Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Summer is Here (Sort Of)

We have set up the paddling pool for Bonnie & Bailey since mid- December. The weather has been weird, we have had a few warm and sunny days and then too many cloudy, rainy and sometimes windy days but the days are getting warmer. No one could have been happier than Bailey – he often runs pass his beloved Bonnie to the pool and jumps right in to cool himself off before playing with her. 

This summer, Bonnie seems to like the water more than she did last year and she doesn’t mind having skinny dip with her boyfriend.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Lime Soda

I use limes quite a lot in my cooking. Most Thai and Vietnamese salad dressings and sometimes marinades call for lime juice. In Thailand you can buy limes all year round at a reasonable price.  In New Zealand, although we have a lime tree at home but it produces fruits for a few months and not into late spring and summer. Limes are still available in supermarkets and green grocers' of course but they are quite pricey so we normally have to make do with lemons.

One of our favourite drinks in Thailand is lime drink called Nam Ma-nao. You just mix the juice of about 2 limes with thin syrup, a bit of salt and a lot of ice. You can use thicker syrup and soda for lime soda. 

This is how I make mine:
Juice of 2 limes /lemons
¼ cup water and 3 teaspoons of sugar – make into syrup in microwave and leave to cool
½ cup soda
Lots of ice

Mix everything together and enjoy!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Vanessa’s Pizza Dough

Vanessa just gave me the recipe for her pizza dough via email when her kids kindly allowed her 10 minutes on the computer:)

The recipe I used was Al Brown's with a Vanessa slant....
275ml water
10g dried yeast
1 tsp sugar
500g flour
1 tsp salt
3 Tablespoons olive oil plus extra to grease the bowl

Mix water yeast and sugar in a  large bowl and leave to bubble for about 5 mins then add flour, yeast and salt and about 3 tablespoons olive oil and knead, I use a mixer and dough hook, knead for about 10 mins.

Place in a clean oiled bowl, make sure the dough is covered in oil, cover and leave to rise in a warm spot.  I double this recipe and makes about 6 - 8 thin pizzas.  I also make it earlier in the day and when it’s doubled in size I just punch it down and let it rise again.


And then you can have it as a flat garlic bread with a little bit of crushed garlic, oregano or fresh herbs, sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil or with a multitude of toppings that you fancy.

You can also use pizza stone in conventional oven and heat it up to the highest setting then bake your pizza for 7-8 minutes.

Note: A million apologies my dear readers - a mistake made early on. Vanessa's Pizza Dough has been adapted from Al Brown's  recipe - Al Brown is a New Zealand chef but I had a confusion between him and Alton Brown. The post has been edited.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pizza Oven & Al Fresco Dining


Our friends and ex-neighbours, Gavin and Vanessa, invited us over for a casual dinner at their place last Saturday. Their warm and lovely home is in the country with some land that they have turned into gardens with lawns and a cosy outdoor entertaining area around this pizza oven. Gavin built the oven himself from sources on the Internet.We dined al fresco on several small dishes – a bit like tapas and of course, pizzas ( several of them).


James, their beautiful youngest son with Bonnie.

This is Roscoe, their 10 years old dog.


Bonnie, who else?


Two scavengers – they followed food everywhere.


Flat garlic bread made from pizza dough.

Hawaiian Pizza


Prawn Pizza

The butterfly chairs – Vanessa’s dad had them made when she was little. The plastic seats are original. Aren’t they gorgeous?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


 We used to be worried that our cat Pipi would not accept Bonnie when we brought Bonnie home more than two years ago. Bonnie was boisterous (actually she still is – but more or less under control) and curious and wanted to play chase with the cat. Pipi was not happy of course but she was too diplomatic to use her claws in the first few days. Eventually she hissed and whacked the air in front of Bonnie. The dog yelped with fright and seemed to get the message.  Now they co-exist quite happily in our home. They even act like they are sisters from time to time when the cat is in a good mood, that is! 

Basking in the sun together.

Waiting for treats.

Not quite Yin - Yang.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Quick Fix Chocolate Parcels for a Desperate Housewife

Have I told you that one of my best friends is frozen puff pastry sheets? They are very versatile and handy, especially when I ‘m desperate. Dinner guests at short notice, for examples. If we have guests, I will cook whatever we have planned for that day for main but increase the portion. We do not normally have pudding every evening after dinner, maybe just once or twice a week. However, when we have dinner guests, it is a good excuse to have pudding, don’t you think? 

These chocolate parcels are excellent for occasions like these as they are so easy to prepare as long as you have puff pastry sheets in your freezer and a bar or two of good quality chocolate in your pantry.


1 sheet frozen puff pastry cut into 4 squares (or rectangles) - thawed

100 grams of good dark chocolate (about sixteen rectangles- 25 grams/ 4 rectangles per parcel). You can also use half dark and half milk chocolate with high cocoa content – I use Whitaker’s Milk Chocolate with 33% cocoa.

1 Egg – lightly beaten to glaze

Icing sugar 



Pre-heat the oven to 200 degree (C)

Place 4 squares of chocolate onto one side of the pastry rectangle and fold the other side over, crimp the edge to seal. You can crimp them by hand or use a fork to press down the edges together. Repeat this with the other three rectangles.

Glaze the parcels with egg and place them on the baking paper lined tray, bake for 20 minutes or until puffed and golden. Serve warm (when the chocolate filling is still gooey) with sifted icing and vanilla ice-cream.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Chinese Star Jasmines

Because our house is on a slope, these posts at the entrance are supposed to help it look more balanced and level. Now you cannot see the posts much as they are covered with Chinese Star Jasmines.

The jasmines grow quite slow to start with but after a year they will grow fast enough that you have to start pruning them. I prune these guys hard once or twice a year. The blooms are in full swing from December to January and the smell is quite intoxicating at night.

I can imagine the passersby stop and take a deep breath and inhale the sweet smell of these jasmines. I consider myself doing public a service – giving them a natural air re-freshener for 2+ months.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Her Hard Hat

Living with humans can be hazardous sometimes as they might drop big pieces of food on a dog. Here Bonnie is protecting herself with a hard hat.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Strawberry Limoncello Tiramisu

This is another fabulous dessert that the newly engaged girl Tracey whipped up for us for dinner before New Year’s Eve.

Strawberry Limoncello Tiramisu

2 punnets strawberries or 10 Kiwifruit
300 - 350g sponge cake

Hull strawberries or peel kiwifruit.  Slice thinly and set aside.  Cut sponge cake into 3cm chunks.
Limoncello Mousse (Limoncello is a Mediterranean Lemon Liqueur)
 3 extra large whole eggs
3 extra large eggs, separated
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
Grated Lemon zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
1/4 cup Limoncello
Pinch Salt
1 cup Cream

(If you don't have Limoncello, just use 1/2 cup Lemon Juice)

In a large heat-proof bowl, whisk together the 3 whole eggs, 3 egg yolks, 1 cup sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, Limoncello (if using), and a pinch of salt.

Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for about 10 - 12 minutes, until the mixture is thick like pudding. 
Whisk the mixture when it starts to get thick.  Take off the heat and set aside for 15 minutes.

Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours, until completely chilled.

Beat half the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff.  Add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and beat until the whites are stiff and shiny.

Carefully fold the egg whites into the cold lemon mixture.

Place the cream in a bowl and beat on high speed until the cream forms stiff peaks.

Carefully fold whipped cream into the lemon mixture.
Lemon Syrup
 3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup Limoncello or water

Head the sugar and water, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat and add lemon juice and Limoncello or water.  Tip into a large, shallow tray or baking dish.

Quickly dunk a third of the sponge pieces into Lemon Syrup to wet each side and arrange them in a single layer in the bottom of a 12 cup capacity glass serving bowl.
Carefully spread a third of the Limoncello Mousse over the top.  Cover with half the strawberries or kiwifruit, then another layer of the dunked sponge pieces.  Top with 
another third of the Limoncello Mousse, then the rest of the fruit and the last third of the dunked sponge.  Pour any leftover Lemon Syrup over the sponge layer, then 
top with the remaining Limoncello Mouse.

Cover and chill for at least 1 hour or up to 48 hours.  Ganish with chopped pistachios to serve, unless one of your guests has a nut allergy.

So she had to sprinkle hundreds and thousands on top of this beautiful pudding instead of pistachios. That’s right, Trace – I have to be careful with my food ingredients all the time at home. Not only no nuts but also no bulk raisins, no coriander seeds, and etc.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Etched Glass Lamp from Poland

I bought this lamp from the gift shop at the Marriott Hotel Warsaw more than 15 years ago. Not the cheapest place to buy souvenir I know but there was a reason behind this.

I went to Poland on business. We travelled in a group of 6 or 7 so were provided with a nice new van for transport. After 3 days, we were allowed only 1 hour between appointments to do our shopping on the last day of work (we were departing the next morning).I bought a nice cut crystal lidded jar at a bargained price from the old city. Sadly, later that day while we were in our last meeting the van was stolen along with our possession of that day including the crystal jar I just bought in the morning.

The lost jar did not bother me much but the lost organiser (Filofax) did. Bob bought me this leather bound Filofax from Singapore and in it contained our 3 days’ work – remember that this was the time before iPads and laptops were still expensive and had not yet become an everyday item. Even cell phones looked like a brick back then. I had to work very late into the night trying to retrieve whatever information I could remember about work over the past 3 days.

Did not want to leave the country empty handed I ended up buying this lamp from the Hotel gift shop. The lamp that had been looking at me like a puppy in the pet shop –take me home please- from the first day we checked in.

It has survived travelling with me  from Warsaw to Budapest to Frankfurt and to Bangkok in my hand carry bag and our moving from Thailand to New Zealand plus moving house in this country twice. It has been in our living room for years and is graceful with age.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Swedish Vallhund

We took Bonnie to her first agility class last week and we met this dog. She is a Swedish Vallhund


She looks so similar in shape, size and colouring to Bonnie who is a Jack Russell and Keeshond (pronounced kayz-hond not kee-shond) cross. Keeshonds are quite fluffy but being half Jack Russell, Bonnie's coat is much shorter.

Bonnie has been told by the instructor that she is too fat and needs to lose1 kg pronto before the end of the class in 8 weeks because agility is too hard on overweight dogs. I will post her  pictures before and after  in 2 months to see the difference.