Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

  • It’s the end of Easter Weekend here in New Zealand. We get Monday as a public holiday, and schools get an additional day tomorrow, so many people travel over this period. We had been expecting my sister and niece to drop in on their way elsewhere (to meet up with their husband/father), but the thought of travelling on a ferry in gale force winds on Friday was not very appealing, so they came for the weekend, joined by my brother-in-law on Saturday afternoon who took the ferry back to us on a lovely calm day. It’s been lovely, but I will admit that today has been a lazy day (they left on their seven-hour drive home this morning) and I’m refusing to cook tonight!
  • I will say that I outdid myself in terms of feeding the troops. Charlie is now 12 (almost 13), at high school, and interested in all sorts of different food. Which is fine with me, and my sister loves it! So I cooked them my favourite Thai picnic for dinner on Friday, homemade pies and pizza for Saturday night, and last night a veritable feast of Malaysian beef rendang (though would be divine with eggplant and/or root veges and/or any other vegetables) with roti canai bread, and a korma vegetable dish. There was homemade passionfruit ice-cream for afters, and last night, a homemade marshmallow Easter egg, which impressed the socks off them. I like cooking for appreciative guests! And on Saturday we went out for yum cha (dim sum) at a bustling Chinese restaurant.
  • In turn, they delivered capsicums from their garden and avocados from their trees, and I enjoyed avocado and marmite on toast for breakfast this morning. Yum. Their avocados are always delicious and blemish-free.
  • Needless to say, I have a lot of exercise planned for this week to make up. Because going shopping with my niece, and to the museum with my sister, did not produce nearly enough steps to work all that off!
  • Even though the temperatures are now mild, everything feels like autumn, almost wintry. And on Saturday night, our clocks went back, and the sun sets around six now. That means that there will be no more pasta chardonnay nights (when my husband plays summer golf), so I’ll have to fit these into my week some other way. Winter, therefore, is not that far away. I think I’m ready for that now. I was not ready a few weeks ago.
  • For us, lockdown last year feels a long time away. I hope that isn’t a case of “famous last words.” Every few days I rejoice with friends and family overseas who report they have had their first or second dose of a COVID vaccination. Ours won’t come till later in the year, we know. We hope that this lack of urgency won’t make us vulnerable to new strains arriving.
  • We’re hopeful in NZ for the announcement of a travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand this week. Both countries have required two-week hotel quarantine for visitors, though some states in Australia lifted it for travel from New Zealand late last year. The bubble will mean that quarantine-free travel between our two countries will be possible, though state-by-state restrictions may be imposed as circumstances change. We have no plans to travel to Australia in the short term, though we might consider it later this year. But it will be great for family reunifications. My sister, for example, is hoping to meet her eight-month-old grandson for the first time.
  • I have a self-imposed moratorium on going to any wool shops until I knit a few more tea cosies. I’m currently working on a different rooster pattern, and have several more exotic patterns planned as gifts. So far, they’re being well received. Either that or my friends and family are very polite!

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I read an article recently suggesting that burgers are on the road to extinction, given the move away from eating meat. The article was essentially about patties of faux meat made of other proteins. They don’t really appeal to me. I think I’ve only had fake meat once, and it was pretty disgusting. But then, to me, the burger has never been about the protein. In fact, I’ve often complained if the beef patties are too fat, or if the lump of chicken is too big and dry. Frankly, I’ve often said to my husband that I am not that bothered about the meat in a burger.

But don’t get me wrong. I love burgers. They weren’t a “thing” in my world until I was around 15 or 16, when our small town first got a locally made burger outlet that was a novelty for us. The big international chains didn’t arrive in the South Island until the 1980s, although by then I was in the north. And after eating kiwi burgers (more about them later), the chain offerings seemed pathetically small and tasteless. My husband and I eat at these chains rarely in NZ, although overseas we do so out of desperation or convenience (there are always conveniences at Macdonald’s).

Now though, at a pub lunch or casual dinner, I often find it hard not to order a burger. (Fish and chips are too mundane, salads are frequently disappointing and usually only on the menu as sides, and I’m often suspicious of pizza and pasta at a pub or casual café.) But for me, the best things about a burger are the bits around the meat, not the meat itself.

I love the bread (yes, I cannot give up carbs). I want a nice bun that’s not too squishy, or toasted slices of Turkish bread or ciabatta, but a bread that’s not too hard either.

Then there are the insides. Drool. The additions and the combinations are what is important, and what keeps me coming back for me. Cheese is good, but not essential. It needs to be something gooey or preferably a nice sharp cheddar or good blue cheese. The sauces – mayo (a tangy one please) and tomato (ketchup to much of the world) or barbecue sauce often make or break the burger. Our local brunch place does a chicken and bacon sandwich with a curried mayo that is to die for! Pesto or hummus are okay as replacements, but have to be really good. Then there are the pickles. I adore them. And they must include beetroot. It’s a kiwi thing, having beetroot in our burgers. Kiwiburgers often include fried eggs, and/or a pineapple ring, but I can take or leave these additions. Not the beetroot though. Beetroot relish is okay. But there’s something about a good slice or two of beetroot. It’s essential!

Salad or vegetables are necessary inclusions. I prefer lettuce and tomatoes over a coleslaw (unless it is an extraordinarily good and tangy coleslaw). I’m easy to please, you see! Though I don’t like raw onions – red or otherwise. They get thrown out! If the burger has beetroot and blue cheese, then it seems criminal not to include caramelised onions. Or deep-fried onion rings, though if I’m honest I’d just as soon they were on the side. I’m drooling now. It’s time to stop and go make dinner.

But wait. Have I forgotten anything? Only the meat. And a good thick slice of grilled eggplant or mushroom or cauliflower or zucchini or instead would suit me fine.

How about you? Meat, or no meat? What’s in your favourite burger?

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“There’s such joy in good simple food.” I said that to my blogging friend, Dona, this morning, on her daily delights blog. And with that, I knew what I was going to write about today.

Thai food is a real joy to me. When I first went to Thailand as a 17-year-old exchange student, I had never eaten Asian food. Rural New Zealand in the 1970s was not a place to find even Chinese food. I remember celebrating when our small town first got a burger truck. Food in Thailand was an adventure. We faced it with a bit of trepidation when we first arrived at a hostel where we spent a week’s orientation, learning a bit about the language and culture surrounding us. But as soon as I arrived with my host family, I fell in love with the food, cooked by my Thai mother and a maid. It was a revelation to me, and it is still my favourite cuisine. I had a lot of favourites, but one dish in particular was a dark, sweet, soup-like sauce with hard-boiled eggs. The sauce was phalo, and I knew the dish as Khai Phalo (Egg Phalo or ไข่พะโล้), but it can also be made with pork or chicken. I tried to make it once or twice when I got back to NZ, but without success. (I do make Thai curries once every one or two weeks though.)

I can’t remember specifically eating it when I lived in Thailand for three years, and so I hadn’t eaten phalo again until our trip to South Australia, when we stayed in a small village in the middle of the famous wine-making Barossa Valley, and found a Thai restaurant just down the street from the old stone cottage. It was the first time I’d seen it on a Thai restaurant menu outside of Thailand, and I was overjoyed. They made it with eggs and pork belly. It was amazing. Just a week or so ago, I hunted up a recipe that sounded right. I searched out fresh coriander with plenty of roots attached (coriander root is a critical ingredient in many Thai dishes), and made it. It transported me back to the dinner table in the garden of the house in Navatanee village on the edges of Bangkok, and the delicious food we ate there.

Then last night, because I still had some coriander bunches left, I decided to make my favourite picnic food. I soaked the glutinous rice overnight, then steamed it, as they do in the north and northeast of Thailand. It became perfectly sticky rice – which actually isn’t sticky at all. You can roll it into a ball in your hands, and it doesn’t stick to your fingers at all. It soaks up sauces perfectly, and has a unique flavour. I love it. To go with the sticky rice, I marinated some boneless chicken thighs in a paste made of mashed coriander root and stems, garlic, salt, pepper, and garlic for several hours, before barbecuing it until it was nice and charred. It was classic gai yang, or barbecued chicken, that you can find on roadside stalls all over Thailand, and the best I’ve ever made it. And I steamed some veges and made a Thai dressing with lime juice, nam pla (fish sauce) coriander stems and root, and a bit of sugar. The papaya salad (somdum) that would normally go with khao neeo (sticky rice) and gai yang (barbecued chicken) isn’t possible here, as I just almost never see papaya for sale, let alone green papaya that is essential for the salad. I adore somdum, and miss it, but at least the dressing I made was reminiscent of it.

Two meals that were transformed from mere fuel into a walk down memory lane made me so happy. It has been eight years since we were last in Thailand, and we had been planning going this year, but a global pandemic put paid to that idea. Still, if I can’t go there physically, maybe I can keep trying to recreate it in my kitchen.

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