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    Thursday, May 28, 2009

    As the weather is getting colder our thoughts turn to soup.
    For staff lunch I found this wonderful spicy soup.
    Nice sausage and the superb Puy Lentils...what a combination.
    Once again courtesy of Ina Garten.

    400 gms French green lentils (recommended: du Puy)
    1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for serving
    4 cups diced yellow onions (3 large)
    4 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only (2 leeks)
    1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 large cloves)
    1 tablespoon kosher salt
    1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
    1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
    1 teaspoon ground cumin
    3 cups medium diced celery (8 stalks)
    3 cups medium diced carrots (4 to 6 carrots)
    3 quarts Homemade Chicken Stock, or canned broth
    1/4 cup tomato paste
    400 gms kielbasa polish sausage cut in 1/2 lengthwise and sliced 1/3-inch thick
    2 tablespoons dry red wine or red wine vinegar
    Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

    In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain.

    In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat the olive oil
    Saute the onions, leeks, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin for 20 minutes,
    or until the vegetables are translucent and tender.
    Add the celery and carrots and saute for another 10 minutes.
    Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, and drained lentils,
    Cover, and bring to a boil.
    Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour,
    or until the lentils are cooked through and tender.
    Check the seasonings.
    Add the kielbasa and red wine and simmer until the kielbasa is hot.
    Serve drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with grated Parmesan.

    Tuesday, May 26, 2009

    The Best Beef Stew

    I have made some good Beef Stews in my time but this mix of ingredients is fabulous.
    It's really important to get a good colour on the beef to enhance the flavour. I had to have a few samples while I was cooking and the flavour of that beef was superb.
    I think the addition of rosemary is inspired... the combination of that, the thyme and parsley is pretty nice !Ingredients
    1 kg of Blade Steak cut into 3 cm pieces
    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    Oil for frying
    2 onions sliced
    2 carrots sliced
    1 parsnip peeled and chopped
    1 chili deseeded and chopped (optional)
    2 sprigs rosemary
    Handful of thyme
    2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
    1/2 bottle red wine
    1 litre beef or chicken stock

    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

    When I am cooking a stew I like to brown the ingredients in a different pan to the casserole pot they finally end up in.
    You have more control over each stage

    Heat the pan to medium heat and add olive oil
    Gently sauté the onions
    Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper .

    Remove to casserole/pot
    Add carrots and parsnip season again.
    You may need to add some more oil as you go.
    Place in pot with onions
    Toss the meat in seasoned flour
    Add more oil to pan
    Fry meat in batches, make sure it gets a good colour
    Add to pot
    Deglaze with red wine
    Boil to burn off the alcohol
    Add herbs pour over meat and vege
    Heat up stock and add to pot

    Make sure the meat is just covered
    Add some water if necessary
    Into 180C for about 10 minutes
    Turn it down to 165C and simmer away for about 2 hours

    Serve with Mashed Potatoes
    Throw in some chopped spring onions and some lightly sautéed sliced cabbage
    An excellent combination

    A little extra chopped parsley makes a pretty garnish.

    Monday, May 18, 2009

    The Terraces - Bistro Lago in Taupo- Craggy Range, -Terroir in Havelock North. Fine Dining in New Zealand.

    We have just done another Road Trip. Just the North Island this time.
    The occasion was our friend Diana’s birthday party.
    Let’s not fly, let’s drive, let’s bother our friends, was the cry.
    So on Friday we took off for Taupo.
    First stop, Lichfield Poultry Farm
    This is an amazing place, not only do they have fabulous eggs, but it is so quaint.
    How about this garden of Gnomes?
    We bought some eggs for our hosts John and Sue. They had booked us into the Bistro Lago at the newly renovated Terraces Hotel.

    What a stunning place. The old hotel has so much charm, and how welcoming it was, with the big roaring fires, on a very cold Taupo day.
    The food was superb. Simon Gault is the Executive Chef.
    I had the Steak Tartare Special. It was divine.
    The extra touch was the tempura egg, beautifully placed on top of a superbly seasoned piece of prime beef.
    When you broke the egg to mix, it had the added taste of the tempura batter,
    Accompanied by crispy tasty croutons. Excellent.
    My next course was Pork Belly, nestled on braised cabbage and truffle mash.
    Then the dessert.
    Chocolate Fondant...juts right and Creme Brulee, which came with a sort of sugar foam on top and little lychee egg sitting in mandarin syrup.
    You put the foam on top of the egg and sculled it down. What a taste sensation.
    I was so impressed with this restaurant.
    We have friends with wonderful gardens. This belongs to John and Sue. I couldn't get a better shot as the sun was all over the place, but you should get the picture.

    So the next morning was beautiful. Bacon and Lichfield Eggs breakfast, and on our way south.
    First stop Taihape
    The Land of the Gumboot...the town symbol.
    But also there is a lovely little cafe Brown Sugar. Great coffee stop.
    Their Danish Buns are fabulous. I had Cheese and Ham, which had a cheesy custard inside.
    Dale's was flavoured with Pesto.
    We were so lucky with the weather. A beautiful, albeit, cold day.
    In the distance is the South needs to be very clear to get this view.
    On to Lower Hutt to our next port of call.
    This is the area where I grew up, so naturally I had to do a small my roots. Down to Petone…this is one of oldest settlements in New Zealand. Decades ago, every house was allocated a 1/4 acre section. NZ Paradise.
    Our house was built pre 1900. My father was a wonderful gardener and half of the section was taken up with a huge garden…no flowers, he couldn’t be bothered with them, but almost every fruit and vegetable you could think of, flourished under his tender care. Great soil in this part of he world. Now the section has been cut in half and has accommodates 2 houses.

    My Father "modernized” the house in the 50's, He demolished the old veranda, put in a glass porch with a glass front door to let in light. Painted it white.

    The new owners has returned it to it’s original glory. Replaced Dad's porch with a wrap around veranda and painted the house in classic colours. It looks good.

    My father built this garage about 55 years ago… doesn't look like much has been done to it since! Actually I quite like the look
    My primary school, Petone Central, is now the local police station
    My high school HVHS (below) which once had a magnificent ivy clad building is now "Modern"!
    But Unilever House, where I spent the first 6 wonderful years of my working life, is exactly the same.
    That night, we celebrated with great gusto Diana's birthday and after a verrrry late night were forced into a quiet Sunday.
    A brunch with the birthday girl and family, then while Gerry and Dale slept, I went to see "Last Chance Harvey" at the Petone Lighthouse Cinema complex. A classy little place. A glass of wine to accompany the movie then home in time for dinner. Good movie for the way I was feeling!
    Our host Gerry, took us to his favourite Teppan Yaki restaurant Ichibban.
    Gerry is a regular and we were welcomed by the staff.
    Once again not a lot can go wrong with Teppan Yaki. They had their own personal touch... your message written in salt. Upside down no less.
    After an early night, we awoke to a shocking day. Heater on in the car and off to Bunnythorpe to the next hosts, Lorraine and Derrick.
    Derrick greeted us with a wee dram of Single Malt Whisky to warm us up.
    We had to sample a few more of his collection, and after a delicious lunch, and a little Rose, it was time to rest.
    Lorrain and Derrick live in wonderful surroundings... just a couple of views of their garden.
    So after a great night. Lamb shanks, red wine, chocolate mousse, all preceded by Insalada Caprese. Excellent company as well...we were back in the car and off to Napier.

    Ms Mary Hostess, at our next port of call made curries for dinner. Vege and fish, both excellent.
    I am going to make them they are worth blogging.
    We awoke to a beautiful day and it was off to Craggy Range Vineyard and Their Terroir Restaurant for lunch.
    You can see why it was named. The splendid view from the Restaurant.
    The menu was innovative and it was difficult to choose. But I picked the special...French Onion Soup with Braised lamb and a lamb cake on top, with little mint jelly cubes.
    Then my love of black pudding influenced my next choice.
    A Black Pudding and Quince Charlotte, with a little cake filled with braised Pigs Cheek.
    So so good.
    I loved this bottle of Grand Marnier on the bar. The colour is superb.
    We didn't sample it was decided that we should spread ourselves around, and went to Elephant Hill Vineyard for dessert.
    Beautifully presented food in an exceptional setting.
    Wonderful taste.
    I think I have used up all my superlatives.
    Once again, we have proved that New Zealand has some of the finest food, spectacular views and sensational people. We are really lucky to live here.

    Monday, May 04, 2009

    Things to like About Christchurch

    We just had a wonderful weekend in Christchurch.
    To celebrate the Wedding of Brad and Michelle
    Not only were we party to a lovely wedding, with a beautiful Bride and Groom, but we got to discover some of the wonders of Christchurch.

    We left Auckland, where it was hot and fine and arrived to immediate “Jacketsville” and a grey freezing cold day, but the next day, there were great improvements.
    Things We Like No. 1
    It was great to dress up in our jackets and scarves and out for breakfast
    Hands in pockets, wandering around the town. Crisp, clean air.
    A beautiful Autumn day.

    No. 2 -The Cathedral and Environs
    We were situated very close to the Cathedral

    We loved the sculptures and statues around the Square.
    The Big Chess set... (in of course, Canterbury Colours)

    The Beautiful Lacy Ice Cream Cone Sculpture
    This gentleman, a lookout for seagulls
    A Tribute to the fallen, surrounded by wreathes from the Anzac Day ceremony
    My No. 3
    Bailies Bar and Restaurant...A beautifully restored old building
    Just by the Square
    Love their sense of the billboards

    Of course as a female guest, I had to have my hair done.
    I was booked into Ballantynes “The Department Store”
    and came out looking fairly glam.
    A lovely Salon well patronized by the Blue Rinse Set.
    The staff were friendly and very helpful, particularly to the elderly ladies.
    A nice experience...

    My next thing to Like
    No. 4 - City Hair Salon

    This is where I went to have my nails done.
    Hey what a place.
    The Chief Manicurist had a gold medal from The Korean Nail Olympics 2005.
    Yes The Nail Olympics! He was an artiste.
    He was attending to a German girl (in Christchurch for a year) and he was painting the prettiest flowers on her nails.

    There was a selection of patterns one could choose.
    Obviously, he was exceptionally skillful in floral art.

    Samples of his work...Those gorgeous clocks.
    So it was out to lunch at “Sticky Fingers” a Bistro down by the river.
    Excellent Fish and Chips and also a very good Fish Thai Curry.

    No. 5 - The Trams
    Christchurch is the only sensible City in New Zealand. They reinstated the Trams.
    Now a huge tourist attraction.
    They circumnavigate the City...leaving every 8 minutes.
    They come complete with Driver and Conductor, a real blast from the past.
    Love it.

    Katie and I caught The Tram to the wedding.
    No. 6 - Annies Cafe
    The Wedding Venue
    This is situated in the Arts Centre a series of beautiful old buildings.
    Originally part of the old University.

    The Ceremony was held outside in The Quadrant. Music courtesy - Mr Dan.
    It was cold. Hence the girls in coats and wraps.
    The people at Annies put on a great show.
    Even though, we all were wrapped up like sore toes for the ceremony,
    (which was held outside in the Quadrant of The Arts Centre),
    as soon as we popped indoors to Annies, it was so welcoming. Nice fire.
    We soon all warmed up.
    The food was excellent. Plenty of hand around food
    Main course
    Filet of Beef
    Canterbury Lamb (My Choice...When in the region you must eat the Food)
    Chicken Breast

    Creme Brulee with Berries
    Assorted Ice Creams and of course the Cup Cakes

    My No. 7
    Katie set up a Wedding Cup Cake Factory at Prue’s house and the ladies Baked and Baked and Baked,
    Caramel, Chocolate and Carrot Cup Cakes

    She also baked a small cake for “The Cutting Of The Cake”.
    Bit hard to get that big knife into a cup cake!
    While piling into a cab to go home, after a long fabulous night, I noticed my
    No. 8 Thing to like.
    The Peacock Fountain
    Unfortunately my night shots didn’t turn out, but in the morning, I managed to capture it. Splendid.
    So onto No. 9
    The Arts Centre has a great Market, and alongside that, is a great outdoor indoor Cafe/Bar, Dux de Lux.We had some beers and cocktails in the sun
    And No. 10
    Of course lots of wine, means a dry mouth and Christchurch has superb water out of the tap.
    No bottled or filtered water needed here.
    Cool Clear Water
    Turn on the tap, No Chlorine smell. Fabulous.

    Now No. 11
    We discovered The Underground Colombo Cafe.
    Excellent coffee and a big plus.
    Their cinnamon scrolls. It was a scone mixture light and fluffy
    Packed full of cinnamon sugar. Yum.

    AND they roast their own coffee.

    It’s an interesting shop...with buckets of uncooked beans on show.
    The aroma was divine.
    But one downfall, they didn’t “Do Breakfast” as we know it, but as luck would have it...

    My No. 12 - “The Orange Tree” did
    If you wanted something “free” or “Organic”...they had it
    Gluten free
    Egg Free
    Sugar Free etc.

    I was a bit worried they might be meat free as well but NO
    I had the Farmhouse breakfast
    2 organic poached eggs, roasted tomatoes, pork sausage, bacon and ciabatta toast with real butter.

    They catered for everyone. Delicious

    Waiting for Breakfast, how cheerful is this?
    Next door was this fabulous Grocery store.
    My No. 13 Thing To Like
    I felt like I had stepped back in time.
    Even the old Grocery Boy’s delivery bike out the front.
    Lots of imported English treats...Wonder if they are counting the food miles!!!
    So after a very pleasant wind dow,n at Val and Trevor’s place with a yummy barbeque...
    we had an early night.
    Drove to the airport, in the morning, after another trip to The Orange Tree, for another beautiful breakfast.
    And finally
    My No. 14 Thing To Like - is this view, out of the Koru Club Lounge Window.
    The Southern Alps...
    Last week Christchurch - Tomorrow off to Wellington. Driving this time.