The Changing Seasons, June 2020

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Matariki lights at Auckland Museum. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Matariki is the Maori term for the group of stars also known as the Pleiades or The Seven Sisters. Matariki rises during Pipiri (June/July) and marks mid-winter and the Maori New Year.

In recent years, Matariki has begun to be properly celebrated in Aotearoa New Zealand with many cities and communities holding festivals. This year, Auckland Council has scaled back many of the planned events and shifted others online. It was lovely then, to see the Auckland Museum lit up for the duration of the festival. The Harbour Bridge is also lit, but we’ve yet to have a clear night for me to try and photograph it.

According to Te Ara (Encyclopedia of NZ):

Traditionally, Matariki was a time to remember those who had died in the last year. But it was also a happy event – crops had been harvested and seafood and birds had been collected. With plenty of food in the storehouses, Matariki was a time for singing, dancing and feasting.

There hasn’t been a great deal of singing and dancing in the ZimmerBitch whare (pronounced like farrie and meaning house), and not many photos taken either.

But there’s been plenty of eating, so for this month’s Changing Seasons post I’m giving you a recipe.

Anyone who joined me for afternoon tea recently will recognise it, but it proved such a hit with my (real life) dinner guests that I’m confident in sharing it.

Squash, fennel and orange soup

Adapted from a recipe in Simple, by Yotam Ottolenghi (1) Serves 4-6 people

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Squash, fennel and orange soup, with homemade sourdough. Image: Su Leslie 2020


50ml olive oil

2 fennel bulbs

1.2kg pumpkin or butternut squash

1 litre vegetable stock

1tsp harissa (2)

small pinch saffron threads (3)

1 large or two small oranges

sea salt and black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C
  2. Trim fern from fennel bulbs and roughly chop
  3. Peel squash sand chop into small pieces (2-3cm)
  4. Put fennel and squash pieces in roasting dish, add olive oil, about a teaspoon of sea salt and a grind of black pepper.
  5. Toss to coat the veges in oil
  6. Cook for around 20-25 minutes at 200°C; until everything is soft and caramelised. Depending on your oven, you may want to check it before then to make sure the edges aren’t burning.
  7. While veges are roasting, finely grate orange (you want about 2tsp zest) and squeeze juice (4) from the fruit.
  8. Put stock, harissa, saffron threads and orange zest in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
  9. Remove 1-2 ladles of liquid and set aside.
  10. Remove roasted veges from oven and add to pot of stock.
  11. Use the set-aside liquid to moisten and scrape up the
    caramelised bits in the bottom of the roasting pan. Add this to the pot (5) .
  12. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
  13. Remove from heat, add orange juice and use a hand blender to blitz until completely smooth.
  14. Serve with a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds (6) and cashew cream (7) .
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Squash, fennel and orange soup. Image: Su Leslie 2020

  1. There is a version of this soup — slightly different to that which is in Simple — on Ottolenghi’s website. It includes a recipe for caramelised pumpkin seeds.
  2. Harissa is available from Middle Eastern shops, and some supermarkets. It varies a lot in taste and chilli strength, so you will probably want to experiment with how much you add. I would start with 1 teaspoon, and perhaps add more to the stock once it’s warmed up a bit and you’ve tasted it.
  3. Saffron gives the soup a distinctive, earty taste, but if you don’t have it (or don’t like the taste), I wouldn’t worry — leave it out.
  4. In Ottolenghi’s recipt in Simple, he adds 180g crème fraiche to the soup before blending it. Because I was making the soup for vegan friends, I omitted that, and used the orange juice instead to thin the soup.I think it also adds a nice amount of acid and tastes really good. If it is still too thick, you could add more orange juice, or a little water or stock.
  5. If you follow my suggestion to de glaze the roasting pan with stock, you will get dark flecks in the soup from the caramalised bits of veges. These taste good. But if you’re aiming for a more elegant look you could leave this step out.
  6. The simplest way to toast pumpkin seeds is to put a single layer in a heated, heavy frying pan. Toss them for a few minutes until they start to colour and pop. Tip into a bowl and add a good pinch of salt (and a teaspoon of olive oil if you like).  In the Ottolenghi recipe, the seeds were mixed with maple syrup and chilli flakes and roasted to make more of a praline. 
  7. I wanted to make this a vegan dish, so as well as omitting the crème fraiche (above), I made some cashew cream and put it on the table for my guests to add if they wished. 

Besides making soup

About The Changing Seasons

The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge where bloggers around the world share what’s been happening in their month.

If you would like to join in, here are the guidelines:

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them.

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.

If you do a ping-back to this post, I can update it with links to all of yours.


Please visit these bloggers to see how June played out for them:

Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind

Tish at Writer on the Edge

Little Pieces of Me

Suzanne at Life at No. 22

A Wonderful Sheep

Pauline at Living in Paradise

Sarah at Art Expedition

Ruth at Ruth’s Arc

Marilyn at Serendipity Seeking intelligent life on Earth


Katy at Wanderlust and Wonderment joins us this month

Darren at The Arty Plantsman


Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful

Gill at Talking Thailand

Brian at Bushboy’s World







Teatime in the blogosphere


Soup and toast? Image: Su Leslie 2020

Wherever you are, and whatever is happening in your world, Kia ora koutou katoa  (Greetings. Hello to you all).

I’m glad you could join me for another virtual afternoon tea.

As we approach the shortest day here, the temperatures have dropped and it feels that winter has arrived. I know that for many of you, it is summer and you’re probably sweltering, but in keeping with my general policy of trying to eat local and seasonal, I’m afraid this month’s menu is very much about what’s available and good where I am.

So; soup anyone?

But because I’m not totally heartless, it is quite a light soup — fennel, squash and orange — easy to drink rather than eat. And it goes rather nicely with a little bit of toasted sourdough.

In the last couple of weeks, the majority of our Covid 19-related restrictions have been (at least temporarily) removed, and we’re getting used to hugging each other again. Equally exciting is that I’m able to invite friends over for a meal. And that’s how the soup came about.

It’s from a recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi’s Simple; but the first time I made it, neither T nor I particularly liked the sweetness of the rose harissa it used, and we both felt it needed a bit more acid. So I made it again, using plain harissa and replacing the onion with a bulb of fennel. And whereas Ottolenghi used only orange zest, I included the juice. This was partly for taste, and partly to make it a thinner, more drinkable soup.


Parmesan, rosemary and black pepper straws and some crunchy Granny Smith slices. Image: Su Leslie 2020

And if you’ve still got some left over after you’ve dunked the toast, I’ve made cheese straws. I’m not a dunker, and I prefer to eat them with some slices of crisp, tart apple, but that’s just me and I won’t judge if you do use them to, er, stir your soup.


Persimmon and ginger muffins. They taste better than they look! Image: Su Leslie 2020

Persimmons are also in season here, and I found a few recipes that use them in baking. I chose this muffin recipe because it also includes ginger (both powdered and crystallized).

The batter (made exactly according to the recipe) seemed a bit wet, and the muffins spread rather than rising in the oven, but they do taste good. At least good enough to serve now, and experiment with until I get the consistency right.

Perhaps because of the weather, it’s been a very indoorsy, introspective few weeks. It’s not that I don’t care about the violence and injustices happening all around the world; but I feel quite powerless and disheartened that after all these years and all the protests, very little seems to have changed.

So I’ve hunkered down; baked a lot of bread, made marmalade with the oranges on our tree and am preparing to make more, this time with grapefruit from the boy-child’s garden. I’ve worked in my garden, visited the library, and am currently enjoying the Documentary Edge Festival online. Last night I watched Saul and Ruby’s Holocaust Survivor Band — a joyously beautiful film about two men, both Holocaust survivors in their 90s, who make music as a way to celebrate life.

I think this quote sums it up:

This unique and compelling story is about having the courage to live one’s dreams, finding purpose and meaning in life, the transcendent power of music, the complex experience of aging, surviving trauma, the power of love and family, and speaking out against anti-Semitism and bigotry.

It could hardly be more timely.

Why a virtual tea party?

When Del (at CurlsnSkirls) and I started talking about a virtual tea party, we saw it as a fun way to share our love of food and conversation. It is that of course, but for me at least, it’s also an affirmation of how important you — my blogging whanau — are to me. Over the years you’ve shared your thoughts, stories, advice and support and I really would like to invite you all round to mine and cook for you.

But since that’s not going to happen anytime soon, I hope this will do instead.

The invitation

I’d love to hear from you. What are you doing/reading/making? Your thoughts on the food, the drinks, and whatever I’m rambling about. What’s making you happy or pissing you off?  Your comments make blogging so much more interesting.

And if you’d like to contribute a post of your own — even better. Maybe a shot of your cuppa and/or whatever you’re having with it. A recipe if you like.

I’ll update each of my posts with a ping-back to everyone’s in the same way as I do with The Changing Seasons.

#virtualteaparty2020 for anyone on Instagram who wants to post images (or video?)

A note about next month

I won’t be hosting a tea next month. It’s my dad’s birthday and — unless travel restrictions are re-introduced — I will be spending the middle of the month on a bit of a road-trip to visit him. Normal service will be resumed in August.


Janet at This, That and The Other Thing has baked some lovely, and healthy, doughnuts and is serving them on beautiful Imari ware. Pop over — it really is stunning (and the doughnuts look so good).

Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful has baked the most delicious apple pie — and shared her recipe. You have to check this out.

Sarah at Art Expedition has made a gorgeous raspberry cream shortcake. But be quick; raspberries seem to disappear when Sarah is around.

Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind brings us banana cake and a beautiful mug made by an Australian ceramic artist.

Pop over to Irene at My Slice of Mexico for a lovely herbal infusion and to learn more about teas and tisanes.

Jo at Restless Jo is serving coffee and yummies on a beautiful tray decoupaged by  her daughter.

For an absolutely sensational afternoon tea  spread, you must visit Sheree at View from the Back

Like me, Suzanne from Life at No. 22 is living in New Zealand. She’s also made soup — cauliflower — and has shared her recipe. Oh, and there are muffins and blissballs too!!!

My co-host, Del at Curls n Skirls has made olive oil herb scones and her wacky cake (with recipe). Del will be hosting solo next month while I’m away so make sure you join her.