Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Holidays

I'd like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I will take a small break from this blog and be back in the new year with more stories and recipes to share.

If you are going away for holidays, travel safely. Talk to you again next year

Friday, December 20, 2013

Cat’s Food Hog

Spikey enjoys his dinner al fresco so we normally feed him on the front porch. The last few nights we have had an uninvited guest hogging on his food bowl. Bob said hello and it did not budge, just kept on crunching food. Spikey did not care either because he had enough food to share – or he would not want to get messy with the real spiky one.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Rotary Club 2014 Calendar

Our dentist belongs to the Rotary Club in our district and he knows that one of Bob’s hobbies is photography (a lot of his photos adorn the ceiling of our dentist’s practice). So when branch wanted to do 2014 calendars for fund raising, they asked if they could use some of Bob’s photos – of course, Bob said yes without hesitation.  He joked that the first time his photo was in the calendar he had to pay for it (SPCA’s 2012 calendar as part of their fund raising by way of entry fee for every photo submitted) and this second time round he did not have to pay and was even invited to the Club’s end of the year’s dinner so he’s quite pleased. And Bonnie also gets to be Miss January.

Out of 13 photos used in the calendar, 10 are his. These pictures are some of my favourites. From what I gather, the photograph of the lighthouse seems to be the most popular amongst the club members.

Thank you Rotary Club, for the opportunity to be part of this charity course.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Chicken Salad – Thai Style with Coconut Cream (One more way to deal with your leftover roast)

I remember when I was young, my grand aunt cooked several salad dishes using coconut milk in the dressing - something like wing bean salad and banana flower salad and sometimes grilled beef. So I think I should try that approach with left over roast.


2 cups of chicken/turkey shredded
1 tablespoon thinly sliced shallot or red onion
4-5 mint leaves, hand torn
1 teaspoon deep fried shallot (available at any good Asian groceries)
2 fried dry chilli, chopped in halves and deseeded  (optional)
2 teaspoons coriander leaves to garnish

Mix the first 3 ingredients together in a bowl. Pour the dressing over it and garnish with fried shallot, dried chilli and coriander leaves.


1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon shaved palm sugar
1 teaspoon fried chilli in oil (see here )*
3 tablespoons coconut cream

Mix the first 4 ingredients together in a jar. Shake well to combine. Before serving, warm coconut milk in microwave for 15-20 seconds and mix into the mixture in a jar. You can also add another tablespoon of coconut cream on top of the salad to garnish.

Bob says I can do this again anytime so it must be quite OK.

*Note: You can also reduce the amount of fried chilli - if you prefer it milder or use fried capisicum flakes just for colour and almost no heat.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Critter Crashes

It’s a puppy crash after a long walk on a hot Summer day. Bonnie loves her walkies more than anything (umm..maybe apart from food) but she is not tropicalised so when it's hot and sunny in the park, she dashes from shade to shade. When she comes back home she has to go off line for a wee while.

And it's a kitty crash after stalking and hassling me for attention for 2 minutes – must be quite a hard work for our old kitty!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Prawn and Chicken Bisque (More way to deal with your leftover roast)

It’s basically a soup thickened by potatoes and cauliflower with prawn meat blended into it to fit the definition of bisque (or sort of, as the original "Bisque" should be thickened with rice) – I like this soup warm with crusty French bread.

To serve 4 as a starter, you will need:

150 grams prawns, chopped
150 grams roast chicken/turkey meat (no skin), chopped or shredded
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
¼ head of cauliflower, chopped
1 litre of fish or chicken stock
50 grams bacon, chopped
½ onion, chopped
½ cup cream
A few drops of Chilli sauce
Salt & pepper to taste
Parsley or coriander, chopped to garnish

In a casserole, add a little bit of oil and fry prawns on medium high heat until cooked through and set aside in a bowl. In the same casserole, add bacon and onion and fry until the onion is soft then add potato and cauliflower. Fry briefly then add stock. Bring to the boil, add a little bit of chicken and prawns (1/4 portion of each), cover and reduce the heat – simmer for about 30 – 40 minutes.

When potato and cauliflower are well cooked and soft – remove the casserole from heat and let it cool down for a bit. Blend in blender and pour back into the casserole – bring the content back to simmer. Add the rest of the chicken, salt, pepper and chilli sauce. Add prawn meat (reserve a little bit for garnish) and cream at the end and stir to heat through, remove from heat. Divide the soup into bowls, sprinkle with prawn meat and chopped parsley. Serve warm.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Chaddelz in Newsham - New Kid in Town

My friend and neighbour, Barbara, has always wanted to run her own tearoom. In the last two months her dream has taken shape and the picture above was taken during the fitting out early last month. 


And this is when it’s done – with lovely red coffee machine and beautiful water dispenser.

The cabinet is lined with mouth watering selection of food and sweets. Sandwiches, pies, quiches are freshly made on the premises. She also stocks macarons, cheese and other French food products. Chaddelz in Newsham is at 47 Twomey Drive, Pukekohe. You can also see detail of this upmarket tearoom from its facebook

Friday, December 6, 2013

I can Kill with a flick of my Tail

This cat is a cutie. It has befriended Bob and Bonnie over their evening walks. Bob says it’s very soft and friendly – no claws or hisses when being picked up and cuddled.

With a gigantic tail like that, it does not need claws – it can kill with a flick of the tail, I think.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Vietnamese Style Chicken Salad (Another way to deal with your leftover roast)

It’s that kind of season again that we tend to buy more than we can eat. If you have leftover chicken or turkey and you don’t want to do pot pies because it is too hot, then you can do this Vietnamese salad. You can have it as a light meal or a side – if it’s for a side, you can omit rice noodles.

For 2, you will need:

For the salad
2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
1 carrot, grated
1 cup cooked rice noodles
1 cup roast chicken or turkey, sliced or shredded
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

For the dressing
2 tablespoons fish sauce
A bit of salt
1 tablespoon lime/lemon juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
½ red chilli, chopped (remove seeds if you cannot handle the heat)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 teaspoon chopped coriander leaves
A dash of oil (I use canola but you can also use peanut oil)

Soak noodles in water until soft then drain. Pour boiling water over the noodles, cover and stand for 5 to 10 minutes before draining. Cover with cold water so they stop cooking – this also prevents them sticking. Drain and cut into manageable length. Layer the ingredients except pine nuts into the bowl. Add salad dressing and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts

Mix all the ingredients except coriander leaves in a jar and shake to combine. Taste and add more seasoning id needed. Refrigerate until use. Add coriander leaves before pouring on to salad.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Midnight in the Garden

Our front garden after dark looks lively and enchanting with Bob’s light painting technique.

I borrow the heading of this post from the first half of the name of the 1997 film based on non-fiction novel – Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil starring Kevin Spacey, John Cusack and Jude Law (when he was not yet famous). We are Kevin Spacey’s fans so naturally think this film is good.

We have also watched the last episode of Spacey’s House of Card (remember FU or Francis Urquhart from the BBC’s series of the same name – FU was played by the late Ian Richardson ) not long ago. The American series is quite different but in the same flavour more or less and IMHO, Spacy is much more wicked than Richardson. Of course, Spacy is still FU but U is for Underwood as Urquhart might be too much of a British name. House of Cards makes The West Wing quite pale in comparison. But if you are The West Wing’s fan – you will also like House of Cards, if not more.

Sorry, I've got a bit carried away. Back to my garden - the plant on the right is Vireya Rhododendron - I have several of them and I think this one is called Captain Scarlet. On the left is a colony of Variegated Agapanthus "Tinkerbell". The palms are Nikau and the one with full bloom at the back is Australian Frangipani. In a warm night like this, frangipani smells gorgeous. We also have Star Jasmines in full bloom and they also smell wonderful at night so mine is a garden of good fragrance.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Rest & Ponder

Maybe this girl is thinking we should take her on the road again to one of the wine regions in this (old) mag (and Mum, while you are at it, don’t you think you should buy a new issue of Wine Country?)

When she was young we took her to Hawkes Bay with us to stay at a friend's in Napier and she was so good. She got along well with our friend's old dog. She rejuvenated him and added a few more months to his life. We are planning to take another road trip up north next year and thinking it might be fun to take her along. There are a lot of pet friendly accommodations around New Zealand – it is good like that here - so people can travel with their pets. She is well trained so it will not be a problem. She will love it I can imagine.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Beef Mince Kebabs and Roti with Mint Yogurt Sauce

Kebabs are supposed to go with Pita bread but you can also have a mixture of Middle-Eastern and Indian – depending on what you have in your fridge really. I do not have Pita bread at hands so I use roti instead and the end result is not too bad.

Yogurt Mint Sauce

200 mil Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 spring onion, chopped
1 teaspoon coriander leaves
½ green chilli, seeds removed
4-5 mint leaves, shredded

Blitz everything together and refrigerate.


350 grams beef mince
1 green chilli, seeds removed (leave some for a bit of a kick) and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves
1 tablespoon chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon cumin powder
Salt to taste

Add all the ingredients to the beef in a bowl, mix everything with your hands and divide into 4 portions. Form each portion  into sausage shape – drizzle with a bit of oil and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Cook beef kebabs in a thick skillet until brown on all sides and cooked through. Serve hot with salad, roti or warm Pita bread and mint yogurt sauce.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Japanese Teapot and Pu-er Tea

This one has also taken with Light Painting technique. I bought this Japanese teapot (well, it’s made in Japan although it looks more like Chinese teapot to me) from on-line auction for a song. Bob just polished the handle so it looks pretty again.

Bob has become a tea connoisseur of sort- he knows his Pu-er, shall we say. When he makes his tea, it’s a kind of little tea ceremony with timer to time the steeping. In the above photo, it also shows a bit of his favourite ‘Bingcha’ or tea disc as the tea leaves comes compressed in a round flat disc and you have to break and loosen the amount that you need to brew. Some come in bowl shape (Tuocha), some in mushroom shape (Jincha), or brick (Zhuancha) and so on. When I was young, tea leaves came in tins and small packets. I had never known until recently that tea leaves could be compressed in different shapes and sizes.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Tongue Wagging

The weather is a lot warmer now and the critters love to sun themselves in the back yard. Pipi like her spot on the bed of bark along the fence (when I re-barked this border the other day, I had to remove her twice).

It’s funny they roll their tongues out at the same time. Maybe they are trying to savour the sun or disinfect their tongues.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cupcakes with White Chocolate Frosting

You can use any recipe really – to suit your taste. My recipe is pretty basic and Bob likes it this way so I stick to it:

65 grams butter
½ cup caster sugar
½ cup milk
1 large egg, beaten lightly
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line cupcake tin with cupcake cases. This recipe makes about 10.

Sift flour with baking powder and salt and set aside.

Beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add egg and beat well then add vanilla. Add sifted flour alternately with milk – mix well after each addition – starting with flour and ending with flour. It will take 3 additions for flour and two for milk.

Divide the mixture into the cupcake cases and bake for about 20 minutes.

Leave to cool completely before adding the frosting.

White Chocolate Frosting
½ White Chocolate Buttons or Chocolate Melts
¼ cup cream

Heat the cream in the jug in microwave on high for 30 to 40 seconds. Remove the jus from the microwave and add chocolate buttons. Stir to combine. It will take a while before chocolate melts completely. Be patient!

If the cream boiled, rest it a bit first so we don’t scorch the chocolate. Leave to cool a little and rest in the fridge for 40 minutes to an hour. Beat the white chocolate until fluffy.  Use piping bag to pipe the frosting onto the cakes or just use spatula. The recipe for frosting should be enough for 10 cupcakes.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Light Painted Flowers

This bunch of flowers was given to me as a thank you gift from our neighbours for feeding their beloved cat when they were away a couple of weeks ago. It was photographed (by Bob, who else!) using Light Painting technique.  It looks more like a still-life painting – quite Baroque- esque, I think.

Friday, November 15, 2013

I’m the (baby) Walrus

Bonnie is breathing in sunshine in the park. If we taped her ears back she would look like a baby walrus, don't you think?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tracey’s Thai Style Coconut Rice

This is another recipe from Tracey. This coconut rice is very addictive even for carb averters – so please make sure you cook enough for everybody.

“Easy Coconut Rice (made in a Rice Cooker)
Makes 4 servings

2 cups Thai Jasmine-scented white rice
1 cup coconut milk (not lite)
2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt

Place all ingredients in a rice cooker and set to cook.

Once your rice cooker switches to "warm" mode, allow another 10 minutes
for rice to finish steaming.

Gently fluff with chopsticks before serving.”

If you have pandan leaves at hand, throw in  a piece or 2 (about 10 cm long) in with the rice – and a tablespoon of sugar in the coconut milk (dissolve the sugar in coconut milk first before adding to the rice) will not hurt either.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Jasmine Tea & Rum Raisin Chocolate

Bob has grown very fond of Chinese tea lately – his favourite is Pu-er. We call it Po-leh (which is Cantonese for Pu-er) in Thailand. I don’t drink Chinese tea that much here – in Thailand we drink Chinese tea with Chinese food and sometimes with sweet treats like sesame crisps or candied cool melon pieces. For anytime tea, my mother drinks bael tea – which is made from dried bael fruits. I like Pu-er but only after eating rich food as it’s too strong for my taste to be an any time, everyday tea. They say Pu-er is quite good for ‘washing away’ excess fat of food consumed and that’s why we have this kind of tea with meals. Anyway, I’m not a tea connoisseur – so I could not possibly comment.

Bob is kind to buy a bag of loose Chinese Jasmine Tea for me. It’s not very strong and quite aromatic. It’s refreshing to drink a cup or two in the afternoon – especially with a row of rum-raisin dark chocolate.

Friday, November 8, 2013

RIP Tyler

I fed this cat the last two weekends while her humans were away. She lived next door but I didn't see her that often. The old lady was approaching 20 so she preferred peaceful and quiet indoor life.

Tyler must have been super cute and very pretty when she was young. At the ripe old age, she was still in good condition and pretty. The first time I fed her she was quite tentative but from the second time onwards she was her own self and was very vocal and demanding. I think she might have known I am a sucker when it comes to tabby cats.

I fed her for the last time on Sunday morning and she ate her breakfast with gusto. I learned from her mommy that she went downhill very quickly on Monday with kidney failure. She has gone to kitty heaven on Tuesday surrounded by her beloved humans. I am glad I got to know her. Rest in peace, Tyler.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Crock Pot Dinner - Spareribs Asian Style

On one of our visits to Paris ages ago, my friends took us to Hawai, the Vietnamese Restaurant on avenue d'Ivry. At Hawai, we gobbled the yummiest grilled spareribs and Pho soup size of a swimming pool. For years I have tried to replicate their spareribs but never been successful. The closest thing is this recipe - cannot compete with Hawai's of course but better than nothing.

You will need:
1 kg pork spareribs, cut into 10-12 cm pieces
3 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 teaspoon minced ginger, fresh is best
Zest of 1 small orange
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
1 Tablespoons sweet dark soy sauce
1 Tablespoon Hoisin or 2 Tablespoons Tomato Sauce
1 Teaspoon honey + 1 extra teaspoon for basting
A dash or two Sri Racha Chilli Sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon dry sherry

Place sparerib pieces in a thickish plastic bag (you use 3 layers of freezer bags).Mix the rest of ingredients except spareribs together in a jug and pour over. Massage the sauce into the ribs and marinate for a couple of hours at least (but overnight is best)..

Place the ribs in the slow cooker with the marinate – spare 2 teaspoons for basting and cook on low for 4-5 hours.

When the ribs are done and tender – place them on the baking sheet in single layer. Mix reserved marinate sauce with a teaspoon of honey and a bit of sesame oil. Baste the ribs with this mixture and put them under the grill until nicely brown.

Serve warm with stir fried vegetable and rice.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Another Post Halloween Post

This one must be the prettiest costume in the area – the little guy behind this cutie looks scary, don’t you think? Halloween was lively this year – we had about 30 kids knocking on our door. It made up for just 4 or 5 last year I suppose. And they made a very good effort on the costumes as well.

And it’s also my darling Poppy’s first Halloween (Poppy is my neighbour’s granddaughter, remember when she’s so little here?) Here she's accompanied by little Batman.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Edible Halloween Headgear

Bonnie dresses up for Holloween. She doesn’t like this around her face much but she doesn’t mind eating it.

All in all, she loves Halloweens (apart from the headgears) because she has these little humans knocking on her door and she gets to lick them all.

Some people here frown at me. “Oh, it’s American thing”, they say. Yes, people, so are iPads and iPhones! The kids around where we live are accompanied by the grownups – so as long as it’s safe and fun – it’s fine by me.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Tracey’s Thai-ish BBQ Whole Snapper

As promised, this is one of Trace’s recipes amongst other Thai dishes she cooked for us a few weeks ago.
“Thai BBQ Grilled Fish

1 whole snapper (scaled and gutted)
1 thumb sized piece of Galangal
1 thumb sized piece of Ginger
3 stalks of Lemon Grass
Coriander roots (3 or 4)
3 chillies
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 clove garlic

Blitz all the ingredients (except the fish) in a food processor, or finely
chop and pound in a mortar and pestle.

With the fish, cut a few slits across the flesh from top to bottom on both
sides.  Squish some of the above mixture in the slits and put
The remaining mixture in the stomach cavity (for want of a better

BBQ or Bake for approx 20 minutes (depending on the size of your fish).
To check the fish is cooked, poke a knife in the flesh and if there is no
resistance it should be cooked.”

Tips: This dish will go well with Thai Seafood Sauce:

1 Chilli (you can remove the seeds if you don’t like too much heat)
2 cloves of garlic
Juice from 1 or 2 limes
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves

Use your mortar and pestle to smash and mix the dry ingredients together – then add liquid ingredients (or you can blitz everything in food processor) –dip the fish (or any seafood) in this sauce and enjoy.

Monday, October 28, 2013

From Breaking Bad to Ryan Gosling

We watched the finale of Breaking Bad not long ago – and oh, man what a TV series it is. It is super fantastic and applauses to actors and actresses especially Bryan Cranston who played Walter White in the series. I will not go into details about his performance – Sir Anthony Hopkins has said enough and never mind Oliver Stone and Britney Spears. Because of Bryan Cranston’s performance in Breaking Bad – we are exploring the films he was in, post BB. We have just picked “Drive” to start with….and not been disappointed.

Apart from blood and gut bits, it is beautiful. The expressions of affection between characters are very sweet – nothing much needs to be said (no sex scenes in this film – they are not really required). The story line is short and simple yet complex. Everything is fantastic from lighting, cinematography and Ryan Gosling – with those half smiles about the corner of his mouth.

It’s not that Bryan Cranston is extraordinary in this film, he’s good but the whole film is brilliant and  much more Gosling’s  than Cranston’s. If you have not yet seen this film – go get a rental DVD or buy it from Amazon – you can always cover your eyes during the violent parts like I did.

Note: The photo above is from Amazon.