Monday, March 22, 2010

14 glasses of wine and 12 courses later

When a celebration has a name that takes a lung-full to say, I guess it’s a good indication of its importance. The Royal Easter Show Wine Awards Trophy Giving Dinner (phew!) was a culmination of some of the best New Zealand wines, food, industry folk and me.

Ruth and I got ready for the evening at my place. She went with the ‘stretch the tummy’ approach, opting for a trip to Yum Cha at midday. Interesting approach I thought, but knowing Ruth, she would have given each of those 12 courses a nudge either way.

On arrival we were given a glass of the Deutz Marlborough Blanc de Blancs and led to our seats. I was pleased to be given a ticket to the Easter Show and, a little taster bottle of one of my favourite olive oils, The Village Press . I think I could drink that stuff straight out of a glass, truly.

Upon first peak at the menu, I see a bunch of food I haven’t really gotten to know yet. Rabbit, ostrich, even venison.

Award winning wines:

Wooing Tree Blondie 2009 – A Rose that was almost as clear as the Sauvignon it sat next to, delicious though.
Lake Chalice Marlborough Eyrie Vineyard Pinot Gris 2009 – This wine renewed my love for Pinot Gris.
Mondillo 2008 Central Otago Pinot Noir – My overall favourite, and not just because the judges chose it as the overall winner either
Coopers Creek Late Harvest 2009 Riesling – I do love a good sticky

My favourite and most memorable dish of the evening was the second course, an Asian crab tian with wasabi peas, pink grapefruit and tonkatsu sauce.  

I also enjoyed the smoked monkfish that came served with a crunchy and sweet pistachio cracker (also known as a tuille) and cucumber and chive dressing.

I tried rabbit for the first time…quite tasty, kind of like chicken. Is that sacrilege to say?  I always thought that rabbit would be a slow cooked food, something for a stew, but the rabbit loin I ate was seared and served on a bed of hibiscus flower risotto. Hibiscus is a tasty flower.  

Everyone has been raving about the quail. I have photos of me eating it (see below!), I know this sounds terrible, but my memory of eating it is a little hazy. Shocking, I know. I have since requested the menu and found out that this was a honey-roasted quail with a micro herb salad, soy and lemongrass reduction. I think there were peanuts involved in this meal as well because I can see them in the picture. 

Champion winner of the night was the Mondillo Pinot Noir. I almost had a tear when I missed my glass, as the bottle made its way around our table. Luckily, my journalistic intent helped me to weasel an extra glass off the waiters.  What a special wine it was. Aptly described as ‘elegant and feminine,’ this is a glass of wine I won’t be forgetting quickly.

Turns out my friends Phoebe and Ruth were sitting with the wine maker himself, Rudi Bauer who also won wine maker of the year!

I had a really great evening; I didn’t get to do too much mixing and mingling, apart from that which was had at my table I didn’t have want for much more - finding myself rather occupied with all the lovely wine and food. Phoebe and Ruth had great company at their table too, a lovely man by the name of Mitch who helped school them on the wines and rapped their knuckles when they over-poured.

Needless to say, I woke up with a sore head. I spent Sunday afternoon enjoying a glass of riesling and eating oysters at The Mulberry in Mt Eden. The great recommendations from the barman and the comfortable perch I took under the test cricket game playing on the telly sorted my head out in no time. 

I’m heading down to The Food Show Christchurch tomorrow morning! I’m really looking forward to it. If you’re planning on going along, and you spot me, do come over and say hello. 

Bye for now,


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Loco for Coco's

I had an exceptional dinner at Coco's Cantina on Krd last night with a bunch of my girlfriends. Worried that we weren’t going to get a table having been told this new eatery has quickly become very popular with locals, we arrived early-ish and enjoyed a few wines, quite a few polenta chips and soaked up the atmosphere before launching into the menu.

Unfortunately I forgot my camera, I would have loved a snap of the Calamari dish, which while delicious, was also very nicely presented. The plate was swirled with a very nice chilli sauce and a vinaigrette that went extremely well with the lemon we drizzled over the top. Too often I find I've made a mistake by ordering calamari but Coco's served up a tower of tender, delicious squid which we gobbled up two plates of. 

We also devoured a delicious antipasto platter, served on a standard sized dinner plate but crowded with delicious and rather innovative goodies. I particularly liked the marinated eggplant, which I think was done in a balsamic… my head is a bit fuzzy today I’m afraid.   

Before we sound like a bunch of vacuum cleaners, it’s worth mentioning, there were 6 of us girls and we are all huge food enthusiasts. Last year after a rather lavish dinner at The French Café owner Simon Wright complimented me for what he deemed, the rather impressive feasting display we put on.

I had an entrée sized chilli and prawn linguini that was absolute heaven to eat. A few of the girls had the penne pasta and when asked for an appraisal, nodded their heads vigorously, mouths too full to speak, it was good.

Our lovely waitress ran us through the specials which all sounded pretty good too. A few of the girls ordered a butter squash salad that came with lashings of crispy bacon and gorgonzola on a crunchy bed of cos leaves.

We skipped desert. I saw the panacotta on the menu and squeezed my eyes shut trying to put it out of my mind. I reasoned, that I had already had a lovely panacotta desert after a Ponsonby Bistro  lunch earlier in the week, it would be far too excessive to indulge again. Maybe next week...

Coco's Cantina What a great place to catch up with friends for a drink, a light dinner or even a feast! 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The inaugural pie

This week my flat and I have eaten extremely well. So well in fact that Lili and I have decided to do a ‘health’ week after Easter. Damian was dismayed, telling us over and over that a week of steamed veges would not help. According to him health is achievable through a balanced diet. Sounds far too easy huh. 

Apparently if we eat like his grandmother, ‘a bit of this, a bit of that’ we will live to 99 like she did. I don’t know, I can bet that his grandmother had a completely different menu to us…She lived in Ireland after all, all that black pudding maybe? 

This week Lili made a lovely roast vegetable pasta salad with the best chorizo I've tasted in a while. Damian made a delicious garlic marinated chicken thigh on a bed of lemon and spinach risotto. 

Consideration needs to be given to presentation and Damian took the award for that this week. He moulded the risotto in the centre of the plate and carefully placed the thigh on top. He also marinated his chicken all day, waking up earlier than normal to start the process. Thumbs up to him. We didn't stop hearing about it until things went quiet around the actually eating of it time. 

I made a curried chicken and vegetable pie, a recipe that I’ve been carrying around for nearly two weeks telling everyone that I’ll make. I found it on the Best Recipes website which I can highly recommend for inspiration. 

2 chicken breasts chopped
1 onion diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large potatoes
2 carrots
½ cauliflower, chopped
½ broccoli, chopped
1 x 420 g can of condensed cream of chicken soup
2-3 teaspoons curry powder
3/4 cup of milk
¾ cup of peas
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry
2 – 3 sheets of frozen short pastry
1 egg
extra milk
ground cumin

In all my fervour, I burnt my fingers pulling the pie dish out of the oven. I still don’t know what I was thinking, but I'm typing this with slightly raw fingertips and one badly blistered forefinger now.

The pie got the thumbs up from my harshest critics. I was told I'd have to make another one in the cooler months as it was a very wintery and comforting meal.

Talking to Hamish earlier in the week, he told me the key to a good pie was to ensure a rounded, whole flavour. Funnily, Lili made that very observation of my pie!

I really recommend giving this one a go, I was nervous about pie making, having never made a pie before but this was relatively easy.

I was a bit annoyed to have forgotten St Patrick’s Day and part way through realised I should have been making a Steak and Guinness pie. Maybe something to think about for Easter... 

I washed my meal down with a beer I found in our fridge. Very similar to a Guinness I assume, the Coopers Extra Stout, made in Australia, has a very rich flavour. It’s chocolatey and kind of smokey too. I quite liked it! I only managed one bottle though as it was a meal in it’s own.

I’m off to the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards Dinner at The ASB Showgrounds this weekend! I’ve been eagerly anticipating it all week. If anyone has any recommendations on the wines I should be particularly looking out for please let me know. I will have full run down of the night next week. 



Tuesday, March 9, 2010

It's on...

My flatmates and I have been cooking dinners for each other of late. One night a week each. Within 3 weeks, it's become somewhat of a competition. 

Now this bold assertion may wound Damian who last night made a smashing mushroom and peppercorn concoction to accompany a delicious steak with mashed potato, but I think he’s lying when he tells me that he’s read my blog, so I could just get away with it.

This Monday, my flatmate Lili put together what was in my opinion, the best meal so far…

Lili’s Stuffed Capsicums on Brown Rice

6 x red capsicums (try find ones that sit up by themselves)

4 x Spanish chorizo sausages (cut into small pieces)
1 x zucchini (diced very small)
3 x large Portabello mushrooms (cut into small pieces)
1/2 pack cherry tomatoes (cut in halves)
1/2 pack garlic and cumin feta (chopped into small cubes)
3 gloves garlic (diced very small)
1/2 red onion (diced very small)
1 x lemon
100 gms Ricotta
Little bit of Edam cheese to seal the caps
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Pinch of nutmeg and cumin
Brown rice

1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius

2. Lightly sear chorizo, zucchini, mushrooms and the garlic.

3. Mix cherry tomatoes, red onion, cumin, nutmeg, ricotta and feta together separately and when the hot mixture has cooled down, mix everything together.

4. Hollow out the seeds from the 6 red capsicums and pop them onto a cooking tray (if they need help standing you should make little stands for them out of tin foil, see picture).

5. Pour mixture into each capsicum making sure that they are full but not over stuffed.

6. Add a decent dash of the balsamic vinegar into the capsicums and close the lid with slices of edam cheese. Pop the lid of the capsicum back on and put the tray in the oven.

7. Cook the capsicums for about 30 mins, or until the skin starts puffing out and crisping.

8. While the capsicums are cooking make some brown rice.

9. Once the rice is cooked mix the juice of a lemon through the rice to taste.

10. Take capsicums out of the oven and leave to cool before serving them over the rice with salt/pepper and some basil leaves on top.


The juices slowly escaped the capsicums as they sat on a bed of lovely, lemony brown rice. I truly can’t fault a single bit of the meal. They’re a perfect meal for those of you that find yourselves, like me, quite often, cooking for one.

Lili thinks they’re even tastier the next day and I can vouch for that having kept my seconds for lunch on Tuesday.

Aren’t they gorgeous!?

Thanks to those who sent me through their suggestions about my mysterious fruit. Majority opinion has lead me to believe I have obtained a plantain! Special thanks to Claire Mead for the Plantain Hash Cake recipe she found for me. I will post it up next week.  Double pass tickets coming your way soon Claire.


Monday, March 1, 2010

These I have loved...

I have an ability to remember the first time I tasted many of the foods and drinks I love today.

Not a spectacular character trait really but there are a huge number of foods I love, so I must have a pretty good memory. 

Notable first taste experiences include:

My first Crayfish: A friend of mine used to work up north on a crayfish boat. When he came to Auckland he would stay at our flat and as rent would bring a couple of live crays down with him.

I killed the first crayfish I ever ate. From the knaves to the chops, I did it with a knife in the back garden and it squealed horrendously. Gooey stuff came out of it and its tail flapped and flapped, I promised myself I would never kill a crayfish like that again. According to this site , it’s humane. Well ‘quick’ anyway. 

They were tasty though. We cooked the pair of them on the bbq with a bit of garlic butter and unceremoniously ate them with our hands.

My first really GREAT Pinot Noir experience:  The 2007 Peregrine  drunk with my ex boyfriends wonderful father Craig. A Pinot Noir lover, we would spend weekends at the family batch in Taupo trying what seemed to me an endless number of wonderful Central Otago Pinot Noirs.  I credit Craig with my love for Pinot Noir today and my outstanding glass swill.

I fell in love with eggs when I discovered Eggs Benedict. I remember my friend Gabrielle’s father took three of us out for breakfast after a school netball game and when the girls ordered it (with smoked salmon) I just went along pretending I knew what it was. I couldn’t hide my naivety when it arrived, but I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen an Eggs Benedict like that again, and I’ve seen my share of Eggs Benedict since. I can’t remember the name of the café now, but if memory serves me correctly I wouldn’t have recommended it.

I have eggs once or twice a week now. I swear by their ability to keep me focused on work, and not on my tummy for longer. They fuel me until lunch and they’re pretty damn tasty too. I make Huevos Rancheros mostly. I fry up some red onion, scramble the eggs, chuck in some Mexican seasoning a bit of cheese, tomatos and avocado and there you go.

Only approved free range or barn eggs mind you. Happy eggs.The SPCA website is very helpful for learning more about your eggs and what to look for.

When I arrive for Sunday lunch this week Hamish, who is a good friend of my parents, informs me that he has warned them about the tsunami. They’re out sailing  the Coromandel with friends this weekend. Excellent someone’s thinking for the two of us I think, still suffering the hazy’s from a few too many on Friday.

Talkback radio’s on and tsunami talk is the order of the day - That and plenty of Simon and Garfunkle. Hamish is concerned about the tsunami and explains to me that this column of ocean water, or sea, is currently travelling at aeroplane speeds and when slash if it hits, will be virtually unnoticeable as a tsunami - until too late.

I take my usual perch and observe a copper bowl filled with eggs in front of me. This should sort out the head…

Omelette with Asparagus, Gouda Cheese and Chives
6 eggs
Half an egg shell of water
Gouda cheese
Salt and Pepper
Ghee or clarified butter

Leave the eggs cracked in a bowl with salt, pepper and water for a while before whisking,when you get to the whisking part, only whisk for one minute. You want a little but not too much air in the eggs.

Leave some Ghee (or clarified butter) melting in the omelette dish and when hot enough, pour in the scrambled mixture. It looks so easy, the art of omelette making. Just pull at the edges and drain the top over until it’s eggy enough but hot enough to melt the Gouda cheese. Chuck all the cheese, chives and asparagus on making sure to keep them to one side of the omelette. And then carefully flip it over and dish out.

Remember: Mis en Place. (Everything in its place). Peel and blanch the asparagus and chop the cheese prior to doing any of the cooking. Once the omelette has hit the pan you will need to give it all the attention you can muster.

The Gouda looked lovely melting over the asparagus. Gouda is very tasty. It’s Dutch, and very similar to cheddar. Softer though.

We also had an accompaniment cucumber, lime and tomato salad that Hamish had dreamed up at 5am that very morning.

Cucumber was peeled and left to marinate in the juice of one lime, cherry tomatoes were added with a bit of Village Press Olive Oil  and we had a very tasty, perfectly zingy salad to enjoy as well.

We washed our lunch down with a glass of Eradus Sauvignon Blanc. Highly recommend. The Eradus is pretty much my idea of what a Sauvignon should taste like. For the proper tasting notes click here. 

I’d forgotten the tsunami by the end of our lunch and unwittingly mentioned my plans for a bit of beach action that afternoon.  Hamish looked at me wide eyed, “I hoped I would have talked you out of that!”

Woops, yes he had, much to the disappointment of my boyfriend who had his heart set. The family pool would suffice.

Now, for all you fruit connoisseurs out there, what is this?!?! 

My neighbour gave it to me yesterday. He didn’t know what it was. My flatmate thinks he was flirting with me, I think he may have been trying to poison me.

Flick me an answer and a recipe and the best one (according to yours truly) will win double pass tickets to a Food Show of choice this year!  

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Full of Zest!

Sunday lunch was postponed this week in favour of a Wednesday dinner. I believe we will be having a chicken roast but you never know with Hamish! We often talk about the menu for next week’s lunch whilst consuming the current one, Hamish has so many ideas I’m never quite sure what he’s planning. Last week, inspired by my love of the radiccio lettuce in the salad (blogged about below), Hamish remembered a radiccio risotto he wants us to try.

I haven’t managed to get much of my own cooking in recently but I have had some very nice meals prepared for me. I seem to get lucky in that regard don’t I?

Last week, at a party, I was treated to a selection of yummys from caterer Stephen Randle, owner/director of Zest Kitchen .

Served up first was a medley of nibbles. I tried each one. You know I did.

In the serving spoons we had crab and papaya salad with Vietnamese mint. This was one of my favourites. It had a beautiful texture, sort of crunchy and creamy at the same time. The papaya was a lovely addition as it provided a nice sweet touch.

The black and white sesame crusted tuna loin with coriander pesto served on one of those cute little pikelet things called a blini was a winner. Tuna, when cooked and served like that, truly just melts in your mouth. Absolutely delicious, and so yummy when eaten cold as well. This particular canapé got me thinking about leftover cold tuna sandwiches or the tuna melts mum used to make with cheese and pickles when I was a kid.

I must check out the price of a tuna steak at the supermarket. Can anyone recommend the perfect way to cook it? Flick your methods through in an email to me. There may even be a few double pass Food Show tickets in it for ya.  

Another interesting canapé was the Peking duck. This was served in a mini tartlet, with spiced Baba Ganouche, cucumber and plum paste and complete with a raspberry on the top. Yum!

What I loved about all the canapés was the light, summery feel each one had. I loved the pairing of the fruit with the crab and the duck. Interesting, different and definitely memorable.

I’d love to hear your recommendations on pairing fruit with fish or meat.

And how could I forget the prawns? These were served on skewers in shot glasses that had a dash of coconut and lemon grass tea dipping sauce at the bottom. The prawns were dusted with coriander so the coconut and lemon grass was very complimentary.

Following the canapés, Stephen served up his famed mini meals. We had three options, I managed to get through two.

I had, salt and pepper squid served on a lovely Thai salad with a mini skewer of chilli and lime salmon and hummus. I must ask Stephen for the salad recipe as I’d really like to try it out. This salad would be perfect to bring along for a summer bbq. It’d certainly impress your buddies.

I also had the grilled prosciutto and lemon wrapped prawns with a rocket and crayfish cous cous salad. This had an accompanying cucumber and mango salsa.

The photo I’ve provided of one of the mini meals is of the roasted lamb cutlet dish that didn’t make its way into my belly. The lamb sat on a Parmesan potato salad and was topped off with a tasty tomato and mint salad.  

Thumbs up to Zest Kitchen! Stephen and his team helped make a great party gastronomically memorable. The two waiters that were on hand also did an especially fantastic job with their unfalteringly friendly faces.

Hamish left the party before me to go home for a Grappa. Not my cup of tea, I settled for peppermint and a good sleep.

Zest Kitchen - Highly recommend.