurse himself to sleep despite the irritation of his brother.

“Is this your arm Mum or my little brother’s arm? Can I have more pillow? Actually, I don’t want a pillow. Can I be more under the blanket? Can you tell me a such such long story? Can I sing the lullaby? Can I have a story first and then you sing my brother his lullaby? Stop singing mum, just don’t even sing, it’s stories first! I’m going to wriggle some wriggles now so everybody watch out and move out of the way!! Mum, I’m not comfy, turn the light on!”

I curtly told him to lie still and be quiet.

“I miss daddy”

“Me too, because if daddy was here he could put you to bed and tell stories and I could give B his milk in peace, but he’s not here, so you need to be quiet and lie still!”

Back and forth, I told him to be very quiet while I sang B one lullaby and then he could have a long long story.

The go-go-go child was asleep before the lullaby finished. And as soon as the noise stopped, the baby’s limbs softened into me. It feels holy, that moment, a Renaissance painting, the maternal embrace of slumber.

I need to move them both to make more space for myself, but for now, I’ll lie here listening to the sound of their sleepy breathing, the tandem in-out, in-out. A peaceful rhythm to end the day.

One of my recent stories for D

Once upon a time there was a little boy, and one day he turned into a dragon. And he stomped about the house doing dragon things, flapping his dragon wings and kicking his dragon feet and breathing dragon fire and being a generally destructive little rebel dragon.

His mummy said “STOP BEING A DRAGON, STOP BEING A DRAGON!” But he didn’t stop being a dragon – he flew up high and knocked a hole in the wall with his dragon wings, and he set the curtains on fire with his hot dragon breath.

His mummy said “STOP BEING A DRAGON, STOP BEING A DRAGON!”. But he didn’t stop being a dragon – he ran down the hallway and crashed into his little brother, and his little brother cried.

His mummy said “STOP BEING A DRAGON, STOP BEING A DRAGON”, but he didn’t stop being a dragon, instead he ROARED at his mummy and breathed dragon fire on her. When he did that, his mummy turned into a mummy dragon and she roared back at the little boy dragon, and it was a loud loud scary mummy dragon ROARRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

The little boy dragon got scared and started to cry big dragon tears, he didn’t want his mummy to be a dragon too. When the mummy dragon saw the little boy dragon start to cry, she scooped him up for a hug, even though they were both still dragons, and they had a dragon hug with their dragon wings and nuzzled with their dragon heads. And, just like that – they weren’t dragons anymore!

Now, even though the magic cuddle made them stop being dragons, the little boy still had some dragon energy, so they all went to the playground where he ran around and around in dragon circles doing dragon roars until he used up all his left-over dragon energy. And they made a plan that next time he was being a dragon, that’s what they’d do – because they don’t want any dragons to burn their house down!