Paula shares her family favourites

Moreish main: Pork shoulder chops, kumara mash and blue cheese spinach are a real winner in Paula Brown's house.
Moreish main: Pork shoulder chops, kumara mash and blue cheese spinach are a real winner in Paula Brown's house.

Her five adult children have flown the nest and she works as an administrator at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT), but Paula Brown still enjoys rocking out on the bass guitar.

She also bakes a mean chocolate brownie, and pork chops with kumara mash and blue cheese spinach – firm family favourites – but admits the dishes she cooks these days need to be fairly quick and easy, but still tasty.

Paula works regular hours but gives up her free time to help organise events such as the upcoming Women of Influence conference, for which she is arranging the entertainment.

"It's been a while since I have been involved in organising entertainment for something like this, and it has been a bit difficult, with the Chicago musical happening on the same night, but it is going pretty well," said Paula, who has a great passion for playing music.

She plays bass guitar in the Elim church worship band, which is made up mostly of teenagers, but this doesn't put her off using her talent.

"I've been involved in the church band for about 20 years, firstly as a singer," Paula said.

"I have also learned to play some piano and guitar.

"Playing bass only really came about because there was this bass guitar that was always on stage and we needed a bass player, so I decided to pick it up and give it a go."

Some 10 years later and she is still playing the notoriously heavy instrument, but admits she finds singing and playing at the same time rather tough.

"I don't believe I'm that good at any of the instruments I play, rather I can do a bit on each of them," Paula said.

Originally from Christchurch, she moved to Blenheim with her family in 1981 and regards herself as "just about" local now.

"I still have a lot of family and friends in Christchurch and many were badly affected by the earthquake."

Musicians can sometimes be fairly withdrawn but Paula has an even stronger passion for people, listening to their problems and helping as much as she can.

`A problem shared is a problem halved', is an ethos by which she lives and before taking up her job at NMIT four years ago Paula worked for Workplace Support.

"Basically the job involved growing relationships with various businesses and the people working there and then helping the employees with issues that they are having.

"It's a Christian-based organisation but not evangelical – the focus was on building relationships with people.

"It's amazing how many people don't have someone to talk to about their problems, but it's essential to working through them," Paula said.

Her days are pretty full and with her husband, Phil, also working fulltime meals need to be fairly easy to prepare.

"I love watching MasterChef Australia, and it's always on around the time I am preparing tea. I hope it will inspire me to put together some creative dishes," she said.

The chocolate brownies she prepared, with their boysenberry twist, certainly went down a treat and are highly recommended.

The pork chops, kumara mash and blue cheese spinach also look delicious.

Boysenberry chocolate brownies

425g can Wattie's boysenberries in syrup

150g butter

3/4 cup cocoa

3 eggs

1 1/4 cup caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence

1/2 cup self raising flour, sifted

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius and line a 22cm square cake tin with baking paper.

Drain boysenberries, reserving the juice.

In a saucepan gently melt the butter and cocoa, stir and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla until thick and creamy then fold in cooled chocolate mixture and flour.

Pour mix into a cake tin and place drained boysenberries over the top, letting them sink in by themselves.

Bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until the brownie springs back when touched.

To make a boysenberry sauce, place reserved boysenberry syrup in a small sauce pan and simmer gently for 12 to 15 minutes or until reduced by half and thickened. Set aside to cool.

Finally, cut the brownie into squares and dust with cocoa if wished and serve with whipped cream, yoghurt or icecream drizzled with the boysenberry sauce.

Pork chops with kumara mash and blue cheese spinach

Four pork shoulder chops


Spinach (enough for four servings)

2 Tbsp crushed garlic

50g blue vein cheese

1 cup cream

Olive oil

1 sliced apple

Sprig of fresh rosemary

Two cloves of garlic

Cook chopped kumara in water with couple of cloves of garlic for 20 minutes then mash with butter and cream (amount of butter and cream as desired).

In a separate saucepan melt a knob of butter with 2 Tbsp of crushed garlic.

Add the spinach and put the lid on and cook for about three to four minutes or until the spinach is wilted.

Crumble 50g blue vein cheese (or amount as desired) into the spinach and add a cup cream and cook for three minutes, then serve.

Score the fat of each chop, then pan fry on each side in a little olive oil with a knob of butter until brown.

Remove the chops and place in the roasting dish.

Reserve the juices in the pan and add a sliced apple and some rosemary and toss for a couple of minutes then place the apple slices onto each chop with a small knob of butter and a sprig of fresh rosemary.

Bake at 180C for about 30 minutes or until cooked.

The Marlborough Express