Monday, July 30, 2012

Waitangi Falls

This candy floss of water is part of Waitangi Falls in Waiuku, about 45 minutes south of Auckland. One of the earliest flax mills was set up here by the settlers. It is now a popular spot for locals and visitors and in summer a number of people actually swim here in the water hole. However, Waitangi Falls don’t look best in summer when the water is not plenty. We have very wet winter this year and this is when the falls are glorious. You can read more about Waitangi Falls from Franklin’s website here.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Cloud Glass for July

Cloud glass this month is green. My most favourite one of the lot is the hexagonal posy bowl. This set is complete with plinth and frog. The squat bowl is the photographer's favourite. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Eccles Cakes

This post is a guest post from Bob's aunt, Olive, who lives in Canada so it is in Imperial but I have conversions in the brackets. I have never heard of Eccles Cakes before but Bob has a vague memmory about them and tells me they contain sultanas and dried fruits. Olive kindly sent the recipe and the photo for this blog. I am sure that if she could also send the real things she would. The recipe yields 12 cakes.

"Eccles was a town in the north of England, now incorporated into Greater Manchester. They were the result of 2 rival bakers trying to prove their supremacy. They originated in the late 1700’s & are sold throughout England. Bob probably remembers them.

They are sweet so I reduced the amount of sugar slightly. Plus I was not able to get mixed peel at this of the year so substituted mixed candied fruit.

It tastes similar-contains diced candied citron, I think. As you may guess from the recipe, the overall taste is similar to mince pies. I don’t know anybody who makes their own puff pastry when it is so easy to buy frozen, so they are simple to make.

Eccles Cakes:
1 tblsp soft unsalted butter
4 tblsp soft light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon  
1/2 cup dried currants
1/4 cup mixed peel 
1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
Zest of 1/2 orange
1 lb (about 400 grams) puff pastry
1 medium egg
Flour for dusting 
Small amount fine sugar to sprinkle

Mix all the filling ingredients together.

Roll out pastry to about 1/8 inch (about 3 mm) thick. Using cutter about 4” (10 cm) cut out 12 disks.

Place 1 heaped tsp of filling in the center of each disk. Brush edges with slightly beaten egg & draw pastry together to make a purse, squeezing tightly to seal.

Using the palm of your hand, flatten each cake until you can see the currants through the pastry. Place on a baking sheet, sealed side down. Brush with more beaten egg, sprinkle with sugar. Using a sharp knife make 3 parallel cuts on the top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes till the pastry is golden. Cool on a wire rack.


Note: Bake in 425 deegrees F or 220 degrees C pre-heated oven.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Poppy Again

Remember Poppy? She is my friend’s granddaughter born prematurely nearly a year ago. She is now thriving and growing cuter and cuter every day. At 11 months, she is trying to walk and talk.
You have come a long way from your incubator, Baby!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Sister Love

Bonnie and Pipi are basking in the sun together. I am sure Bonnie will love to snuggle up to the cat but I doubt it if Pipi will like the idea.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My Dad's Stir Fried Vegetables & Bean Vermicelli (ผัดจับฉ่ายของพ่อ)

My father has been bed-bound for a few years now from dementia. When he was younger and well, he loved to cook for us from time to time. This is one of his signature dishes. His one would have more ingredients but here I have to improvise with whatever we have. It is a complete meal in itself and if you are a vegetarian – just omit the meat and add fried tofu.

For 2 people you will need.
80 grams Bean Vermicelli, soaked in water until soft and cut into manageable length
1 Carrot, slice thinly
1/4 Chinese Cabbage or about 400-500 grams, chopped to about 7-8 cm long
1 cup Button Mushrooms (you can use ear mushrooms which are better for this dish)
½ Onion, sliced lengthwise
4 cloves of Garlic, crushed
200 grams Chicken, chopped
100 grams Prawns, chopped
2 tablespoons Soy sauce
2 tablespoons Oyster Sauce
4 tablespoons water
White Pepper

Dad would have included sliced young bamboo shoots and quartered fish balls so feel free to add them to this dish if you can get them from your Asian grocery.

Mix soy sauce, oyster sauce and water in a jug.

Fry crushed garlic in a bit of oil (wok is best for this dish) until golden, add chicken and fry further until the chicken is cooked through. Add prawns and turn a few times then add mushrooms and ass half of the sauce mixture. Lift from the wok and set aside.

Add a little bit more oil to the same wok and fry onion until soft. Add carrot and stir for 2 to 3 minutes and add Chinese cabbage and cook until soft. Add bean vermicelli and the rest of soy sauce mixture, stir well. If the vermicelli is not soft enough (no al dente for bean vermicelli) add a little bit more water.

When the vermicelli is cooked and soft, add cooked chicken & prawns. Turn well to combine. Sprinkle with white pepper and serve warm. You can also garnish with celery leaves.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Franklin Night Sky

Our small town in Franklin is getting bigger and bigger every day. The town is expanding further and further away from the main drag. With increasing population, along come new stores and fast food chains.  Just a few weeks ago we have a new Burger King popping up down the road. And as rumour has it we are going to have Burger Fuel here very soon.

I am not a fast food fan but I am not a food snob either. It is good that there will be more employments in the town.  However, we still do not have a big city style night life. After 10.00, it tends to be a bit quiet and on a clear night and we still can see the stars up in the sky from our deck.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Slow Cooked Pork Belly – Asian Style


I love this dish but I should not have it too often as it has high fat content but believe me it is very yummy. I nicked the recipe from my friend, Karen, who is an accomplished cook but I have tweaked it quite a bit (as usual). This portion will be enough for 2.

900 g Pork Belly
A dash of salt
A dash of pepper
2 tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon Oyster Sauce 
2 teaspoons sweet dark soy sauce  
500 ml Chicken Stock
1 Red Chilli
1 Cinnamon Stick
4 Star Anise
4 slices Ginger
4 Cloves of Garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil


1.       Heat oil in a wok
2.       Rub pork belly with a bit of salt & pepper and brown in the wok, skin side down first.
3.       Mix soy sauce, 1 tbsp dark soy sauce and oyster sauce with stock, chilli, cinnamon, star anise, ginger and garlic in a slow cooker.
4.       Add pork, skin side up and cook on low for 6 hours
5.       Remove pork from slow cooker, drain, cover and rest for about an hour. Reserve 400 ml of cooking liquid.
6.       Slice the pork and place in the baking dish. Pre heat the oven to 180 Degrees C
7.       Reduce the cooking liquid to about 2/3 and season with the rest of dark soy sauce (you might not need to- just taste first) and pour over the pork.
8.       Cover the baking dish with foil and stick it in the oven for about 20 minutes or until warm through.
9.       Serve with steamed rice and stir fried greens or vegetable fried rice.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

South Island Dogs

On our trip south we came across this little cutie tied up on the porch of a small tea room somewhere on the way to Christchurch.

This softie was on the pick up truck waiting for his master at Allan Scott's Winery in Blenheim where we had a yummy lunch and the most beautiful poached pear (for me).

Monday, July 9, 2012

Christchurch Then and After the Quake

This is one of the reasons we are glad we drove down south 10 years ago – we went to Christchurch and had a wonderful time. We were there in Cathedral Square and enjoyed the splendour of this iconic church. 


This is Cathedral Square and what is left of the church after the 2011 quake. This picture is by Michael Fox for The Dominion Post.

Back then we stayed at a very nice B&B, The Hambledon which, sadly, has also been affetced by the quakes and is not receiving guests at present. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Road Trip to South Island and Crossing Cook Strait on a Ferry

I have just found this set of old pictures in our file and thought I should write something about it to preserve our good memory.

We had our driving trips to South Island nearly 10 years ago in late spring. And although the ferry crossing was not that terrific, the whole trip was marvellous and worthwhile. We drove from Auckland to Wellington and took the ferry across Cook Strait from Wellington to Picton. It was the last passenger ferry over the period of 5 or 6 days. We were supposed to go across the following morning but the people at InterIslander rang us while we were approaching Wellington to inform us they had to cancel all the passenger ferries over the next few days as the sea condition was too rough. They put us on the waiting list for the last ferry that afternoon and we were among the last five cars that they let on board. I nearly died when I saw the huge waves and the ferry as big as it was rocked quite a bit. I felt sick so it was not a good experience.  When we approached Marlborough Sounds   the sea was much calmer. Sea-sickness was forgotten – the Marlborough Sounds were breathtaking. It looked much better than in the picture. This was 10 years ago and the quality of both the camera and the photographer were not quite yet advance :)


This lonely seagull must have felt a bit sick and tired as well.


We spent an unexpected night in Picton and drove to Nelson the next day via the scenic route along Queen Charlotte Sound which is part of the Marlborough Sounds. We had lunch in Nelson at the Boat Shed Cafe  By the way, on this road trip we used Frodor’s Travel & Restaurant Guide (in print in those days) and tried to go to the recommended eateries in each town when possible so it was culinary as well as scenic tour.


While staying in West Coast we went to Shanty Town, the Heritage Park that has been created to replicate an old West Coast town for tourist attraction.


The highlight of our trip on this side of the Southern Alps had to be Franz Josef Glacier.   We chose to take a one hour walk (Douglas Walk) although Bob was tempted to take a helicopter ride. It was an amazing experience being up close to the huge glacier. 

The Southern Alps.


Marlborough Sounds on the way back to North Island. The sky was open and the weather was much better than the previous leg and the ferry ride was more enjoyable.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Thai Fishcakes

These fishcakes are easy to make. If you have a good rangehood or a deep fryer you can make them any time – otherwise it might be best to cook them when the weather is warmer so that you can open all the windows in the kitchen as the cooking smell can be quite overwhelming.

600 grams Firm Fish such as Tarakihi (Ocean Bream) or Trevally
1 egg, lightly beaten
100 grams long beans or green beans, thinly sliced
7 kaffir lime leaves, thinly julienned
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Thai Red Curry paste
1 ½  tablespoons Fish Sauce
Oil for deep frying

Place the fish in the food processor and blitz with salt until smooth. Add egg, curry paste and fish sauce and process a little bit more until combined. Transfer the fish mixture to a bowl and add beans and kaffir lime leaves and fold to combine. Use a teaspoon (use tablespoon if you like a larger size) to scoop up the mixture and form in to mini pattie with your hands (it will be easier if you wet you hands first) and deep fry in batch on medium heat. Use bamboo skewer to thread the cooked ones on. Drained them on the plate lined with paper towels. Serve warm or at room temperature with Cucumber Sauce.

Cucumber Sauce
1 cucumber, peeled, quartered and sliced
½ cup sweet chilli sauce
2 teaspoons pine nuts, toasted
Pour sweet chilli sauce over sliced cucumber before serving. Laced with pine nuts or crushed peanuts.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Cloud Glass for June

Please forgive me my cloud glass enthusiast readers – I know it’s July but I could not produce the picture of my June show pieces until last Saturday due to lack of light and time of our main photographer. These are a group of comports in different colour. Actually, the real comport is the boring brown, the smaller, brighter coloured ones are powder/trinket boxes and many of them come with their lids. The brown comport still has its (tattered)‘Made in England’  label on it.

My July cloud glass should be here this month – I promise I will talk to the man in charge!