Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Introducing Hobie....

A lot of my readers might have known that we were catless for several months since Spike died early this year. We just came back from Samoa early June and thought it would be a good idea to start looking for a kitten (my first kitten ever - the other cats came to us when they were adult). While searching on the Internet, have come across the organisation called Franklin Cat Rescue which is made up of volunteers - who rescue unwanted/abandoned cats and kittens from the streets and adopt them out. We made appointment with one of the foster homes 5 minutes away from our place to go and have a look at the kittens on their listing.

Melanie has rescued cats and kittens in almost every room in her house. A lot of crates here and there for the cats. A lot of kittens and cats needing their forever homes. I looked at them - I could not take them all home but what I could do is saving one kitten and offer her a forever home. I put my fingers in one of the crates and there came this little tabby sniffing my hand and meowing and purring. What a big purrer! Then she flopped on her side and offered me her tummy to be rubbed (Didn't she know it's a breach of Cat Protocol?) Well, the rest is history. We signed up and would come back for her in two weeks when she's ready. At FRC, all cats and kittens will go to their new homes micro-chipped, vaccinated, wormed, de-fleaed and de-sexed. The adoption fee is nominal to cover the cost. Wonderful, wonderful work they are doing.

And here she is. Hobie has been with us for over a week now. Bonnie is not quite sure what to make of this little girl just yet but so far they seem to be OK with each other - a bit of rivalry but that is to be expected. I have never raised a kitten before so it's a new experience for me. I have learned that kitten can be de-sexed at very young age (8 weeks upwards). Hobie will teach me many more things yet. I'm sure.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Samoan Style Beef Curry Stew (Kale)

We had this yummy curry stew on Fia Fia night at the Sheraton Aggie Grey's where they offered Samoan style buffet dinner. Some say that this dish is Hawaiian. Wherever it originated doesn't matter. I liked it then in Samoa and tried to replicate the dish at home and I have to say it's not too bad. I also used diced Angus beef for mine to cut down the cooking time.

For 2 you'll need:
350 grams diced beef (rump steak is good)
2 tablespoons of flour
3 medium potatoes, each peeled and chopped in quarters
1 big carrot, peeled and chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons curry powder
700 mil chicken stock
A splash of brandy
Salt & pepper to taste
Oil for frying

Place flour, salt and pepper in plastic bag, shale to combine, then add diced beef and shake to coat. In a heavy bottom casserole, add a little bit of oil and brown the beef on all sides over medium heat. Remove the beef with slotted spoon and set aside.

In the same casserole, add a little bit more oil, fry onion and garlic until soft. Add curry powder and turn to combine. Add a splash of brandy. Scrape the bottom of the casserole well before adding potatoes and carrot pieces. Stir well and add beef on top of the vegetables, add stock and bring to the boil. Place the lid on the casserole and reduce the heat, simmer for one and a half hour or until the beef is tender and pulled apart easily. Stir from time to time so that the starch does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Add more water and seasoning if needed. Serve hot with white rice or fried rice.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Samoa Part 2

When we were in Samoa, we traveled around but at a leisure pace (means slow). We still wanted to chill out at the beach and in the pool so we didn't cover all the places we should have done. We didn't go to Savai'i (or any other islands) and didn't explored the south eastern coast and ocean trench. Those will be for next time in a couple of years, I guess.

I would like to share some of our experiences in Samoa here and ahem - could I start with my favourite subject please.

Food: Many people said food is a challenge in Samoa but if you find the places where the kitchen staff understands the food and executes the ideas well, it can be fantastic. We love Paddles and Amanaki Hotel in Apia. Salt & Pepper squid at Paddles was excellent. Paddles is open for dinner only so if you stay on the west or south coast, it will take 45 minutes each way to drive. Amanaki's fried chicken was simple but delicious (and cheap). They are open for lunch and dinner. There is also a cute cat at Amanaki to entertain you as well, if you are into cats, that is. For people who don't like cats, don't worry, the critters here are well sussed out and they know what kind of people they can get away with. Services at both places were very good. Sails has prime location but the evening we went the food was of poor quality and overpriced.

Return to Paradise Resort on the south western coast surprisingly turned out beautiful lunch for both of us at their Cabana Cafe. I was skeptical about their Thai Style Chicken Salad but I gobbled all of it (and the portion is not small). The view is also amazing - I posted the picture here last week. Sinalai Resort on the southern coast did not impress us with their food but they house a few cute cats and have great views and  the bathroom is also impeccable. Le Vasa Resort not far from Sheraton Aggie Grey's also has excellent views especially at sunset most days. The staff is friendly and the atmosphere is pretty laid back. The food was OK-ish when we were there but not inspiring enough to get us back there just to eat.

Sheraton Aggie Grey's Resort where we stayed also have good quality food and plenty of it. We thought we would get bored with the food here in the resort after a couple of days but we were wrong (However, if you hire a car, you can go for meals elsewhere from time to time). We love their Samoan buffet on Fia Fia night at Apolima Fale. Suckling pig was scrumptious. Beef Curry Stew (Kale) and Samoan Style Chop Suey (Sapasui)were excellent. Their a la carte and snacks at South Pacific are not bad either - the price is in resorts' price brackets but still reasonable. Breakfast is also OK and also includes those yummy local coconut milk buns (Panipopo - a must for coconut lovers like myself).

More to come.....

Friday, June 19, 2015

Chicken & Lime Sandwich

Another way to use up your leftover roast chicken is turning it into sandwich filling. This chicken sandwich sounds a bit fancy but it is so simple and easy to make.

250 grams of roast chicken, bone and skin discarded, chopped
2 tablespoons good quality mayonnaise
1/2 lime or lemon
2 tablespoons chopped spring onion (only the green bits)
Pepper and salt to taste
4 small dinner rolls or 8 slices of bread

Place chicken, mayo, spring onion and a squeeze of lime or lemon (if you use lemon make sure you discard all seeds) in food processor and pulse until combined. You do not need much of the juice, about a teaspoon will do. Season with pepper and a tiny bit of salt and your filling is done.

I used the small bread rolls from Baker's Delight but you can use normal bread slices. I like to trim the crust off from the slices - I also butter my bread before filling.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Samoa Part 1

We planned to go to Vanuatu for our island holiday this year but with cyclone Pam, we had to reroute to (Western) Samoa. We were in Samoa for a week at the end of May-beginning of June. Samoa is an hour ahead of New Zealand so if you take an afternoon flight you will arrive in Samoa quite late in the evening. However, the upside of the afternoon flight from Auckland is that you don't have to beat the morning traffic to the airport, you still have time in the morning to pack your last minute necessities, enough time to send those last emails and put your pets in the kennels.

Main Samoan island is Upolu (not in term of size but you know what I mean) which houses Apia, its capital and its international airport, Faleolo International Airport on the west coast about 50 minutes away from Apia.

We landed in Samoa around 8.30 at night and took a small coach transfer to Apia where we stayed for a couple of nights. We chose to stay in Apia for a bit so that we could pick up our rental car and explore the east coast as it would be a much shorter drive.

The ride into Apia was uneventful and we could not see much because it was dark and no street lights but we got a glimpse of the sea and small villages. We hit the hotel by 10.00 - the check-in was smooth but..but...but they did not have hot water after 10.00. Shocking horror, for the price of over 200 bucks a night this was not acceptable. We didn't have a choice as we booked this holiday through Our Pacific and they don't have any other hotel in their book because Sheraton Aggie Grey's in Apia is still a long way to be completed (we initially dealt with Our Pacific with Amy, a wonderful consultant that was on the ball every minute but she left the company mid-April for the better job, I guess. and we ended up with quite a useless replacement). We read less positive reviews of this hotel on TripAdvisor and remembered there were a couple of reviewers mentioning about this hot water (or lack of, to be exact) and we just thought that it might be some technical or electrical glitches but now we can confirm that it's a norm for the hotel as it also happened on the second night

This little problem, however did not mar the beauty of Samoa and its people. Luckily we didn't stay there for long. Our holiday was much more fun at the Sheraton Aggie Grey's Resort on the west coast. In fact, as we got to know Samoa a little bit better than when we first arrived, this small island nation and its people have grown on us. The people are happy and friendly. Hotel staff were trying to be helpful and didn't hang around for tips.

There are things to be noted for the trip to Samoa:

1. Shop around with Travelling Agents for special deals if you don't want to book everything yourselves. Our Pacific is not the only Pacific Islands specialist in New Zealand.

2. Don't stay at Tanoa Tusitala if you plan to have shower after 10.00 o'clock. You might as well stay at The Amanaki Hotel next door (they are often fully booked - so reserve your room early). They have wonderful food at a very good price and a cute terrace restaurant cat to entertain you.

3. Do eat at Paddles and The Amanaki Hotel in Apia. If you travel south west - do stop for lunch at Return to Paradise Resort. Sinalai and Le Vasa have beautiful setting and views, especially the latter but the views are better than the food in both cases. 

4. Do hire a car - 4WD is recommended. Our one was the old beat up Rav4 with so many things that didn't work and it was not clean but it was cheap and it functioned well enough. With a car you do not need to stay in Apia for more than 2 nights as you can drive around no matter where you stay in Upolu. GPS is not required, you only need 4-5 copies of Jason's map (they disintegrated after a while). You will be mobile and have freedom to go places. Speed limits are 56/57 k/hr between villages and 30 k/hr through Apia and villages. The people are laid back so driving here is easy. Do stop for people and animals - and let other vehicles pass if you'd rather enjoy the beautiful scenery. 

5. So many good and beautiful things are for free like Baha'i Temple and Papapapaitai Water Falls.

6. If you have to pay entry fee for anything, Robert Louis Stevenson museum is worth it. Not quite so for Falefa Waterfalls.

7. Fia Fia night at the Sheraton Aggie Grey's Resort was fun and the food (Samoan style buffet) was scrumptious. For a-la-carte, Karaage Chicken at the Pacific Restaurant was also wonderful - should have eaten more!

8. Samoans are friendly and collectively moral - don't afraid you'll get lost. People are willing to help with directions. 

More to come.....