Friday, May 30, 2014


This picture was taken a while ago - when Ginny, the old ginger cat was still alive and well. Bailey, the dog, is about the same age as Bonnie, our own dog - they are fast friends. Ginny was an old, wise cat. She had been with my neighbour for more years and years and died at the ripe old age of 21 about a fortnight ago.

Barbara was discussing about Ginny one afternoon while we were having coffee - that she would ask the vet to let the old cat go in peace as she started leaking inside the house and lost interest in her food. The next day, however, Ginny was found dead in the driveway of the neighbour's across the road. We thought that she was trying to go away to die on her own but too weak and could not go far enough to find a properly hidden and peaceful place.

This "cats going away to die" is what a lot of people believe or prefer to believe (including me in the latter category) and that gives our beloved pets some dignity. However, in more scientific way - cruel as it might sound, sick animals usually try to find a place to hide because they feel vulnerable and in the wild they can fall prey to other predators. Similar to when they give birth - they often try to find somewhere safe for themselves and their newborns.

Domestic cats and dogs do not always do that - a lot of times they just don't want to move or just cannot move. It's us, the owners, who will have to decide when to let them go. We have done that enough times with our own pets - it's very sad but at least we could see that they went to sleep peacefully - no more pain, no more suffering.

Ginny was buried in Barbara's beautiful garden. She was home and safe at last - RIP, Ginny.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Beignet, Done That: Tribute to Treme’and New Orleans


We are watching an old TV series called Treme, created by the David Simon, the creator of The Wire (the best TV series of all time, IMHO). Treme is a neighbourhood of New Orleans – and this series is all about lives after Katerina in Treme and New Orleans and some episodes brought tears to my eyes. I have a very fond and vivid memory of this city and its food but never been back after the hurricane.

Beignet is one of my New Orleans’ favourites and it’s not difficult to make. This recipe is ample for 4 persons to have with an afternoon cafĂ© au lait.

1 1/4 cup flour
A pinch of salt
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 egg
100 ml milk (evaporate milk or UHT milk might be better on a hot day)
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 tablespoons very warm water
1 teaspoon dry yeast
A pinch of sugar to help activate yeast
Icing sugar

Mix yeast in warm water and a pinch of sugar in a jug and set aside for 10 minutes (I put it in my oven to rise as usual).

Place flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and stir to combine, make well in the centre. In another jug, whisk egg and milk (I boil milk in the microwave first and leave to cool down to lukewarm) together then add melted butter. Pour the egg mixture into the yeast mixture and then into the well in the flour. Stir well until combine then turn out onto the floured board and knead the dough for a few minutes until smooth-ish. Place the dough in the well oiled bowl and leave in a warm dry place for about an hour.

Turn the dough onto the floured board and roll out to about 1 cm thick. Cut into squares (3 cm) and deep fry in hot oil on medium low heat. Drain well and serve warm with loads of sifted icing sugar. Viva New Orleans!

Note: I have to add that this dough is wet-ish so you need a bit of extra flour for you hands and to sprinkle on it as you are kneading and shaping.

Monday, May 26, 2014

My Kitchen Best Friends: Mortar and Pestle

My mother gave me my first set of stone mortar and pestle when I worked in Europe. They were a real McCoy from the sea-side village in Chonburi – south-east of Bangkok – where the artisan mortar and pestles are made. This village is called Ang-Hin which means stone bowl – very aptly named, I think.

When I moved country, I gave them away to my good friend (they were one of the most sought after items amongst the Thai expats then). Mum gave me another one before I moved to New Zealand. This set was bought new so I had a chance to witness the process of
seasoning the "Krok" – that is mortar in Thai.

Shredded coconut was pounded repeatedly so that the natural coconut oil coated the surface of both mortar and pestle. I think she asked our home helper (who was young and strong) to perform this task that day.

When this process was done, the stone surface was coated with thin film of coconut oil. This would    act as natural non-stick coating that prevents whatever contents you pound from sticking to the Krok.

I use them to pound and bruise all sorts of food ingredients– even my Som-Tam or Pok Pok. With stone kitchen bench, I have to be very careful when using my Krok. I place the Krok over thick layers of tea towels (soft and thick cork trivet will also do nicely) and remember not to drop the pestle on the stone bench or tiled floor, ever! The pestle will win – don’t even think about the mortar!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Rudi: The Community Cat

Rudi lives in a nice home close to the local park. He has a habit of throwing himself in front of the passers by - the friendly ones that is. For some reasons (ahem..) he likes Bob and Bonnie pretty much and will wait to greet them at the usual place at the park, day or night. People often ask Bob if Rudi his cat. Bob says Rudi is people's cat - especially people who carry cat treats on their persons.

Rudi is nice and soft and very friendly with a nice thick tail that he can swat a fly to death with. He has a fast friend in the form of Jack Russell next door, called Harper. Bonnie likes Harper but she ignores Rudi. Bonnie is OK with our own cats but not others. It might be that she was swiped in the eye by the neighbour's cat when she's little and that has made her very aware of the fact that cats carry knives on their fingers.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Pull-Apart Bread Rolls

I have tried making our own bread for a few weeks now and the results are not too bad. I have added wholemeal flour to the white flour at the ratio of 1:2 to add texture. I use the same recipe for other bread such as foccacia and pizza. For me, variations come in the forms of shapes and toppings at the mo.

Basic Recipe
1 cup high grade flour
½ cup wholemeal flour (you can use all white flour if you prefer)
1 ½ teaspoon dry yeast (I use Tasti Bread Maker Yeast)
¾ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup very warm water
Olive oil

Mix dry yeast, sugar and about 1 teaspoon olive oil in a jug and proof for 5-10 minutes in a warm place. I normally switch the oven on briefly for 3-4 minutes and then switch off and rest my yeast mixture in there. It should take 5-10 minutes to get frothy.

In a food processor (you can use cake mixer with dough hooks as you need a pretty grunty food processor) with plastic blade, place flour and salt and pulse briefly to mix. Then turn the machine on and feed the yeast mixture through the spout on the lid. It will take about 1 minute for the dough to form into a ball.

Drizzle a bit of olive oil into a bowl. Remove the dough from the machine and roll it between your hands for a few seconds and turn it in the oiled bowl. Cover with cling film and put it back in the oven to rise for about 40 minutes to an hour.

When it rises to twice the original size, knock it back gently with your fist. Knead the dough briefly and divide into 8 smaller balls. Place them in the well grease 20 cm round cake pan, seven balls around the edge and one in the centre. Cover the pan and leave the dough to rise one more time – half an hour or so.

Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees C.

The rolls will have risen to fill the pan – brush them with melted butter to form a nice crust. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Serve warm.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Serious Rugby

There are always some kinds of rugby matches down at the park on Saturdays around this time of the year and it’s perfect for Bonnie whose main hobby is working the crowd.

They start early at young age so they get manned up by the time they are twelve here in Franklin. These kids take their game seriously. It’s almost every boy’s dream to be a future All Black.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Bonnie Working the Crowd


Rugby season has started here and our local rugby fields down at the park are busy most nights with players training and Saturdays when they have matches.

It is also Bonnie's favourite season - different smells, different people and their kids on Saturdays. And if she's lucky she might get a bit of sausages here and there while she mingles with the kids.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Lime Yogurt Cake and Sour Cream Frosting

This is a very quick and easy yogurt cake recipe. The frosting is also simple. I use 2 limes for both but mainly for zest.

1 cup flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
Smidgen (tip of teaspoon) baking soda
A pinch of salt
½ cup caster sugar
½ cup Greek yogurt
½ cup vegetable oil – minus 1 tablespoon (use bland oil like canola)
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 large egg
Zest of one lime
1 teaspoon lime juice

½ cup sour cream
¼ cup icing sugar
Zest of half lime

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C

Grease loaf pan (23 cm) and set aside. Sift flour with all other dry ingredients and set aside.

Measure one tablespoon of butter into a measuring jug and microwave briefly until it melts – add vegetable oil to make up the mixture to ½ cup. In a bowl, beat sour cream, vegetable oil & butter mixture together with egg. Add lime zest and one teaspoon lime juice. Then add flour mixture and beat further to combine. Pour into the greased loaf pan and bake for 25-30 minutes.

While the cake is in the oven, mix sour cream with icing. Beat well to combine.

When the cake is done – leave it to cool. Serve in thick slice with sour cream frosting – add lime zest to garnish.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Lime Time

We have just one lime tree at home and it has been producing a lot of fruits for 3 or 4 years. This one is Tahitian variety with no seeds and very juicy. We harvest ours from late April (autumn) until July. At the end of the season I juice them and freeze the juice in the ice trays. And the lime cubes last for another 3 months or so, so it is a good investment. Just feed it with plant food from time to time, especially in spring and it will be good as (I use Osmocote and Thrive).

We also have Kaffir Lime but we don’t use it much apart from a few leaves at a time in Thai curries. The fruits will be good as a hair conditioner but it is too time consuming for me. Kaffir limes are not as easy to find as Tahitian limes so I put mine in a big pot so we can move it with us. Kaffir can also benefit from feeding once or twice a year.

We planted our Tahitian lime next to our Ti tree. The Ti tree attracts a lot of bees and I think our lime benefits from that as well. I use limes in all sort of food savoury, sweets and drinks, both non- alcoholic and alcoholic, something like Limecello.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Throwback Friday

This is Bonnie when she was not yet one year old playing wussy. I checked her vaccination record the other day and could not believe she has been with us nearly 5 years. Time flies, doesn't it? Especially with this happiness oozing dog. When Bob and/or I are frustrated or upset with something at home we try to tell each other to look at Bonnie's happy face (channelling Bonnie would be a bit much!)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Marinated Rump Steak with Crushed Potatoes

For medical reason, Bob had to take white meat only for a few days so we went straight to steak as soon as the ‘Prohibition’ was over. You can marinate your steak overnight but if time is a constraint a couple of hours will do.

Marinated Steak
350-400 grams rump steak,
fat and sinew trimmed – upsize if you are a big eater
1 tablespoon Kikkoman (or any soy sauce)
1 tablespoon Worcester Sauce
2 tablespoons Canola Oil
Freshly ground pepper

Mushroom Sauce
100 grams field mushrooms, chopped
1 teaspoon flour
½ cup chicken or beef stock
1 tablespoon Canola oil
½ tablespoon butter

Crushed Potatoes
8-10 baby potatoes
Canola Oil
Knob of butter
Flaky Sea Salt

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C.

Place potatoes in a saucepan with enough water to cover them. When it starts boiling, put the lid on and reduce the heat to simmer, simmer for fifteen minutes then drain and pat them dry with kitchen towel. Drizzle some oil in a baking tray, place the potatoes in the tray and crush each one with potato masher. Drizzle a bit more oil over the potatoes. Dot with butter and bake for about 25-30 minutes. Turn the potatoes half way through. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt before serving. These are far better than chips, IMHO.

In a jug, mix soy sauce, Worcester sauce and oil together with a few rounds of freshly ground pepper, whisk to combine. Whack your steak pieces with the blunt size of a chef knife to tenderise them and place in plastic bag. Pour the marinade over the meat and knead through the bag. Leave to marinate in the fridge for a few hours.

Heat the pan on high, when it starts to smoke, add the steak. Brown on both sides (about 3-4 minutes each side) and rest for at least 5 minutes.

Mushroom Sauce
Add canola oil in the same pan, add mushrooms and fry briefly. Add butter and sprinkle the mixture with flour. Stir and add stock. Bring to the boil for one or two minutes and transfer to a bowl or sauce boat.

Slice the steak and divide the pieces between two plates, ladle the mushroom sauce over the steak. Put crushed potatoes on the side with other boiled vegetables and tuck in.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Kafka on the Shore

Bob introduced me to Haruki Murakumi’s " Kafka on the Shore" last month. And man, what a journey it has been! The ending might not answer everything (it didn’t for me) but the author himself said that you need to read the book a few times over to get the answers you are looking for (and that, you may or may not find them:)

People said Kafka should not be the first Murakami’s book you embark upon but never mind that…I have read Kafka and enjoyed it. The reality and the other world blend so well I am not quite sure if everything in the real world is real in the book. Bob told me that it’s all about the journey and not the destination – I incline to agree. I got to know about Nakata, a simple guy who can talk to cats and set the bones right, a run away from home teenager who knows so many things beyond his age and calls himself Kafka, Oshima -a cross dressing homosexual, Ms. Saeki, a well-heeled, well dressed and well mannerd librarian with a very sad past and Hoshino, a truck driver who has become classical music enthusiast along his journey with Nakata. My journey with Kafka and Nakata has been pleasant – and I try not to think too hard about the destination.

I have to give credit to Philip Gabriel, who seamlessly translated this novel into English. To me it feels like Murakami’s own writing – only in English not Japanese. 

Kafka on the Shore is supposed to be Kafka-esque (not that I have ever read any Franz Kafka’s, so to speak) and it is not for everyone. Some will like it and some will not – it’s a matter of taste. If you have Kindle, you can even read a few pages for free from Kindle Store.

Note: Cat drawing by mega-tribble

Friday, May 2, 2014

Bonnie’s Profile

This girl is so difficult to take full frontal photo of – I don’t know if dogs can be self-conscious. But this side profile is not too bad, considering she cannot keep still for long and it’s taken by iPhone.