Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

Christmas in London

December 29, 2017

Plans were made, orders placed and lists drawn up in readiness for Christmas Day. Alex and Ian were hosting Christmas Day festivities this year and for Ian’s family this would be a little different from their traditional fare. Tables were arranged so everyone could be seated comfortably, seating plans were made, cutlery and crockery were borrowed, Christmas crackers were made, the menu drawn up and we were all set for the day with a bit of a kiwi twist put on it all.

The English were nearly outnumbered by Kiwis though as Alex’s friend from Oamaru days, Kaz, who also lives in London came to join in the fun. However, it was not all going to be Kiwified, one English tradition for this family is that you all head to the pub around midday for a couple of hours, to meet up with friends, celebrate over a couple of drinks before heading home for Christmas dinner, it was in fact good fun and a nice way for everyone to catch up with friends before going off home for family time. It also happens to be one of Ian’s mates birthday on Christmas Day and there is a long standing tradition of him opening his birthday gifts from his mates whilst at the pub…..let’s just say that I have no idea where these guys found the gifts but let’s just say they were hilarious (and some were very definitely x rated!!).

Once back at home, Alex and I got into cooking mode, although there wasn’t that much to do as we had prepped just about everything before hand, so it was just the last finishing touches to do.the table all set ready to go

We all settled down with a festive drink and some nibbles before dinner was ready, Roy had made a delicious duck pistachio and cranberry terrine which with a few pickles and some nice bread went down very well. Then it was time for entree and our homage to turkey, in the form of turkey bonbons with a port cranberry sauce. Apparently roast turkey is the usual main course in this part of the world and to deviate from having a turkey was unheard of. So as not to disappoint those who wanted turkey we came up with this alternative, turkey breast pieces in a spicy rub encased in phylo pastry made to look like Christmas crackers or bonbons. They went down a treat. Then it was the main course…..Beef Wellington using ribeye beef, and it looked and tasted fantastic I have to say, and along with all the trimmings it was a great success. You will note a lack of photographic evidence of the food….some of us were working too hard to have remembered to take any pictures!! However here are a few of us enjoying the meal.

Once the main was out of the way it was time to adjourn to the lounge for another variation on Christmas gift giving, our version of secret Santa.

everyone was told to buy a gift to a nominated value, wrap in newspaper and bring it along. Everyone then draws a number out of a hat to determine the order in which you choose and open a gift, once opened, you can then opt to either keep the gift or swap with another opened gift. With much hilarity gifts were opened, kept, swapped and swapped again.

Christine opening one of her gifts with Julie & Brian watching on

who bought that, we all wondered?!

Antony and Ian discussing the pros and cons with the rest of us laughing along

Roy and Alex

It was all rather hilarious with some inventive wrapping and packaging also in evidence, and everyone received a really good present. I think that the English members of the family were quite impressed with the whole idea and it certainly makes life a lot easier rather than buying small gifts for all.

The gift swapping took a good hour and a half to complete and then it was time for dessert, a pavlova of course and a chocolate roulade as well as a small Christmas pudding for those traditionalists.

There was a planned cheeseboard for afters but by this time we were all well and truly full, so it was time for trying out some of those gifts, generally chat and look back on the day. The outcome? Well, the English have decided that Christmas 2019 will be held in New Zealand with our turn to host……hmmmm, does that mean we shall have to find ourselves a base? We shall see!!!



December 11, 2017

We interrupt the usual broadcast to tell you that we are back in London, we have been back a couple of weeks now, and yes, we are behind with blog posts. We just have a couple more posts to do on our last few days in Spain before we returned to the UK, hopefully we can get those done this week.

Meanwhile here are a couple of pictures from yesterday’s snow event…..yes, it’s cold, but it’s pretty and what you expect at this time of the year we are just hoping we get more for Christmas Day then we will have a white Christmas.

looking out of the upstairs hall window to the street

The neighbour clearing her driveway

Ian’s family came for lunch and to introduce us all to Beth, who was only born just over a week ago, and her big sister Olivia. With the snow falling continuously for most of the day Olivia wanted to build a snowman, Alex was co-opted into assisting with the making of the snowman, complete with stones for his eyes, a carrot for his nose and twigs for his arms,

Then to finish the day, we had a little gingerbread house building and decorating with Olivia….not sure that all of the decorations ended up on the house but she loved doing it!

Normal blog transmission will resume shortly!

In a pickle

April 10, 2017

It’s that time of the year again when it’s time to get pickling.  After visiting the Mangere market garden for beautiful outdoor grown veggies including tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes, it was time to get a pickle on.

First up was zucchini pickle, a certain favourite of a London residing member of the family, and yes, I may be able to sneak a jar into the luggage if she is a good girl 😘.

Zucchini Pickle all done

Then it was time to deal with all the tomatoes, Tomato Chilli Chutney and Tomato Chiil Jam were the main ones to get done.

Tomato Chutney done

Then there is the Giadiniera aka Pickled Vegetables that we love

Vegetables in the brine ready to be pickled.

The bottled vegetables ready for winter eating.

Christmas 2016

December 28, 2016

Christmas has been and gone for another year. 

We celebrated it with some of the family on Christmas Eve with my brother Steve and wife Leslie setting up camp behind the van and we also put up our tent for our son Antony who joined us for a few days.  Steve and Les’ three daughters, husbands and children all came out for the day as well as one of my sister Hilary’s daughters, Amy.

The planning started well before hand, with the menu sorted and organised with input from everyone, all should go easily and smoothly on the day.  To add to our planned menu, Ranger Bruce arrived the night before bearing a gift of a side of freshly caught Kingfish Kingfish prior to being cleaned up. 

The kingfish was boned and cut into portions with half of it smoked on Christmas Eve to add to our lunch of glazed Ham, Moroccan spiced Lamb Leg, garlic & rosemary roasted potatoes, lemon zuchinni & asparagus with goats cheese, baby leaf salad with baby tomatoes, snow peas, radishes, seeds and white balsamic dressing.  But to start off the proceedings a large sharing platter was laid down the length of the tables artfully arranged on large banana leaves; cheeses, pates, dips, truffle cured lomo, hot smoked salmon, capers, relishes, crackers and breads completed the feast.   

Once everyone arrived we got into the present opening.  Every year we do a secret Santa present for each of the adults with everyone buying a gift to a pre agreed value, before pulling numbers out of a hat and taking turns choosing a present BUT once you open your gift, you can choose to either keep it or exchange it with someone else’s already opened present.  It adds much hilarity to the proceedings.

Shaun getting assistance opening his present

Steve and Sarah watch Amy open her gift.

Steve trying to swap his gift

Discussing options
 The youngest family members Georgia and Emily having a chat

Once the adults have their turn, then it’s time for the families to exchange gifts

Asher and Ben opening their gifts from Erin

Christmas time for our family also heralds lots of birthdays, with Christmas Eve being Finn’s 6th birthday.  

Finn and his cake with his mum Sarah looking on
Blowing out the candle

And to show that Antony does get to hold a baby occasionally

Antony and Georgia
Later in the afternoon we had dessert which comprised of a sharing platter of; passionfruit meringues, fresh strawberries, chocolate brownies, white chocolate blondies, berry coulis, apricot tartlets, and coconut yoghurt.  It was all beautifully laid out to resemble a Xmas wreath complete with mint leaf garnishes, as usual I forgot to take any pictures and of course there was birthday cake as well. 

Everyone had to leave by late afternoon so the evening was spent very quietly with a ham sandwich for dinner.  Christmas Day we feasted again with a boned turkey which was stuffed with a cranberry stuffing and brined.  We cooked it on the BBQ and I have to say it was damn delicious complete with gravy, cranberry sauce and roasted veg.  And some people think that we don’t eat well living in a motorhome!

Wishing you all safe and happy holiday season and best wishes for 2017.

I shall leave you with this view of the Pohutakawa as viewed through the bedroom window in the van which will be a stark contrast to the white Christmas we shall experience next year in the northern hemisphere.

A Gorm weekend

November 10, 2016

Many, many years ago, when we all lived in the big city of Auckland,  a group offriends  all of whom had a keen interest in good food, excellent wine and having a good time, formed a group which we called The Gourmet Society. Every month each of the four couples put money into a dedicated bank account for which there was a cheque book for the ‘Gourmet Society’.  For those of you young things who have no idea what a cheque book is, talk to your parents or grandparents and ask them!  Suffice to say that paying our bill at the end of a night out with that cheque book raised a few eyebrows.   After a while the name was shortened until we became known as the Gorms, a much more appropriate title.  The group consists of Roy & I, Jacky & Chris, Anne & Greg and Colin & Edwina, most of whom we see on  a reasonably regular basis. 

Over the years we; went out for dinners, had weekends away, did everything from camping to 5 star, involved our children in some of our weekends of fun, had themed parties – who could forget the garlic themed night?, did all sorts of crazy things like rock climbing, abseiling, and other nerve wracking events,  but we always had lots of laughs.   

Recently, some members of the Gorms were celebrating significant birthdays so we thought it was time for a get together.  It was to be held at Jacky & Chris place at Whakapirau on the Kaipara harbour, regular readers will know that we have  housesat for them over the past  few winters and spent a bit of time there.  Somewhere along the line, probably over a red wine or two, it was decided that we would have a Hangi (NZ underground oven cooked meal) with local man Grant offering to set it all in place and be in charge of proceedings.

First the hole had to be dug and the fire started.

Grant digging the hole, the fire started in the pit, then as the fire  gets hot more wood is added before adding the rocks to heat up.  All this takes time and patience, and is of course thirsty and hungry work.

Colin and the left, Roy on the right and Chris in the foreground, digging in to some ceviche and some smoked fish
Meanwhile, we girls lined the hangi basket with cabbage leaves, peeled lots of potatoes, kumara, pumpkin and carrots which once seasoned are tied into muslin bags and placed in the basket.  Chickens and a large piece of pork are then placed over the vegetables which are then all covered with more cabbage leaves before finally topped with well soaked towels and sheets before being lowered onto the hot rocks.  Then it all gets covered with topsoil to steambake for the next few hours. 

Top photo Chris, Colin and Greg look on as Roy helps remove the ash and unburned charcoal just before the food goes in.lower photo is Grant checking all is well – or is he doing pressups?  

There is of course a lot of skill involved with getting the fire right, using the right stones, using the best wood to provide the heat and getting everything to the correct temperature  but we were assured all was in hand and under control.

There was as well all the fish we had caught; some to be eaten as fish fillets, the big fish was being smoked and the rest was made into ceviche.

The smoked snapper.

A whole scotch fillet was prepared with a tasty rub and cooked on the barbecue, nicely rare of course and there were plenty of salads too.  From here on in, I neglected to take any more pictures, so there is none of the hangi being lifted or any of the food ladened tables laid out for all to help themselves, nor any of the subsequent party as neighbours and others from the local community had been invited to come and share in the feasting.  The hangi food was fantastic, and later in the evening the desserts came out for all to share.  It was lovely to meet lots of new people and enjoy a great night together over fabulous food and wine.

All in all a great weekend and fantastic  to catch up with the Gorms.  Till next time. 

Tauranga and escapees

May 26, 2016

We seem to be becoming creatures of habit by revisiting places we have been many times before. To back track a little,  we left Matata Friday morning and headed to Tauranga and straight to the dump station at the airport before parking up at the Marine Reserve at Sulphur Point, I think we may have done this before, many, many, times before in fact.  We decided that this short visit to Tauranga was going to be catch up time with people we haven’t seen for a while, and as it turns out fellow escapees from Oamaru! 

First, we met up with Dave & Di whom we knew from our Oamaru days when they had the wonderful restaurant Casa Nova House.  David is one fantastically innovative chef and Di ran an amazing front of house.  Their restaurant was well known throughout the country as a place to go to for good food, service and ambience.  We had previously met up with them when they were in Whangarei but we knew they had recently built in Papamoa.  We gave them a call and yes, they were home so come on round they said.  And what do we find?  that they have in fact sold their stunning modern house and were in the midst of packing up ready to move out this week.  It was fantastic to catch up with them and their son Hadley and all their exciting news and plans.  We spent all afternoon talking and laughing and sharing ideas.  We ended up going back to the van late afternoon but with the promise of them coming round for a combined effort dinner in our humble abode later that evening.  

On our way back to the van we thought we would call in on one of those semi retirement style village places, one that is touted for the 50+ age group and seems particularly popular amongst fellow motorhomers as they have parking and garaging for motorhomes.  We have had lots of comments made to us recently about the fact that we do not have a ‘base’ and what if…..well, you get the drift.  Not that we are into peer pressure or are into keeping up with the Joneses but sometimes you get a bit of a niggle in the back of your mind that maybe, just maybe…………….We did call in for a very quick look but we have to say that for many reasons it’s definitely not something that appeals to us at all so we can put that niggle to rest.

Dave, Di and Hadley came for the impromptu dinner which, between us,  I have to say was a pretty amazing but simple meal which is what happens when avid foodies get together.  We talked and talked  well into the evening about lifestyles, life, what we wanted or didn’t want or need, and came to the conclusion that we have an awful lot in common and share many, many values & ethos.  And of course we were talking so much that we all forgot to take any photos.  However, we really look forward to meeting up with them again once they return from their annual trip to the UK.

Saturday we caught up with my niece Jenna and baby Isla and enjoyed our morning spent with them.  Then it was off to lunch and to meet up with more fellow ex-Oamaruvians, this time Susan and Dave – I know, another Dave!   Sue owned a hydroponic lettuce growing business which supplied us at the Lodge (as well as David & Di’s restaurant).  It was another fabulous meal, this time at the Elizabeth Street Pantry in Tauranga, and again we talked and laughed the afternoon away before they too came back to the van for a look and a chat before we bade them farewell, until next time. 

Little did we know then that next time we would meet would be sooner than any of us thought.  Sunday morning Roy & I thought we would go back to the Elizabeth St Pantry for breakfast, and who should we meet up with there again? None other than Susan and David! A totally unscheduled coincidence to meet up again as it was a spur of the moment decision for us to go out for breakfast and not something we would normally do on moving day.   Over a lovely long breakfast we talked, laughed and schemed and again came to the same conclusion we had with Dave & Di – that we have a lot in common with many shared values.  Thanks for the laughs you two, we look forward to meeting up again soon at “Porpoise Spit”!

All in all a great weekend spent with those of us who can call ourselves ex-Oamaruvians/escapees and with all of whom we share a similar Joie de Vivre. 

We left Tauranga on Sunday to arrive in Kopu near Thames where the van is being repaired  after the hiccup when the German tourist backed into us.  

The van in the repair shop

We are in a motel until repairs are completed which will hopefully be completed by the end of the week.  

Seen around and about in Thames this  brightly coloured staircase

We did endeavour to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow but I think someone else got there first.

We will be heading north again soon with our next scheduled stop to be at Whakaiprau where we will be housesitting again for Jacky & Chris until mid July, then the winterless north beckons.

Markets, pickling and foraging

April 29, 2016

The Farmers Markets in both Napier and Hastings beckoned and with lots of autumnal fare available, we enjoyed wandering around all the stalls and sampling the various treats on offer.

The Napier market is a smaller affair, set up in the street next to the memorial square.   But the best market is the Hastings Farmers Market which set in the lovely surrounds of the A&P Showgrounds, with lovely mature trees and grass underfoot, it really is very picturesque and a pleasant venue to wander around. 

Napier Market
Hastings Market

The first weekend we bought a load of fresh veggies and fruits as well as cheeses, breads and other goodies.  But it was the plentiful fresh vegetables I was particularly keen to  get my hands on as I wanted to make Giadiniera – pickled vegetables.  I haven’t made any for the past couple of years and we were missing having them on hand as they are great on an antipasto platter and make for a lovely addition to make a nice crisp salad in the winter.

First I had to sort and chop all the vegetables and put them in a brine mix for 24 hours.

selection of veggies – cauliflower, broccoli, yellow and green zucchini., capsicums of all colours – red, yellow, green & purple, baby red onions, green and yellow beans, celery 
Draining the veg.
Time to make  the pickling mix and cook, add the veg and then bottle.

That should keep us well supplied with our 5+ a day!

On our way to the Hasting Market, we drove across a tree lined road, not anything unusual in that but in this case the trees lining the roadside were walnut trees.

There is a man lurking under those trees somewhere.

With enough walnuts to last us some time, we continued on our way home, but with just one more stop.

Cider and beer tasting at the Filter Room. However, after we had sampled and made our choices of the cider varieties we liked, we went to the counter to make our purchase only to be told that they don’t sell the cider to take away, only the beer, ginger beer and Perry was available to purchase! Weird.

Books and Quinces

April 6, 2016

On our sleuthing around the Wairarapa, one member of the touring party saw that there was a book sale on in Greytown, so of course we just had to visit didn’t we?  I went along for the ride, and I admit that I could not help myself – the books were bargains with a reasonably good selection.  However, I was not buying for myself, I was buying for my niece Natalie and her two young girls Renee & Michelle, well can you blame me? Childrens books were 10 for $1!!!  On our previous visit to see Natalie, I had noticed that Renee (age 7) seemed to be always reading, and reading well in advance of her age as she was reading Black Beauty and White Fang so I thought it was only right that we foster that interest.  Michelle is 2 1/2 so picture books were more her forte and I had to get a few good books for Natalie as well as she is about to go into hospital for treatment so needs some good reading material.   

We visited the book fair on Friday and returned for another session on Saturday.  We then devised a plan on how we were to get the books to the recipients in Wellington.

You see a certain member of the touring party has one of those Gold Cards, it’s for those who are of a certain vintage, which means he can get free train trips. On checking the timetable we found that he could leave Masterton at 4.30pm, arrive in Wellington at 6pm and return on the 6.25pm train getting back to Masterton by 8pm.  

  The collection of books
He was loaded up with around 40 children’s books and a dozen or so novels for Natalie. 
  Off on the courier mission

Mission accomplished, and now they all have plenty of reading material!

Whilst we visited Garrick & Marguerite at Longwood, Margureite gave me some lovely big quinces from her abundant tree.  I don’t think I have ever seen such huge specimens, so  whilst Roy was on his courier mission, I set to to make some quince paste as well as bottle some of the delicious fruit. 

 Quince paste

I can tell you that it is the best and easiest quince paste I have ever made.  

  And the bottled quince segments are also delicious and will be a welcome addition to our menus over the coming months.


March 18, 2016

We all went down the country lane
for blackberries, sweet blackberries 
And there we saw them wet with rain
Those blackberries, sweet blackberries
And oh my dear it was such fun
To see them glistening in the sun 
We ate them all, yes every one 
Those blackberries, sweet blackberries.

This is a nursery rhyme from my childhood (I think I have recalled it reasonably accurately) which every year at about this time comes to mind especially when we find blackberries growing. And this year we found a nice couple of places where we have managed to find them growing in abundance. The first patch of blackberries we found were not too far from Gladstone where we were parked last week, so Roy and I went off to pick a few. 
  growing wild
Roy in gathering mode
On one of our trips out and about with Pat & Sue we found a lovely apple trees growing on the side of a road, of course we stopped and picked a bag each of some very good cooking apples. We are not sure what variety they are but they are very tart, and when cooked fluff up beautifully. The perfect combination – blackberries and apples.  

A bag of apples and a bowl of blackberries
It didn’t take too long to get the first lot of Blackbrry Chutney in a pan cooking away. This is a recipe that I developed a few years ago whilst at the Lodge when I was looking for a chutney to accompany a specific cheese and after trying a few recipes, I worked at developing my own recipe very carefully noting all the quantities and methodology along the way.

  Chutney in the making

  Chutney at the front and the start of Blackberry & Apple Jelly cooking at the rear.

Chutney was made, Jelly bottled, then apples cooked up and portioned into bags and put in the freezer along with a few small bags of blackberries. Blackberry & Apple tarts were also made,  individual ones made in muffin tins and these have provided us all with a treat at the end of dinner.  A few pears have also been foraged and added to the larder and a few more blackberries were added to the freezer after we moved to park at the reserve by Lake Wairarapa where we found another irresistible patch to raid.  These will be used at some stage over the next few months to remind us of warmer times.

Fixing, fritters and fishing 

October 21, 2015

It’s so nice to be back at Matai Bay, relaxing in the warmth and sunshine and generally keeping ourselves busy with one thing or another. 

 First on the list was a trip into Kaitaia to pick up the replacement fishing kite, line and accoutrements and also to check on mail that was being forwarded to us at Kaitaia as well as catch up with extended whanau.   The parcels were duly retrieved from the courier depot then it was back to the van and the beginning of getting our lines sorted.

 This is what the damaged kite line looks like when it’s removed from the reel.

Next  it was the task of joining the last of the old line onto the new line and wind the line onto the reel.  The traces (these are the short lengths of line with the hooks at one end and clips to attach to the dropper rig at the other end)  were put onto the trace rack and a few new ones were tied.  Now it was time to try it all out and a trip to Tokerau Beach was in order, as if the fish weren’t biting, we knew that there are plenty of tuatua (shellfish) to gather in the shallows.  

No fish were harmed in that expedition but the kite and line all worked perfectly and there were  plenty of tuatua gathered.  The shellfish were left in a bucket of sea water overnight so that they purge themselves of any sand, as there is nothing worse than eating gritty fritters.  Sue and I made two batches of fritter mixture using two different methods and recipes – one an Al Brown recipe and the other Lauraine Jacobs recipe with Lauraines  version getting the thumbs up from us all.

  Sue wondering who ate all the fritters?

Another day and we headed off to another beach close by to try our luck fishing (we can’t tell you where as you would all want to go there) this time with much more success, with good sized snapper being caught and brought home, and a barracuda returned to the sea to swim again.  Of course you will have to take my word for it as we were so busy living in  the moment we forgot to take any pictures. 

However, another day and we returned from a mornings fishing and with 6 snapper, this time I remembered to take a photo of the fish.

Shame I neglected to take a photo of our delicious dinners the past few nights though, they were pretty damn good even if I say so myself!