Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Easy Mini Chocolate Sheet Cake with Dark Chocolate Topping

This one is very easy and sure to please – I use 22x10 baking pan but if you need to double the portion, use 20x20 square pan.

½ cup flour
¼ cup good quality cocoa
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon instant coffee powder
A pinch of salt
50 grams butter, chopped
½ cup caster sugar
1 (size 7) egg

1/4 cup milk

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease the baking pan, line it with baking paper and set aside.

Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt and coffee together. When butter is soft, beat in sugar and egg until combined. Add flour and milk and beat with low speed to combine then increase speed to high and beat until the mixture is pale. Pour into the pan and bake for 25 minutes. Wait until cool before applying the topping.

Dark Chocolate Topping
50 gram dark chocolate, chopped
50 gram butter, chopped

Melt chocolate with butter in a jug over water in the saucepan on low heat. Stir to combine. Wait until it’s cooling down and then put on top of the cake – use the spatula to smooth the frosting. It can be serve as is or garnish with chopped nuts or toasted coconut.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fiji Us Finale

All in all we like Fiji and will surely go back and stay longer – might not be in the next 2 years as we also like to visit other island nations.

These are our tips for future visitors to Fiji:
  • Shop around on the Internet for holiday deals or build up your own holidays and book direct    with  the resort and the airlines.
  • Shoulder seasons are still wonderful – the manpower is there at the resorts and the islands with service in full swing but with fewer visitors (fewer children outside school holidays). You don’t even have to book any restaurants for dinners. We were there in the first half of June. The weather in Fiji then was fantastic.
  • We prefer flying Air New Zealand – seat & bag option is fine. You can bring your own food on board. It’s only 3 hours away. A sandwich and a banana or an apple will be ample for the length of the flight - they will also give you free coffee/tea and water in flight. A bottle of water bought at the airport before departure will also be handy.
  • If budget is not too tight, stay at a resort on Denarau and maybe one on the outer islands (Mana Island resort looks like fun). We stayed at The Raddisson Blu – no false to find (cannot complain that the ais-co is too cold and hot water is too hot!) The children pool was more fun than the adults only pool – funny that. We were upgraded to the ocean view room so it’s a bonus for going in shoulder season as they were obviously not full! We also visited other resorts and felt that we made a good choice at the Raddison. The vibe was good and the children’s laughter at the Raddison sounded much happier.
  • You can use yellow cab service from Nadi airport to the hotel (our hotel was on Denarau). It will cost around FJD 25-30. This can be only one way as yellow cabs are not allowed to pick up any passenger from Denarau to the airport. You will pay $45 for a nice clean private taxi from the resort to the airport. This can be booked at the concierge.
  •  Use Bula buses to visit other resorts and Port Denarau – they are very good and fun. You can buy a 4 day tickets for FJD24.
  • Don’t worry about breakfast deals – you can hop resorts for breakfast and meals. Breakfast at the Wyndham is good at reasonable price or at the Sheraton which is not as good as the Wyndham but still OK. 
  • Do go to Port Denarau for meals. More selections than at the resorts and more value for money. Have a drink or two at the Hard Rock Cafe and watch their famous YMCA dance around 8 at night.
  • Most resorts offer non-motorised water sports equipment for guests to use free of charge (I guess they have already included in the room rates:). Make use of the offers. It’s fun. We enjoyed their Hobie Cats very much.
  • Do try island cocktail/mocktail, fresh fruits and Fijian food.
  • Have some Immodium and Telfast in your bag – just in case. We did not have to use Immodium at all but I took some Telfast when we knew we were going to have lobsters and prawns!
  • Go out and about. Visit the outer islands, the markets and the Garden of Sleeping Giant.     
  • Buy t-shirts and soap as souvenirs – from shops at Port Denarau is OK, shops at the resorts are a bit expensive (use them only when you're desperate). You can also buy biscuits and snacks from the mini mart at Port Denarau during your stay if you need to.
  • Don’t be grumps. Enjoy your holidays and don’t try to find false with everything. Many things are different from home in Fiji. Stay home if you want everything same old, same old.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Kneady Boy

In winter we often give our two cats hot water bottles to go under their beds. Spike seems to be pleased with this luxury and he will have his ritual of kneading his HWB for half a minute before lying down. I think he would make an excellent reiki therapist (he does knead Bob – his favourite human servant!)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sunday Brunch: Corned Beef Hash with Fried Eggs

This dish is ideal when you have left over cooked potatoes. I use corned beef out of the tin for convenience's sake.

For 2 you’ll need

1 small can (210 gr.) corned beef
4 medium size potatoes, cooked and diced
2 or more eggs
2-4 slice of wholemeal toast
Salt & pepper to taste
Oil for frying

Empty can of corned beef into a pan over medium heat, add a little bit of oil as you go especially if you use lite version of corned beef like I do. Fry until it is browner and getting somewhat crispy then add the cooked cube potatoes – add a bit more oil. Don’t stir – leave it undisturbed for a few minutes to get brown before flipping to the other side. When the potatoes are nicely brown all over, remove from pan, sprinkle with a little bit of salt, and serve with fried egg and toast. We like our eggs easy-over more than sunny side up but the yolk is still runny. Sprinkle with black pepper and enjoy.

Note: If you do not have cooked potatoes ready, just parboil them. Cut the potatoes into halves and place in a saucepan with enough water to cover them. Bring to the boil, place the lid on and reduce the heat to low for about 15 minutes or until cooked through. Chop the cooked potatoes into cubes.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Fiji Us Part 6: Lautoka and Rugby Seven Star

From First Landing we drove on to Lautoka, the second largest city in Fiji. It is busy and bustling with people going on about their business. We walked down the market – loads of food and sweets smiling back at us invitingly.

I don’t think this is much of a tourist place but locals seemed to be friendly – which is a very nice thing about Fiji. We also visited one of the biggest supermarkets while we were there to buy some bottled water. Kata pointed to the chocolate fridge with padlock on it – chocolate is quite expensive here a bar of the purple kind (nothing special) cost FJD8! So we made note to ourselves that we should give Kata’s kids a bag of Whitaker’s we brought with us from home but did not manage to eat. They would be delighted.


While we were snooping around, Kata called out and told us that a big guy walking in front of us was someone having something to do with Fiji Rugby Seven. As ignorant as I was I asked Kata if I could have a picture taken with this guy. Very polite and smiley, he obliged. We learned later that he’s one of rugby seven stars, Pio Tuwai.   I am not short at 164 cms but this guy makes me look so petite. What's amazing is that he's so smiley, but his wife died only a week or two before from breast cancer. I guess that if you’re a public figure, especially in manly sports like rugby, you would have to be like that – put on a smile for fans & public.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Sharing Hotspot

It has been quite cold this week but at least we have some consolation that it's sunny. Our living room is south east facing so it's nice and warm in the morning. There are also a couple of areas that could get very warm - these are favourite hot spots that our pets congregate to bake themselves.

Pipi's got there first, so Bonnie has to squeeze herself a litle bit to share this particular hotspot. Err..Pipi, are you using the iPad?...OK..never mind, I can use your old iPhone, can I?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cheat’s Dirty Rice

Dirty rice is Cajun classic dish normally cooked with chicken liver and ground pork. My dirty rice is a lazy, short cut version. For 2 as a side dish, you’ll need.

1 cup cooked rice
¼ onion, chopped
½ green capsicum, chopped
½ cup mix frozen vegetables
3 tablespoons canned reduced fat corned beef
Salt & pepper to taste
A bit of oil for frying

In a wok over medium heat, heat the oil and fry onion until soft add corned beef and fry further for a few minutes. Add capsicum and vegetables, stir and cook until soft. Add rice, turn to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

This dish is a good side dish for blackened fish.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fiji Us Part 5: First Landing Village

Kata took us to Viseisei Village, the chiefly village and the first settlement of the first Melanesian group arriving on canoes at the nearby First Landing site thousands of years ago (some locals now believe that the actual First Landing is further away but there is no concrete evidence so far). The bure above received Prince of Wales once years ago.

You will have to pay FJD 5 per person for admission fee – which is fair enough as they have to maintain the buildings and the ground. If any lady visitor is wearing short shorts above the knees, sarong is available on loan at the entrance.

On the same ground of this village, there is also a Methodist Church (Jones Wesley) which is very well kept. The village ladies also sell their wares here and there. Every lady we met was very well spoken and any one of them could guide you through the village with good knowledge. We were told these ladies have formed into cooperative and saved enough money to build a small health centre nearby.

Viseisei is not very far from Garden of the Sleeping Giant so you can do both on the same day.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Many Faces of Jedi

Jedi, the chichi, has been living with my mum for several weeks now. My mum is more lively and active with this little pest around. However, the people who's head over heel with this pup is none other than my brother who insists that his darling dog Shinee is always his number one dog. So Jedi - you will have to be his number one puppy I guess - and we will re-evaluate the situation when you're grown up!.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Winter Warmer: Beef Soup with Clear Broth

It’s winter but you don’t feel like having any too hearty or too thick like cream soup or stew – then this beef soup is for you.

You’ll need:
400 grams rump steak, sliced
3-4 rashers of bacon, chopped
2 medium size potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, peeled and cubed
½ onion, chopped
1 coriander root, bruised
A tablespoon of chopped coriander leaves too garnish
3 – 4 cups of beef or chicken stock
Salt & Pepper

In a casserole over medium heat, fry bacon until a bit brown and renders some oil. Add chopped onion and fry further until soft. Brown the beef then add potatoes and carrots and fry for a couple more minutes. Add stock, bring to the boil. Put the lid on the casserole and simmer for an hour. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm with sprinkled coriander leaves.

If you like it a little bit more starchy, you can add a bit of cooked rice or barley.

Monday, July 7, 2014


We have just finished watching all 4 seasons of Treme (tre-mae) , An American TV series about lives in New Orleans (especially in and around Treme) after Katrina. This series is highly recommended if you are The Wire’s fans . Treme was created by the same guys, David Simon and Eric Overmyer who created The Wire. Some of the actors in The Wire were also in Treme, eg. Clarke Peters and Wendell Pierce.

The famous TV chef, Anthony Bourdain also co-wrote the story with Simon, for food and restaurant scenes so they were quite realistic. They also had 'real' chefs acting in the series as well - David Chang stood out as he's natural.

We learned more about New Orleans and Katrina and appreciated the efforts of the people who tried to put the city back together. Some episodes will make you laugh and some will make you cry. Season 1 & 2 were the best. Season 3 was a bit weak but still very enjoyable. Season 4 was a bit short with only 5 episodes but it was necessary to conclude, well, almost everything.

You would, probably, like me, fall in love with Fats Domino  and his Blueberry Hill all over again. The series was packed full of New Orleans music and food scenes. If you feel like having some beignets – I have posted the recipe the other day here.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Fiji Us Part 4: Kokoda at Nadina

I have seen this dish on the menus of many Pacific Fusion restaurants here in Auckland so when we were in Fiji – I had to try ‘the original’.

Nadina is located at Port Denarau. The food here was wonderful but it was not the only reason why we were at this lovely eatery twice on our holiday – it’s the people. Staff at Nadina was wonderful. They were warm and welcoming.

Kokoda is pronounced ko-kon-da –the same way Nadi is nan-dee and Nadina is nan-di-na. I have been told it should be served with deep fried chilli but at Nadina this dish did not come with any chilli at all. However, chopped fresh chilli was available on request (and the girls seemed to be delighted when I requested it).

It is basically fresh fish marinated in lime juice with finely chopped vegetables (tomatoes, capsicum, red onion and chilli) and coconut cream, simple yet very delicious. It tasted a bit like Thai Tom Kha soup so I could connect with it instantly after the first bite. I haven’t tried cooking it yet but I sure will if I am in the mood (warmer weather) and can get good fresh snapper at a reasonable price. (It's way too expensive at the mo - quite dissappointing for a country surrounded by seas).

Note: Apologies for skipping Wednesday post - I was a slave at work!