Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Cajun Popcorn

This one will be a crowd pleaser snack. I use mocrowave popcorn as it is easier and quicker to prepare. You'll also need 2-3 tablespoons of butter and a cajun spice mix - this one is also easy and you can do it yourself. 

Cajun Spice
1 teaspoon smoked Paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix the above in a jar and shake well. Melt butter in a sacepan over medium low heat - when the butter melts, sprinkle the spice mix and swirl the pan to mix. Drizzle the mixtrure over the popcorn and enjoy. It will be very nice with ice cold beer.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

Wicked Helper

Have you ever been overwhelmed with the aspect of cooking for the crowd over the holiday season? Not only Christmas day but also Boxing day and days and days after that? And your Pavlovas and Yule logs have run out. Don’t fret – send someone out to buy loads of good vanilla ice-cream and a couple bottle of these wicked helpers and you’ll be right.

I’m talking Baileys Chocolat – the grown-ups' version of chocolate sauce. Add a tablespoon or two to your humble vanilla ice-cream scoops and your guests will never, ever blame you for not making another Pav or another log. Try it – trust me!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thanks for the Joy

My cat, Pipi, died on Wednesday, 19 November, just 10 days after we took her to the vet for a routine check-up and vaccination. I know it’s crazy and crazy it is. People who have cats with hyperthyroidism – please check with your vet to start them off with low dose of anti-thyroid medication first, especially if your cats are small. The new vet at our local practice just wagged Pipi with the highest dose and the side effect was too severe that it could not be reversed for a tiny cat like her. I was angry and still am that the vet who we should be able to trust basically killed my cat or shortened her life. She would have lived on for months if not years with hyperthyroidism. But that aside (I will probably write about this later if and when I have a heart to do it) – for now I just wanted to write about how this little critter taught me to love cats.

I started writing this post many times and could not finish it until today (I hope). She died one month today. It’s still sad to think about her but time will help.

We moved to town from the country with our old dogs 8 years ago. I was not a cat person (Pipi was the first cat in my life) but Bob has always been. He could not help stroking and of course feeding this cute tiny cat (she’s about 4 kgs when she’s the fattest) with yummy treats. And after sitting on the fence for a year, Pipi decided to move in with us. She belonged to our next door neighbour’s son – who left her with his mum when he went to work in Australia. We still had three old dogs living with us then but she approached the dogs softly, softly so it had never been a problem.

After a year of moving in, she chose to attach herself to me.  Bob said she preferred my service than his. I did not notice how she wormed her way into my space – my side of the bed, my office, my kitchen and my heart.

She would leave the bedroom early at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning but when I got up at 6 or 7 she would come running into the bedroom to greet me. She would go into the bathroom with me and this cat was claustrophobic! I learnt how to move around cats (don’t move to quickly, mum, you make me dizzy), how to pick them up (yes, there, and not upside down either), how to stroke them (under the chic, dear, save tummy for last when I trust you more than this, OK?), which kind of food to feed them (steak is OK but I would have love it raw, next time, perhaps?) and how to love them, cats (me, me, me – Bonnie and Bob are nothing to you). Not only me, who has learnt - when the last of the old dogs died, we have got a 5 month old puppy from the on-line trading place. Bonnie was young and pesky then like puppies are but Pipi gave her a lesson or two without harming the dog and Bonnie has learnt how to live and respect cats ever since.

The last night of her life, she did not have enough energy to climb the stairs to the bedroom but waited for me at the end of the stairs. We knew the day before that we had let her go and the fact that she could not come up to bedroom confirmed that. She spent her last few hours in my office sleeping peacefully – it’s one of the places in the house that she felt safe and secure.

My office, my bedroom, my bathroom seem empty without her – for a tiny cat, she left a big hole in my heart. Sleep in peace, my darling. Thank you for bringing joy to my life.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Flower Purple

I love the colour combination of this flower arrangement. This one caught my eye first thing when I went into our local florist on the main drag. This flower shopt is a favourite of mine – their prices are very reasonable and although they are members of Interflora – their arrangements are more beautiful than those in Interflora’s catalogue.

I bought the above box for one of my friend’s Birthday – and the Birthday girl was so happy with it this morning. I hope she enjoys looking at it for a bit at least until a bigger bouquet from her beau arrives in the afternoon.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Dinner at Chiko's

We had lovely dinner at Chiko's in West Auckland last week hosted by Marcus and Tracey. It was nice and balmy evening - perfect for Trace's Birthday.

Chiko's is Pacific Rim fusion restaurant - East meets West with Pacific twists. I didn't order any starter but had a spoonful of everyone elses'. Bob ordered this scallop dish - the plating was as beautiful as its taste. My main was duck and black rice and kumara mash. It was beautiful. Bob had the ribs which came in a huge wooden bowl with a patch of vegetable garden. I bet very few diners had ever finished everything in this dish:) There are many elements in each dish - they definitely take the time with decoration. They could have marinated the ribs a bit longer and trimmed the decorating greens to manageable amount - to balance out both the look and taste.

The service was impeccable although the garlic bread arrived a little bit late but the restaurant was almost full so that's forgivable. All in all, it was a gastronomical delight and Bob got his wallet he left on the table back with everything intact.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Potato Salad

This is an alternative spud side dish to accompany steaks or other grilled meat for warmer months. For 2, you’ll need:

400 grams Baby Potatoes
1 Avocado, chopped
3 – 4 Rashers of Bacon
2 boiled eggs, quartered
5 Tablespoons good quality mayonnaise
3 Tablespoons Greek yogurt
½ teaspoon mustard
A tablespoon of Chopped spring onion and coriander

Halve or quarter the potatoes (depending on the sizes) then place in a saucepan with enough water to cover, bring to the boil, place the lid on and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain and leave to cool completely.

Chop the bacon roughly and fry until crispy and set aside.

Whisk mayo, yogurt and mustard together until combined. Place potatoes, avocado and bacon in a salad bowl, pour salad cream over them and toss gently until coated. Place quartered eggs on top and sprinkle with chopped coriander and spring onion. Serve with grilled/fried steak or chicken or even on its own.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Quick Roast Pork Fillet and Apple Sauce

This recipe is quick and easy – it will take you less than an hour to prepare and cook as pork fillet will get cooked quite quickly. For 2 you’ll need:

1 piece of pork fillet (about 500 grams) with sinews taken off
1 – 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt & pepper
3/4 cup Chicken stock
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh herb – I use coriander
2 apples – 1 Granny Smith and 1 Red Delicious (you can also use Braeburn or Gala), chopped roughly
A bit of oil for frying
1-2 tablespoons butter
1-2 teaspoons maple syrup

Pre heat the oven to 220 degrees C.

Rub pork fillet with salt and pepper and drizzle with a little bit of vegetable oil. Sear the pork on a hot pan until brown on all sides. Set aside. In the same pan add a little bit more oil, and fry the apples so they get a bit light brown.

Line the roasting pan with the fried apple.

Rub the fillet with mustard and roll it in chopped coriander. Place it on top of the apples and bake for about 25 minutes. Turn the pork half way through. When the pork is done – wrap it loosely in foil and rest for 10 minutes.

Reserve half of the apple pieces – try to choose the firm-ish ones and set aside. Add the rest of apple into the pan with butter over medium high heat and mash them up with spatula – add chicken stock and let it bubble for a few minutes – add more water if needed. Cook until the sauce thickened – discard the peels if you like. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Drizzle a teaspoon or two of maple syrup on the reserve apples and tossed gently to coat.

Slice the pork and serve with apples pieces and apple sauce on the side – and of course some roast vegetables. I use potatoes, carrots, capsicum and red onion for my roast.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Hello Summer

They say it’s going to be warm this summer – I say bring it on. It had been grey and windy lately although it’s not cold. But I love to have nice, sunny days.

The plants love it though, this warmish and wet condition. New green leaves and flowers are everywhere especially those yellow and white weed flowers on the lawn! A Gold Finch is singing – no, not Gold Finch, sorry it’s a King Fisher. I have read too many fictions lately.

This King Fisher hops from branch to branch and wiggles its little tail – quite lovely indeed!

Talking about fictions, I have read The Gold Finch  and Gone Girl  not long ago. Both are best sellers with the latter made into movie played by Ben Affleck. In my opinion, I have to say that I like The Gold Finch more as a reading material – Gone Girl is rather predictable with its twist – although it’s very entertaining. Having read the novel, I do not plan to see the movie – Ben Affleck is very easy on the eye but I think he could have done better with acting – I’m not saying he’s not a good actor – but he could have put a little bit more effort into it – that’s all.