Monday, September 29, 2014

Spring is in the Air

The clocked has changed yesterday and we are looking forward to a nice, warm spring – if it happens, that is. I hope for some sun and less winds!

The lawn needs mowing regularly now and I can see flower buds on my Australian Frangipani – the frangipani flowers should open late this week.

I don’t have many flowers from the garden that I can cut at the mo – Vireya flowers are best on the plants, my Clivias are washed out yellow (I don’t know why I didn’t tell the landscaper to plant the good old orange variety – the yellow variety is more expensive and overrated, IMHO).

I entertained some friends on Saturday evening and had to make do with succulents for my flower arrangement (with a few frangipani buds) – not that fantastic but better than nothing.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Growing Up

Jedi at 5 months old – it looks like he’s going to be handsome. My mum and brother are very smitten with this little fella. I receive report on his progress regularly – the latest is how he has been losing his puppy milk teeth and how cute and tiny the teeth are!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Kale and Pork Mince Omelette

Easy as dish to go with rice or toast or on its own.
You will need:
3 eggs
3 Tablespoon pork mince
A handful of curly kale, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of fish sauce
Salt and pepper
Oil for frying

Fry mince with a bit of oil, salt and pepper until all brown and set aside. In the same pan, fry kale until soft-ish, set aside with the fired mince.

Beat eggs in a bowl, add fish sauce (or soy sauce), salt and pepper, then add pork mince and kale. In a deep frying pan, add 3- 4 tablespoons of oil and heat up on high. When the oil is hot, pour in the egg mixture. Use a spatula to make holes in the omelette near the centre and tilt the pan to let the uncooked bit run through the holes and get cooked. Flip the omelette and brown the other side.

This is Thai way of doing omelette, a bit crispy and fluffy, well golden with no running bit. Also lovely as the accompaniment to the hot dish like curry. Serve warm with rice.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Yes, I have Voted

It’s the General Election Day in New Zealand last Saturday. This year people could vote early at special polling stations all over the country but a lot of us people who took the traditional approach to election came out in droves to cast their votes on the Election Day despite bad weather of gusty wind and rain.

This year I volunteered as a scrutineer at one of the smaller local polling stations. During my morning shift of a little bit over 3 hours, I saw more than 500 people turning up, many with umbrellas, coats, and hat. Some even turned up in gumboots and all. Many brought along their children, toddlers and babies with them. The older kids seemed so excited as they were allowed to drop the voting papers into the boxes.

More than six hundred thousand people casted their votes early this election but over 2 million turned up to vote on Saturday all over the country.  All in all, it’s nice to see people enthusiastically exercise their fundamental democratic right. The result might please some and disappoint many but whatever the outcome is, it’s a democratic process. Well done, New Zealand!

Note: Apologies to friends and acquaintances for not greeting you at the polling place. Hey, I was not a snob but as a scrutineer, I was not allowed to greet or talk to the voters

Friday, September 19, 2014

Fan Force

 Fancy a four legged biltong any one? Pipi will be ready in an hour or so!No spice needed, she's already quite piquant.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Cheat’s Dutch Style Pea Soup

Sometimes in a cold night here downunder, I cannot help craving for Dutch Pea Soup (Erwten Soep). It’s something that I would not eat unless I did not have any other choice when I was living in Holland. Supermarkets in this small town used to carry canned version from Albert Hein’s but I cannot find any recently. The real version uses split peas – but my version is a quick lazy one, so I use canned green peas and Australian one at that because it’s not too sweet. Don’t go near frozen ones - way, way too sweet.

2 cans of green peas (about 400 grams each), drained
700 mil of chicken stock
½ onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 potatoes, diced
2 rashers of bacon, chopped
3 sticks of frankfurters cut into 1 cm pieces
Salt & pepper
A little bit of oil for frying

In a casserole, fry bacon until lightly brown, add onion and garlic and fry until soft. Add peas and potatoes, stir and let them warm through then add chicken stock. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for twenty minutes – half an hour. Remove from heat and let the content cool down a bit before put it through blender. Don’t blitz it to finely, let the bits and piece here and there for texture.

Return soup to the casserole, add frankfurter pieces and let it simmer for another twenty minutes or so. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm with garlic bread.

NB: Apologies for posting in wrong order - wok post takes precedence this week. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Kiss

It’s not something romantic or artistic like Rodin’s  or Klimt’s but it’s kind of cute. The tan girl is Harper, who lives near our local park. She’s a Jack Russell mix (like Bonnie). Harper is normally nowhere to be seen during the day but she must have escaped to play with Rudi the cat (they are neighbours) at night. She also likes playing with Bonnie when Bonnie’s out for a walk. They are compatible in size so they always have fun chasing each other in the park.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My Kitchen Best Friends: Vanilla Ice Cream and Frozen Fruits for Last Minute Dessert

I try to keep a bag or 2 of frozen fruits in my freezer – my favourites are strawberries and raspberries. For ice cream – a smallish tub will not last long in our freezer but it’s not too difficult to get hold of. You can send the man of the house to the garage (petrol/gas/service station) to get one.

When you have unexpected dinner guests, vanilla ice cream and fruit sauce is quite stress free and easy to make.

I will just put a teaspoon of sugar to every ½ cup of frozen raspberries, with a squeeze of lime or lemon. Let it sit outside the fridge for a few hours and it will turn into a lovely fruit sauce. But if you are in a hurry, you can microwave the fruit mixture for 30-40 seconds. This sauce will go swimmingly with vanilla ice cream. If you have shortbread biscuits on hand – you can also tart up your bowl of ice cream with one of those. Just dip them in melted dark chocolate if you have time or use them as is.

Keep cool, keep smiling and keep on playing a good hostess!

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Thought on Child Poverty

I have read in the newspaper about influential people organising a march into the city to raise the awareness of child poverty on Sunday. Mind you, I was also in poverty when I was a child – had  my parent not provided for me because I could not work and did not earn anything in my own right. If I was left on the street as a child, I would not have survived. Unless you were entitled to some trust funds since the day you were born, you were quite likely to be in poverty too when you were a child in that sense. Children in general cannot take action themselves so it falls on their guardians to lift them out of poverty.

That’s why I think it is not such a good term to use, this Child Poverty thing. New Zealand will not leave their own citizens, children and grown ups, die of hunger as in some countries. We have a welfare system in place to make sure that people will get by in difficult times of their lives. Children will have access to the system through their parents or guardians. Not only that, we also have a system called “Working for Family” so that taxpayers with less children(or no children) and less income can fund people with more children and more income. So it is not child poverty as such – it’s the responsibility of parents and guardians to make sure that this welfare is passed on to the young ones that they should look into. Instead of spending money to organise such a march (placards, drinks, police, press conference and ahem television airtime, etc.. oh, and don't forget the outfits for the occasion!), it would have been better if the organisers spend the money setting up a programme to feed and clothe and educate the children they think are at risk, IMHO.

Take the example of my old school friend, Sasha, who has seen the real poverty amongst the hill tribe people in Northern Thailand where helps from the authority and welfare system rarely extend. Her frustration has turned into actions not demonstration. She co-founded Toys for Thailand to raise funds for these children. Money and energy go directly to the children without waste. She marches – but up the hills to the villages with other volunteers to build school facilities and playgrounds.

This blog is aimed to be apolitical and this subject should also be read as such.

Note: The picture above is from T4T.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Broken Ear

Before Spike came to live with us a couple of years ago, he must have been beaten and bitten – his ears look a bit like a map of Greenland. He still looks handsome though and he has changed quite a lot over the years from a scaredy cat to a mellow- ish cat.

His ears however remind me of cartoon strips my brother and I read when we were young “Tintin and The Broken Ear”. It was translated into Thai, of course and we did not know any French so quite puzzled why Tintin was Tangtang!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Comfort Food: Berry Pudding

This pudding is wonderful with lightly whipped cream, ice cream or even custard. My one is a smallish size for 2-4 servings.

¾ cup mixed frozen fruits – I use mixed blueberries and raspberries
1 teaspoon corn flour
½ cup high grade flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
A pinch of salt
60 grams butter plus 1 teaspoon extra
100 mil milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons caster sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C

Place frozen fruits in greased deep baking dish. Sprinkle corn flour over the fruit and toss lightly. Dot butter (that 1 teaspoon extra) randomly all over the fruits..

Sift flour with salt and baking powder, set aside.

In a mixing bowl beat butter and sugar until fluffy, then add egg, vanilla, flour and milk and beat on high until pale. Pour the batter over the fruit mixture and bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown and the cake springs back when pressed.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Vireya in My Garden

I like Rhonodendrons – they look lovely albeit being quite temperament. When I lived in the country with a bit of land, we used to have a kind of cottage garden (although it’s more a jungle) with Rhododendrons in different kinds and colours. When we have moved into town, we do not have a luxury of land so we opt for smaller kind of Rhododendrons – tropical Vireyas.  Saying that, we do not have any regret moving to smaller plot of land since it means less work around the field and more time in the tiny garden. We do not need ride-on mower. No backpack weed-control spray or fence maintenance every 3 months! Our country home served its purpose when we had several young rescued dogs.

Vireyas are quite hardy as long as we don’t have frost too often they seem to thrive. They don’t mind being water deprived for a period of time and when they have their first rain or water they will produce prolific blooms within a few weeks. My favourite Vireya is Captain Scarlet  – with its deep coral red flowers. We have several in our sub-tropical garden and they seem to flower all year round even in winter. They don’t need much room and respond well to being dead headed and pruning.