Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Cat with the Giant Tail

 This is the cat that Bob and Bonnie have befriended during their nightly walk. 


Look at the big gorgeous tail – it is nearly as big as his body and he wears it beautifully.


And I think he knows it too.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hunua Falls

Hunua Falls are part of the Hunua Range Regional Park south of Auckland. The park is not very far from where we live so it is one of the favourite spots for our overseas guests and visitors. The highlight of the park is this main water fall that is 30 metres high.
The tall Ponga fern (or Silver fern) with its beautiful canopy.  

Monday, February 27, 2012

Grilled Chicken Drumsticks – Thai Style

These grilled drumsticks were marinated Thai Street Style.   

You will need:

12-15 Chicken Drumsticks, scored two of three lines across
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons Oyster Sauce
¾ cup coconut milk
½ Teaspoon chicken stock powder (or salt, if you prefer)
3-4 cloves of garlic
2 coriander roots (if roots are not available, use 2-3 whole stems with leaves and all)
10 Peppercorns

Grind garlic, coriander roots and pepper corn with pestle and mortar (for authenticity, ha,ha..) then add salt/stock powder (if you do not have pestle and mortar, you can blitz garlic, coriander, salt and pepper with a little bit of coconut milk in your food processor – the kind with dishwasher safe bowl will be best!). Mix this concoction with soy sauce, oyster sauce and coconut milk. Marinade chicken drumsticks in this mixture in plastic bags for 2 or 3 hours before cooking them (massage the chicken a few times through the bag when you have to open the fridge for something). Grill on medium heat BBQ until brown and cooked through.

Serve with hot sauce and sticky rice.

For Street- Style Sauce, you will need:

1- 2 Tablespoons Fish Sauce
1 Tablespoon Maggi/Soy Sauce
A squeeze of lime or lemon
1 teaspoon chopped coriander leaves
1 teaspoon chopped spring onion
½ teaspoon hot chilli flakes

Mix everything together apart from fish sauce. Add fish sauce last – 1 tablespoon at first and taste as you go to see if you need another one. Fish sauce is pretty powerful (both smell and taste) so treat it with a bit of respect.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chef's Candles

My friend Marieke gave me this jar of chef's candle last Christmas. It works magic in my kitchen and eliminates most of the cooking smell. I normally light an ordinary candle when I cook food with strong smell and it also works to some extent but this one seems to work better.


It is from Candles of NewZealand  and made of soy wax so it burns quite clean. However, it is quite pricey – when this one is gone I might have to go back to normal candles unless someone gives me a new jar (wishful thinking!)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Agility Class 101 Part 1

We have enrolled Bonnie in Agility Class at local Kennel’s Club this summer. One of the things she has to learn is how to run on the plank and stop on the way down with front paws on the ground.


One of her classmates, Fern. Most of her classmates are taller than Bonnie, the micro-dog (that’s what Bruce, the instructor calls her). 


Pumpkin, another classmate, the only other micro-dog but she has dropped out half way through.

Bruce’s pup – being here as an observer.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chocolate Oat Biscuit Bars

I adapted this recipe from Joe Saegar’s Chocolate Chunk Oat Biscuits

125 grams butter
¼ cup sugar + 1 tablespoon
2 Tablespoons sweetened condensed milk (or golden syrup if you don’t have condensed milk)
½ cup plain flour
¼ cup self raising flour
¾ cup rolled oat
50 gram dark chocolate and 50 grams milk chocolate roughly chopped (I use Whitaker’s for both – for high cocoa content)

Beat butter, sugar and golden syrup until creamy. Add flour and rolled oat and then chopped chocolate. Line square baking tin with baking paper and place the dough on the tin. Spread and flatten evenly (I put another piece of baking paper on top of the dough and use potato masher to flatten it). Put the tin in the freezer for about 20 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degree C and line the baking sheet with baking paper. Remove the paper from the dough and cut into 12 bars. Place them on the lined baking sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown.

Cool on wire rack and store in an air-tight container.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sunning their Tummies

Bonnie enjoys sunbathing - and often with downside up.


Pipi enjoys it too. They will be in this undignified position for at least 10 minutes. I have read somewhere that they can get sunburn if they stay too long in the sun - but not as easily as us humans and we can apply pet-formula (no zinc) on their sensitive areas (with less hair or no hair). No worries about Pipi here as her tummy is very fluffy.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Hamilton Gardens

Hamilton was normally not our visiting destination until we have discovered Hamilton Gardens. They are open all year round but the best times to visit are in spring and early summer. The admission is free and parking is not that difficult. You can bring along your picnic basket and have an easy picnic lunch over there. You can also bring your dog(s) as dogs are also allowed apart from the enclosed gardens.


My favourite gardens are the Japanese Garden....


The  Chinese Garden....


And the Indian Garden.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cosy in the Grasses

Guess who’s been having a nap in the grasses.


Until daddy comes along with his camera, that is.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tonkatsu & Salad with Cheat's Miso Dressing


The best Tonkatsu I had ever had was in a small place in Tokyo 15 years ago. I could not remember either the name of the restaurant or its exact location. My Thai friend who was working in Japan at the time I went there took me on the train to this smallish restaurant specialising in Tonkatsu somewhere away from the CBD. The place was upstairs in the oldish building. It was long and narrow and I had to squeeze myself onto the bar stool at the counter and ate with the elbows tucked in while negotiating the chopsticks. But man, the Tonkatsu was so good, so yumlicious. I would never be able to replicate that. Never. However, I use the recipe below when I am desperate. It is not too bad if I pretend I had never been to that restaurant in Tokyo. Better than nothing, I would say:)

250 grams Pork Schnitzel
10-12 Tablespoons breadcrumbs (I use wholemeal fresh breadcrumbs but Panko or Japanese breadcrumbs will be much better)
½ teaspoon salt ( I use ¼ tsp chicken stock powder + ¼ tsp salt)
1 egg, lightly beaten with a bit of water
Plain flour for coating with an extra small pinch of salt and pepper

Place flour in plastic bag with pork and shake until all pork pieces are well coated. Mix breadcrumbs with salt and pepper. Dip pork pieces into the egg and then the crumbs. Press the crumbs onto the pork. Rest crumbed pork in the fridge for at least half an hour before deep frying on medium high heat until golden. Serve with Tonkatsu sauce, rice and salad.

Homemade Tonkatsu Sauce
¼ cup Tomato sauce
1 Tablespoon soy sauce (I use Kikkoman)
1 Tablespoon Lea & Perrins’ Worcester Sauce

Mix the above ingredients together until combined. Drizzle over Tonkatsu.


Cheat’s  Miso Dressing
2 tablespoons Mirin
2 tablespoons Rice Vinegar
1 tablespoon Japanese soy sauce
1 sachet Instant Miso Soup Base
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 – 2 tablespoons sesame oil


Put all ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously (with the lid securely on) until combine – refrigerate until use. Pour over Mesclun salad mix with a few cherry tomatoes and avocado. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Lives around the Pond

We have two or three duck ponds within a walking distance from our house. This is one of them. The ducks here are quite plump because people feed them with left-over bread and chips. When they cross the road, they can cause a bit of traffic jam (3 or 4 cars stopping and waiting.....). And you often see people trying to direct the traffics during the crossings. We take Bonnie out for her walkies  – quite often off-leash and she is so good with these ducks and does not try to chase them (maybe she knows that she is out-numbered and some are as big as she is).

Mother duck with her ducklings resting after a few laps of swim.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bonnie Performing one of her Tricks

We have been training Bonnie to wait for command before she can eat her food or treats and she is so very good at it. 

Recently we have trained her to balance her treat on her nose and wait. When she’s got green light from up she can flick the treat in the air and grab it with her mouuth – sometimes she gets it, sometimes she doesn’t – but she will surely improve with practice:o

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

2 Ways with Hydrangeas

My neighbour has several hydrangea plants in her garden and I cut (with her permission) a few stems of the flower heads for my centre-piece arrangement from time to time when they are in full swing from December to early February. 

My favourite colour is this purplish blue.With long stems they look elegant but they do not last long. 


Around the third day I normally cut the stem of the good one quite short and float it in the fish bowl vase. It will last for another few days this way.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Shanghai Tang Cushion Cover

I love Shanghai Tang’s designs but the price range is too expensive for me. The only Shanghai Tang’s piece that I own is this cushion cover that I bought second-hand from TradeMe for a song.

It seems not only me who is partial to this cushion cover. Every time I change the cushion cover and put this one on the easy chair, Pipi will move her sleeping quarter from her donut to this chair.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Rum Raisin Chocolate Truffles

These truffles are so good with coffee after dinner...or any time really.

150 grams dark chocolate, chopped or dark chocolate melts
100 grams milk chocolate (I use Whittaker’s milk chocolate), chopped
1/3  cup cream
4-5 teaspoons dark rum
¼ cup ground plain sweet biscuits
¼ cup raisins, chopped
Good quality cocoa powder to coat


Warm the cream in the microwave on high for 15-20 seconds.

Place chocolate melts, chopped milk chocolate in a heat proof bowl. Add warm cream and stir - the chocolate should melt. You can also put the bowl over a saucepan of hot water until the chocolate just melts - but make sure that the bowl does not touch the water and the water is not too hot or boiling. 

Remove from heat and keep stirring until it is smooth and glossy. Mix raisins with ground biscuits so that the raisins do not lump together and add the mixture to the ganache. Add rum and stir to combine. Cool and rest in the fridge for about an hour or until it is firm to the touch and easy to handle. Scoop up with a teaspoon and roll into small balls and roll them in cocoa powder until they are completely coated. Refrigerate until half an hour before use.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Quirky Cloud Glass

These Davidson cloud glass pieces are so quirky. They are fruit bowls/boats in hexagonal shape and look good grouped together for February showcase. I believe they were made around the Art Deco era in 1930’s.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cheesy Shortbread

When we were at Marcus' and Tracey’s before New Year we also had these wonderful cheesy shortbread biscuits. Tracey handcrafted them from Angel Redfern’s recipe from her book "Ripe Recipes”

Makes around 20

120g Blue Cheese
1 1/2 cups (120g) Parmesan Cheese, grated
120g Unsalted Butter, softened

1 large Egg
125g Plain Flour
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
2 tablespoons Black Sesame Seeds

In a food processor bowl, put together the cheeses and butter and blend until smooth.  Add the egg and blend.

Remove from food processor bowl and transfer to a mixing bowl.  Fold in the flour and pepper.  Cover with cling film and put in the fridge for about 20 minutes.  Remove from
the fridge and divide the mixture in half and shape into two logs.

Sprinkle the sesame seeds onto a baking paper sheet and roll the logs in the seeds to coat.  Wrap seeded logs in cling film and put in the freezer to chill for 15 minutes.  If you
like, you can freeze one of the logs completely and use it at a later date.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C while logs are chilling.

Line two baking trays with baking paper.

Take the logs from the freezer, remove the cling wrap and cut into slices no more than 5mm thick.

Place cut slices onto the lined baking trays and bake until golden, approximately 15 minutes.

Cool on the baking trays for extra crispness and store in airtight containers.

These are so very delectable and addictive - maybe you have to bake both logs as one might not be enough!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Pretty Props

I am not one of those hottest bakers – I cannot bake that well. However, I have a few pretty props to help my cakes and biscuits look better. Good presentation can help a lot when you entertain. 

I have got the above pieces from either online auctions or charity shops. Our local Hospice shop often has beautiful stuff - and it is nice to know that when you buy from there, the proceeds will go to good cause.