Monday 31 August 2009

Seafood Chowder

Seafood Chowder

This was dinner tonight, and it was Deeee-licious!

How I made my seafood chowder - you should know up front that I had no intention of making chowder when I shopped yesterday - so any recipe I referred to (I read 3) in making this was for inspiration only - the result was dictated by what I actually had in the fridge.
  1. Chop an onion, fry in a butter/oil mix in a heavy bottomed sauce pan.
  2. Add in a peeled and chopped golden kumara (recipes called for potato, but I had surplus kumara, so I used it - and liked the result)
  3. add a sprinkle of oreganum
  4. add fresh chicken stock, use the whole bag (ha! fresh as in purchased from the fridge at the supermarket!!!)
  5. add a dash of nutmeg and cayenne pepper to taste (and I used a pinch of mineral salt - a free sample from Sabato the other day)
  6. boil until the kumara is cooked through
  7. while step 6 is in progress, whisk together about 3/4 of the pack (don't ask me the size!) of creme-fraiche and a similar amount of low fat milk, and 4 tablespoons of plain flour (I actually only used 2 here, but then had to add 2 more at the end, better to do it here!)
  8. add chopped snapper fillets & fresh scallops
  9. cook briefly
  10. add the cream/milk/flour mixture and stir
  11. add a generous handful of chopped fresh parsley
  12. gently heat until suitably thickened
  13. serve, garnish with a touch of fresh chopped parsley and enjoy!

Saturday 29 August 2009

Sakanaya Japanese Restaurant, Grafton, Auckland

I went to Sakanaya tonight for the first time and was pleasantly surprised. Jane went here two weeks ago with others and enjoyed it, so we thought we would give it a go again.

It is not located in the best of locations (160 Symonds St, Grafton), but once you get inside the Surf / Japanese decor supports a nice relaxed atmosphere.

We had a variety of dishes (which all arrived reasonably quickly) and they were all good; sesame broccoli, red snapper tempura, oysters with ponzu sauce, california roll and terayaki chicken. There were a number of Sakes on the menu, of which I enjoyed a Cherry Blossum Sake.

The meal was well priced and we will happily return.

Cafe Review: Manuka - Devonport

We've brunched or late-lunched a few times at Manuka over the years, but it's always been a while between visits as we've usually left a little disppointed with the food and decidedly underwhelmed by the service. Not so anymore!

We were greeted politely and pleasantly, shown to a table immediately, had coffee orders taken straight away, and these arrived very quickly afterwards - and were good quality (trim latte for Simon, long black for me).

We ordered a half-and-half pizza (tandoori & mexican) with a side salad. Again, our order was taken in good timing, and arrived remarkably soon after ordering. The salad was lovely, the pizzas were quite frankly absolutely delicious! In particular, the Tandoori was great - great flavours, not too greasy, delicious fresh coriander sprinkled on top, and the yoghurt and mint sauce dotted amongst the chicken and the mango chutney was a really nice balance.

We were sitting right by the kitchen so saw a lot of meals being delivered as well - and they looked really good.

So yes, Manuka is back on the 'happy to go there' list, and I expect we'll be back sometime soon!

Wednesday 26 August 2009

The Tasting Room, Wellington

I went to The Tasting Room in Wellington last night for the second time. I had Monk Fish on a potato mash for dinner and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a nice relaxed bar environment which was remarkably busy for a Tuesday night (we were lucky to get a table). The food was also quick to arrive.

Sunday 23 August 2009

Bonjour Cafe, Arrowtown

I had lunch at Bonjour Cafe in Arrowtown on Saturday with several others and it was great and well priced.

I had a Galette (Savoury Crepe) with a lovely Racellete cheese filling which was very tasty and a good coffee.

Others thoroughly enjoyed their meals as we sat outside in what is a lovely setting. I will happily return.

Hansan Vietnamese Restaurant, Glenfield

We went to Hansan Vietnamese Restaurant (Link Drive, Glenfield) tonight for the first time and really enjoyed it. The restaurant was about 3/4 full when we arrived and we were one of two non-Asian tables in the restaurant (which I see as a good sign).

We have had Vietnamese several times before and the menu here was very extensive and this restaurant was significantly cleaner than many we have ventured into previously (in fact it was very clean).

We started with some Vietnamese fresh spring rolls and chicken satay skewers which were both good, although the spring rolls could have done with a little more mint.

For our main dishes we both had slightly different Beef with Vermicelli dishes which were good.

The food was very fast to arrive, well priced (all up for two people it cost us about $28) and we will happily return.

Speights Ale House, Wanaka

I went to the Speights Ale House in Wanaka on Monday night for dinner with a group of eight others and we had an enjoyable experience.

The meals were huge and good solid pub meals. I had a large rib eye steak on the bone which was cooked rare as requested. For dessert I ordered apple pie (or something like that) and it came out as three small pies which was a bit bizarre; it did however taste ok.

The food all arrived in a timely manner and was well priced.

Relishes Cafe, Wanaka

I went to Relishes on Friday night for a meal with eight others. The restaurant was packed and we were glad we had made a booking.

We ordered the breads to start, but unfortunately they did not arrive. The wine we ordered also took a long time to finally arrive at the table.

In terms of meals though, these did arrive quickly and were good. I had the wild rabbit and whilst a little tough (although not totally unexpected for wild game) it was a nice dish. A number of others had the tuna and thoroughly enjoyed it. For dessert I had a bread and butter pudding which looked a little lonely on the plate but was tasty.

The restaurant had a good vibe and I would happily return.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

Tonight I made bean salad

Well, as promised, tonight I made bean salad. And I'm really really tired now. Primarily because of continually stopping to take photographs of each stage. My word. Recipe blogging is not my thing! I'll blog the recipe and I'll even try and post a photo of the finished product, but I don't think I'll do a visual recipe again without willing helpers!

Anyway - too tired to create a single image, so have a look at the set on my flickr pages for now, until I get around to it!

Ok, 1 shot....

10 finally add black pepper and chill

Cooking - a rarity

I've got my cooking mojo back just a smidgen of late. Last night I made absolutely-delicious, brimming-over-with-goodness soup - chock full of veges, pulses and scrumminess. This morning I was a little late to work because I decided to soak some beans in preparation for making a batch of bean salad tonight. I must take photographs along the way this time and redo the recipe.

This batch of sloup*:
  • thinly slice onion, fry off, add a couple of oxtail bones, brown, add water.
  • add diced carrot, parsnip, kumara
  • add chopped celery leaves and a few diced stalks for good measure
  • boil, for ages
  • remove oxtail bones, if there's any good meat on them, hack it off, cut it up, set it aside.
  • carefully semi-blend the soup - don't lose all the chunks of vege, but make sure the celery leaves are unrecognisable. ;) I just used my stick blender straight in the pot and pulsed for less than a second each time.
  • add the meat back in, add Soup mix (barley, lentils, split peas)
  • boil, for even more ages than last time (ooh, and make sure there's enough water!)
  • season. Cool. Refrigerate until required, or until you can't resist it any longer.
  • reheat, consume with toast. Or on it's own.
* SLOUP: not a spelling mistake, rather an indication that this is a cross between a sludge and a soup - ie its really very very thick and hearty.

WARNING: when you taste this before the cool, refrigerate step, try not to blister the roof of your mouth.
Ooh, another WARNING - if you're cutting up the veges with a victorinox serrated knife, remember they are omnivourous and will not be sastified with the veges and are liable to take a chunk out of your thumb if you don't keep them under control. (gory details - DON'T KEEP READING IF YOU'RE SQUEAMISH!!!!!!: I felt every single serration going through the pad of my thumb). I'm fine. So's my thumb. This is why I keep sticking plasters in the kitchen.

Monday 17 August 2009

Poaching the Pears

I really do need to organise my photo uploads a little better! Tonight I've uploaded photos that I've then discovered are already on my flickr page, and now I've just found photos of the pears in the process of being poached. You know, the ones I blogged about last night in their final form!

So anyway, here they are actually poaching away, smelling delicious and looking wonderful in all their spicey goodness!

Poaching Pears
Poaching Pears

Sunday 16 August 2009

Poached Pears with Ganache & Peach Sorbet

I have the house to myself today so I'm catching up on a few things, sadly its mostly housework, but I'm also sorting back through a few photos. Well, I'm a little astonished to discover that I have not yet blogged about the most delicious dessert I made back in April! I'm pretty sure this was the evening we had friends around for dinner and I can't really remember what else I cooked, but I do remember this dessert!

For ages I had been wanting to learn how to poach pears, so I finally decided to give it a go. I have to say, the absolutely worst part of this whole process - coring the damn things out while keeping the stalks intact! What a mission! I got there eventually though and then proceeded to poach the pears in a delicious spicey sugar syrup. I've served them with a chocolate ganache I'd made earlier and then softened in the microwave for serving, and a homemade peach sorbet. Delicious! And really very easy!

Homemade Dessert

I belatedly found some pics of the pears actually poaching.

Sunday 2 August 2009

Surprisingly good cafe on the North Shore - Solstice

We have had so many 'average' cafe experiences on the North Shore that we have all but given up on brunching in this area and tend to end up in Grey Lynn, Ponsonby or Herne Bay. Today we wanted to swing by the ice-breaker outlet store and as I had wasted the morning recovering from a hateful migraine that graced my head upon waking, we figured we'd risk somewhere new on the shore.

So we headed to Solstice - 30 Kell drive, Albany - little alley way right in the village, beside the library. I knew about it as I was on the mailing list from Mosaik - I'm not entirely sure about the history here, but I believe Solstice was set up by the owner (ex?) of Mosaik.

The setting was lovely, the service friendly and there was definitely some consistent staff training evident.

We both had trim lattes (and I then also had a long black). Coffee was strong and good quality.

Simon had the Tuscan beef stack - this was nicely presented, had a gorgeous char-grilled flavour, the salad was nice, overall a great dish. (Personally I thought the beef a little too cold, but Simon thought it was fine, although he did comment it was closer to blue than the requested rare).
I had the Seafood Chowder. This was really nice, appropriately rich, without being unpleasantly so, full of good size chunks of seafood. My only comment on this though, I would have liked to have seen it served with a piece of ciabatta or similar - this would have taken it from being a lovely chowder to being a great lunch. It just seemed a little incomplete - and I do find chowder benefits from having a piece of bread to break up the creamy richness.
We kind of shared an Apple Tarte Tatin - this was quite sweet (mostly due to the butterscotch sauce I think), but very nice, and the vanilla bean ice cream with it was delicious.

We would order all of these dishes again.

Other observations
Attention to detail was pretty good - we had lovely stemmed water glasses, and we wondered whether these would get refilled, and yes they did, with a small, but excusable delay. The menu was laid out beautifully, and unlike so many places we seem to visit on the shore, it was clean! Prices were also very reasonable.

Saturday 1 August 2009

Grand Harbour Chinese Restaurant

We have been to Grand Harbour Chinese Restaurant (Viaduct area, Auckland) for Yum Char many times over the years and often take out of town guests.  This is my favourite Yum Char in Auckland and today’s experience was comparable to what we have previously had, although it was a little quieter today (i.e. there was no queue out the door). 

For Yum Char on the weekend you can expect that it will be really busy, noisy and the service abrupt (but usually fast).  As for bookings, don't expect they mean a lot, and if you require a fork instead of chopsticks you’re probably best to bring your own.

The food is excellent and there is a great variety continually moving around.  If you have never done Yum Char before I would suggest going along with somebody that has. 

Grand Harbour is well worth going to for the experience.

Kura Japanese Sake Bar

We decided at the last minute to go out for Japanese last night and were lucky to find a table at Kura Japanese Sake Bar in Queen St. 

From the street you wouldn't even know this place existed, but once down the stairs there was a great buzz of activity. 

Seeing that there were some Japanese beers on tap I ordered one and it went down very nicely.  Jane settled for a tea instead and enjoyed it. 

For our meal we decided to try some "different" dishes.  The raw octopus marinated in octopus juices tasted like essence of anchovy with a sprinkling of salt for good measure.  This was a great learning experience and we won't be ordering it again, however I don't doubt that it is very authentic.  We also had some excellent Sushimi, great fresh spring rolls (not deep fried), Terayaki Chicken and a Smoked Eel Donburi.  The meal was great although if we were ordering the Terayaki Chicken again we would probably get it as a Donburi or with rice.

A nice evening out and despite how busy it was the food arrived very quickly.