Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Miami - a fleeting vist, part 1

Hi all, writing this sitting in the JW Marriot hotel, it's the location for the Landmark Forum Leader Forward and I'm here because my darling Zoe is to be accepted as a Landmark Forum Leader Candidate during the 3 1/2 days we are here. that's right we are here for three and a half days only but it's the most important place to be.

Well, it takes some time to get from Wellington to Miami, 1 hours flight to Auckland, then wait 4 hours for the flight to Los Angeles, that's 12 hours and 30 minutes, then wait 3 hours (though most of that is the security process on arrival) then another 4 hours and 50 minutes to Miami.

Total elapsed time - just over 24 hours and we left Wellington at 9.15am the 26th and arrived Miami at 5pm the 26th, no wonder the brains slower than is usual.

Apart from the lack of a requested GF meal on the Auck - LA leg all went very well, even managed some sleep on the flights. And we faired better than those on the LA flight who had plans to fly onwards to New York, an hour out of LA they got told that they'd be set up in LA hotels for at least two days as NY was under blizzard conditions and all airports closed.

That was the 26th and today (28th) JFK is just beginning to accept inbound flights. Watching the news here the attitude is much the same as what I've seen from the UK news services "how could this happen?" "why aren't we better prepared?" etc as roads close, airports get shut down and so on.

Seems like when an unusual occurrence happens everyone expects 'someone' to fix it for them without specifying exactly who that would be. I'm sure that northern US states experience snowfall most years, that it's this much this early may be unusual but really?

Weather worldwide is different than it's been recently, yes, that's a given, but if you read back these conditions are within normal parameters, maybe the global weather is resetting itself somewhat, getting back to where it was and we've just had it easy for the last while?

Whatever, it would be nice if some of the snow made it's way south for the 2011 winter season in NZ, we have season passes for the mountain and want to get as much time in there as possible.

Miami, so far, what I've seen is big buildings, and a Mall. Shopping here is a pastime and at this time of year, it's sales season. The Dolphin Mall has 250+ stores and all are at 50% sales or more. I've benefited by two Ralph Lauren shirts, another two from Kenneth Cole and Bryn has new size 15 FootJoy golf shoes. Those alone saved me enough to cover the costs on the shirts as the pair in NZ he wanted were over $200, these $53US ($70NZ)

So far, spent approx. $166NZ - $125US so not bad going.

Today's I'm hanging out with David, he's married to Jane, the other NZ Landmark Forum Leader, he's got a car so we are going to head to the Cuban quarter, somewhere I probably wouldn't get to otherwise and there's a promise of Cuban food (Versailles restaurant) which will be great. So far the foods been way better than expected.

The lamb chops (French cutlets x 8) and chips, in the bar last night cost $16, and when I mentioned I'm a kiwi, the chap taking my order immediately said, you'll want them rare then!

Scary place for food though was the mall, a huge food court, all selling immense portions of fried stuff, either that or claiming they sold the biggest, the cheesiest, the beefiest, the bestest etc. etc.

I'll throw up some photos later on, haven't really had the camera out so far, just a few shots on the phone so far, cheers

Friday, December 24, 2010

Miami, that's right, Miami

Boxing Day (26th Dec) morning 9.15am, Zoe and I will be lifting off the tarmac at Wellington Airport headed to Auckland, from there the next step is Los Angeles and then onto Miami.

Zoe's in sessions each of the 3 1/2 days we are there while I get to spend tourist time and shop and so on.

So I'm hoping to be able to take heaps of photos, taste some decent food and ride an airboat in the Everglades!.

So if you're interested, swing by over the break and I'll share what I see, taste and experience on the trip, and if you're in Wellington on the late afternoon / evening of the 1st of January 2011, we'll in back and barbecuing in the backyard - all welcome.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Caramelised Lemon Rice Pudding

I know, I know, I know, for some of you, Rice Pudding brings back some old sad and scary memories of childhood and perhaps this may be a post that you want to skip straight past and move onto something else.

But this may be an option to change your life because this option may just bring your taste buds back into line with those of us who enjoy and love this dish.

So be brave - here goes, step into the future because this ties in several variances that may just do it for you.

Caramelised Lemon Rice Pudding (with options)
and feel free to run wild, I used Tangeloes as the citrus option recently (the photos below) and am wanting to have a crack at grapefruit soon.
200g short grain rice (arborio works really well as an option)
600ml each full cream milk & thickened plain cream
Zest of 2 lemons or 3 oranges (avoid the pith - bitter)
Juice of 2-3 lemons or oranges (make sure you sieve - no pips)
1 ½ cups caster or white sugar (I often use vanilla sugar if I have on hand - see below)
Pinch salt

2 tablespoons icing sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon for dusting

Preheat oven to 150c.

Put all ingredients into an ovenproof dish with a tight fitting lid, mixing the cream, juice, zest and sugar well through.

As you can see I've used a Le Crueset casserole dish, nice and deep and able to go from the oven to the table.........

Let the mixture sit for 10-15 minutes to allow the ingredients to combine fully. The rice will glug up a touch - just stir and it'll be fine.
Mix well and place in the oven, bake for two hours at about 180. I usually check it every 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally but leave undisturbed for the final 30 minutes.

The mix will occasionally look as if the liquid has curdled but this is part of the process, simply mix well again and replace in the oven.

It's really important that the mixture thickens as the pudding cooks.

Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the lemon or orange juice and serve with scoops of ice cream along with the icing sugar and cinnamon.



Serves 6-8

Variation – spoon the rice pudding mix into individual ramekins and sprinkle with soft brown or muscovado sugar, either run under a hot grill to brulee or use a blowtorch to do the same.

This pudding may well remove the stigma rice pudding carries with some - enjoy!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Wine (well food) and roses

When we rebuilt (and by that I mean paid othesr to do it) our front wall we lost the plants and trees that had been planted over the years and the most missed was an old Daphne bush in that far right corner.

Despite all sorts of entreaties to the builders, their subbies didn't get the request and it along with an olive tree gifted to us few years earlier they all finished up bare rooted and dieing on the back lawn.

So once the wall was back in place and the soil back filled we had a virgin garden to re-plant. Year one, the veges went in, leeks, cabbages, lettuce and spinach in the main. But once that was done, what next?

Zoe said - white roses please, so here we go.  And job one, prepare the ground, and lay out the planting plan.

And in they go, and into my fingers go the thorns (it takes me two weeks to get one of them out of my finger) damn things. Anyway, as I go I also plant out two varieties of strawberries between the roses so as to provide Bella with berries when she comes over to visit.

And to make sure all grows nicely the irrigation system is being installed around the roses and to cover the berries as well.

As of today - how do they look, well pretty good so far (and I ate the first berries today - Chandler variety)

and the whites are just about there

and room in the far corner for the standard yellow that's been pining away in the container in the backyard - root bound and no matter how much water we pumped into it, always looking dry, with a little love and irrigation hopefully this will also kick back into bloom.

Also added two Guatemalan Guava plants between the roses, according to the wording on the plants they have lots of yummy little berries that are good to eat straight from the plant or even better as jam or as a compote, can't wait.

cheers all

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The wonderful world of the Internet allows for immediate access to such a wide number of ways to communicate and share information no matter where in the world the various parties are - yesterday I saw a Facebook post from a friend Francoise who while very French is currently residing in London.

Zoe and I met Francoise when she worked here in Wellington for a NZ wine /beverage company and where able to visit her in a small village near Lyon about 8 years back when she worked at a family winery in Tournon sur Rhone.

So when I saw her request for a cassoulet recipe it was a simple thing to ask what version she wanted and offer several from my recipe files.

[to deliver a Gluten Free end result all you need to do is make sure the sausage is GF and replace the breadcrumbs with either a pre-prepared GF option (several versions available here in NZ) or with rice crumbs or as you're already going to some effort bake a GF loaf for the purpose)

First option is the one below, the full on, throw everything into the pot option, this is a big production item, a long shopping list and a number of steps to follow, but set the time aside and just relax into it and the end result is very well worth it.

The ultimate cassoulet

Serves 8 / Preparation time - overnight / Cooking time over - 2 hours


300g/10oz dried white haricot beans, soaked in cold water overnight
1 onion, studded with a few cloves
1 bouquet garni (2 bay leaves, a few sprigs each of thyme and flat leaf parsley and a 7.5cm/3in celery stick, tied together)
4 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 Toulouse sausages
4 duck legs
350g/12oz belly pork rashers, skinned and diced
2 tbsp goose or duck fat (or oil)
1 large onion, chopped roughly
1 large carrot, chopped roughly
2 celery sticks, chopped roughly
350g/12oz lamb neck fillet, diced
350g/12oz boneless casserole pork, diced
290ml/½ pint dry white wine
400g/14oz can chopped tomatoes + 1 tbsp tomato puree
2 heaped tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 heaped tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
salt and pepper

A mixed green salad with mustard vinaigrette, to serve

For the topping:

1 large day-old baguette
2 fat garlic cloves, halved
4 tbsp goose or duck fat (or half butter, half oil)
2 heaped tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 heaped tbsp fresh thyme, chopped


1. Drain and rinse the beans, tip into a large pan and cover generously with cold water. Bring to the boil and skim off the scum, then add the studded onion, the bouquet garni, half the garlic and lots of pepper. Stir, half cover and boil for 30 minutes more. Stir occasionally and top up with water when necessary.

2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Prick the duck all over with a fork and put on a rack in a roasting tin. Roast for 30 minutes, then remove and set aside. Lower the oven to 140C/275F/Gas 1.

3. When the beans have been cooking for 1 hour, tip them into a sieve, discard the onion and bouquet garni. Set sausages aside.

4. Put the belly pork in a 4l/7pt flameproof dish and heat gently until the fat runs, then increase the heat and fry until just crispy. Add the poultry fat and heat until sizzling, and then add the onion, carrot, celery and remaining garlic, scraping up the bits from the base. Fry over a gentle heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a plate.

5. Increase the heat and add the lamb. Stir fry until coloured on all sides, then transfer to the plate and repeat with the pork. Tip the ingredients from the plate back into the dish. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree and herbs, then season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

6. Add the haricot beans and 850ml/1½pt water to the dish and bring to the boil. Stir, then lower the heat so the liquid is just simmering. Keep the mixture in the same dish to cook or transfer it to an earthenware dish.

7. Remove the skin from the duck, and then tuck the duck legs into the liquid. Peel off the sausage skins, slice the sausage meat thickly on the diagonal and add to the dish.

8. Cover the dish and bake for 1 hour, stirring once. Stir, and then cook uncovered for a further 1-1½ hours, stirring halfway, until the meat is really tender and the sauce is thickened. Take the dish out of the oven and remove the duck legs.

Strip the meat from the bones (it will fall off easily) and return the meat to the dish. Stir and add a little water, if necessary. Season if necessary, then return to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes until all the meat and beans are very tender.

9. Cut the crusts off the baguette, tear the bread into pieces and put in a food processor. Add the garlic and chop into coarse crumbs (you should have about 200g/8oz).

Heat the fat in a large frying pan until sizzling, then stir fry the breadcrumbs and garlic over a moderate to high heat for 7-8 minutes until crisp and golden. Remove from the heat, toss in the herbs and stir to mix, then season well with salt and pepper.

10. Give the cassoulet a good stir. The consistency should be quite thick, but not stodgy. If you prefer it slightly runnier, add a little water.

Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary, then sprinkle the topping over the surface in a thick even layer. Serve in warm bowls with a green salad dressed in mustard vinaigrette.

Option two - a much shorter shopping list and the end result while still very good has less work involved and a very much shorter shopping list.

Duck Cassoulet

Serves 4 (double the ingredients for a larger group)

Duck, pork and flageolet beans cooked slowly in a garlicky tomato broth is a perfect winter supper. The recipe uses duck legs that have been confited or cooked slowly in duck fat so you need a source for those or to have laid some down yourself.

If you want to use fresh duck legs, cook them at the start with the ribs.

This is a total meal served with hot sourdough or crusty bread, or serve some crisp French beans parboiled and quickly fried with olive oil and garlic.

A green salad with a sharp vinaigrette also works well against the richness of the main dish

4tbsp olive oil
4 belly pork ribs
Freshly ground pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely sliced
1 leek, finely sliced
1l brown chicken stock
6 plum tomatoes, skinned and deseeded
225g cooked flageolet beans
4 confit duck legs
2-3tbsp good pesto or 3-4tbsp freshly chopped basil


Heat the oil in large metal casserole or pan, add the belly pork and cook until golden brown.

Season with pepper, then add the onion, garlic, celery and leek, and sauté for a few mins until the onion is translucent.

Add the stock and tomatoes, bring to the boil and add the duck. Cover and simmer for 90 min.

Add the beans and cook for another 30 min. Scatter with the fresh basil or pesto and serve.

What's next?

So with the two options - which option will Francoise choose? (I have my guess, but will she surprise me?)

OK Francoise, over to you, I'll expect photos and commentary from you and the intended guests as to the end result, I look forward to all of that.

Bon Appetite! (in my worst Julia accent)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Turoa week & weekend

Turoa is one on NZ's best skiing and snowboarding areas - the mountain has two sides, Turoa (Southern facing) and Whakapapa (Northern) and we all board and prefer the longer runs at Turoa.

I've spent a few years off the slopes with a bad knee but got back up this year and we are all fully kitted out, esp Eve who got a new board, binding and boots at the 50% off sale this morning. $855 worth on the till reciept so $1,710 off the floor in one small - short timeframe.

This time up we are staying at the Old Courthouse in nearby Raetihi ( ) which is just a stunning place, a well managed adaption of the actual courthouse used to pronounce sentence on the local baddies of the region in the years gone by. The kitchen is where the Judge sat and the lounge down below where the legal counsel and watching locals would have sat in wait.

There are two bedrooms and a bathroom downstairs and upstairs two more plus a second lounge area and second bathroom.

The two familesi are mostly Gluten Free and in some cases lactose intolerant as well so dancing through the meals has taken some planning and care.

First night we had chicken drumsticks coated in a herb and spice enhanced GF plan flour then baked alongside roasted potatoes and other vegetables. I cooked four kilos to go around 9 people and there were 3 drums left at the end.

Night two I started dinner just after cleaning up night one's dinner. A mix of rosemary, Maldon salt, lemon pepper, Ras el Hanout, garlic powder and Olive oil, rubbed into a full leg of lamb and sat in a covered roasting pan through the night and the next day. Then placed in the heated over at 250 degrees with the lid on for 75 minutes, then the lid removed and the heat dropped to 180 for the final 45 minutes and then left aside to rest for another 20 minutes before carving. Melt in the mouth meat and alongside the potatoes, kumara and courgettes, carrots etc. went down very well.

Tonight, pork ribs marinated in a mix of BBQ sauces, garlic powder, pepper and chilli sauces for 60 minutes, again in a covered roasting dish for an hour to cook through and then the lid off, the oven cranked up and fan bake on to crisp and caramelise the edges.

All involved have been very happy with the offerings so far, and at the end of three busy days, two up the mountain in great sunny conditions, then today when the winds blew and the rains fell a quieter day but two hours in the hot pools at Tokaanu caused as much tiredness as the first two days.

We have two more days and the weather forecast is horrible for the next three days, following that it looks great so Bryn and I will come up again next weekend to a shared lodge and hopefully get a long weekend in and all three days up the hill in good conditions.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Dancing in the Kitchen with the Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef

Three Gluten Free dishes courtesy of Shauna James-Ahern (The Gluten Free Girl)

I recently saw a post on FaceBook from Shauna inviting readers to register and they would be sent three recipes from her upcoming new book to prepare, photograph etc. and of course Blog about.

The book's called  - Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef: A Love Story with 100 Tempting Recipes

Now, when I found out about my GF state being a foodie I had certain concerns and went straight to the internet, every GF site seemed to be about how to make GF muffins that looked simply terrifying, stodgy and boring, then I stumbled on a link and found Shauna.

What a revelation, here was someone who once diagnosed as GF had found her life, a thrill for food and an excitement about all the foods you could eat as GF - instead of the 'you can't eat this' sites I had previously found.

I emailed Shauna straight away and she replied - wishing me luck and fun in re-discovering food. Over the past few years I have watched from the other side of the world (according to - the distance between Wellington New Zealand, and Seattle is 7253 miles, or 11671 km) as Shauna has met, fell in love, and married The Chef (Danny)  and then along came Lil Bean Lucy), possibly the most watched over baby in the foodie world.

So, when Shauna threw up a 'wanna try some of the new recipes early?' question I sent off an email and got the email back with the recipes enclosed;

Seared Shrimp with an almond-garlic sauce

Fresh pasta with anchovies, lemons, and olives

Chocolate peanut butter brownies

Immediately I saw a problem, the brownies, I don't bake, never really have and have even dismissed baking as 'chemistry' while cooking is 'art'

Have to eat those words if I was to fulfill on Shauna's request......

So - step one - buying the baking ingredients, Wellington has a wonderful store called Commonsense Organics, they stock every organic, GF, dairy free etc. etc. requirement you could ever have so I head there for GF flours and so on, they even had Oat flour in stock though not listed as GF it's organic and from Canada, the staff believe it is GF but have never checked this.

I decide to risk it in the first batch. (all good, no side effects at all so will report back to the good folks at CommonSense)

Issue one - almost everything required was in stock except for sweet rice flour which according to a quick Google search is milled from Glutinous Rice with a high starch level - but none in stock and the Asian food store I tried next was also out of stock. So - soldier on and manage none the less.

Issue two - the almonds for the sauce, Shauna and the Chef suggested a brand not available here in NZ so, improvise, again Google is my friend and raw almonds quickly toasted with a light olive oil and sprinkled with Maldon sea salt appears to be a good replacement.

Issue three - I don't have a mixer blender (broken motor in my multi mixer) so pasta is going to have to made by hand, but I'm not a 70 year old Tuscan Nonna so not sure how that's going to go.

Recipe One - seared shrimp with garlic-almond sauce
This is so simple (even if you have to prepare the sauce in a mortar and pestle - damm broken mixer)
The blend of fresh garlic, the toasted almonds along with the simplicity of the shrimp deliver an extremely subtle blend that had my 16 year old and I diving into the sauce time and time again.

Suffice it to say, this is a very nice recipe and one that I'll make many times again
Recipe Two - fresh pasta with anchovies, lemons and olives
Next the pasta - and this was a touch of a mission, as I noted above this is a whole new world and doing it by hand, let's just say that the experiment was slightly flawed. No matter what I did, how long I kneaded the dough, smooth and shiny didn't happen, gritty and lumpy was the best I could do. So when it came to running it through the pasta machine (thanks Megan) it didn't really slide out the far side in smooth supple sheets.
Next option, a trusty old wooden rolling pin, this worked to a point, but by now the dough was getting a touch dry so an extra egg yolk and a drop or two of water and more hand kneading and we were rolling again. End result some uneven strips of dough to be hand cut into ribbons.
The sauce came together quickly and easily, the anchovies, olives etc merging into a smooth viscous mass ready to accept the cooked pasta.
Fresh pasta normally cooks faster than dried and GF pasta often faster again, well due to the - how do I say this - structural integrity (thickness) of my pasta this took just a touch longer than expected. Finally al dente and ready to be combined

Another simple dish and one that with a tweak or two (my family aren't big olive fans) will be a standby in future, they'll never ever know about the anchovies as they just melt away into the body of the sauce.

Baking Time

Recipe Three - Chocolate peanut butter brownies

The big one for me and a step that as I said above necessitated not only the purchase of GF flours but when I thought about it, I needed baking trays as well. So Moore Wilson's is my local wholesale all-in-one outlet, fresh veges, meat, fish, breads, and full wholesale grocery and equipment areas, + a wine/spirits and beer store, this is my local one stop shop.

Into the mixing process and here came the exactness I never ever show in my cooking, measuring the flours correctly, reading and re-reading the instructions to make sure I didn't skip anything. The dry ingredients sifted and combined, the chocolate and butter melted in the bain marie and then the mix came together, the baking tray was greased and dusted and all was ready. The peanut butter didn't want to spread so I put it in the microwave for a few seconds and then that worked too.

In my search for GF ingredients I had located an imported GF chocolate (dark chocolate + mint flavour) but also noticed that our own excellent brand Whittakers appears to be fully GF. I used the import option but will use the Whittakers next time (yes - I will bake again)

Now the end result wasn't perfect, (oh no I hear you say - no surprise seeing it's your first time) but the only reason for this is that I forgot our oven cooks higher than the settings say, so at the prescribed heat, I singed the brownies and in less than the suggested baking time. Still both Bryn and I both think it's a pretty good first time go.
Dense and chewy outer layer and soft and gooey inside, the mint in the chocolate came through as a light aftertaste and the peanut butter next time might be a cashew or almond butter instead but I might even be tempted to take a shot at Shauna's other baking recipes on her blog site.

The book is available for order on the above link, well worth a look, even if you aren't Gluten Free the recipes (as they will all be like these three) will be ones that are simple, exciting and will taste good no matter what you can or cannot eat.

All in all, this was a fun exercise, three dishes, four different processes to follow (and all those who know me are very aware that recipes to me are normally simply a vague guide as I amend, and change on the go) and one I'm very pleased to have been a part of.

All the team at work will get to taste (if not the first batch) the second or third batches of the brownies as I play with the options there and with summer about to arrive down here in NZ, the shrimp and pasta with make appearances on those long summer evenings in the backyard.

thanks Shauna, Danny and Lucy for being who you are, for what you provide and offer so freely, you're a gift to the world



Friday, August 6, 2010

Wednesday night - Bangkok (I know out of date order)

Well just realised I didn't post Wednesday night's food excursion, an old friend from NZ - David Wickens, is living and working here in Bangkok and trekked across town in torrential rain to meet Zoe and I for dinner.

I know a local place he says, nothing much but great food, turns out to be an open air site, market during the day and several food stalls in the evening, plastic seats, metal tables and a picture menu. The staff are young and friendly and very eager to assist and make sure we are well looked after.

We order a range of options, green papaya salad, tom yum goong soup, a whole fish deep fried and garnished with fried shallots, ginger and garlic, rice noodles and squid, deep fried on a bed of bean sprouts and onions.

All beautiful and along with some soft drinks all comes to 540 Baht = NZ$21

When we leave the lady who owns the restaurant thanks us for eating and wishes us good luck. Zoe and I walk back with David while he works out if he can get his wife to come to Bangkok over the weekend to take me around.

Thursday Bangkok - 5th August

With Zoe working here we get away to a fairly slow start to the day and really only get away into a taxi for the Platinum Mall at about 8.30. This is a wholesale mall with most stalls about 2-3m wide and maybe 6m deep, crammed into 5 floors of about 200 stalls per floor.

about 1/3 of the far wall of the floor
Each shows the price for one item, discounted for two, more for three etc.  

So first things first, top floor for breakfast, 1500 seats, they say over 100 food choices though I'd say more like 500 based on the menus above each stall - from here I got 6 Gyoza and Yakitori Chickren rice - all for 95Baht, about NZ$4.

Zoe tried the maple waffles and had Gyoza as well, then we plunged into the mall proper, within 10 minutes Zoe's 5 got new pashminas under her arm and we've sorted some bits and pieces for the 5 and 3 year olds.

Funky outsized watches for NZ$2 each, t-shirts, polos all join the booty, but we restrain ourselves as on each floor there are just so many options, I'll return on the weekend to check out more.

Lunch - back upstairs and the place (mostly empty earlier is heaving) so we take turns to grab food, Zoe's much excited by a banana crepe and goes for that, memories of banana pancakes in Koh Samui 22 years ago)

I go for two options, Hoy Tod, an oyster, bean sprout stir fry in a crispy omelet, and a Pad Thai full of fresh seafood, inc tiny mussels, squid, shrimp etc etc both together cost me 150 Baht = NZ$6, just so good and whipped up in seconds right in front of you.

I get brave and load on the chili sauce, nam prik and onion shoots and chili flasks and experiment with variations through the meal.

Zoe's away setting up the team over at the Landmark offices so dinner will be late and close by tonight, will report in once that's sorted, eaten and digesting, cheers

Thursday, August 5, 2010


OK, so some of you know that Zoe is a Course Leader for Landmark Education and sometimes I get to travel with her when she heads away - this time the trip is as in the title.

Wgtn to Melbourne to see friends and catch up with her boss, then off to Bangkok where Zoe will lead a Communication:Power to Create course this weekend to about 115 people - I get to hang out around Bangkok, maybe see an old friend (teaching golf at a University here) and eat. And you know that's a favourite topic of mine so here we go.

But first - I need to deal with Melbourne.

Healesville - a small town about 45 mins drive from the CBD (Yarra Valley area) and Giant Steps; deli, bakery, winery, restaurant, wine tasting etc etc

This place is seriously cool, great food, the wine is brilliant (the Innocent Bystander Frisky Reisling 9% alc and very young - 10 weeks in the bottle) and the building and surroundings laid back.

I chose the smoked trout salad, a mix of pickled cucumber strings, radish, red onion and witloof, Zoe a baguette stuffed with ham and a mix of cheeses.

I grabbed a couple of bottles of the Innocent Bystander Pinot Rose to carry away, and a box of the Murray River salt.

And then later back to town and a dinner with a wider bunch of friends, Anne-Marie and Anthony, Paul and Kerry, Cathey and Matt at the Limerick, good food and conversation.

Then Tuesday morning we got picked up by Mark and Julie and went for breakfast at The Duchess Cafe, very different menu, things like scrambled eggs with Gentleman's Relish, Pork Belly with fried egg and a reduction/glaze (my choice).

Then off to the airport and to check onto our Qantas flight - except no, it's a Jetstar flight so oops - slight shock there as Zoe is such a frequent flyer she gets some on-board privileges and Jetstar just manage a complimentary pack to Qantas for her, but she got feed, a blanket, headphones etc

I was ever so slightly worried about what might be available GF on-board but in fact they're very good. Came on-board to be welcomed with an offer of GF cookie bars (Byron Bay brand) and out of nowhere one of the crew arrived with a salad from 'upfront' as a complimentary option.

So all in all not a bad flight and I'm heading back to Melbourne with them in a week (Zoe gets a QF flight back to Sydney) so will load the wallet so I can afford the options on-board.

I'll start the next post from day one in Bangkok, see ya soon

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The day before the day of

Tomorrow another quick trip to a city where Zoe's leading a Communication Course starts. A city with colour, water, heat and rain (especially at this time of year) fabulous food and shopping and lots more. Sawasdee

but first, on the way a flying visit to Melbourne and friends there, Lillydale, the Yarra and the city. I'll be updating on the fly, carrying my IPhone and HTC Shift to allow me to share the trip, follow along


Sunday, June 20, 2010

And of course I own a few cookbooks, maybe a few more than a few, or in reality many more than a few.

And when we moved to our current house to my joy there were fitted bookshelves either side of the chimney in the downstairs lounge area, right next to the kitchen so my books would be close on hand.

Problem, though is that the space isn't big enough for the whole set so there's a stack of them tucked away in plastic boxes in our storage space under the rental house we own.

Never mind, the one's I either use the most or the ones I just like to wander through on occasion are here. Plus in the magazine stands in the hallway I have every single Cuisine magazine from No2 through to the current edition, with the notable exception of magazine No1 - I don't have it, I want it and can't find it, most are here in the stack, but having run our of space there the rest are now finding their way into a new stack in the lounge.
Today - time for a clean out and a redo of the where on the shelves each book sits, so hauled them all down  and then cleaned the shelves and then re-stacked them.

I'll bring a few of the stored books out into the light of day again sometime soon, it'll be interesting to see what I though I could do without a while back

Also on the shelves are a number of books involving food, travel and or food + travel, books I've brought to read prior to my trips to India or Italy, and others for places I've not got to and aren't likely to get to soon. I'll take a look through these soon and make some suggestions you may enjoy reading yourself.

I'll also start listing some of the odder books I have, shuddering stops at the sight or a sign reading 'garage sale' over the years mean I have a collection of old, add and different books that provide a view into the worlds and thoughts of wither the time of the publication or the people who've put the book together.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday night, Zoe's at home and the kids are not. Bryn's slinging plates at The Mexican Cafe ( a local mex place run by a Cambodian couple where we started eating at when Bryn was in a high chair) and Eve's some where else, presumably with the boyfriend.

So when Zoe suggests steak and spuds, as a simple end of week option - easy right!

You'd think so but, then I've had a day to forget so am looking for some redemption and outlet, so a salad of mixed lettuce, rocket, watercress and feta and red onions whipped up, small spuds are washed, boiled soft then crushed in hot garlic and chilli infused olive oil (my own) and tossed in a hot oven with many sprigs of rosemary.

Then what else? - a can of Italian cherry tomatoes tossed into a hot saucepan with crushed garlic and olive oil then simmered down to a warm syrupy mass to be drizzled across the steak - ah yes the steak, sirloin, fat on and just simply sprinkled with good Maldon sea salt to bring the juices to the surface, then laid gently into a cast iron pan over a low heat, then blasted to bring a firm crust forward and then set aside to rest in the pan to allow the juices to resettle.

oh - and a bag of 4 baby Bok Choy, simmered over a mix of water and sesame oil (nutty back notes) till soft and melting just for some green on the plate.

to go with - a bottle of Santa Cristina 2008 Toscana, a 90% / 10% blend of Sangiovese and Merlot grapes, and if that gets dry at the bottom, then a Villa Maria Merlot, 2009 vintage to soften the end game

Monday, June 7, 2010

Well that last post was all but The Last Post.

When I mentioned that Bryn was turning bananas into banana cake etc. what I completely forgot to say was for him to remove the beef and let it sit while he upped the heat etc.

Instead he moved to the bottom of the oven and turned the heat up to cook the cake, and then left the heat up. Bugger.

End result - a close to caramelised onion/vegetable base with a very dry piece of eye round perched on top like a fishing boat with the tide out. Good news was there was enough time to scoot down the road, grab two x corn fed chickens and present them side by side roasted up alongside crispy roast Agria spuds, golden kumara and buttered carrots.

(these are simple, peel slice and simmer for as long as you have, then add a knob of unsalted butter and a few grindings of black pepper, stir and drain and serve alongside)

Anyway, after the dust has settled Bryn and I attempted to salvage the eye round but to no avail, was way to dry and the onions etc. more burnt than caramelised so binned it was.

Zoe's been on the road (well sky) again, TMLP in Sydney over the first two days of the Queen's Birthday weekend but back at midnight last night so tonight it's a Weight Watchers dinner for us and the Tuia's.

Not sure what weight Zoe's lost but the boy has dropped over 3kg and is very happy with himself, he's really taken to counting up his daily points allocation and is noticing the difference especially out on the rugby field.

So when dinner was floated as an idea and the weather has been wet and cold all weekend (except for Saturday which out of the last 15 days was the one fine and sunny one) I went to Ribollita as a perfect solution, white beans - so canned ceci , fagiola bianch di spagna, and fagioli cannellini (chickpeas, butter beans, and white beans, one can of the canned cherry tomatoes,
two red onions, garlic, dried thyme and some thinly sliced ham, and a hunter sausage (finely diced) all went into the big red la creuset pot over a low heat, water to cover and all simmers away for an hour or so.

The whole thing will be served up in bowls and spoons - for those who choose no to this, the pumpkin soup livened up with assorted Moroccan spices will be option number two.

This one's really easy, slice the pumpkin (Crown or whatever you've chosen, works just as well with squash etc. or kumara) lay in a roasting pan and sprinkle with the spices then roast at a low heat until tender.

Let it all cool and while this is happening slice and gently cook sliced onions, garlic and a little added spice in a large stock pot.

Add the roast pumpkin (skin removed) to the onion mix - add chicken stock or water to cover and simmer.

Once all is cooked - I use a hand wand mixer to blend and then adjust spices, salt etc and simmer a while longer. I often find at this stage I need to add more stock or water to thin the soup down and on occasion have added Indian or Thai curry paste instead of the spice (roasted the pumpkin plain) and at the end blended in coconut cream for a slightly different option.

Also, while I was sorting this all out, Zoe and Bryn chose to make a WW recipe that they enjoyed one night last week while I was out, basically a big spanakopita so there's been spinach, feta, ricotta and filo pastry flying and that's all in the oven baking away - so for this time at least  he's answered the basic question.....

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Start of the winter flu season and I've been knocked over for more than a week, food the least thought in my head for most of that time, in fact eating was nowhere on my agenda for about 4 days.

So now that it's back at the top end of the list I'm underway in braising a nice large eye round of beef in a slow oven after 15 hours of marination in a bottle of Merlot, slice onions, and herbs, back pepper etc. A nice mound of potato mash and creamed spinach on the side should be enough to see Mothers Day through for the Mother in Law, since Zoe's in Perth leading another weekend course.

The boy (all six foot tall, 100kgs and size 15 feet) is turning some bananas on the turn into banana cake for dessert while daughter is at work at the restaurant bemoaning the fact that her boy (Jordan) is flying north today for 10 days to start his 'sparky' course.

If time had allowed today this would have been the dessert option, but with the beef in the oven for 4 hours, no time for a long bake rice pudding, this is an adaption I created a few years back from an Italian baked rice pudding receipe that used dried fruits as part of the mix, the orange option caramelises a little more than the lemon due to the higher sugar component, serve with a chocolate or vanilla icecream scoop at the side, or sprinkle with a cinnmon/nutmeg combination and drizzle with pouring cream.

Caramelised Lemon (Orange) Rice Pudding

100g short grain rice
600ml each full cream milk & thickened plain cream
Zest of 2 lemons or 3 oranges
Juice of 2-3 lemons or oranges
1 ½ cups caster or white sugar (I often use vanilla sugar if I have on hand)
Pinch salt

optional - 2 tablespoons icing sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon for dusting

Preheat oven to 150c.

Put all ingredients into an ovenproof dish with a tight fitting lid, mixing the cream, juice, zest and sugar well through. Let the mixture sit for 10-15 minutes to allow the ingredients to combine fully.

Mix well and place in the oven, bake for two hours, stirring occasionally but leaving undisturbed for the final 30 minutes. The mix will occasionally look as if the liquid has curdled but this is part of the process, simply mix well again and replace in the oven, the rice may also 'break' slightly if you stir to vigorously, be gentle.

Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the lemon juice and serve with scoops of ice cream along with the icing sugar and cinnamon.

Serves 6-8

Variation – spoon the rice pudding mix into individual ramekins and sprinkle with soft brown or muscovado sugar, either run under a hot grill to brule or use a blowtorch to do the same.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Well it's late March already and almost one 1/4 of the year down, the Summer is slowly falling away and I'm beginning to look at recipes for the cooler months already. After the trip to India last year I think I'll be using the recipe books I picked up in Mumbai and Delhi.

This will be something I work on and get right, I got this made for me in so many places when the restauranteur found out I couldn't eat the normal Roti or paratha.



150 gms Wheat flour (replace with GF flour mix)
1 tsp Red chilli powder
250 gms Besan (chickpea flour)
1 tsp Dhaniya Powder (coriander powder)
3 tbsp Ghee
2 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp Jeera (cumin seed)
1/2 tsp Kaala Jeera (black cumin)
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Ajwain (similar to caraway)


Mix the wheat flour and besan together, add oil, salt, red chilli powder, dhaniya, jeera, kala jeera and ajwain. Mix well. Make into a stiff dough, then roll into small and thick rotis and cook both sides till browned in patches on a pre-heated flat plate or griddle.

Brush missi roti slightly with melted ghee. Serve hot with your favourite curry or dips.

Try it, you'll like it


Monday, March 8, 2010

Well apparently promises are made to be broken as I promised myself I wouldn't take on a blog unless I could commit to a post once a week and here I've missed several posts/weeks through all the usual excuses, too busy, other people take up my time etc when really I've been doing other things.

So in the immortal words of Chopper Crowe - harden the f up Masters!

So heres the latest missive from the life of me.

And it has been busy, no mistake about that, a long time (in our world of Zoe being home - then bang she's away for the best part of 4 weeks on the trot) and in the meantime Eve has started Uni, doing courses that I don't understand but then for her last couple years at Wgtn College I had no idea what half the prizes where for at prizegiving, Best Male Student to understand crochet styles of the late 1970s, what's with that?

Bryn's playing every sport possible and with the blurring of the lines now common for this time of year, he's got rugby trials, requests to play 20/20 cricket, weekend cricket has become 2 day, golf on Mondays for the College and Sundays at Judgeford.

Me? - I hear you ask, well work is back to it's near manic best so besting the tide there and holding the XT line as strong as I can, though getting the pity look for the first time in 19 years of mobile sales is tough to take.

Food has  been a constant, room to play a bit especially tonight, only Bryn and I at home so a Hugh Fearnly-Whittsingstall recipe comes to mind. White beans, tomatoes, onions, garlic and spicy sausage - strangely all available in my kitchen so away we go.

Both red and white onions, finely diced and into the stock pot, three cans of cannellini and butter beans (la Italiana brand) go in on top once the onion is sweated off, then those tomatoes that are close to past their best, judicious slicing and dicing there, and a small amount of chicken stock (store bought but still - Campbell's so can't be bad) salt, pepper and some oregano follow plus smoked paprika.

Then the meat - pre-cooked sliced cabanossi and GF pure beef sausages and at the end a handful and a half of arborio rice to thicken the stew/soup?

Taste a few times to make sure the rice ius cooked through, nothing worse than chalky rice netween the teeth and we are good to go, adjust seasoning and serve  as is, perhaps some crusty bread (but we have none) so GF Burgen corn & poppyseed toasted will do nicely.

So not wildly exciting but good use of what's at hand to deliver something different to the usual weeknight fare and reasonably quick from start to finish.

Just a random thought - perhaps this is a wet style risotto, Venetian style......

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

So it's been a busy little while since my last update, with work and general family life taking up more time than I had said I would devote to it at the start of the year, how easy it is to walk around and over the comitments we make.

Foodwise it's been a mixed bag with only half of the family here most nights (Eve waitresses at Strawberry Fare - a dessert restaurant famed for being on the site of an old mortuary - not much else) and Bryn now also working front of house at the Mexican Cafe in Newtown, the second only ever boy to work there (the first was the owners nephew)

I have to own up here, we have been eating there since Bryn was just old enough enough to sit in a high chair and throw up on their carpet when a corn chip got stuck halfway down his greedy throat, and Eve worked there in her first incarnation as a waitress, so he was a walk in when he got old enough.(he's now almost 15 and a half)

So for most of the week I find myself halving portion sizes or over catering and finding myself with lunch for the next day, not that bad really.

It's been a quick steak on the grill, pork chops and salad and then tonight Bryn and Zoe combined to produce Rosti, not bad at all except that Bryn grated the potato on a very small sized hole on the grater instead of using rhe mandoline so a touch more like a dense crispy potato pancake than a light air filled rosti, but tasty all the same.

Eating out has also been sporadic, Yum Cha at Golden century a week back (Saturday morning of the Sevens weekend so quiet) and that's been about it.

All fairly standard except the New Years rice cakes, very gelatinous, slightly caramelized surface as if pan fried after being set as a slab (like grilling or pan frying polenta perhaps?) but with a restrained sweet taste, something I find is rare with asian sweet meats as most are either hugely sweet or are strangely unsweet.

Will have to search my cookbook shelves and see if I have anything that offers a recipe for this.

We are in the end stage of re-decorating our main lounge upstairs, sounds grand but really our place is a slightly odd layout. Two bedrooms down, a kitchen that joins into a dining/lounge type area at the back of downstairs and a single bathroon, small study/office and a single bedroom upstairs. And then the room, the entire front of the upstairs facing North is a single room, flooded with sun year round and now completely redone (except for the carpet) and ready for bookshelves in the 'reading' corner. This will allow me to pull close to 200 cookbbooks out of storage and have these out and at my fingertips. I cannot wait.

In a later post I'll start to share the range of these, as I have been at times an avid garage sale haunt, and managed over a few years to obtain some older and rarer NZ originals;

I've listed a few below (and will over time share a few of the recipes contained within the pages of these pieces of history, especially those that deal with recession time cooking options), I have some already out and just pulled three down; these are,

The "Peace" Recipe Book, an effort by a returned soldiers wife (Veteran African War) Elsie G Harvey and published by N.Z Newspapers at the Star Office, Auckland. There is no publishing date but so perhaps  sometime soon after 1915? if that refernce is the 2nd Boer War?

Practical Home Cookery Chats and Recipes, written and selected by Katrine, Cookery Editress late "Weekly Press" printed in Christchurch in 1929 by Simpson and Williams Ltd

The Blue Triangle Cookery Book - published in Aid of the Funds of the Y.W.C. A., Wellington - again no publishing date.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Eating out - St John's Bar

So I manage to eat out on accasion, not often but often enough to be able to pick and choose between the where and when.

My most recent opportunity was at the St John's Bar, an old Ambulance station turned into a bar and restaurant, with a fantastic outside area that's full of tables and oversized bean bags in the summer.

I was meeting with a supplier and a colleague and just had time for a quick lunch. A short but sharp menu allowed me to select the roasted salmon fillet, with salad greens and a very simple balsamic dressing.

Coupled with a glass of Lorenz Pinot Gris it was simple and very well prepared and delivered, only issue I had was that the menu made no mention of bread or toasted bread and the salmon arrived sitting on four segments of toatsed sourdough.

Not a major issue but for someone fully celiac a probable major, simply lifted the salmon aside and handed it to my colleague to eat with his seafodd risotto. All in all in and out in less than 60 minutes with a very freindly waitress, good prompt service and a smile.

I didn't take any photos so can't offer any up, but can recommend the St John's Bar as a destination for both food and wine.


Monday, February 1, 2010

The Tuscan feast

Well I set up the menu here a while back, now I probably need to offer up some recipes and photos from last Friday  night. The below photo is the start point of the Pomodoro gratinati - gratineed tomatoes with herbs, garlic and cheese

of course before this the squid

This is prior to the BBQ treatment, a slight char grilling the into the marinade of olive oil, chillis, parsley and lemon juice.

I have to admit this was underwhelming if the exact recipe was followed. My critics commented rapidly that this was initally insipid so a rapid increase in lemon juice, Maldon sea salt and fresh ground black pepper helped big time.

I think next time I'll jazz it up with a blast of extra chilli or lemon or perhaps something like a Thai dipping sauce turned to a marinade solution.

This was the Verdure miste arrosto - mixed roasted vegetables before they went under the heat

and then the end result

+ the Tagliata con rucola ed aceto balsamico - grilled sirloin on rocket salad

a single sirloin piece that I sectioned so that I could could deliver rare, medium and well done portions across the rocket and parmesan salad and followed up, later by the end of the evening by the

Frutti col nocciolo arrostiti con il marscapone della vaniglia - roasted stonefruits with vanilla sugar marscapone. This was served with Brown Brthers Lexia and a perfect mix, of course by the time I served this up I was feeling little pain, a solution of Pinot Gris, Risling and of course the Lexia. 

the evening was an unmitigated success as only all evenings with friends can be - best times you can ever have.

The reborn card table

So one thing I haven't mentioned here so far is that the wife (Zoe) is something of a designer, having owned her own fabic design company (EONZ) and also having managed the decor all the various houses lived in over the years.

And as I have mentioned we glamp every summer so having the appropiate accessories are required. Last holiday the fold out table fell apart, it was about time I guess as it was a purchase at the Red Shed some time back.

So Zoe goes online to Trademe searching for a folding card table, this is what she found.
an old feltless card table for $5, a stunning buy.

Problem is that the seller was based in Palmerston North, 2 1/2 hours north of where we live, so how to get it to our place. Answer - Sara and Adrian live not that far way so a quick request and the deal was done, they deliver the talble and I'm pimped out to cook a meal, thus the Tuscan feast last Friday night.

A quick trip to the Spotlight store and voila

the end result, is a glamorous art deco style table, covered in white vinyl with black brad tacks for the contrast

End result the stunning photo above, a table that will not only become a central point for any possible card or board games we willhave at the campsite next time - but also a dinner table if required and whatever else we find it useful for.