Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Cajun Popcorn

This one will be a crowd pleaser snack. I use mocrowave popcorn as it is easier and quicker to prepare. You'll also need 2-3 tablespoons of butter and a cajun spice mix - this one is also easy and you can do it yourself. 

Cajun Spice
1 teaspoon smoked Paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix the above in a jar and shake well. Melt butter in a sacepan over medium low heat - when the butter melts, sprinkle the spice mix and swirl the pan to mix. Drizzle the mixtrure over the popcorn and enjoy. It will be very nice with ice cold beer.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

Wicked Helper

Have you ever been overwhelmed with the aspect of cooking for the crowd over the holiday season? Not only Christmas day but also Boxing day and days and days after that? And your Pavlovas and Yule logs have run out. Don’t fret – send someone out to buy loads of good vanilla ice-cream and a couple bottle of these wicked helpers and you’ll be right.

I’m talking Baileys Chocolat – the grown-ups' version of chocolate sauce. Add a tablespoon or two to your humble vanilla ice-cream scoops and your guests will never, ever blame you for not making another Pav or another log. Try it – trust me!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thanks for the Joy


My cat, Pipi, died on Wednesday, 19 November, just 10 days after we took her to the vet for a routine check-up and vaccination. I know it’s crazy and crazy it is. People who have cats with hyperthyroidism – please check with your vet to start them off with low dose of anti-thyroid medication first, especially if your cats are small. The new vet at our local practice just wagged Pipi with the highest dose and the side effect was too severe that it could not be reversed for a tiny cat like her. I was angry and still am that the vet who we should be able to trust basically killed my cat or shortened her life. She would have lived on for months if not years with hyperthyroidism. But that aside (I will probably write about this later if and when I have a heart to do it) – for now I just wanted to write about how this little critter taught me to love cats.

I started writing this post many times and could not finish it until today (I hope). She died one month today. It’s still sad to think about her but time will help.
 

We moved to town from the country with our old dogs 8 years ago. I was not a cat person (Pipi was the first cat in my life) but Bob has always been. He could not help stroking and of course feeding this cute tiny cat (she’s about 4 kgs when she’s the fattest) with yummy treats. And after sitting on the fence for a year, Pipi decided to move in with us. She belonged to our next door neighbour’s son – who left her with his mum when he went to work in Australia. We still had three old dogs living with us then but she approached the dogs softly, softly so it had never been a problem.

After a year of moving in, she chose to attach herself to me.  Bob said she preferred my service than his. I did not notice how she wormed her way into my space – my side of the bed, my office, my kitchen and my heart.

She would leave the bedroom early at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning but when I got up at 6 or 7 she would come running into the bedroom to greet me. She would go into the bathroom with me and this cat was claustrophobic! I learnt how to move around cats (don’t move to quickly, mum, you make me dizzy), how to pick them up (yes, there, and not upside down either), how to stroke them (under the chic, dear, save tummy for last when I trust you more than this, OK?), which kind of food to feed them (steak is OK but I would have love it raw, next time, perhaps?) and how to love them, cats (me, me, me – Bonnie and Bob are nothing to you). Not only me, who has learnt - when the last of the old dogs died, we have got a 5 month old puppy from the on-line trading place. Bonnie was young and pesky then like puppies are but Pipi gave her a lesson or two without harming the dog and Bonnie has learnt how to live and respect cats ever since.

The last night of her life, she did not have enough energy to climb the stairs to the bedroom but waited for me at the end of the stairs. We knew the day before that we had let her go and the fact that she could not come up to bedroom confirmed that. She spent her last few hours in my office sleeping peacefully – it’s one of the places in the house that she felt safe and secure.

My office, my bedroom, my bathroom seem empty without her – for a tiny cat, she left a big hole in my heart. Sleep in peace, my darling. Thank you for bringing joy to my life.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Flower Purple

I love the colour combination of this flower arrangement. This one caught my eye first thing when I went into our local florist on the main drag. This flower shopt is a favourite of mine – their prices are very reasonable and although they are members of Interflora – their arrangements are more beautiful than those in Interflora’s catalogue.

I bought the above box for one of my friend’s Birthday – and the Birthday girl was so happy with it this morning. I hope she enjoys looking at it for a bit at least until a bigger bouquet from her beau arrives in the afternoon.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Dinner at Chiko's


We had lovely dinner at Chiko's in West Auckland last week hosted by Marcus and Tracey. It was nice and balmy evening - perfect for Trace's Birthday.


Chiko's is Pacific Rim fusion restaurant - East meets West with Pacific twists. I didn't order any starter but had a spoonful of everyone elses'. Bob ordered this scallop dish - the plating was as beautiful as its taste. My main was duck and black rice and kumara mash. It was beautiful. Bob had the ribs which came in a huge wooden bowl with a patch of vegetable garden. I bet very few diners had ever finished everything in this dish:) There are many elements in each dish - they definitely take the time with decoration. They could have marinated the ribs a bit longer and trimmed the decorating greens to manageable amount - to balance out both the look and taste.

The service was impeccable although the garlic bread arrived a little bit late but the restaurant was almost full so that's forgivable. All in all, it was a gastronomical delight and Bob got his wallet he left on the table back with everything intact.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Potato Salad

This is an alternative spud side dish to accompany steaks or other grilled meat for warmer months. For 2, you’ll need:

400 grams Baby Potatoes
1 Avocado, chopped
3 – 4 Rashers of Bacon
2 boiled eggs, quartered
5 Tablespoons good quality mayonnaise
3 Tablespoons Greek yogurt
½ teaspoon mustard
A tablespoon of Chopped spring onion and coriander

Halve or quarter the potatoes (depending on the sizes) then place in a saucepan with enough water to cover, bring to the boil, place the lid on and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain and leave to cool completely.

Chop the bacon roughly and fry until crispy and set aside.

Whisk mayo, yogurt and mustard together until combined. Place potatoes, avocado and bacon in a salad bowl, pour salad cream over them and toss gently until coated. Place quartered eggs on top and sprinkle with chopped coriander and spring onion. Serve with grilled/fried steak or chicken or even on its own.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Quick Roast Pork Fillet and Apple Sauce

This recipe is quick and easy – it will take you less than an hour to prepare and cook as pork fillet will get cooked quite quickly. For 2 you’ll need:

1 piece of pork fillet (about 500 grams) with sinews taken off
1 – 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt & pepper
3/4 cup Chicken stock
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh herb – I use coriander
2 apples – 1 Granny Smith and 1 Red Delicious (you can also use Braeburn or Gala), chopped roughly
A bit of oil for frying
1-2 tablespoons butter
1-2 teaspoons maple syrup

Pre heat the oven to 220 degrees C.

Rub pork fillet with salt and pepper and drizzle with a little bit of vegetable oil. Sear the pork on a hot pan until brown on all sides. Set aside. In the same pan add a little bit more oil, and fry the apples so they get a bit light brown.

Line the roasting pan with the fried apple.

Rub the fillet with mustard and roll it in chopped coriander. Place it on top of the apples and bake for about 25 minutes. Turn the pork half way through. When the pork is done – wrap it loosely in foil and rest for 10 minutes.

Reserve half of the apple pieces – try to choose the firm-ish ones and set aside. Add the rest of apple into the pan with butter over medium high heat and mash them up with spatula – add chicken stock and let it bubble for a few minutes – add more water if needed. Cook until the sauce thickened – discard the peels if you like. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Drizzle a teaspoon or two of maple syrup on the reserve apples and tossed gently to coat.

Slice the pork and serve with apples pieces and apple sauce on the side – and of course some roast vegetables. I use potatoes, carrots, capsicum and red onion for my roast.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Hello Summer

They say it’s going to be warm this summer – I say bring it on. It had been grey and windy lately although it’s not cold. But I love to have nice, sunny days.

The plants love it though, this warmish and wet condition. New green leaves and flowers are everywhere especially those yellow and white weed flowers on the lawn! A Gold Finch is singing – no, not Gold Finch, sorry it’s a King Fisher. I have read too many fictions lately.

This King Fisher hops from branch to branch and wiggles its little tail – quite lovely indeed!

Talking about fictions, I have read The Gold Finch  and Gone Girl  not long ago. Both are best sellers with the latter made into movie played by Ben Affleck. In my opinion, I have to say that I like The Gold Finch more as a reading material – Gone Girl is rather predictable with its twist – although it’s very entertaining. Having read the novel, I do not plan to see the movie – Ben Affleck is very easy on the eye but I think he could have done better with acting – I’m not saying he’s not a good actor – but he could have put a little bit more effort into it – that’s all.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Lemon Chicken (Chinese Style)

I made this dish at home last week and the result was very good. The best result will require deep fryer but I used my old faithful ScanPan wok. Some recipes will call for just egg whites or just egg yolks but I used the whole egg.
For 2, you’ll need:
Chicken
½ kg chicken breasts, skin off
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Salt & Pepper
2 Tablespoons Corn Flour
1 egg
¼ teaspoon baking powder
Oil for frying

Cut the chicken into bite size pieces – some people might like the bigger pieces and chop them up before pouring the sauce on but I like mine in smaller pieces. Marinate the chicken pieces in soy sauce and pepper – refrigerate for an hour or so.

In a bowl, beat egg and corn flour together then add a pinch of salt, baking powder and a little bit more pepper. Pour the batter into the chicken pieces and turn to coat.

Heat oil in the wok over medium high heat – when the oil is hot, fry the chicken pieces in batches. Drain on kitchen paper towel.

Sauce
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
¾ cup chicken stock – I use Chicken stock powder dissolve in hot water. If you make your own, you might have to add more salt
2 – 2 ½ tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon corn flour
Salt
1 tablespoon oil

Mix lemon juice, chicken stock, sugar and salt together in a jug – taste and add more seasoning if needed. Then add corn flour and stir to combine. In a pan, heat the oil over medium high heat then add the lemon mixture. Let it bubble and thicken for a few minutes. Pour over the chicken.

To garnish
2 lemon slices
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon chopped spring onion

Sprinkle the chicken with sesame seeds and spring onion. Serve warm with steamed rice and stir fried greens. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Borgen


Just finished watching 3 seasons of Borgen  last week. Borgen is Danish – it means castle and is a nickname for Christianborg Palace in Copenhagen, home of the Prime Minister Office, the Parliament and the Supreme Court. The series features the fictional first woman Prime Minister for Denmark and people around her including her party members, her mentor, her staff, her family, the opposition and the media. It is more realistic than House of Cards or West Wing and we have learned a lot about politics in Denmark – and the way the Danes think about relationships and, guess what, politics!

If you have seen The Killing   you’ll see several familiar faces in Borgen. I like the Killing to some degrees but I like Borgen much, much more. The series ran from 2011 to 2013 but covered 5 years in the story line. Season 1 was created long before the real life first woman Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, was elected into the office.

Sidse Babett Knudsen portrayed Bergitte Nyborg, the Prime Minister very convincingly down to the little thing like the way she switched on, switched off her charming smiles. The series is of course in Danish but because it ran on BBC, it has sub-title. Highly recommended.

Note: Photo above is from Amazon

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tapas at Poco Loco


Barbara and I had the girls’ night out last Tuesday and we went to our Tapas restaurant, Poco Loco. We have known Poco Loco for ages and frequented the restaurant when it’s newly open many, many years back but haven’t been there recently since they were open from Wednesdays – Saturdays. Poco Loco is now also open on Tuesdays – that suits us better.

They offer 5 & 6 dish platters for two people. Depending on how hungry you are. We opted for 5 as we wanted to also enjoy the puds. That was a good choice – five dishes were enough for us. My favourites are Fried Calamari and Fried Beetroot with Chorizo. Very, very tasty.

For puddings I had Crème Brulee (or Crema Catalana) and Barbara had strawberry cheesecake which interestingly came as a deconstructed version. It’s delicious in a lazy way and you can also easily make it at home. Try this recipe  (but substitute Graham crackers with digestive biscuits without adding sugar) from The Italian Dish

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Two Fat Ducks

Spring is here and although it’s still windy – the weather is getting warmer. I saw Spike in my neighbour’s backyard (not surprised, he’s there quite a lot – Heather feeds him when we are away. I patyed him a bit but he seemed to focus on something else.

There was also a pair of ducks in Heather’s backyard. That’s not usual – I guessed they wandered from one of the ponds not far from us. When the ducks saw me, they came running towards me expecting food! So obviously they were not shy of humans – people around here feed them (at the ponds) all the time. And for Spike - he ran away before the ducks getting too close!

Ducks in our local parks are pretty safe. We haven’t heard any news anyone trying to poach them from the ponds…well, so far anyway.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Crumbed Fish with Lime Zest and Parmesan



I craved fish and chips the other day but was not keen on cooking deep fried stuff myself. So I had crumbed fish instead.

You will need:

4 fillets of white, firm fish
2 -3 tablespoons of flour
Salt and pepper
1 cup whole meal breadcrumbs
Zest of one lime/lemon
A tablespoon or two of finely grated parmesan or cheddar
Egg, beaten and add a tablespoon of water

Pat the fillets dry with paper towel. Place flour with salt and pepper in plastic bag – add fish fillets and shake to coat.

In a bowl, mix breadcrumbs with lime zest and parmesan cheese. Dip fish fillets in egg mixture using tong and then coat in breadcrumbs. Rest the crumbed fish in the fridge for at least half an hour before shallow fry. Drain on paper towel. Serve with wedges of lime or lemon, tartar sauce and oven baked potato chips.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

My Little Darling

Pipi is a tiny cat. When she was very, very fat – she weighed up to 3.8 kgs. As she’s getting older she seemed to lose some weight. However in the past several months, she seemed to lose weight quite quickly although her appetite was very good. She was only 2.7 kgs when we took her to the vet for her vaccination and check up last week.

As I suspected, she has been diagnosed with hypothyroidism. It seems to be not unusual for old cats to have over active thyroid – there is sustained release anti-thyroid medication that’s designed especially for cats. Pipi is on this medication at the mo. I have also found out that cats can also have radio-iodine treatment here in New Zealand as well. That’s good news as Pipi is not the easiest cat to pill even with the pill popper (2 man task). We will be looking at this option when her condition is more stable.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Moment of Truth - Salted Duck Eggs




 

Remember I was given some duck eggs early last month? Well, I have salted some of them and after 4 weeks it was time to test one of them.

Yes, I have done it! I boiled just one egg to start with and the result was OK. It was not perfect as the egg white was a bit too salty. Mel gave me another half a dozen duck eggs two days ago so I have made a new lot but this time the curing time will be shorter, I'd say 3 weeks should be enough


You'll need to cure the eggs in brine. I have been told chicken eggs are also OK but the texture of duck eggs are firmer and creamier. The brine is made out of 1:4 salt and water (one cup salt and four cup water will be enough for 10-12 eggs). Dissolve the salt in water and bring to the boil - leave to cool completely. Wash the eggs and pat dry before placing them in glass or plastic container then cover with brine. 

My brine is very heavy and I still have undissolved bits of salt but that's okay as I don't it to be too diluted. Some say 1:5 salt and water but I wanted to stick to the Thai recipe he..he.. Fill zip lock bag with water (I use double bags to make sure that the water will not leak out) and place it on top of the eggs to weigh them down. Cover the container and leave it in cool dry place for 3 weeks. Boil one egg at the end of 3 weeks and taste - if it's salty enough, lift all the eggs from brine. They will keep in the fridge for weeks. Boil or fry (warning:the pan will be spitting like mad) and have them with steamed rice or rice congee or chop and sprinkle over Som Tam. I told my friend to use chopped boiled salted eggs on pizza (not too much egg white) - better than anchovy!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Pods

I like listening to music and I know that my favourite kind of music is very pleasant on a good audio system. Bob loves his music too – and also his audio system. He can spend hours playing with all the gears. However, with engineering background, he seems to know a lot about the sciences behind good sound. I used to be “his ear” as I could tell the differences in details better than he.

Since we have embarked upon our new venture late last years to manufacture and sell audio system enhancers, I am no longer the best ear in the house as you need hours and hours of practice – listening to the same old tracks over and over. That is what Bob does day in day out not only when he develops and tests the products.


I apologise for infrequent posting as we have been so very busy at work launching our new footers. These babies, the BlackPods, will attract the vibrations vertically and horizontally. They look a bit like cupcakes – but I cannot share the recipe with you my dear readers – it’s a trade secret!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Self Serving

I have watched vdo clip recently about working with cats and I can honestly connect with them poor humans. My office is on the east side of the house and it gets plenty of morning sun. If Pipi does not lounge around in the living room she will be on my desk. She does not only occupy the space between me and the keyboard, she often plays with my hands and drinks from my glass. Thank goodness she does not like coffee (no meeeeelk!) so my coffee cup is safe.

Of course, I also have 2 chairs in my office. When Pipi decides to curl up on my soft chair, I have to move myself to the wooden one. I didn't tell her it's a teak chair otherwise she might change her mind.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pan Grilled Pork Satay and Satay Sauce without Nuts – Short Cut Version


Satay Sauce
½ can chickpeas, blitzed with two tablespoons vegetable oil and a bit of water
3/4 cup coconut cream
1 teaspoon red curry paste
1 teaspoon curry powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
2 tablespoons chopped palm sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
Oil for frying
Water

Fry curry paste, curry powder and turmeric and a bit of oil in a saucepan until fragrant. Add coconut milk a bit at a time and fry further until the oil surfaces. Add chickpea mixture, sweet chilli sauce, sugar and salt. Add water (about ½ - 1 cup) and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Taste and add more seasoning if needed.

This is not authentic but better than nothing and easy to make – another good thing about it is people with allergy to peanuts can enjoy it too.

Pork Satay
Pork Fillet, sliced into approx 10 cm strips
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
Salt
½ cup coconut cream
A bit of oil

Mix curry powder, turmeric, salt and coconut cream together. Reserve 2-3 tablespoons for basting and add the rest to the pork to marinate with a little bit of oil. Refrigerate the pork for 2-3 hours then skew the pieces with bamboo skewers. Trim the skewers to fit the pan.

Wipe non-stick pan with a bit of oil and pan grill the pork on medium high heat until nicely brown on all side. Serve with satay sauce, pickled cucumber (ajad ) and toasts.

I know I posted another satay recipe and said it would be nicer using pork with a bit of fat on it – but this is a short cut version and fillet does not need to be tenderised.

Monday, October 27, 2014

They are Coming




Halloween is approaching and this year we are well stocked up with lollies for the trick or treat brigade. I wonder what kind of outfits they will come up with this year. We will have to give more lollies to the kids who put effort on their costumes (and leave the dental problems to their parents:)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Stranger in the Park

This cutie has been saying hello to Bob when he takes Bonnie out for a walk in the park for a few weeks now. He is very soft and very friendly especially to those cat treats Bob always carries in his pocket!

And apologies to my dear readers for posting cat overload recently. I couldn't beleived it myself. I was not a cat person but that's history now.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Coconut Biscuits



This recipe from Kiwibaking  is easy as and can be done in a jiffy - not many ingredients required. Desiccated coconut is readily available in supermarkets and not expensive but the outcome is loads of fabulous biscuits.

I bake mine on baking paper lined oven tray for 14 minutes for that extra crispiness and golden colour. I also reduce baking powder to half a teaspoon and use half butter- half margarine so the dough is not runny and I can roll and flatten them with my wet hands. I use a teaspoon of vanilla extract and it smells scrumptious in the kitchen. The recipe yields about 48 biscuits.