Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Butchers Café – Patumahoe

It used to be a butcher’s here long time ago that is why they call the café “The Butchers Café”. The shop front is quite small but they have a bigger area at the back. The furniture is deliberately mismatched but it adds charm to the place. The food is very good - if you like old- fashioned egg sandwiches, cakes and scones like I do. They also have the trendy High Tea every third Wednesday of the month.

I just shared this beautiful raspberry framington (similar to lamington with more body to it ) with my friend Julie when we went there for coffee last week. Here in the country (Patumahoe - 45 minutes from Auckland) they still have several dairy farms around the area – and 'a dollop of cream' means our framington came generously laced with freshly whipped cream a size of a tennis ball.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Vietnamese Style Beef Soup – Pho (with a little help from a slow cooker)

One of my dear friends Barb has to undergo Chemotherapy for her cancer (which is now gone after two operations and 5 sessions of Chemotherapy - only one more session to go). I have been told that 75% of people who are having this kind of treatment might have problem with taste.  Food and water may become bitter and metallic for some people. Some suggestions to help them cope with changes in taste perception are using plastic cutlery and marinating meat before cooking.

When she asked me some weeks ago if I could make some spring rolls I obliged and thought I should also cook another Vietnamese style dish for her – spring rolls and Pho (of course, with a Thai twist as usual). For Pho we need both kinds of beef, cheaper cut (gravy,blade or even brisket) and fillet (eye or scotch). I have cooked Pho many times, sometimes with pressure cooker other times with cast iron casserole on stove top. The results have not been that consistent. With pressure cooker, the beef is tender but somehow lacks the depth of flavour achieved by slow cooking process. With cast iron casserole, I have to fuss over the heat level from time to time as the beef could be a bit tough and the soup reduced too quickly if the heat is too high.  

Bob suggested cooking the cheaper cut beef in slow cooker and it has worked very well with all the flavour and low fuss process.

Serve 4
250 grams dried Rice Sticks, soaked in warm water until soft
2 cups bean sprouts
600 grams Blade Steak
100 grams Beef Fillet
1 Onion, whole
½ onion, sliced thinly (to garnish)
2 Whole Coriander with root intact and bruised – to release the aroma
1 Spring onion, chopped (to garnish)
12 Tablespoons coriander leaves, chopped (to garnish)
1 Lime or lemon, quartered (to garnish)
2 tablespoons mint leaves (to garnish)
1 Red Chilli (seeds removed if you cannot handle the heat -to garnish)
1 Cinnamon Quill
4 Pieces Star Anise
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
A bit of garlic flakes (to garnish - optional)
1 carrot, peeled and cut in half
1 stick/stem of celery cut into 10 cm length
1 tablespoon dark sweet soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 ½ -2 litres chicken stock
1 teaspoon black pepper corns, crushed
Salt to taste
A bit of oil for frying

In the wok on high heat, add oil and brown blade steak in big pieces. Add whole onion and garlic and fry a bit further until brown. Add star anise, sauces and crushed pepper corns, stir to combine then add ½ litre of chicken stock.

Line the bottom of slow cooker with carrot, whole coriander and celery pieces. Transfer the beef into the slow cooker, add cinnamon and cook low for 4 to 5 hours.
When the meat is tender, lift it from the liquid and slice to 1 cm thick and set aside. Pour the liquid through sieve into a pot – add about  1 - 1 1/2  litres of chicken stock. Simmer, taste and add more seasoning if needed.

Slice raw beef fillet very thinly – it will be a lot easier if you freeze it for about an hour before slicing.

Soak rice sticks in water until soft and drain. Cook them in boiling water for 2-3 minutes until cooked and then drain. Add a bit of oil and garlic flakes and  separate them with chopsticks or fork.  Divide them in 4 bowls, top with cooked blade steak pieces, sliced raw beef fillet, sliced onion, bean sprouts, chopped spring onion & coriander, a few slices of red chilli. Bring the soup to the boil and ladle it over the rice sticks. Serve hot with a wedge of lime and chilli oil (optional).

I think Barb enjoyed it and she also tried a little bit of chilli oil in her soup.

For Spring Rolls see here and Chilli Oil here.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Old Faithfuls

Ginny – Barbara’s 16 years old cat. A bit here, a bit there but always loyal, always meowing.


Singh- my mother’s 16 years old dog. Half blind, half bonkers but his weakening heart is still full of love for my Mum.

When the dogs and cats are this old, they can be mostly deaf and blind. They also tend to be on a skinny side and might have lost much of their huggability. You have to be more gentle with them – I am sure they still appreciate gentle strokes from time to time.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Queenstown Revisit Part 5 – Kawarau Gorge and The Roaring Meg

From Cromwell we drove back to Queenstown on Kawarau Gorge Road which runs alongside the Kawarau River. This route is a must for visitors as they have the world renowned ‘Bungy Jump’ centre at the Old Kawarau Bridge – I am not the adventurous type of person so I did not even want to walk across the bridge let alone do the bungy – they have to PAY me and quite a lot before I would do it. 

They also have two small power stations called The RoaringMeg Hydro Scheme  in the gorge, generating around 30 GWh per year. The picture above is the discharge from the lower station.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Blue Brothers: Cloud Glass for May

This is my most favourite colour of all cloud glass. The first ‘blue’ I bought is one of the powder pots in the picture.

I know it is a late post for Cloud Glass of the month and in a few days I will have to change the pieces on display - but my photographer has been very busy so I had to do it myself. June photograph will be much better, I promise.

Friday, May 18, 2012

My Grand Aunt’s Potato Moons (บุหลัน -Tweaked Version)

My grand aunt whom I called Khun Yai Kwan was my maternal grandmother’s older sister and she had a lot to do with my interest in cooking. She was from a good, old fashioned family in Chiang-mai and was taught how to read but not to write (bizarre, I know). 

She was in charge of cooking in my grandparents’ household and had to make a shopping list for one of the kitchen’s hands every night. So each night the grand nieces and nephews at school age would take turn to see her with a mission to write down what she dictated. That was how I learned the ingredients of some of the dishes she cooked for us.

These so called Potato Moons are one of my favourites. Her original version would be more complicated than my version below as it requires stuffing the mashed potatoes rather than mixing it with other ingredients.

To serve 2 you’ll need:

2 medium-large potatoes (about 400-450 grams) and 1 carrot, cooked and mashed with salt, pepper and a little bit of butter and leave to cool (no milk please otherwise it will be too wet and disintegrate in the frying pan)

½ size 14 roast chicken or 200 grams cooked chicken meat, skin discarded and chopped finely

½  medium onion, chopped finely

1 tablespoon finely chopped celery(optional)

1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander leaves
1 teaspoon Lee & Perrin’s or Worcester  sauce

1egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

½ cup plain flour to coat

2 cups fresh breadcrumbs

Salt & pepper to taste

Oil for shallow frying

In a bowl, mix mashed potatoes and carrot with chicken and seasoning. Add chopped onion, celery and coriander and fold to combine.  Divide the mixture into 6 portions and form each portion into a ball. Roll them in flour and flatten them (into a moon shape) before dipping in beaten egg and rolling in breadcrumbs. Make sure all the moons are thoroughly coated with crumbs. Rest in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Fry until golden on both sides. Serve with tomato and Sri Racha Chilli sauces and side green salad.

Note: You can substitute chicken with canned tuna.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Queenstown Revisit Part 4 – Old Cromwell

You will not have really been to Cromwell if you have not visited the ‘Old Cromwell’. Cromwell is a small town established in mid 1800’s during the Gold Rush in Central Otago. Two rivers, Kawarau and Clutha, meet Lake Dunstan here.

This ‘Old Cromwell’ bits have been reconstructed with historic buildings relocated to the present site in Melmore Terrace. The Grain & Seed Store is now a cafe. The ‘Old Cromwell” bakery is now housing an art gallery.

We had coffee here outside Grain & Seed Cafe where we could appreciate the view of the ‘old’ town on one side and Lake Dunstan/Kawarau River on another. It was nice and sunny day and it seemed several dog owners had lunch here at the cafe and parked their dogs outside.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Two Ways with Serviettes

When I have casual dinner with friends at home, sometimes I don’t feel like using napkins especially when you have yummy but messy dish like Buffalo wings so I opt for paper serviettes. I have a lot of pretty serviettes that are luncheon size (33x33) so I layer them over plain ones in bigger size (40x40) which are more suitable. 


The patterns and colours lift up the appearance of the plain serviettes quite well  and make them look more dressed up.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Go Green

When there are no flowers in the garden, some foliage will do.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cheat’s Chicken Biriyani (Khao Mok Kai-ข้าวหมกไก่อย่างง่าย)

In Thailand, Biriyani Rice is more Islamic than Indian. I remember when I was young we went to a wedding party at our family’s friend’s home on the river side in Bangkok. They cooked the Biriyani in 2 big pots. The pots were of old style with flat lids, a bit like kettle but no handles. The chicken was in chunks and the rice yellow and aromatic with turmeric and other spices. They marinated chicken chunks in yogurt and spices first before frying with ghee and then added rice and stock when the chicken pieces were brown. I tried cooking this a few times but it was quite tricky to get the rice perfectly cooked not under or over.

Then I came across this cheat’s recipe. It is not as difficult and complicated as the traditional one that you have to cook the meat with rice but the result is very good. I have tweaked the recipe from DameAlison Holst’s  original.

1 Portion Curry Sauce (recipe below)
2 cups cooked basmati or long grain rice
½ teaspoon chilli powder
5-7 each of whole cloves and cardamom
350 -400 grams boneless chicken thighs, cut into chunks
½ cup yogurt (unsweetened)
½  teaspoon salt, more if needed
Oil or ghee for frying
Deep fried Shallots (available from most Asian groceries)
Coriander leaves for garnish

Fry cloves and cardamom in a bit of oil/ghee in the frying pan on medium heat. Add chicken and chilli and fry for further 2 or 3 minutes. Add curry sauce and simmer gently until the chicken pieces are well cooked – add a little bit of water if it is too dry. Add yogurt and salt to taste. Simmer a few minutes further.

Combine cooked rice with chicken and sauce – you might not need all the sauce so add bit by bit until rice is well covered with sauce but not wet. If it is not salty enough you can add a little bit more salt at this stage. Pick out cardamoms and cloves as many as possible.Serve garnished with fried shallots and coriander leaves.

In Thailand, this dish is usually served with Cucumber Relish or A-Jad (see here) but here when I cook Biriyani, I opt for Yogurt Raita since Bob is not keen on cucumbers (fussy eater he is, meh).

Curry Sauce
2 Teaspoons Curry Powder (I use Hot/Medium)
1 Teaspoon Paprika
1 – 1 ½   Teaspoons Tumeric
3-4 Cloves of Garlic, chopped
3-4 Slices Root Ginger, chopped
2-3 Tablespoons chopped shallots - if you cannot find shallots, use Red onion
¾ -1 cup water plus 3 tablespoons
Ghee or oil for frying
Soak curry powder, turmeric and paprika in 3 tablespoons of water to make a paste and set aside.
Fry shallots, garlic and ginger in a little bit of oil on medium heat until fragrant. Add spice paste and a little bit more water and fry gently for 5 minutes then add the rest of water and simmer on low heat for another 5 – 10 minute. The paste will be thicker and aromatic. Set aside until needed.

Yogurt Raita
½ cup yogurt
1 clove of garlic
½ chilli, scrape out the seeds
1 spring onion , chopped
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2-3 teaspoon coriander leaves

Put everything in a small food processor and blitz until well combined. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary. Transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate.

This Raita is also nice with other Indian style curry – you can also use it as a dip with Naan and Popadum. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Queenstown Revisit Part 3 – 45th Parallel South

Near Cromwell on Luggate-Cromwell Road there is a plaque marking the 45th Parallel South which is theoretically the halfway point between the Equator and South Pole. This Latitude line lies across 3 oceans (Pacific, Atlantic and Indian) and tiny bits of land of 3 countries in the southern hemisphere. These three countries are New Zealand, Chile and Argentina.

In New Zealand this line runs pass Central Otago, north of Queenstown and Omaru. The background of this plaque is Lake Dunstan. If you reach this point, I assume you can say you are halfway to the South Pole!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Strike a Pose

 This is our cat on the deck – I think she is just happy.


She loves sunny spots around the house and practicing her funny poses. Who knows, she might be contemplating joining Cirque du Soleil someday.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Crabmeat Fried Rice

Crabmeat fried rice is all time favourite for my family in Thailand. We usually have it with Hot & Sour Tom Yam Soup as they are such a perfect pair.

To serve 2 you will need:
1 can of crabmeat, drained (or ¾ - 1 cup of freshly cooked crabmeat if you are lucky)
1 ½ cups of cooked Jasmine rice (leftover from the day before is better)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 onion, thinly sliced
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 spring onion, chopped
2 tablespoons coriander leaves
1 tablespoon Oyster sauce
1-2 tablespoons of soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 lime/lemon, cut into wedges
1 medium tomato or 1/2 cucumber, sliced

Fried onion in a wok over medium high heat for one or two minutes, add garlic and turn until fragrant. Add eggs on one side and spread over the surface until half cooked before stirring to combine with onion and garlic. Add crabmeat, oyster sauce, soy sauce and sugar. Stir well and cook for further 2 minutes before adding rice. Turn to combine – taste your rice and add more seasoning if needed. Add chopped spring onion and pepper. Remove from heat. Serve with a wedge of lime or lemon and sliced tomato or cucumber.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Agility Class 101 Part 2

Our micro-dog has had to redo her agility class 101 again. Out of 5 dogs in previous class, only one passed the exam. So here she has met a couple of her old class-mates. This time she has done much better and will advance to intermediate.

This is her class mate from obedient class 2 years ago. Rocky is now in intermediate agility class and has earned a few ribbons from competitions in micro/mini class so Bonnie will be in the same agility course from now on (until he advances to senior class, that is).

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Elephant Hill Winery – Hawke’s Bay

We watched MasterChef New Zealand featuring Hawke’s Bay a fortnight ago. The contestants had to cook off on the barbecue at the beautiful and picturesque Elephant Hill Winery.

The show reminded me of our trip to Napier 2 years ago (with Bonnie – it was her first long distant ride). We stayed with friend at her lovely home on Hospital Hill. Debbie took us to Elephant Hill Winery’s restaurant for lunch. Her family’s business was involved in this winery’s building construction a few years back. We browsed the menu and Bob was keen on their liver pate with salad but the dressing was walnut dressing (walnuts and Bob do not mix!) so we asked if he could have dressing without nuts. No problems, one of the girls told us and assured Bob that the Chef would do whatever he could to cater to his nut-free requirement.

When our food arrived - they also served our bread in separate baskets to make sure that there was no contamination in his. It was nice to see that they paid attention to details. Well done you!