Friday, August 31, 2012

Café Landscape

New Zealand has progressed in leaps and bound with café industry in the last 10 years – coffee shops serving freshly brewed coffee popping up everywhere like mushrooms. You can even find brewed coffee from the kiosks in some rest areas. The lovely retro-look coffee kiosk above is in Auckland Airport.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Easy Hainanese Style Chicken Rice (ข้าวมันไก่พลัดถิ่น)

Hainanese Style Chicken Rice is one of the firm favourite street food dishes for my family back home. I craved for this dish last week. I had chicken and rice but not all the ingredients so I had to use whatever available in the larder but it turned out surprisingly nice and I was so happy. The recipe below is enough for 2.

2 Chicken Breasts, boneless, skin on
A pot of water
2 slices of ginger
Rinse chicken breasts well in cold water and rub with a bit of salt (about 1/4-1/2 tsp). Boil the water in a pot – throw in a slice or 2 of ginger. Blanch chicken breasts in boiling water and lift 4-5 times to seal then reduce the heat to simmer and poach the chicken until cooked through (about half an hour). Skim the scum off from time to time. When the chicken breats are cooked, turn off the heat but leave the chicken in the hot water for another 10 minutes or so then lift and rest. Brush the skin with a little bit of oil. Save about 2 cups of cooking liquid to cook rice.

1 cup long grain rice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ tsp salt
1 3/4 cups chicken stock
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 slices of ginger
Mix rice with oil, garlic and ginger – add salt and chicken stock. You can cook rice in the microwave 5 minutes on high and 15 minutes on half power. Stand for 5 minutes and fluff up the rice. If you have a rice cooker, it will be a lot easier -  just make sure that you add stock a little bit higher than the mark (about half way to the higher mark) so that the rice will be properly cooked. I used rice cooker to cook mine.

3 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 slices of ginger, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
2-3  peri peri chillies or 1 red chilli, chopped
Juice of one lime or lemon
Mix all the above ingredients together in a bowl and it's done!.

On the Side
Cucumber, sliced
2-3 coriander leaves to garnish

Top the rice with chopped chicken. Serve with cucumber and sauce. We normally have chicken cold and rice lukewarm, sometimes at room temperature.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Purple Cloud Glass for August

My cloud glass on display this month is purple. The photographer just had his usual camera back from the ‘hospital’ last week so he kindly tested it on these Davidson’s pieces. The big comport was bought on the phone by the photographer as a gift for me for our first wedding anniversary (ages ago). How sweet:)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Almost Yin Yang

Bonnie and Pipi share the couch. They have been quite close but not yet that close that they will snuggle up to each other. Bonnie might want to but the cat thinks otherwise….

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Milo Biscuits

I have adapted this recipe from original JessGarfield’s recipe.

120 gr butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 ¾ cup plain flour
1 ½ tea spoon baking powder
A pinch of salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup Milo

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and Milo together in a bowl and set aside.

Beat butter & sugar together until creamy then add egg and vanilla extract – beat until combined. Fold in the flour mixture.

At this point I like to rest my biscuit dough in the freezer for about 15 minute to make it easy to handle. Scoop one teaspoon of the dough at a time and roll it into a ball – wet you hands and the spoon first so the dough does not stick. Place the balls on the (cooking) paper lined baking sheet. Flatten them with the back of a fork and bake for about 13 -15 minutes.

This portion will yield 38-40 biscuits. I usually bake half at a time and shape the remaining dough into a log with cling film and freeze it for the following week. You can slice the frozen dough into rounds about ¾ cm thick.    

Monday, August 20, 2012

Wet, Wet, Wet

Our lawn has never been so soggy. This winter there seems to be a lot of water. Bonnie’s agility class has been cancelled until the ground is not a swamp. Bromeliads seem to love this wet weather and produce a lot of pups this year. I will have to dig the big, old ones out and replace with the pups.


Our grasses seem to love it too and I will have to cull them back again when it stops raining – I don’t know when!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Auckland Skyline - Day & Night

Auckland has nice and long waterfront including around city centre.  Auckland city has not been renowned for its public friendly waterfront but there has been some improvement with the development of Wynyard Quarter’s North Wharf just before the Rugby World Cup last September. Auckland skyline, nevertheless, is always a breath taking scene from afar aka North Shore.


At night, the Sky Tower (which is part of SKYCITY Complex) looks much better – even majestic with all the lights. It is 325 metres tall and on very windy days, it will be closed to public. I understand why – I had dinner in the restaurant up there once on one rather breezy night and man, did it sway!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sweet Chilli Sauce (น้ำจิ้มไก่)

I have been making my own sweet chilli sauce over the past couple of years as the store bought ones are a little bit too sweet for us. When I was little back in Thailand (yonks and yonks ago), we always had our grilled chickens (Thai style) with two or three kind of sauces and sweet chilli sauce was one of them. Sweet chilli sauce in those days was not very sweet. In my view, it was a kind of mild sauce yet still potent (the other sauce was much hotter).

I looked up on google but didn't find one perfect recipe - so I have thrown in several recipes together and the result does not turn out too badly - it's actually quite flavourful.

I often make the sauce in big batch (2 to 3 portions) as it keeps for quite a while when you have your jars/bottles sterilised properly and give some away to friends and neighbours. Bob and Barbara like this sauce but some other friends don't - they say it's not sweet enough! So I suggest you taste as you go before adding the corn flour. If the chillies you use are very hot please adjust the amount of chillies according to their heat and your preference. If you don't have fresh chillies, you can also use chilli mince which is readily available in jars in any good supermarket.Some Thais even use dried chilli flakes but the sauce will be quite dark. If you use chilli flakes, don't be too heavy handed -it can be very, very hot indeed.

2 large cloves of garlic (New Zealand grown one is more potent)
2 -3 red chillies (adjust the amount according to the heat of the chillies) or half a jar of store bought chilli mince (150 gr jar).
¾ cup white sugar
Edit: 1/2 cup white sugar*
¾ cup water
½ cup white vinegar
½  tsp salt
1 tsp Sri Racha/Tabasco/ Kaitaia Fire for colour and staying power
2 tsp corn flour

Chop or blitz chillies and garlic to medium fine (add a bit of water or vinegar if you use blender). Put water, sugar, vinegar and salt in the saucepan on low heat until sugar and salt dissolve. Bring to the boil before adding garlic and chilli mixture (otherwise garlic will turn blue if it is not hot enough). Reduce to simmer after 5 minutes and add Tabasco/Sri Racha/Kataia Fire. Simmer for 15-20 more minutes, stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens up a bit. Mix corn flour with a little bit of water and add the mixture to the sauce. Stir quickly and thoroughly to combine. Let it simmer a little bit longer until the flour is well cooked and the sauce thickens. Pack in sterilised jars.

(Note: Apologies for the inconvenience. The sugar should be only 1/2 cup unless you want the sauce quite sweet).

Monday, August 13, 2012

Doing Dental

Our Pipi had to check in at the vet’s for her dental last Wednesday. They had to extract one of her canines  and two other lower teeth (I am sure she would be deeply disturbed and possibly disgusted if she knew that they called her big beautiful feline teeth 'canine teeth'!) This upper canine had been dead ages ago before she came to live with us and they just got it out in time before the serious problems would develop.

The poor darling was not happy the first night but she ate a bit and had received much attention and affection that she might not need (Leave me alone – humans. I’m having a sore mouth and not in the mood!) She stayed outside quite a lot but came in late at night to sit on Daddy’s lap while he was watching the Olympics. She was prescribed an anti-inflammatory medication to help her cope with the aching in her mouth but she did not like the smell and she didn’t look like she’s in pain.

She was much better the day after and almost the same pesky self. She ate a lot more and basked in the sun with Nurse Bonnie. To keep her teeth and gum healthy, our vet suggests chicken necks and lamb shanks (she has had chicken necks from time to time but we have never tried lamb shanks). I hope that she will feel much happier this week – her quality of life will be much better for sure while our wallets is not quite as it still feels much ouchie from the vet’s bill.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Tongariro’s Eruption

It might be on the news all over the world now that Mt Tongariro has erupted again on Monday after 115 years. The eruption has seen the ash sent down to the west. Hawkes Bay seems to cop it quite a bit. The picture above is from NASA’s Earth Observatory and you can see the ash plume heading toward Napier.

This eruption seems quite small compare to Mt Ruapehu’s eruptions in 1995 - 1996. We lived down in Wellington back then and were about to move to Auckland so we drove up and down several times to look for the house that could accommodate our Thai dogs and once were forced to take a detour (longer and more winding) route back to Wellington because of the volcanic ash.

We are also now living very close to a large volcanic crater but it is very, very old that all the lava was long gone southward so it is very unlikely we will have any eruption any day soon. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Vine Tomato Tart – Easy Does It

I made this tart when I had some short crust pastry leftover the other day. Once the frozen pastry is thawed it should be used within 2-3 days. This one does not have strict measurements of ingredients – just go by how you feel and how you like. It’s good as starter (for 2) or light meal (for 1).

What you need are:
Thawed ready rolled short crust pastry sheet, enough to line 10 cm x 20 cm baking tin with a cm up the sides (I buy them in a packet of 5 - 22 cm x 22 cm sheets)

Grated cheddar cheese (about ½ cup)

Sliced vine tomatoes (about 2 medium tomatoes)

Ham, julienned ( about a tablespoon)

Sea salt, Ground Black Pepper and dried oregano or fresh basil leaves if you have them at hand

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C with the baking sheet in the oven.

Line the tin with baking paper and then line with pastry sheet and cover about 1 cm up each side. Place half the cheese evenly on the pastry, follow with ham. Arrange tomato slices on top of the cheese and sprinkle with sea salt and the rest of the cheese. Add a dash of freshly ground black pepper and oregano. Place the tin in the oven on hot baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. 

Serve warm.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Krishnan’s Dairy

I went to see Krishnan’s Dairy by Indian Ink Theatre Company  at Q Theatre in Auckland last Wednesday night with one of my friends, Wendy. Wendy’s partner could not make it so she asked me to go with her (I was destined to experience a wonderful show).

This is the excerpt from their website:

 Krishnan's Dairy takes two of the most universal Indian clichés - the Taj Mahal and the corner store - and fuses them into a funny and touching love story. Gobi and Zina Krishnan have moved to New Zealand in search of a better life for themselves and their child. They work hard and keep their dreams stacked on the shelves of their struggling business - Krishnan's Dairy. Woven into their story is the epic tale of the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world and an enduring testament to the love of one man for his wife. A love story unfolds behind the counter with hilarious and deeply moving consequences for the hopeful, vulnerable lives of this immigrant shopkeeper and his wife.”

You’ve got the idea? And this entire story was told through just one actor with several masks for each character over the period of 75 minutes. The actor, Jacob Rajan, did not only play 4 characters (the dairy owner, his wife, Shahjehan and Mumtaz Mahal) but also sang and played guitar (a take on ballad) on stage and he was brilliant.

I am not a big fan of stage plays but I enjoyed Krishnan’s Dairy very much even having to walk from the car park to the theatre and back thorough the rain did not seem that bad.

It’s for limited season and finished on Sunday but I certyainly will keep checking their website for the next show.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Please Look at my Table Setting before Eating

I like setting the table for occasions. The above is for dinner with our friends from the west. It does look nice with a bit of layering (I look up the net for inspiration quite often). However, my food will not always be served in that order of the setting (it rarely is) and most of the time I do not bother with it (layering). With this kind of setting, I have to make sure that the guests see it before I remove the top layers – what will be the point otherwise?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cornish-ish Pasties (not made in Cornwall)

Will the EU allow me to call my Cornish Pasties Cornish Pasties when they are not made in Cornwall? To avoid ambiguity as they are a tweaked version anyway and made by a Thai here in my kitchen in New Zealand, I will call them Cornish-ish Pasties (Cornish-style Pasties will sound a bit too commercial).

My pasty filling is chicken not beef mince and I cook it first, of course, in my old faithful wok. For 4 pasties you will need:

200 grams skinless chicken meat (thigh meat is better for this – don’t scream at me that it’s not beef, it’s a tweaked version and we just had beef for dinner the day before), cubed
1 Potato, peeled and cubed
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
½ Onion chopped
¼ cup chicken stock
¼ Tsp mustard powder
Salt & pepper to taste
2 sheets savoury short crust pastry
1 egg, beaten

Pre-heat the oven to 210 degrees C.
Par-boil potato cubed with water to just cover the potato in the microwave on high for 2-3 minutes. Fry onion in a little bit of oil on medium high heat until soft. Add chicken and turn until cooked then add mixed vegetables, potato, mustard and stock. Mix well and cook further until the water has been absorbed and potato is well cooked. Add seasoning to taste. Leave to cool.
Cut the pasty sheets into 4 15-16 cm rounds. I use saucer as a guide. You will have to piece the remnants from the first 2 rounds together to make the 3rd and 4th, glue them with a bit of water and roll to smooth the seams. Divide the chicken mixture in each round of pastry. Brush the edge with egg and shape the pastry round into half circle. Press the edges together and pinch to seal and make wavy edge. Brushed the pasties with egg wash and bake for 10-15 minute before reducing the heat to 190. Bake further for 20 minutes.

Pasties are better when cold (according to Bob) but I like mine warmish with a bit of tomato sauce.