Monday, April 30, 2012

Confused Frangipani

My Australian Frangipani is so confused this autumn and cranks up a few flowers. It is supposed to stop growing and save its energy to produce flowers and new growth next spring. Everything in my garden still keeps growing and it is the end of April now.

My lawn and backyard still need mowing every fortnight. If summer had been behaving like summer should, the grass should have gone much less green 2 months ago. But we have had a wet summer in Auckland and autumn is just like spring and has been more glorious than what it was in summer – nice and sunny almost every day but with less heat even on Easter weekend!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Queenstown Revisit Part 2 – Cadrona and Wanaka

When we were in Queenstown, we drove Cadrona-Wanaka-Cromwell loop. Our rental car was a 1.8  automatic and it was a bit painful to climb our way up to Cadrona. However, there are so many lookout spots with parking along the way so we were not in a hurry.

It was a sunny day in early April and Lake Wanaka looked placid and pleasing. I am sure there are so many attractions in Wanaka but we did not stop there long. We drove on along the length of Lake Dunstan via Luggate to Cromwell.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Agility Competition

Our local dog training club (Counties) hosted dog agility competition on Easter weekend. We went around to the club ground to have a look on Saturday with Bonnie, our micro/mini dog.

This is a picture of the ‘real’ dog in action in Senior Class. I think she was not supposed to jump diagonally - she might have headed the wrong direction and had to change her course close to the jump. However, it looks amazing on the photo.

Majority of the entrants in this competition were Border Collies. Actually, a lot of our club members own Border Collies. They are very intelligent and need to be trained properly.

Lest We Forget

ANZAC Day - they will be remembered.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cooking with Basil

The picture above is Thai Basil that I use quite a bit in my cooking – but today I will be talking about Basil of a non-food kind.

I have inherited the old iPad from Bob – he’s got the new iPad 3rd Gen so the original pad is handed down to me. I have found it very useful in the kitchen as it doesn’t occupy much more room than a small chopping board (have you seen that clip? If not, have a look at AllThingD here). I use my iPad for searching recipes (not as a chopping board of course!) and Bob has been kind to buy me this little app called Basil.


Basil helps me manage my recipes from the net – it even has a built-in bookmark for several food sites, some of which are my favourite. You can browse recipes and with your command it will save and organise the recipes for you in one place. A neat feature is that it will even set a timer (on iPad) for you with just a click at cooking time specified in the recipe. It’s fun and easy to use but you yourself have to cook, the app doesn't do it for you:)

Monday, April 23, 2012

BBQ Red Pork – Char-sui-esque (Sort of Chinese BBQ but with a Thai slant)

Red Pork (Moo Dang) or Char-sui is another common Chinese dish that you can easily find in Thailand, from street stalls to fine-dining restaurants - the same concept with different execution and approaches. You can have Char-sui with rice, egg noodles or steamed vegetables. My version is street style with hard boiled eggs with gravy and fresh chilli soy sauce.

500 Pork Steaks or fillets (I prefer steaks with  a little bit of fat as they will be moister and taste better than lean)
1 tablespoon Hoi Sin
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
½ teaspoon chicken stock powder
1 tablespoon sweet Dark soy sauce (substitute with 1 teaspoon brown sugar if it is not available)
1 tablespoon Dry Sherry
A round or two of freshly ground black pepper
1 – 2 tablespoons sesame oil

Mix the liquid ingredients together in a bowl and add pepper. Pour over the pork in a plastic bag and marinade for 3 hours at least in the fridge. Massage the bag from time to time.

Grill on medium heat on barbecue until nicely brown and cooked through or bake in the oven at 180 degrees C. Place the pork on the wire rack and bake 20 minutes each side.

Leave to cool and slice thinly. Serve with steamed rice, sliced cucumber, hard-boiled eggs, gravy and chilli soy sauce. Place rice on a plate first and top it with pork and gravy. Set eggs and cucumber on the side. Drizzle chilli soy sauce on top of pork & gravy.

1 cup chicken stock (1/2 teaspoon stock powder + 1 cup hot water)
1 teaspoon Hoi Sin sauce
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
 1-2 teaspoons dark soy sauce (I use ABC Kejap Manis)
1-2 teaspoon corn flour mix with a little bit cold water
Sesame Oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
Red Food Colouring (optional)

Mix everything together in a saucepan (apart from the flour mixture) and bring to the boil. Add flour mixture, stir vigorously and cook until the sauce thickened. Add a dash of sesame oil, red food colouring and toasted sesame seeds.

Chilli Soy Sauce
1 Red chilli, sliced thinly (you can scrape out the seeds if you’re not keen on hot sauce)
2 table spoons dark soy sauce
2 -3 tablespoons white vinegar

Mix everything together in a bowl. Some like to drizzle chilli soy sauce on top of rice and some like this sauce as a side in a tiny bowl. Good for me both ways.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

She is Playful

Our friend’s dog, Jessica, comes to visit us quite often (I mean she comes with Steve – he hasn’t taught her to drive yet!). She is bigger and chunkier now. Her bark is very cute and girly and belies her tough look. 

She enjoys her play-time with Bonnie and they will chase each other around the house. 


Thank God we do not have any endangered objects lying around in their path.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I like Napkins too

When we entertain, we use proper cloth napkins too (not just paper serviettes). This setting was when we hosted dinner for our friends, Paul and Marieke and Marieke’s Mum, Jantje, who was visiting from South Africa.


This is a bit fancier for brunch with friends. This napkin folding technique is called "Bird of Paradise" and I have learnt how to do it from here. China is Spode.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Strawberry Shortbread Biscuits

I have adapted the recipes from ‘s Holiday Shortbread Cookie recipe here.  I reduce salt to only 1/4 teaspoon and I use salted butter. I have found that salted butter and a little bit of salt give better taste and enough saltiness to my biscuits. This is personal preference of course – please feel free to follow the original recipe.

You will need:
 250 grams Butter
¾ cup icing sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups plain flour
2/3 cup self-raising flour
2 tablespoons chopped dried/candied strawberries

Place butter, sugar and salt in food processor and blitz until smooth. Add flour and pulse until combine – add strawberries and pulse a little bit more.

Turn the dough onto the floured board and divide into equal 2 portions. Shape each portion into a round or square log and wrap in cling film tightly. Put the logs in the freezer for about an hour.

Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.

Unwrap the frozen dough one log at a time (I normally use only one log and save another log in the freezer for later – it will keep for weeks frozen) and slice the log to ½ cm thick.

Place biscuit slices on the baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes or longer until the edge is golden brown and cooked through. 

Cool and store in an air-tight container.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Queenstown Revisit Part 1 – Lake Wakatipu

We went to Queenstown in April last year and Bob took several photographs of beautiful and interesting places in the area. This one is the famous Lake Wakatipu.

I had quite a bit of air points that were going to expire so decided to use them for a trip to Queenstown – when I booked the flight the lady at the reservation asked me if I was sure as for that many points I could also fly to Hawaii!

We stayed at The Rees by the lake. It is a very nice and quiet hotel and one of the many good things I like about it is that we did not have to walk through the Reception every time we went into and out of our room but could get access via the multi-level car park that blends in with the building structure. I am quite sure there must be security cameras everywhere but they were very discreet when we were there that none was in our face.

In April, the leaves start to change their colour down south and yellow gold leaves look amazing against blue sky and its reflection on the lake. It is an ideal month to visit Central Otago as it is not too busy and the weather is still warm-ish during the day. Saying that, we had a couple of days of cold snap when but we had been warned so had sufficient woollies with us. 

One good way to explore the area is driving so we hired a car and drove around at leisure. We covered Glenorchy, Arrowtown, Cadrona, Wanaka and Cromwell. Be prepared to pull over if you drive down there as there are so many amazing scenic spots and there are also many parking bays along the route.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

BBQ Sweetcorn on the Cob (with Husk)

Marcus has let us on into his secret of the yummiest BBQ sweetcorn on the cob.

For 4 people you will need:
4 ears of sweetcorn with husk, trimmed both ends
A big bowl of water (you can also add 2-3 teaspoons of salt to the water - use sea water if you have BBQ on the beach)

Peel back the husk (don’t remove – we need the husk intact), remove the silk from the corn and pull the husk back to cover the kernels. Submerge them in water for a couple of hours – weigh them down with a heavy plate (we use cast iron casserole's lid).

Grill them on the barbecue on medium heat for 20 minutes. The husk will be blackened and will not look appealing – but the inside is divine.  Peel and brush them with butter and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Serve warm.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cloud Glass of the Month – Parade of Vases

These cloud glass vases are of the more common shape. However, when different colours are grouped together, they look more interesting and I just also notice that the purple vase is a bit shorter than the others.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter Tea Towels

Barb gave me these Morgan & Finch tea towels for Easter as a thank you gift. She just had a major operation and when she came back home from the hospital I sent her food for dinner a few nights for the first week. She has been diagnosed with uterine cancer late last year and has been through 2 operations and 3 sessions of chemotherapy to date and another three to go. Very, very good news is that the test result from her recent operation came back negative – yay!


As she had insisted that I must use them for Easter, I hand washed and put them on the line so I could use these pretty tea towels on Easter Friday.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Deconstructed Pumpkin Custard – Thai style

I love pumpkin custard. My mother often brought home a small buttercup pumpkin filled with this beautiful egg custard for pudding when we were young (in Bangkok). My mom was a working woman and she worked until 60 – the age of retirement in Thailand. Her office was not far from the market and after lunch she would walk to the market and bought us yummy puddings (my father used to have a sweet tooth too).

I have tried so many times to replicate that but not been very successful as the pumpkins would split in the steamer 8 out of 10 times. The custard itself is not difficult but the pumpkins seem to have a mind of their own.

So the easiest way to make this pudding work is putting pumpkin into the custard rather than the other way round. The outcome is always good – if the custard is too soft you still can eat it out of the mould:)

You will need:

2 large eggs
¾ cup coconut cream + 2 Tablespoons water
70 grams palm sugar, chopped
1-2 teaspoons soft brown sugar
2 teaspoons rice flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup pumpkin cut into matchsticks (the green variety or buttercup will be best) or about 75 grams

Grease 16 cm round mould and set aside.

Place sugar, coconut cream and water in a sauce pan on low heat until sugar is dissolved. Leave to cool. Beat eggs in a bowl, add flour, salt, vanilla extract and coconut cream mixture. Beat on medium speed until combine. Pour the mixture through the sieve into the greased mould and add pumpkin. Heat up your steamer on medium heat until the water is boiling. Steam on medium heat until set and cooked through. Approximately 25 to 30 minutes.  Turn the heat down after 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and let it cool down before refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Pretty Stationery

I like writing on beautiful paper from cards to sticky notes. Marieke gave me this set of stationery from Chronicle Books with Andy Warhol’s designs.

 This set of Papaya’s sticky notes is from Barb. 


They are so pretty and such a joy to use.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Dream of More Tennis Balls

Bonnie also attends the FLYGILITY class at the local club once every month (that's how often the class is held). We have to train her to catch the balls at home so she will be keen on the flyball at the training club. After chasing the balls for 10 to 15 minutes she takes every ball that she has caught to her crate – and sometimes sleeps with them.

Monday, April 2, 2012

White Chocolate Bark

I often make chocolate bark to go with coffee after dinner  when we have guests (good excuse to indulge your sweet tooth). It can be given to guests before they depart if you have any left-over, that is.

100 grams white chocolate, chopped
2 Tablespoons desiccated coconut chips, toasted
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
1 tablespoon semi dried/candied fruits (apricots and candied strawberries work well) chopped

Melt the chocolate in heat-proof bowl over hot water (just hot not even simmering). Pour onto baking paper and spread evenly (but not too thin) with spatula. Sprinkle toasted coconut, pine nuts and chopped dried fruits over the chocolate and press them down gently. Refrigerate to set. Break into shards before serving with coffee after the meal (or any occasion really).