Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

Home again, home again, jiggedy jig.

September 10, 2019

There’s no place like home said someone, once, and it’s so true. Although I have to quickly add that we do feel at home in England as well, especially at Alex & Ian’s.

I remember in one of my tutorials at University we were asked to define where is home…is it where you live now? or where you were born? or where you were raised? or where you went to school? You hear immigrants in particular talking of ‘home’, I remember my parents talking of ‘back home’ meaning England. Is home defined by place, people or thing? There is no right answer, everyone has a different viewpoint.

Getting over jet lag, opening mail, sorting out stuff were the order of events over the first days back. We made appointments for Doctors visits for checkups, sorted out bits and pieces and in between tried to get body clocks onto NZ time.

We had a very pleasant surprise in the mail from England. A spice kit that Alex Ian and Callum had organised for us. It’s a monthly spice kit which arrives with all the spice mixes to make delicious meals. With full instructions on the meal preparations as well as a little history on where the meal originated, a list of how to remake the spice mixes for a repeat of the meal all included.

The kit and the note from Callum

It’s something we had seen in England as Alex had bough Ian a subscription for his birthday. You receive an email notification of what is coming up in the next months kit and options to change for another kit of your choice if you so desire as there are up to 5 choices each month. You can also put a hold on receiving it for a few months if you wish and restart when it suits.

We just love the curries in England, it’s always our first choice when we arrive and it’s our choice of farewell meal as well.

Of course we were keen to give the kit a go, with the shopping list in hand (included in the kit) it was off to the shops for the main ingredients.

We were cooking this

Tonight’s dinner

it also required us to make a dum aloo, potato dish, and a spicy tomato chutney to accompany the main dishes. We had only arrived back the previous day, I should have thought a bit more about that before embarking on cooking the meal. I got 9/10ths of the way through preparing it all when Jet lag hit me, I just had to go to bed right there and then before I fell over. Roy and Antony finished off the cooking and reported that the meal was fantastic.

The result

Really flavoursome and tasty with the only chilli heat coming from the tomato chilli chutney that accompanied the meal.

We had the rest of the meal the following day and I can attest to how deliciously flavoursome it was and plenty for all of us so a generous 4 servings as per the leaflet. We really look forward to receiving the next parcel.

We had to get a WOF for the car as well as register it, that was done the afternoon of our arrival. Then we both needed a WOF for ourselves at the Doctors, that done we then could head off down to Whakatane to be reunited with our van.

The trip to Whakatane was via Hamilton so we could call in to see Wayne Hunt, a motorhome solar expert, to sort out a time to have a new charger put in that would trickle feed the van battery off the solar so that when we sit still for any length of time the van battery will be fully charged negating the need to start the engine every other day. That done we then called in to see our dear friends Wade & Lindsay for a quick catch up and lunch before heading off to Whakatane.

We arrived at John & Jude’s late in the afternoon and then spent the next few days sorting ourselves out. John had kindly sorted out our RUCs and van registration whilst we were away so we just had to take the van in to get a COF. It was all done very quickly and efficiently without any hassles at Ted’s Testing Station in Whakatane. We can highly recommend them and we will definitely use them again.

We made a day trip up to Papamoa to see friend Estelle whose husband Bill passed away whilst we were overseas. It was then on into Tauranga to see my 3 nieces and great nieces to catch up with them before we leave the Bay and make our way north.

We can’t thank John & Jude enough for looking after our home on wheels whilst we were away, it was great to know that it was safe and sound in their care and well looked after.

Family BBQ

September 2, 2019

Our last weekend in England and we were having a family BBQ at Brian & Julie’s (Ian’s Dad’s cousin), along with the rest of Ian’s family. This was a bank holiday weekend in the UK, a long weekend with Monday being a public holiday, and the BBQ was planned for Sunday afternoon, with the weather playing a large part in the planning. We needn’t have worried though with the hottest August Bank holiday weekend on record being recorded and the days temperature set to reach at least 32C.

We arrived at Julie & Brian’s and made our way out to their lovely garden where the gazebos were set up providing much welcome shade.

Brian was manning the charcoal BBQs with Roy giving a hand. Charcoal BBQs are a rarity for us these days as most people in NZ use gas fired BBQs mainly because of fire restrictions for NZ’ers over the summer months.

Brian and Roy manning the BBQs

Comparing notes behind a smoke screen

All sorts of fun and games were had by all generations.

Grandad Barry and Callum

I forgot to take any pictures of the table set out for the main event but needless to say it was all delicious and there was plenty to eat, it was some time later in the day before we got around to having dessert and cheese.

Panoramic shot

I had said I would make a dessert and thought I should make a pavlova as my homage to all things kiwi, but decided an ordinary pav would be a bit boring so instead made a brown sugar version with dates, almonds and chocolate. Topped with fresh whipped cream and raspberries it was rather delicious. Roy put together a cheese board and even made radish mice with the radishes grown in Alex & Ian’s garden, and it too also went down a treat.

Cheese board

Dessert and cheese….yes, I forgot to take pics of the main event!

Group photo

It was a wonderful afternoon and evening with lots of fun and laughter.

Thank you to the Denny family for making us feel so welcome and part of your family. We shall miss you all, until next time x.

Date night

August 25, 2019

We had a booking for dinner at Melucci’s in Bexley, just the two of us. We were told it was our date night?! Really? It’s been a while since we’ve been on a date! Do we remember what to do? What do we talk about? We were under strict instructions not to talk to each other for the day beforehand so we would have something to talk about over dinner, and we were even sent a list of possible chat topics which covered everything from North Korea Politics, Origami, Brexit, the best Nursery Rhymes to who would win the Rugby World Cup!!!

But before dinner we were also going out for lunch, Roy with Ian’s Dad Barry and his cousin Brian and me with Ian’s Mum Chris and cousin Julie. The fellas were off to a pub whilst us ladies were meeting up at a tea room in Bexley. However, when we got to the tea rooms, they were closed for the day so it was off around the corner to another tea room where we enjoyed a very nice lunch and an afternoon of chat. Apparently the fellas had a nice lunch and sorted out the problems of the world. And you guessed it, neither of us took pictures.

Back home on our respective buses (I’ve got this bus lark sorted) where it wasn’t long to wait before it was time to go out again.

Off we went, actually we were dropped off by Alex, and we rocked up to the restaurant in the Main Street of Bexley. My brother John & his partner Jude were here last year with Alex & Ian, we had been given rave reviews from them all so we were hopeful of a good meal. And we were not disappointed, we got good, honest Italian style food cooked with love and passion with great local ingredients. It’s not everywhere where you can go for a meal and they can give you the provenance of the meat; as in which farm the animals come from, how they are raised etc etc. and they obviously care about where their produce comes from. But it was the service from the owner and chef that really made the night, Christo does front of house and his wife Maria is the chef and they really make you feel welcome.

Roy’s bruschetta with the yummiest mozzarella

My arancini – simply delicious

We were well entertained by Christo, Maria and other staff and as well other customers who picked that we were kiwis and they chatted away with us over the course of the evening with no mention of Brexit!

Roy’s slow cooked beef short rib

My pork belly with the best crackling ever (half eaten).

Apparently John had the pork when he visited and he enjoyed it so much he ordered extra crackling! I can attest to the fact that it was the best crackling I’ve had in a very very long time.

All in all we had a great evening and yes even held hands as we walked back to the bus stop for our journey home! Enough said.

Visits, visitors and a birthday

August 11, 2019

It’s hard to believe that just 10 years Alex arrived back in NZ bringing with her a new friend from the UK. Jennifer (aka Beanie) had not travelled at all before these two ventured on an epic trip through SE Asia then onto NZ. They joined us at Pen-y-bryn for a bit of a respite before continuing with their travels. We even went camping with the girls, joining them for a couple of days in Central Otago before we lent them our car and tent to continue on their trip around the South Island of NZ. So it was lovely to be told that Beanie was coming to visit us this week.

Beanie and Callum

It was fantastic to hear of her news and what she is up to these days. Beanie is a chef, she and Alex met when Alex worked at the Middle House in Mayfield when Alex first arrived in the UK. Beanie now works at an all girls school in the village, where she works 5 days a week with regular hours and no split shifts, and no stress!!! It’s so lovely that they still keep in touch and see each other occasionally and of course it was just lovely for us to see her again.

Roy and Ian were off to football that same evening so it was a girls dinner at home for us, and a very nice roast chicken with a pile of roast veges with a ratatouille to complete the meal. For those who are unaware, Roy doesn’t eat chicken so we take every opportunity to have our fill when he is not around!

We bade farewell to Beanie later that evening and look forward to seeing her again next time we are over.

The following day Roy and Barry (Ian’s Dad) went off to the Docklands Museum for a visit for which Roy assures me that he will write up a blog ….one of these days!! Meanwhile, Alex and I took ourselves off to Melucci’s in Bexley for lunch.

We both have double chins? Oh, I thought you said double gins!!!

Anyone for cake?

We had a lovely lunch, so much so that Roy & I are off there next week for dinner. Alex Callum & I had to sit in the cafe for a while after lunch as the heavens opened and it just poured with rain, and as we were catching the bus home, we didn’t fancy standing out in the rain getting soaked particularly as it is such a narrow road the gap between the shops, footpath, and road are all within a few feet of each other and there was a small river of water running down the road for the vehicles to go through and soak us even more. The rain soon passed and we were on our way. Even though Bexley is just a few short miles from home, we were surprised to get home to find that there was no evidence of any rain and the washing was dry on the line as well.

Later in the week Roy and I were meeting up with cousin Jackie & her husband Hossein in London for lunch as they were coming down from Milton Keynes for the Van Gogh exhibition at the Tate. Funnily enough it took us just as long to get into town from Erith as it did for them coming from Milton Keynes. We met at the OXO tower as we had a booking for lunch.

Oxo tower

The view over the Thames

Roy, Bernice and Hossein

Bernice, Jackie and Hossein

Fish sandwich for the girls and Pasta with mushrooms and hazenuts for the boys

After a lovely long lunch we bade our farewells before going on our separate journeys, our initial destination was the Borough Market for a quick visit.

Paella Paella Paella

Fish selection, and yes we did buy a gurnard

Friday also happened to be Alex’s birthday, so it was straight home to get dinner sorted for everyone. Fortunately I had done lots of prep the day before so there wasn’t much to do.

Birthday dinner L-R Alex, Ian Roy, Bernice, Vicki, Jen

Elaine getting in her cuddles

Birthday cake – dairy free!!

This was not the end of the celebrations though, the following night we went out for a family dinner in Bexleyheath with Ian’s family. We had a lovely dinner and it was great to catch up with everyone as well. Unfortunately I neglected to take any pictures, we were all far too busy talking and eating however I am sure that there will be another opportunity for a group photo soon.

The new addition

June 1, 2019

We have a new addition to the family, he’s named Lawrence.

He was born this week and is growing nicely…

Lawrence, the sourdough starter

Yes, Lawrence is a sourdough starter that I’ve got on the go. We named him Lawrence because with his covering he looks a bit like Lawrence of Arabia, well if you squint a bit he does!

We have struggled to find a decent loaf of bread here, even the so called sourdough from Borough Market didn’t come up to scratch so I decided to start a bug and make it myself.

I make sourdough bread in the RV regularly and have a good bug growing that I’ve carried around with us for the past 8 years. He’s in hibernation mode at the moment though ready for our return. I usually make bread once or twice a week in the motorhome and we really enjoy it so why not make it here in the UK as well.

Oh, were some of you thinking that we were announcing the arrival of baby Denny? Well, it’s gone from this

To this

Yes, it’s due day today but so far it looks as though it’s quite comfortable where it is, hopefully we won’t have to wait too much longer as we are all very keen to meet this baby.

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!!!

Interruption

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.