Friday, December 30, 2011

Wynyard Quarter’s North Wharf

We went to North Wharf in Wynyard Quarter on Tuesday night for dinner with friends. This bit of Auckland’s waterfront has just been developed before the Rugby World Cup in September 2011. North Wharf has roughly about 10 eating and entertainment joints from sushi, pizzas, tapas, seafood to cafe and pub.


Wynyard Quarter is very pleasant and in my opinion is nicer and more public friendly than the Viaduct Harbour as it is more open with room to stroll around both by the water and in the mini-water park close by. You will not be too up-close and personal with the restaurant patrons if you just want to walk around and enjoy the view. It is a good sign that Auckland has tried to improve its waterfront for public use.

Things are quite pricey here but that is what you expect from the prime location. I’m sure the restaurateurs also have to pay premium rent around here too.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays





I hope you all have a very happy festive season.
Merry Christmas - eat and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Fruit Salad My Way for Holiday Brunch



Strawberries are at their best in late spring – early summer here (we have stocked up quite a bit and put them in the freezer. These frozen strawberries will be good in smoothies, shakes and ice-cream). We normally have oranges or tangelos after our dinner as a palate cleanser but around this time of the year we mix fresh strawberries with our citrus and turn them into the refreshing fruit salad.

For 2 people, you will need:
 8-10 fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 navel oranges or 1 navel orange and 2 tangelos, cut into 6 segments (cut the centre off and discard the seeds and cut away from the skin with sharp knife)
3-4 Tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon sugar
A pinch of salt

Mix the juice with sugar and salt, stir until dissolved and pour over the fruits. Refrigerate and serve chilled. You can also garnish with a slice or 2 of lime before serving.



Monday, December 19, 2011

Easy Curry Puffs

Over the holidays’ season, you might have guests over for a drink or two – these curry puffs will be an ideal finger-food. They are easy to make – you can prepare them in advance and freeze them. And left- over turkey from your Christmas table will also make a good filling too. 

My beloved youngest paternal aunt whom I call Ah Tu (Ah is Aunt in Thai) taught me how to make curry puffs from scratch when I was young and they have become one of my signature dishes when we entertain. However, when I cook for the crowd, making the pastry dough from scratch is not practical so I have to find a shortcut so I use ready rolled frozen puff pastry instead. In many Thai restaurants, they use short crust pastry and deep fry the puffs but they can be a little bit oily and not so morish.  My curry puffs are baked - so you can always have one or two pieces more.

Curry puffs are a common snack not only in Thailand but also in Malaysia and Indonesia, with variations of course and the fillings can be either sweet or savoury. 

Ingredients
2 sheets puff pastry (about 23 x 23), thawed
200 grams beef mince (you can use cubed skinless chicken– but they won’t keep as long as beef filling – if you have turkey meat left over, you can use it too)
1 medium potato, cubed
1 small onion, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons curry powder, less if it is a hot variety
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon salt (I use stock powder in mine and just a little bit of salt)
1 ½ cups water
Loads of ground white pepper
1 egg lightly beaten to wash

Method
Filling
Fry onion in a little bit of oil until soft, add the meat and cook for a few minutes until it turns brown. Add potato, curry powder, sugar, soy sauce, salt and half of the water. Bring to the boil and reduce heat, simmer and add more water until the potato is cooked and soft.  Add pepper when all water is absorbed. Taste it and add more seasoning if needed – it should taste salty and piquant. Make sure that the filling does not have excess water. Set aside to cool completely – actually, it will be a lot easier to handle if it has sit in the fridge for a few hours.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees c. Cut the pastry sheet into 9 squares. Place the filling in the middle of each square and fold into triangle. Brush the edge with water and seal. I crimp them by hand but you can also use fork. Place the parcels on lined baking tray – brush them with egg wash and bake for 20 -25 minutes until golden brown.

This portion will make 18 parcels.

My aunt would have hers with cucumber relish – see Vietnamese Crepes – which is a very traditional way when you sit down for proper afternoon snack (similar to afternoon tea). It makes sense to me since in the original recipe the puffs would be deep fried, so you need some relish to go with them.

Note: If you use cooked turkey meat, add the meat after potato is cooked.

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Cousin’s Boy



He was wearing nappy not long ago – now he runs this street- side eating joint in on his Gran’s empty plot of land in Bangkok and drives a new Merc so this is no ordinary street-side restaurant:)


 


This is one of his best selling dishes – Fried Rice Vermicelli with Prawns & Water Mimosa. Aren’t the chopsticks cute? He gave me 2 pairs as souvenir when I was there in September just before the floods but we paid for the food of course!


 


 Rice comes in heart shape.



 


Deep Fried Pork Spare Ribs with Sri Racha Sauce.

Edit/Note: This eatery is on Nonthaburi 46 Road off Sanambinnam Road - just in case you are in the area and want to try the above dishes.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

White Chocolate Truffles – without nuts

Thinking of making gifts from your kitchen around this time of the year? Try these White Chocolate Truffles. They are easy and sinful.
I have found this recipe for these chocolate truffles from NZ House & Garden’s Beautiful Christmas Booklet and of course I have to tweak it a bit to suit Bob as the original recipe calls for ground almonds and nut are a no-no in our household. They are good with coffee after the meal - get them out from the fridge 10-15 minutes before serving. This portion will be enough for about 30 truffles.

Ingredients
250 grams White Chocolate Melts (I use 150 grams melts and 100 grams chopped Whittaker’s white chocolate)
¼ cup cream
¼ cup ground Super Wine Biscuits (or any other sweet plain biscuits) – I use this instead of ground almonds
¼ cup fine or shreded desiccated coconut plus ¼ cup extra for coating
2 tablespoons chopped dried fruits (I use dried Strawberries)

Method
Mix chopped fruit with ground biscuits and the first portion of desiccated coconut in small bowl and set aside.

Warm the cream in the microwave for a few seconds.

Place chocolate melts and chopped white chocolate in a heat proof bowl over  a saucepan of hot water (not boiling – turn the heat down if it starts to boil). Add warm cream and stir until the chocolate just melts. Remove from heat and keep stirring until it has completely melted and add ground biscuit/coconut/fruit mixture. Cool and rest in the fridge for half an hour to 45 minutes or until it is firm and easy to handle. Scoop up with a teaspoon and roll into small balls and roll them in the second portion of desiccated coconut until they are completely coated. Refrigerate.
Present them in a pretty container or line your gift box with baking paper before placing your wicked treasure in them. Tie the container with beautiful ribbon and fish for compliments from the recipient later on.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Morning Nap



The critters at home take a nap very often because they can. Their favourite place is by the windows where it is sunny in the morning.

 

Bonnie is having her morning nap.

 

Pipi is also having hers.




Excuse us, we are trying to have some beauty sleep here...do you mind?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Japanese Plates



Many, many years ago I had to travel to Japan quite often. I bought this set of plates from Osaka. They travelled from Japan to Thailand and from Thailand to Holland and then back to Thailand again before moving to New Zealand. They are still intact and complete as a set of 5 (in Japan they have 5 pieces in a set for almost everything not 4 – as four is pronounced similar to death in Japanese-I have been told).

Friday, December 9, 2011

Wild and Free




The man of the house likes to go out to take photos of interesting things in the country when the weather is good.  In spring, I receive a bunch of wild flowers from time to time after his excursion. This bunch is pretty and does not smell as strong as the onion weed flowers!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Garden Inspector




Pipi loves being out in the garden with me. She will be watching and inspecting while I trim the plants and do the weeds. I think she makes a lovely garden ornament.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pork Satay Street Style and No-Peanut Satay Sauce (for people with nut allergy)



It was the General Election Day in New Zealand on Saturday before last (26 November) and we had our friends over for a street style dinner after they had done their good citizen duty. Bob always likes satay especially the sauce but he has nut intolerance so I have to find the way to make the sauce sans peanuts. It was my first attempt in using chick peas in Satay Sauce (the original recipe calls for ground peanuts)  but there were no complaints from Bob and the guests so I guess it was quite alright. I have adapted the recipe from thaismefranchise - the website that suggests ideas and how to for Thai vendors (in Thai). 

Pork Satay (as a starter for 6)
750 grams Pork (with a bit of fat as lean meat will be too dry), cut into narrow schnitzels about 2-3 cm wide and 10 cm long
3 – 4 tablespoons pineapple juice (or kiwi fruit juice – to tenderise the meat)
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons chicken stock powder
1 ½ teaspoons curry powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ cup coconut cream
Bamboo skewers (about 50)
Basting Liquid (3/4 cup coconut milk, ¼ teaspoon salt, ½  teaspoon sugar, ½ teaspoon curry powder – put in a jar and shake with the lid on to combine – refrigerate and shake vigorously again before use)

Marinade the pork with the above ingredients and refrigerate overnight. Soak the bamboo skewers in cold water overnight (you can also put them in the freezer but soaking is better). Thread the pork pieces onto the skewer – you will make roughly 45 sticks. It is best to put the satay in the freezer for an hour before grilling so the pork holds its shape. Grill on barbecue on medium high heat – baste with the basting liquid regularly to keep them moist. Do not use low heat - it is not a slow cook. Do not drink too much alcohol either or you will burn the skewers! At this time, provide snacks for the men around the barbecue so they will not eat all the satay.

Note: You can also do this on the electric grill or grill pan over the stove if the weather is not good enough for outdoor barbecue. Man, it was windy and cold that night but the men braced themselves and did it outside – although they had to move to the back of the garage where it is more sheltered from the south-westerlies.

 

Satay Sauce with Chickpeas
1 ½ cups coconut cream
1 cup canned chickpeas (drained and blitzed with a little bit of water)
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds
2 teaspoons Red curry paste
1 teaspoons Masman curry paste
½ table spoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped palm sugar
A little bit of oil to fry the paste

Fry the paste with oil and two tablespoons coconut cream in a saucepan over medium high heat until fragrant. Add coconut milk a little bit at a time until the oil surfaces. Add sugar and salt. Stir in chickpeas and sesame seeds. You might need to add a little bit of water if it is too thick. It is best served warm with a few slices of toast cut in 4.

You will also need a portion or 2 of cucumber relish. I have blogged about this earlier, see Vietnamese Crepes here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Multi – Colour Cloud Glass



This month I wanted something different for my cloud glass on display so I chose similar shape vases with different colours.  I wish I also had these vases in blue and purple but I had not come across any just yet.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Fish Would be Swimming Too!



We have brand loyalty to some degree – not for everything but when it comes to canned tuna we have to pick Sealord  because of the (better) taste and good quality. We bought several cans of tuna last month for our pantry. This must be a new design for Sealord.  

Sealord is supporting a good course, of course. They join force with Water Safety New Zealand to encourage New Zealand children to learn to swim. Visit Swim for Life here  for more info.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

China Wedding Anniversary





It’s our China wedding anniversary on Tuesday (29 November). And I have got this Meissen  plate as a gift from Bob. 
  
 


We went to Two Fifteen for dinner and had an 8 course meal prepared by this amazing chef, Jeremy Schmid.  We were not allowed to order as Jeremy had arranged a special tasting menu that was concluded with his lemon Crème Brule. Thank you, Jeremy. It’s perfect.
 

 


This was the fourth course; his famous air dried beef, truffle potato & poached egg.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Vietnamese Style Savoury Crepes (Bahn Tom) and Cucumber Relish (ขนมเบื้องญวนกับอาจาด )




We like Vietnamese food but one problem we have had when we eat out at Vietnamese restaurants here is that they often use peanut oil for cooking and Bob has developed nut intolerance in the last 4 or 5 years so we (or I – to be precise), have to try to cook Vietnamese food at home and omit nuts in the recipes.

This is one of the dishes that I can cook quite OK (after a few disasters in the beginning). The recipe is adapted from the Australian Women’s Weekly’s Easy Vietnamese-Style Cookery. This portion should be enough for 4 medium size crepes.

Ingredients
Crepes
½ Cup rice flour
¼ cup corn flour
½ tsp Turmeric
½ tsp sugar
2 Spring Onions, thinly sliced
1 ¼ cup coconut milk (or 1 cup coconut milk and ¼-1/2 cup Soda Water for extra crispy crepes)
2 eggs
1-2 tsps Fish Sauce
Mix all ingredients together and set aside.
Filling
1 Carrot, grated
50 grams mushrooms
15 frozen tiger prawns, thawed
2 cups bean sprouts
3-4 Tbsps chopped coriander leaves
1 Tsp fish sauce or 1 tbsp soy sauce
Salt & pepper to taste

Method
Use a wok on medium high heat, cook prawn quickly with a little bit of oil until just cooked. Add fish sauce or soy sauce. Set aside in a mixing bowl. Cook carrot and mushrooms separately and briefly, using the same wok. Mix carrot, mushrooms into the cooked prawns – leave out the vegetable juices (from cooking). If you do not want to waste the juices, you can mix these in the batter.

Heat a nice clean non-stick wok/pan on medium high heat. Add a little bit of oil and wipe off the excess. When the wok is hot, add ¼ crepe mixture into the pan, tilt the wok/pan quickly until the base is covered. Wait until the edge comes away from the wok and add a little bit more oil (under the crepe). Cook until the underside is golden brown. Place ½ prawn mixture in the lower half of the crepe, add a handful of bean sprouts and fold the crepe over. Serve warm with cucumber relish.

Note: Someone has suggested that we should add a bit of soda water in the batter to make the crepes crispier. Maybe next time I’ll do that.


 


Cucumber Relish (A-jad)
1 cup of peeled and sliced (1/2 cm thick)cucumber
1 shallot or ¼ red onion, thinly sliced
1-2 Red or green chillies, sliced diagonally
1/4 cup water
2 tbsps sugar
2  tbsps white vinegar
¼ tsp salt

Dissolve sugar in water in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes. Add salt and vinegar, stir until combined. Leave to cool completely. It is best to make this in advance so you can refrigerate it as it is best served cold.

Pour the vinegar syrup over cucumber, shallot and chillies just before serving.

Note: This cucumber relish is good as a salad with many Thai dishes

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Experiment with Lighting



 


Bonnie is a subject of Bob’s experiment with lighting.


 


From the front.




Side way with ears down.


 


Side way with ears up.


 

Errr...are we finished yet?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cherry Blossoms




In spring the cherry trees that line some of Franklin’s roads would be in bloom. This picture was taken in early spring in October. This year, though; the blossoms didn’t stay long because of strong winds. One minute they were there, and nek minnit....voom...they were gone with the wind.

They were beautiful albeit for a very short period. And although they might not be as full on as in Japan but we had our “Mini- Hanami” for a few days driving pass those trees with blossoms. I have stolen this picture from Bob’s Flickr. To see more of his photographs you can visit his Flickr page here