Friday, June 29, 2012

Southern Alps Lupins

Lupins on the roadside 10 years ago on the way from West Coast across the Southern Alps to Christchurch.


Lupins up-close on Queenstown-Arrowtown route last year. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Baking Queen’s Savoury Scones

Barbara (aka The Baking Queen) is not only my neighbour but also a dear friend. She is a good cook but her specialty is baking. She bakes all sort of wonderful things from savoury scones and quiches to chocolate profiteroles and smidgen cupcakes and send them over the fence for Bob and I (I’m quite certain that she gets commission from our local gym!) One of my favourites is her savoury scones.

2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
1 tbsp of butter (approx.) or about 20 grams
1 tbsp each of bacon, tomato, onion, capsicum, parsley (all chopped) and grated cheddar cheese
Cracked black pepper
½ cups of milk

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C
Mix flour with baking powder and salt and rub butter into the mixture until it resembles bread crumbs.
Add chopped bacon, tomato, onion, capsicum, parsley, grated cheese and pepper (to taste). Add milk and mix together gently with your finger tips until it forms into soft dough.
Gather the dough and pat it down on the floured surface about 2-3 cm thick. Cut into wedges or square or cut into small rounds with ring cutter if you fancy. Glaze with extra milk and bake for 15-20 minutes.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Queenstown Revisit Part 10– Glenochy

Glenochy  certainly is a paradise for outdoorsy people.  It is about 45 kilometres from Queenstown. The activities that you can do here include hunting, fishing and paragliding, to name just a few. Adventures through the lens are also good – Bob had enjoyed photography in and around Glenochy on our last full day in Queenstown (we were flying home the nest day).

Friday, June 22, 2012

Crumbed Pork Chops –Cookshop Style ( ซี่โครงหมูอบ )

Another cookshop style dish – can go with either rice, mash or bread rolls. When I was in Bangkok in September last year, I had been to Foo Mui Kee Restaurant, Rama 9 Rd for this dish.
My recipe below is quite close to theirs or it is at least what I think!

For 2 people, you’ll need
2 pork chops (650 grams), skin removed
Salt & Pepper to taste
500 ml chicken stock
A dash or 2 of Maggi Sauce (optional)
A dash or 2 of Lee & Perrins (or any Worcester Sauce)
1 cup frozen peas
3 tablespoon plain flour
1 ½ teaspoons corn flour
1 egg
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
Vegetable oil for frying

Season pork chops with salt and pepper and brown them in the pan on both sides with a little bit of oil. Place them in the slow cooker and add 300 ml of chicken stock and cook on low for about 5 hours. You can use the stove top method and simmer them for about an hour – keep checking that there is enough liquid to just cover the chops at all time. 

Lift the meat and leave to cool on a plate– reserve the cooking liquid. When cool, pat them dry before coating them with plain flour. Beat the egg and add a little bit of water. Dip the chops in the egg mixture and then in breadcrumbs until well coated. Rest the crumbed chops in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before shallow frying until golden brown. Place the chops on absorbent paper.

Strain the cooking liquid and add more chicken stock to make up to 450 ml (you might not need this if you cook the chops on stove top) – season with Maggi sauce, Worcester sauce and pepper and taste, add more seasoning or diluted with water if needed. Mix corn flour with 2 tablespoons of water. Bring the cooking liquid to the boil, add frozen peas and bring back to the boil again before adding corn flour mixture. Stir quickly until combine and cook a bit further until the liquid thickened. Slice the pork chops and place in a deep dish- pour the gravy over the meat and serve warm with your favourite carb. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bonnie’s got Fringe

Burrowing under the sofa blanket, she emerges at the foot end with fringe.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Queenstown Revisit Part 8– The Gondola


As I posted early on that we had a cold snap when we were in Queenstown. With the cold also came the wind so we had to wait for the day that was not too windy to ride a Skyline’s gondola up the hill to Bob’ Peak. It was not for my sake but for Bob’s photography’s.


We rode the gondola half a kilometre up the steep hill to the station on the Peak and had a good panoramic view of Queenstown down below.


And while Bob was out on the lookout balcony to take pictures, I chose to stay in the warmth of the coffee shop and enjoyed the view from inside.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Dinner for One - Thai Cookshop Style Stir Fried Penne ผัดมักกะโรนีสไตล์กุ๊กชอป

When I was young, my favourite eating places were restaurants with Chinese cooks cooking both Chinese and Western style food (of course, with Asian twists). Our family had frequented several of them. We call this style of restaurants ‘Cookshops’. They are still a few cookshop style restaurants dotting around Bangkok but they are not easy to find – some old restaurants have moved around so you have to be a bit of a die-hard fan to follow and track them down. 

Their typical menus include Beef Fillet Salad (สลัดเนื้อสัน), Pork Chops (ซี่โครงหมูอบ), Chicken Wings in Red Sauce (ปีกไก่เหล้าแดง), Ox Tongue Stew (สตูว์ลิ้นวัว), Prawn Balls with Chinese Mustard Greens (ลูกชิ้นกุงผัดโสภณ)  – these are just a few to give you an idea.

This stir fried penne is also one of our favourite dishes (they use macaroni – but I substitute with penne). When he was younger my brother was an avid cook – and he cooked this dish quite often.  I think I get all the ingredients quite right more or less.

For 1 person, you’ll need
1 cup penne, cooked to al dente, reserve about ½ cup of cooking water
100 grams chicken, sliced
3-4 prawns (I use shelled frozen prawns), optional
½ onion, sliced thickly
1 spring onion chopped to 5 cm long, both white and green parts
1 tomato, quartered
1 egg, beaten lightly
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
1 teaspoon Sri Racha sauce (I use Thai version)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Oil for frying
Salt & pepper to taste
A dash of Maggi Sauce (optional)

Mix tomato sauce, chilli sauce, soy sauce in a bowl .Heat oil in the wok on medium high heat, fry chicken pieces until cooked, add tomato and onion. Stir fry for 1-2 minutes then add tomato sauce mixture. Stir to combine and add prawns and cover the wok for 2-3 minutes. Push the mixture to one side and add egg on another side until half set. Stir again to combine. Add penne, a bit of pasta cooking water (half to start with, add more if you like your pasta a bit softer), season with salt and pepper. Add spring onion and cook 1 minute further until the green bits wilt. Remove from heat and serve with a dash of Maggi sauce.

Note: If you don’t have prawns or don’t fancy them, just omit or substitute with sliced chorizo or frankfurter.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hello Cutie Kitty

This is Ginger – Kerryn’s kitten. Kerryn is my dear friend Barbara’s sister. She has a lovely big home newly built in the country and I visited her last month with Barbara.


When we were in the living room soaking in the warm sun came this little mewling. This gorgeous little kitten was curious who was speaking English with funny accent in her domain. Kerryn kept an eye on me when I scooped this cutie up in my arms since she still remembered that one of Babara’s cats decided to defect to our house which is next door to hers 4 years ago. Honestly, it could not be my fault - I was never a cat person until Pipi came into my life (at her own volition, of course:). It is just that I have a soft spot for dogs and cats and I could not help giving Pipi some cheese and cuddles when she meowed at me on the fence back then.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Postcard from Tuakau



Tuakau  is a small township south of Auckland (the late Sir Edmund Hillary was schooled here in this town when he was a boy). It used to be part of the Franklin District but for some reasons Franklin has been merged with greater Auckland at the end of 2010 while Tuakau has been included as part of Waikato.

Tuakau Bridge was built in 1933 over Waikato River linking River Road with Port Waikato and Highway 22. It is a reinforced concrete Arch bridge only 210 metres long. The bridge has become one of the landmarks for this area.  

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Talented Ms Bonnie

Bonnie now can balance a piece of treat on her nose while in begging position. She can flick and catch it in mid air too. She is so food driven indeed!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Queenstown Revisit Part 7 – Arrowtown

Arrowtown is a small town about half an hour drive from Queenstown. It was established during the Otago Gold Rush period in the 1860’s. You can read more about Arrowtown’s rich history (literally indeed) here.  The main drag (Buckingham Street) is quite cute with shops in the old small buildings. I bought a packet of pain-killer from this pharmacy when we were there. They even have Thai restaurant here but we didn’t drop in as still quite full from late breakfast.


In the old-style sweet shop The Remarkable Sweet Shop, their shelves are packed with sweet treats.


Another attraction is the old Chinese Gold Miners’ Village with well preserved cottages. This is where Chinese immigrants created their own accommodations and facilities.


The Arrow River – where once laced with gold.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Shotokeki – Japanese Style Strawberry Shortcake

This is a guest post from my cousin Bow in Italy. She is a marine scientist and married to a Japanese gentleman who is working in the international agency in Rome. She is expecting a child (a girl - any day soon) but still has a lot of energy to make beautiful yummy looking things like this cake.

"I decided to make this cake because all pastries in Rome are way too sweet, which I personally don't like it. I prefer the way that Japanese create their own version of cakes and reduce a large amount of sugar. The combination of light sponge cake, strawberry, whipped cream, and a hint of rum syrup is absolutely gorgeous. More importantly, it is very easy to make! If you follow this recipe,*** you will fall in love with it."

Strawberry Shortcake (Birthday Cake Recipe)

Difficulty: medium
Time: 2 hours (6 hours or a day cooling time)
Number of servings: 1 cake

Necessary Equipment:
18cm (7.1-inch) round cake pan
electric mixer

((Sponge Cake))
2 eggs *room temperature
60g (2.1oz.) granulated sugar
60g (2.1oz.) cake flour
20g (0.7oz.) melted butter
20ml hot water
1/2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. rum *kirsch, brandy, or any kind of liquor you like
fresh strawberries
300ml fresh cream (heavy whipping cream)
1&1/2 tbsp. granulated sugar
a few drops vanilla extract
1 tbsp. rum *kirsch, brandy, or any kind of liquor you like

((Sponge Cake))
1. Line the round cake pan with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 170C (338F).
2. Beat eggs with wire whisk in a metal bowl. Mix sugar and place it over a bowl of hot water and melt the sugar and warm them up to body temperature. Then remove from the hot water and beat the batter on high speed with an electric mixer until white and fluffy. Then on low speed, beat for about a minute to set the texture.
3. Sift in flour little by little and gently cut through the mixture with wire whisk until somewhat combined. Then using spatula, sprinkle melted butter, and quickly lift up the batter to mix.
4. Pour the batter from heights of 11 inches (30 cm) into the pan (like ribbon) and drop the pan lightly on the counter to raise the air bubbles out of the batter.
5. Bake at 170C (338F) for 25 minutes.
6. Place a cutting board and a paper towel on a wire rack. Then place the cake pan upside down and cool with the pan on top.
8. When it's completely cool, wrap with plastic wrap and rest the sponge cake in the fridge for a few hours. *you can store it in the fridge for 2 to 3 days and decorate the cake when needed

1. Mix granulated sugar and hot water until dissolved. Then mix rum (if you like).

1. Combine fresh cream, granulated sugar, vanilla extract, and rum (if you like) in a dry, clean bowl. Float the bottom of the bowl in ice water, whisk the cream until it forms a soft peak.
2. Slice the sponge cake crosswise into 2 layers. Gently brush the sponge cake with syrup (brush all the surfaces which will be coated with cream).
3. Place one layer of the sponge cake on a plate. Coat the surface of the sponge cake evenly with the cream. Place cut strawberries over the creamed surface. Then coat again with the cream. Place another layer of sponge cake, and frost top and side with the cream. Garnish with strawberries.
4. Rest the cake in the fridge for 1 or 2 hours before you serve. In this way, you can easily cut the cake.
***Recipe and "How To" video from Ochikeron at COOKLABO.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Queenstown Revisit Part 6 – Gibbston Valley Cheesery

Kawarau Gorge Road from Cromwell to Queenstown turns into Gibbston Highway at some point and there lies Gibbston Valley or ‘Valley of Vines’.  There are several wineries in this area; many of them also have restaurant as well as cellar door and wine bar.

We are not such a wine drinker so we chose to do cheese tasting at Gibbston Valley Cheesery instead of wine tasting. We also discovered super yumlicious and sinful ice-cream here. Our favourite is “Dark Malt”.  It comes in small tub but full of flavour. We even contemplated coming back here the next day just for their ice-cream.