Friday, September 30, 2011

Canton Cafe - Kingsland

I had to search my blog to check if I had posted about Canton Cafe before - I was sure I would have as we eat there quite often. Canton Cafe is fantastic for a really relaxed, quick meal - there is nothing remotely pretentious about anything...from the plastic table cloths, yelling in cantonese in the kitchen and an army of staff ready to answer your every need. The focus and the thing that is important is the food. It is freshly cooked and fantastic! The added bonus is that our little person is looked after well too. She knows that if she does 'good eating' the special lady might bring her a treat at the end of the meal. It was the ideal place to celebrate a 'significant' birthday for me a couple of years ago before going on to a local bar. We had a separate room and the food just kept on coming.
Our meal tonight was sweet and sour chicken, a chicken noodle dish, veges and chicken and rice.
The added bonus is that Canton Cafe is BYO and our choice of Rabbit Ranch Pinot Gris from our local Glengary Wine shop was perfect with our meal.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fresh Herbs - Making a difference

Tonight's dinner was pretty simple - Spaghetti Bolognese but what made a difference was loads of fresh herbs in it.
Right through winter I have
had herbs growing despite the cold weather. Tonight's meal had fresh thyme, marjoram and flat leaf Italian parsley.
I use them all the time, especially on the bread I make each weekend. So easy to
grow - as in plant them and forget them apart from a bit of water in summer.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Baby Carrots - Recipe

Today's Ooooby box came with a big bunch of baby carrots. As I am not really a huge fan of carrots I have never bothered to cook them before - although I do always think they really add to the presentation of a dish!

This recipe is (I hate to admit it) a Rachel Ray recipe...but it was simple and relatively quick so I gave it a go.

I served them with Pomegrenate Molasses Chicken, Celeriac and chicken couscous. (always a little ironic to eat couscous as it is the name of one of our cats, the other is Tabioca - yes a food theme here)


  • 1 1/2 pounds baby carrots
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pats
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt


Place baby carrots in about 2 cm of water with butter, sugar, and salt. Bring water to a boil, cover pan, and reduce heat to simmer. Cook carrots 7 or 8 minutes, remove lid, and raise heat to medium high. Reduce water until it almost evaporates, a couple of minutes. Turn carrots in sauce and taste to adjust seasonings and serve.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Kiwi Classic - Mum's Pavlova Recipe

We have a visitor staying from West Virginia, here for the rugby world cup and there a few things that we feel it is our kiwi duty to expose him to. Feijoa will be one of them, pineapple lumps, L&P. Another will be the world famous Kiwi Pavlova.

The debate came when we came to decorating it...the little person in the house wanted sprinkles, whereas I had visions of something a bit more adult and sophisticated! A compromise was reached.
The Adult side had Lemon Curd and Passionfruit...the little person's side sprinkles.

Interestingly a previous visitor from Canada's description of Pavlova was part of the inspiration for the name of this blog - 'Sugar Pie'. It was not a complimentary description in the context it was used, needless to say I was less than impressed.

Of course with this recipe using so many egg whites I will be forced to make something that uses egg yolks might just have to be creme brûlée!


4 egg whites
1 and half teaspoons vinegar
pinch salt
1 and half teaspoons cornflour
1 cup sugar

1. Beat egg whites and salt for 3 minutes.
2. Add sugar gradually and beat til sugar blends in.
3. Fold in vinegar and cornflour.
4. Place on baking paper on tray. Don't spread much.
5. Bake for 1 and half hours at 130 (leave oven on all the time)

I usually double the recipe and only give it an extra 10 minutes.
20cm diameter uncooked finishes up as 25cm cooked.

Soljarns Winery - A great place for children!

We shared a 70th birthday lunch today at Soljarns Winery in Kumeu just out of Auckland.
This is a good spot for a large group gathering and best of all they had one of the best and most appropriate children's menus I've seen. There were also colouring pictures and crayons waiting at the
table that kept the little people busy for quite a while.
Looking at a map it seems like a long drive but we got there really quickly as most of the trip was along motorways.
While I had great intentions of getting pictures of the main meals, once again I got carried away talking and then eating! We had a set menu that offered a salmon dish, lamb shanks and a vegetarian dish. All of the options were really well presented and came to the table at pretty much the same time.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Why Do I Always Try Something New When I have Visitors? - Bacon and Egg Pie Recipe

Normal people bring out their tried and true, their guaranteed successes...but me, I try something new when I have visitors coming. In this instance a house guest I have never even met!

With the Rugby World Cup occurring just 5

minutes walk away we seem to have multitudes of visitors for pre game drinks in the hour or two before the game. I have easily thought through pre game snacks (hearty snacks considering the amount of drinking that occurs pre and during games), but when it struck me that I had visitors at lunchtime tomorrow I was at a bit of a loss. Of course there will be home made bread...John suggested peanut butter sandwiches (as if!).

For some reason I have come across Annabel Langbein's Bacon and Egg Pie several times recently.
I've never made bacon and egg might be something to do with the fact that for years

(a good 20 years actually) I haven't eaten red meat. Bacon has crept back in to my diet over the last few years. The idea fascinates me and after finding the recipe tonight I decided to make it.

Luckily I had pastry in the freezer...I'm not sure it is quite the right sort but surely savoury pastry is
So, with fresh herbs from the garden and a spring onion that has slowly grown over winter in my
Green Smart planters, I have had a go at my first Bacon and Egg Pie.
My recipe was a smaller version than the one listed below.

Bacon and Egg Pie

3 sheets (450g) ready-rolled savoury shortcrust pastry
250g streaky bacon, cut into 2cm pieces
2 medium potatoes, peeled, cooked and thinly sliced
3 tbsp soft herbs (eg parsley, basil, chives or spring onion tops), chopped
14 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp salt ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.
Place a flat baking tray in the oven to heat - the pie will sit on this, and the heat will help it to crisp.
Cut a piece of baking paper to fit a 40 x 30cm (16 x 12 inch) baking dish or roasting pan. It should cover the base and reach about 3-4cm (1ý-1ý inches) up the sides.
Remove the baking paper from the baking dish or roasting pan and lay it flat on your bench.
Dust it with a little flour and lay 2 pastry sheets on top.
Join the pastry sheets by pressing them together firmly with a small overlap. Roll out the pastry to thinly cover the paper.
Lift the paper with the pastry and lay into the baking dish or roasting pan, covering the base and 3-4cm (1 1/4-1 1/2 inches) up the sides.
Sprinkle the bacon over the pastry.
Top with the slices of potato and sprinkle with the herbs.
Break 8 whole eggs over the top. In a mixing bowl, lightly whisk the remaining 6 eggs with the milk, salt and pepper.
Pour this evenly over the whole eggs.
Roll out the remaining sheet of pastry very thinly and cut it into narrow strips. Arrange the strips in a lattice pattern on top of the pie, trimming off any excess.
Place the prepared pie on top of the heated baking tray and bake for 12-15 minutes until the pastry is starting to puff and turn golden.
Reduce the heat to 180C/350F and bake until the pastry is golden and cooked through on the base (this should take a further 35-40 minutes).
Serve warm or at room temperature with a salad and pickles or chutney.
It will keep in a covered container in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lemon and Fennel Chicken Recipe

I often take cuttings from magazines and newspapers and make them within the week. The problem is that once I have made a dish once the attraction goes...unless it is really amazing and preferably easy too.
This one was in the weekend paper and since it had lemon it it...which seems to be my flavour of choice at the moment, it seemed like a good idea.
The dish was remarkably simple and really effective. I used fennel that I have growing (slightly out of season but I live in hope that I will harvest some fennel bulb in month or so), so used some of the leaves fresh.
The fennel seeds on top were fantastic. I'm not a big fan of them but in this dish they were almost like a bust of nutty flavour when you bit in to them. The lemon infused through the chicken but the fennel flavour was dominant - hence my addition to the recipe of juice or zest.

Lemon and Fennel Chicken
Cut the chicken down the breast bone and flatten out (butterflied)

Oil the bottom of a dish that will fit the flattened chicken.

Slice about 3 lemons and lay them on the oiled bottom.
Slice 6 cloves of garlic and lay one the lemons.
Lay fresh fennel over the lemons and garlic.

Lay the chicken on top of the fennel and lemons.
Spread oil over it.
Squeeze lemon (or zest over the chicken) - my addition to lift the lemon flavour
Sprinkle whole fennel seeds over and lots of sea salt and pepper.

Bake for approximately 1 hour in moderate oven. It really does only need an hour!

Our Coffee of Choice - Atomic

We get or coffee freshly ground at 'Atomic Roastery Kingsland' which is a very short walk from our home. Recently they extended their cafe which mean tit was closed for a couple of weeks. Most distressing not to be able to get our favourite coffee but worth it in the end. We visited this morning for coffee and a huge doughnut for Bella!
The coffee lived up to our expectations and the food selection is far more extensive than in the previous smaller cafe. Looks like a breakfast visit is called for in the near future.

Lemon Curd Muffins

As part of my 'pay it forward' (lemon curd) plan I had planned to make lemon tarts for my staff on Monday but after finding this recipe on the River Cottage Website I knew this had to be the better option!
The muffins are beautifully light and fluffy. Next time I make them I would add more lemon curd in each one.
I also added a topping by brushing over

hot lemon curd and then sprinkling over caster sugar. Yum!
I just hope they are still fresh for tomorrow's morning tea.

Lemon Curd Muffins

  • * 225g plain flour
  • * 2 tsp baking powder
  • * A good pinch of sea salt
  • * 100g caster sugar
  • * 1 medium egg
  • * 125g plain yoghurt
  • * 125ml whole milk
  • * 75g unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • * 150g lemon curd

1. Put 12 large paper cases into a muffin tray. Put the flour, baking powder, salt and caster sugar in a large bowl and whisk lightly to aerate and combine.
2. Mix the egg, yoghurt, milk and melted butter together in a jug. Pour them into the dry ingredients and mix lightly, stopping as soon as everything is combined – it’s essential not to over-mix or you’ll get dense, cakey muffins.
3. Spoon a some mixture into each muffin case and top with a generous ½ teaspoonful of lemon curd. Add a final spoonful of muffin mixture to encase the lemon curd and three-quarters fill the cases.
4. Bake in an oven preheated to 180°C/gas mark 4 for about 30 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Eat on the day you bake them, ideally while still slightly warm.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Lemon Curd

A very kind colleague left a bag of lemons on the table in the staff room earlier this week.
As it was Friday today and there were still lots left I figured it was ok to take a few. I love anything with lemon in it...almost as much as I love anything with chocolate in it. I spent my drive home thinking about what I could do with lemons to 'pay it forward' to the kind person at work.
My decision based on the end product was a good one! I've just made Lemon Curd and it is delicious! I even licked the bowl!
It has made it clear that I need another microplane that zests very finely. I like the chunky bits of zest but they are not ideal for my planned finished product.
My plan is to make little sweet pastry cases and then save them at work on Monday with the Lemon Curd inside.

Lemon Curd
I think this recipe comes originally from Jo Seager.

200g butter
1 cup caster sugar
grated rind and juice of 3 lemons
4 eggs

Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium-high heat. Whisk the sugar, lemon rind and juice and eggs into the butter until well combined. Whisk continuously while the curd thickens and comes to the boil. Remove from the heat just as it is about to boil vigorously, and cool.
When cold, store the curd covered in the fridge. It will thicken considerably in the fridge and will keep for 2–3 weeks.

Japanese Plum Wine

Tonight Japan play the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup. To commemorate this we are drinking Japanese Plum wine (while supporting the All Blacks of course).
We came across this at Taiko, our local Japanese restaurant. I thought we might need to hunt it down in one of the many Japanese speciality grocery shops around but we were thrilled to find it even closer to home at our local Kingsland Liquor Centre.
Taiko serve it in a glass with a golf ball sized ball of ice...ours will be simply over ice in a large glass!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Bonjour Bouchon

We visited Bouchon in Kingsland as the cafe of choice for Megan's 20th birthday lunch. Bouchon used to be a regular for us with the very french menu consisting mainly of crepes in the day time and having something to suit everyone's tastes.
Today's visit was underwhelming. Maybe this was because we had not visited in ages and our 'remembered' meals were better than the reality? Maybe because the heavily accented 'bonjour' we used to be created with was missing? Maybe the Rugby World Cup can be blamed?
We had the mandatory cup of dry apple cider with our meals - it was still great. Megan and Bella both ordered crepes heavily laced with chocolate sauce, fruit and ice-cream. John and I ordered the french onion soup. I was really disappointed with mine. It has left me determined to make french onion soup in the very near future to make up for the this recipe will be coming up in the next week or so.
I think a return visit AFTER the RWC is over is called for to see if this was just an off day.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Maybe one day I can...

This link came to me today as part of an email from Ooooby...The Urban Farming Guys.
I've watched it several times. My plan (after I get through an incredibly busy week at work this week) is to look further into this concept and take on board some small things that could change our lives.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

When eating out of season is ok...

This morning's Father's Day breakfast was a bit about 'simple' and a lot about tasting great.
Porridge with preserved Feijoas and unsweetened yoghurt. Simple, healthy and delicious.
While I am all for eating what is in season, the preserved feijoas are a bit of a special treat especially when they are very out of season.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Chicken Potato Top Pie - Recipe

I've been making this pie (or versions of it) for years. I didn't even consider posting it until a friend that visited this afternoon said 'I'd make that', so here it is.

The original recipe had a pastry topping. I started putting potato on top as a 'lower fat' option, but suspect that the mashed potato I make for it now is probably as bad as pastry!

The pictured pie has leeks and mushrooms in it but I also make it with celery and broccoli. I've made it with corn, carrots..pretty much whatever is in the fridge. My aim is usually to include as much vegetable as possible, so I can get away with not doing too much to go with it.
I never make this quite the same and trying to get quantities for someone else to make was a bit of a challenge. I like quite chunky bits of chicken and lots of sauce in it.
I pretty much always do a huge recipe and freeze half for a night when I want a reasonable meal but am really busy.
(If you plan to freeze it don't use mushrooms as they are odd when frozen and reheated)
(If you are planning on freezing half, double most of the measurements below)
This is also the meal I make to take to people who have just had babies, are sick or are having a hard time because it is so easy to either reheat or freeze.

Chicken and Potato Top Pie
Potatoes - peeled and chopped into large chunks
garlic salt
grated tasty cheese

Chicken (thighs are best because they don't dry out) - about 750g
oil - 1 tbs
60gm butter
2 cloves of garlic (chopped finely)
2 stalks of celery (and/or 2 leeks, maybe mushrooms...)
1 onion chopped
1/4 cup flour (you may need to stir in a bit more if it is too runny)
1-2 cups chicken stock (homemade is best!)
1 cup milk
1 tsp finely chopped rosemary (this is really important)
1 tsp finely chopped parsley

Potato Top
Peel potatoes and start cooking in salted water then going on with the pie filling steps below.
When cooked, drain water and mash with butter, garlic salt, cheese and a little milk to get it to a creamy consistency.

Pie Filling
Brown chicken in oil, then take out of pan and set aside.
Melt butter in frying pan and cook vegetables till soft.
Stir in flour and cook for a few minutes.
Remove from the heat and slowly stir in stock and milk. Bring back to the boil and simmer for a few minutes.
Stir in chicken and herbs. Season if necessary - this will depend on how salty your stock was).

Spoon pie filling into a deep dish. This recipe bubbles up and over the top of the dish if the potato topping is too near the matter how many times I make this dish I get caught out with an oven that needs cleaning afterwards.

Spoon the potato over the top being careful not to push it down into the pie mixture.
Grate cheese over the top.
Bake at about 200 C for abut 30 minutes - until bubbling and the topping started to go golden.

If you are freezing it, you don't need to bake until you are ready to use it.
If baking from frozen allow about 40-50 minutes.

Macadamia and Pear Upside Down Cake - Recipe

On what is officially the third day of spring we uncovered the outdoor table and moved it out on to the deck. We are lucky to have a big outdoor wooden deck area that is up in the canopy of the large established tress in our back yard. We had a much loved family member to share our lunch with us. It was great even at the end of winter to be able to eat (some parts of the meal) homemade and from our garden...avocados, rocket and a healthy wholemeal loaf that had been rising in the oven while we were out for the morning.
I also gave a new recipe a try from this week's Ooooby box and judging by the way is disappeared it was a hit!
Isabella and I had spent quite some time this morning trying to crack open the macadamia nuts (for this recipe) with a meat tenderiser. It gave the ideal opportunity to introduce the word 'frustrating' into her three year old vocabulary.

This recipe was pretty easy. It was incredibly light - a bit lie a steamed pudding and the outside was kind of caramelised and gooey. It was great with plain unsweetened yoghurt. This will be a make again recipe - the visual impact was great (with not too much effort) and it was really yummy!

Macadamia and Pear Upside Down Cake – serves 12
50 g butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 pears, peeled, cored and sliced into eighths
150 g butter
¾ cup(150g) brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
3 free range eggs
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ cup finely chopped macadamia nuts
Line a 22 cm spring form cake pan with baking paper.
Melt the first measure of butter and sugar together and pour over the baking paper.
Lay the pears in a circular pattern.
Cream butter, sugar and vanilla together until light and fluffy.
Beat in eggs one at a time. Fold in sifted flour and baking power then stir in the nuts.
Spoon the cakemixture over the pears.
Bake in an oven preheated to 180°C for 35- 40 minutes or until cake tester comesout clean.
Leave to rest for 5 minutes before turning out onto a serving plate.
Serve with whipped cream or yoghurt.