Thursday, March 29, 2012

Foot Warmer

It must be quite warm under the bark – like foot sauna!
This picture was taken late last year when Bonnie was 13 kgs.Sorry, Bonz!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kohekohe Church at Te Toro on Awhitu Peninsula


This church is on Awhitu Peninsula in Franklin, south of Auckland. Bob told me when The Corrs were touring in New Zealand many moons ago they came across this location on their day off, and thought it so spectacular that they flew a film crew over to film a video here. It’s not surprising as the view around this church is breathtaking.


The church at sunset – both pictures were taken by Bob who specialises in sunrise and sunset photography.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Flourless Chocolate Chip Oat Bars

These Oaty Bars are Bob's favourite - they do not contain flour but loads of chocolate chips though. You will need:

80 grams butter, cubed
1/3 cup brown sugar
130 grams rolled oats
1-2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
50 grams fine desiccated coconut
100 grams chocolate chips

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line one 20x20 square cake tin with baking paper.
Blitz the oats ( not too fine – there should be some roughly broken oats) and set aside. Beat butter and sugar until creamy – add sweetened condensed milk and beat a little bit more to combine.  Fold in oats and chocolate chips. 

Spread the mixture in the prepared tin, put another sheet of baking paper on top and flatten the surface with either potato masher or the bottom of another identical square tin. If you use the square tin, the surface will be more level. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. If you want the bars thin and crispy, divide the mixture into 2 pans and bake for 12-15 minutes.

Leave to cool for 10-15 minutes before cutting into 8 bars. Cool completely on lining paper on the wire rack. Store in an air-tight container.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pacifica Feline

Doesn’t she look like a Hawaiian Princess with tropical blooms as a backdrop?  Princess Pipi here is sitting on the fence as usual. A lei around her neck will be picture perfect.
I had a chat with her ex-owner (my neighbour's son) a while ago and learned that he named her "Pipi" after a rotary engine not a shellfish as I initially thought (maybe because she purrs so loud like an engine!)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring Rolls – my Pièce de résistance


I must have done something right with this recipe for spring rolls. All my friends seem to like them and they are always on the top of request list. It was something I learned how to do when I was in my teens so it’s not that difficult.

You will need:

1 carrot, grated
1 - 1 ½ cups of bean sprouts (optional)
250 grams pork mince
3-4 cloves of garlic
½ red onion (or 2-3 red shallots – about 2 tablespoons)
3 coriander roots
White pepper
1 ½ cups of mung bean vermicelli (about 100 grams), soaked in warm water until soft and drained, cut with scissors to manageable length
2 – 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon chicken stock powder (or salt)
1 teaspoon sugar
1-2 tablespoons chopped spring onions
1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves
15-20 sheets of spring roll paper (about 20x20 square – usually come frozen in 330 gram packet, when they thaw they will be soft  – these are different from those rice paper sheets that you have to wet/soak them for fresh spring rolls)
1 tablespoon plain flour mixed with 3-4 tablespoons of water and made into a flour paste
Oil for frying

Chop garlic, coriander roots and shallots together  then add pepper.  Heat about 1-2 tablespoons of oil in a deep frying pan or a wok (wok is much better for this) on medium high heat. Fry garlic mixture until fragrant. Add pork mince, fry until brown and then add carrot and mung bean vermicelli. Add stock powder (or salt), soy sauce and sugar and taste, add more seasoning if necessary. It should taste quite strong. Add bean sprouts and fry further (I often omitted bean sprouts). I like my filling a bit dry so the spring rolls will not be soggy . Add chopped spring onions and coriander leaves. Remove from heat and leave to cool (cool filling is much easier to handle).

Place wrapping paper diagonally on a clean chopping board (FYI- my one is clean but it is old and well-used:). Place filling toward the lower corner. Lift that lower corner and wrap over the filling and roll half-way upward. 


Wrap two side corners inward and roll up toward the uppermost corner. 


Brush the corner with flour paste to glue the paper and secure the filling.


Deep fry in a small deep saucepan on medium heat until golden. Drain on paper kitchen towels. Serve with sweet chilli sauce and mint leaves.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mixed Spode Dinnerware

I love beautiful china. I have to confess that the banquet scene with beautiful, elegant china of  the 19th century in the film "The Age of Innocence" has inspired me to collect nice, old china dinnerware. In fact, I would love to collect Daniel Day-Lewis as well but there is only one of him and he has already been taken. 

I have collected Spode dinnerware pieces for about 20 years, piece by piece. My Spode pieces are not that old – it's very likely they were made in mid 20th century as most of them have Copeland Spode or Late Spode marks. I have enough pieces for 6 settings except for coffee and tea. They are not the same pattern but somehow they go together in harlequinesque fashion - if there is such a term.The pattern of the top side plate is the ever-so-popular Chinese Rose.

This is one of the first pieces I bought....

and also this meat platter....... it has seen several roast turkeys in its time with us.


The vegetable dish is quite new with old peacock pattern bearing new “Spode” mark.


This sauce boat has come all the way from England in an old plastic container – clever packaging. The pattern is called Old Bow.

Dinner plate, also from England. I don't know the pattern of this one.

Spode has been taken over by Portmeirion Group in 2009 and some old patterns are still in production. You can read more story about Spode here and Spode History Blog by Pam Woolliscroft here .

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Lion Queen

Remember The Lion King animation? That scene when Simba was born, he was raised towards the sky by Rafiki and announced the next Lion King ? 

Look at our Lion Queen’s face – the expression is priceless.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cupcakes with Coffee Buttercream

I have baked my cakes using this basic recipe for ages – with variations from time to time. It is a recipe for Basic Tea Cake from the Family Circle’s Cooking with Commonsense Cook book. With this cookbook I have cooked my food with plenty more good results than not.

For the cakes you will need:
60 grams butter
½ cup caster sugar
A pinch of salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup milk
¾ cup self-raising flour
3 tablespoons plain flour

Pre-heat the oven at 180 degrees C. Sift flour and salt into a bowl and set aside. With electric mixer beat butter and sugar until light and creamy, add egg and vanilla, beat until combine.  Lower the speed of your mixer and add flour and milk alternately – start with flour and end with flour. Spoon the mixture into the cupcake tin line with cupcake papers (about ¾ to the top). Bake for about 20 minutes. Leave to cool completely.

Coffee Buttercream
100 grams icing sugar (you need to add 30 – 50 grams more if the weather is warm)
50 grams butter
1 – 2 teaspoons strong espresso coffee

Beat the above ingredients with electric mixer until thick and fluffy. Pipe the cream onto the cakes with piping bag with star nozzle.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

We Love Fangs

This is a homage to one of our favourite TV series: True Blood

We have Pipifangs......


........and Puppyfangs (when Bonnie was 6 months old with just milk fangs) and we never get cured for fangover.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Coconut Cream Pannacotta with Bananas and Pine Nuts

When you have to entertain and feed the crowd – this pannacotta is perfect for such occasion as it is easy and yummy with a Thai-ish twist. You can prepare pannacotta hours ahead or even over night. This recipe yields 6 servings but you can stretch to 8 if necessary - just fill the moulds to 3/4 (I use 150 ml plastic jelly moulds with lids both sides).

Coconut Cream Pannacotta
1 cup cream
1 ½ cups coconut cream
½ cup milk
1 ½ - 2 teaspoons of good vanilla extract with seeds
3 ½   teaspoons gelatin powder (I use Davis – very reliable)
60 ml water at room temperature
¼ cup palm sugar, chopped
 1 tablespoon soft brown sugar

Grease the inside of 6 jelly moulds and set aside.

In a big jug, sprinkle gelatin powder in the water and set aside for 5-10 minutes. Heat milk and all the cream and sugar in the saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add vanilla extract to the milk and  pour the hot mixture over the gelatin. Stir to combine and let it cool down enough before pouring into the moulds. Leave to cool down a bit more and transfer to the fridge. It should take around 3 to 4 hours in the fridge to set. The pannacotta should slide down from the mould into the plate quite easily when it is set.

Bananas with Coconut Cream and Pine nuts
½ cup coconut cream
1 tablespoon sugar
 A pinch or 2 of salt
1 tablespoon coconut cream extra
1 teaspoon corn flour
2 Tablespoons cream
3 ripe but firm bananas
2 Tablespoon pine nuts, toasted

Heat coconut cream, salt and sugar in a small saucepan. Mix extra coconut cream with corn flour and add to the saucepan, bring to the boil briefly. Remove from heat. Leave to cool completely before storing in the fridge.

Before serving, slice bananas (about 2 cm thick) and arrange the slices around the pannacotta . Add fresh cream to the coconut cream mixture and spoon over the banana slices. Sprinkle with pine nuts. Enjoy!

Edit: Some tip to avoid separation - leave the Panna Cotta mixture to cool down to room temperature and stir again before pouring into the moulds.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

St Margaret’s Country Garden

Last week one of my dear friends, Debbie, drove down  from the city to have lunch with me at the Cafe in St. Margaret’s Country Garden in Karaka, about 30 minutes south of Auckland. This beautiful garden is set on 6.5 acres of land behind St Margaret’s Anglican Church. The cafe, which is run independently, is at the front part of the garden ground. They used to be open in summer only but that has changed in the past 6 or 7 years after they put a big open fire place in the cafe and roll-up windscreens around the building so they can operate all year round.

The menu is quite limited but the food is good enough and the surroundings are gorgeous. No wonder it is a popular venue for weddings. The cafe itself reserves Saturdays and some odd Fridays for weddings.

After the meal you can walk around the front part of the garden but to see the whole garden will take you 40 minutes to an hour.


Even parking area is nice – it is green everywhere this year as we have so much rain in summer.

Perfect backdrop for wedding photos – with pergola.......

And (man-made) lake.....

Monday, March 12, 2012

Walther Cloud Glass for March

Glassware similar to cloud glass called “Oralit” was also produced in Germany by Walther & Son around 1930’s. I have only a few pieces of this purple colour. I believe it is called “violet” although it looks more like amethyst to me. I bought most of them from flea markets in Holland (only one piece from Australia).

The cake stand is my prized piece as it is quite rare. I have seen similar piece only once on ebay (mind you, I don’t surf ebay that very often – contrary to Bob’s perception!) and it fetched an obscene price by the end of the auction.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Before and After : 8 Weeks of Diet


8 weeks and 1.5 kgs later. Lighter, slimmer and faster but half a kg to go yet.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wedgwood Dinnerware

This set of Wedgwood is part of our wedding presents. We were given different pieces by different guests.   Back then the idea of wedding gift registry was foreign to me – I could not imagine telling people what we expected - but one of my work colleagues took over the matter and acted as a gift registrar. She asked me what I liked and then told people what to buy. Thank you very much, Patty.

Later on my perception about gift registry has changed with time and I could see that it is a wonderful idea so the wedding couples will get what they need without having to re-gift what they have received or simply put the unwanted gifts in storage. Less wastage this way.

The pattern of my Wedgwood china is called ‘April Flower’ – all the pieces were made in the UK and we have enough for six people with a few spare pieces.  I try to use them as often as I can.

Wedgwood is now owned by the American- based company along with Royal Doulton and Waterford and all become known as WWRD. So it is good to know that beautiful things are still in production.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Butterscotch Cake and Toffee Sauce

I got this recipe from The Australian Women’s Weekly Quick-Mix Cakes recipe book. You can reduce butter if you like as I think it is too buttery with this much butter.

250 grams butter, chopped (I used only 175 grams and it was buttery enough)
200 grams brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon golden syrup
225 grams self-raising flour
½ cup milk

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (C).

Grease and line 20 cm round cake tin.

Mix everything in the cake mixing bowl and beat on low until combined then increase the speed to medium until the cake mixture turns pale and smooth. Spread into the cake tin.

Bake for 50 minutes to an hour. Rest the cake in the tin for 10 minutes before turning onto the wire rack to cool down.

The original recipe suggests dusting the cake with icing sugar but I go further and use Toffee Sauce.
You can make Toffee Sauce from scratch from Nigella Lawson’s recipe on Food Network here  but I use this store bought Toffee Sauce and it is really wicked.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Another Round of Serviettes

Meaningful for Christmas from Barb.


Luncheon Cath Kidston’s from Barb. Luncheon Gingham and Cocktail Cath Kidston’s from Debbie for my Birthday.


Black and white from Barbs.


Black and white with plain white dinner size for casual (and messy) BBQ dinner.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Behind Blue Eyes

Behind these blue eyes is a beautiful, naughty, playful little boy and a chatter box. Vann, my neighbour’s grandson has started talking last year and now he cannot stop.