Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Patricia Barber

Patricia Barber  is one of my favourite artists. Her voice is beautiful and powerful. Our audio system seems to produce a good live music- like environment so when we play her tracks, we could hear her singing as if in the same room – just like spending a Monday night with her at the Green Mill. Not that we have been at the Green Mill but it is a wishful thinking:)

I love her rendition of Autumn Leaves and Norwegian Wood. I hope that one day she will have a gig downunder so we can see her live (without having to travel to America). She might not be as well known and world famous as Diana Krall but her jazz style is second to none. When I bought her CDs for my brother as his Birthday present, I was a bit surprised that he actually knew of her as her CDs were used as part of test tracks for one audio equipment dealer in a prominent audio show in Bangkok. And I can understand why.

She has a unique voice but you need a reasonable good system to enjoy some of her tracks as they can produce too many sibilants. Luckily, our line of work has something to do with audio equipment and our system needs to be reasonable at times to try it out. Her CDs and downloads are available from Amazon and http://www.patriciabarber.com/ 


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Buttercup in Coconut Milk

This is one of typical Thai puddings. It is to be eaten warm (not hot) or at room temperature (which is quite warm in Thailand). Some will claim that it tastes a bit like salted caramel - maybe it is but Thais have been putting salt in their puddings way back when long before salted caramel is fashionable as it is now.

For 2, you'll need:

150 grams buttercup, skin partially peeled and cut into small pieces
1  cup coconut cream
1/4 cup water
60 grams palm sugar, chopped
1/8- 1/4 teaspoon salt

Place coconut cream, water, sugar and salt in a saucepan and put on the stove, using medium low heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and add buttercup pieces. Cook further for a few minutes until the buttercup is cooked. Easy as!

Note:any pumpkin will do, but buttercup will hold against heat much better and do not disintegrate into mash.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Let there be Light

We are getting into Spring and the transition produces weird weather. Sometimes you have four seasons in one day. The temperatures are also fluctuating and sunny mornings will see the animals clutter at sunny spots around the house.

Bonnie seems to resign to the fact Hobie is now part of the family and that she has to share some space with the cat. They arrange themselves quite well around us, even on the bed. Apart from a bit of kerfuffles the first few weeks, they are now quite in tune with each other. They even gang up on the laser point together - but have not managed to catch one yet!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Tamarind Eggs

This Thai old fashioned dish is not very common these days but it has been Bob's favourite.

4 Hard-boiled eggs
Oil for shallow frying
4 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons Tamarind extract (available from Asian Groceries)
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon Crispy Fried Red Onion (available from Asian Groceries)

Shallow fry the whole eggs on medium heat until golden brown on all sides. Set aside and leave to cool down a bit.

In a saucepan place sugar, water, and salt together. Stir and put to the boil on medium high heat until it it starts to colour. Remove the saucepan from heat and add Tamarind extract - you might not need all 4 tablespoons but some would prefer more so adjust it to your own taste. Put the saucepan back on the stove and let it boil further until it is thickened.

Cut the eggs into halves and pour the Tamarind sauce over them, sprinkle with crispy fried onion and garnish with coriander leaves. Serve warm or at room temperature with rice and green stir fry.

Note: In Thailand we call these eggs - son-in-law's eggs. It has been told that one day the son in law asked the mother in law what she was cooking for dinner in demanding tone - the grumpy mother in law then quickly replied 'I am going to cook your nuts (eggs in Thai slang) in Tamarind Sauce'.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Hobie's Diary: 28 Weeks and still Growing

We weighed Hobie last week and the reading was 3.2 kgs. so she will be quite a cuddly size when fully grown. We will have to watch her weight when she's fully grown. We don't want her to get too fat.

Hobie is not a brave cat but she extends her exploring bit by bit everyday. We can let her out through the back door and get her in the front door so it's good that she knows the lay of the land around her own home. She likes going out at night when the weather is good and sometimes Bob has to get her back in with the laser pointer.

She also does almost of her 'businesses' outside but we still keep her litter tray in the bathroom for when it's wet and cold outside. I add a little bit of lavender scented clay into the tray and mix it with her usual litter and it works well as long as I don't touch it with my bare hands. Hobie does not have any problem with it. One thing we are trying to teach her is getting in and out through the dog door/cat flap but she does not get it yet. I told Bob she's a bit dumb but the smitten cat's Dad said she was too young to process the learning. Bob keeps trying to teach her ....he might be successful one day and I don't have to be her doorman. One sure thing she learns well is how to be veryyy cute - she can get away with almost anything!

Update: Just to defy my post, Hobie has managed to go out through the cat flap several times - but it's only one way. She hasn't yet tried to come in through the flap on her own.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Cream Cheese and Butter Cake

With zest of our homegrown lime - this cake smells so delicious even before the pan hits the oven.

For 22 cm ring pan, you'll need:
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
110 grams butter
80 grams cream cheese
180 grams caster sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lime (or lemon or orange)

Pre-heat the oven at 180 degrees Celsius

Grease ring pan or bundt pan well

Sift flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda together and set aside. Beat butter and cream cheese together at medium speed until combined and pale - add sugar and beat further on. Add eggs, one at a time. Beat until combined at each addition. Add vanilla and lime zest - then lower the speed and add flour. Mix well and transfer the cake mixture to the pan. Tap the side a few times to get rid of excess air bubbles. Bake for 45 minutes - if the top starts to get too dark - cover loosely with foil.

When the cake is done - rest for 10 minutes before removing from the tin. Serve with sour cream or whip cream and lime zest.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

St Mark's

This post is not much about St Mark's apart from the fact that the eye hospital we went to a fortnight ago is on St Mark's Road just opposite this beautiful Anglican church.

Bob had a cataract surgery last month - we had to get up early and traveled to Auckland Eye Hospital. The pre-op prep took two hours (including waiting time) but the surgery itself took only 15 minutes. The operation was scheduled sooner than we thought because the specialist would be overseas in September and because cataract in younger people could progress quite quickly so it should be dealt with sooner rather than later. The modern cataract surgery seems to be very easy - the patients do not need to stay overnight. After local anesthetic is given, the old cloudy lens will be broken down by ultrasound through a tiny incision at the border of the cornea and suctioned out. The new lens (synthetic, of course) will be then inserted and implanted. Then, voila - it's done.

While the anesthetist was working on Bob, I went out for coffee and cake at the coffee shop on Remuera Road (they don't have a Cafe at the hospital, only the self service espresso machine - and the coffee was good). A sweet receptionist told me to walk through St. Mark's Church to Remuera Road as it's shorter and more pleasant. She was absolutely right - the Church ground is nicely kept and welcoming. By the time I came back to the waiting room, I learnt that Bob had already come to a while ago and the nurse tried to fetch me twice. Who would think that the operation would be that quick - it took me longer to get my mocha and Friands from the not-so-busy Cafe Brioche and consume them in a lady-like manner!

Bob could even drive the next day after the surgeon had cleared him of any present complications so he asked if he could drive back home. He said he was a better driver than a passenger and I absolutely agreed.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Asian Style Beignets (ปาท่องโก๋-ish)

In Thailand we have eaten the Chinese beignets for ages and surprisingly they have not strayed too faraway from the Chinese ones, apart from shapes, maybe. We have them with savoury things like rice porridge and soft boiled eggs and we have them with sweet things like condensed milk and soft tofu in ginger syrup. Street vendors would have their big wok out in the mornings and fry these crispy beignets to the breakfast crowd.

I have tried making these away from home and they are not too bad. I do not have ammonia carbonate so I omit it in my recipe which is not a bad thing because ammonia carbonate tends to give a strong smell. It doesn't matter that my Chinese beignets will not be extra crispy.

You will need:
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon canola oil plus a lot more for deep frying

Add sugar and yeast to warm water - add 1 tablespoon of oil, mix well and leave in warm place for 5 minutes or until frothy. In a food processor,place flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda together and pulse to combine. While the motor is running, add yeast mixture and process until it the dough forms into a soft ball. Remove the dough and place into a well oiled bowl, put cling wrap over the bowl and leave to rise in the dark warm place (I rest mine in the oven) for 2 hours.

Knock the dough down and roll on the floured surface, roll to about 1 cm thick. The dough will be wet-ish so you need a bit of dusting flour. Cut the dough into strips with pizza cutter - about 1 x 7 cm. Rest for another five minutes and then deep fry them on medium high heat until golden. Drain on absorbent paper. It's best to serve them warm but you can also keep then in the freezer and re-heat in the oven.

You can also stick two strips of dough together in the middle before frying as they do in Thailand - just use a bit of water as a glue. I am not very good at this:)