22 March 2010

Food heaven

I go away a lot on weekends.  It's not that I don't like staying at home - I love home, home is awesome.  But a number of friends live elsewhere around the country, I have a car and so...  Add to a general inclination to go visiting the fact that I play handball and, from necessity, travel frequently to other centres for training or tournaments, and you have a fairly busy itinerary.  

One thing I love about travelling is also one of the things I dislike - being away from my kitchen.  It means I either can not, or do not need to, cook.  However, as every cloud has a platinum lining (I refuse to settle for silver, so tawdry), this also means one gets the chance to eat out and/or sample the culinary delights of others.  This weekend I've been staying in Auckland with cousins.  Dona and Gav run Northport Events, an Events Management company who's children include The Parent and Child Show and, dum dum dum... The Food Show.   Not surprisingly they are both great cooks who's kitchen is always stocked with tasty, fresh and good quality fare.  Dona makes mean mexican food too (being herself a Southern Californian), which makes me verrrrry happy.  

Over my weekend away I ate dinner with some ex-high school friends, at Ponsonby Thai restaurant Sawadee (there's also a Thai in Ponsonby called 'Thai Me Up', which I think is a fantastic name!!), brunch at the Richmond Rd Café and tasty soft shell tacos a casa.   I shall do my best to guide you on how my fav dishes were made, though if you're in Auckland, seek these places out (except maybe not Dona and Gav's, as randomly turning up in strangers' living rooms is considered highly unusual, if not illegal, by most people).  

Green thai coconut prawn - Sawadee

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, diced finely
sticks of carrot (size of a hot potato chip, roughly)
bamboo shoots, cut to size of an udon noodle
assorted vegetables - cauliflower and broccoli are good
1 tbsp green curry paste
1 tin coconut milk
500g prawns - deveined, but with tails still on
fresh coriander, chopped

  1. Heat oil and cook onion until soft.  Add other vegetable to pan, reduce heat and stir in curry paste.  
  2. Add coconut milk, stir to mix well with curry paste, allow to simmer on low heat.  If the taste is not strong enough you can add more curry paste, but beware of adding too much as they tend to be rather salty.  Sometimes a mixture of yellow and green pastes is a good idea.  
  3. Cook rice.
  4. When rice is ready, add prawns to curry, along with fresh coriander.  They'll cook really quickly, so when pink remove from heat and serve with fluffy rice. 

Buttermilk pancakes served with blueberries and mascarpone - Richmond Rd

2 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
1 tsp lemon zest (optional)
1 cup buttermilk (use half/half skim milk and plain yoghurt, if you've no buttermilk in the fridge, which let's be honest, the vast majority of us don't)
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 and 1/2 cups flour
1 cup blueberries
dollop mascarpone cheese, one per person
  1. Mix all ingredients together, except berries and cheese, in food processor (or in bowl with elbow grease).  Allow to sit for 30 minutes.
  2. Spoon ladlefuls into hot pan (greased with a tiny bit of butter).  Flip when bubbles form and cook other side.  Remove from pan and repeat until all batter is used up.
  3. Serve with berries and cheese.  Soooooo yum!  You can also serve with maple syrup, bacon etc, it's up to you, really.   
Mexican fiesta 

The cool thing about having meals such as tortillas, tacos, fajitas and so on is that you just put out several bowls, each filled with different requisite foods, and let people DIY their own combinations.  No fiddly serving for the cook and no diner has to eat anything they don't like or can't eat.  If you land the following dishes on your table, you're guaranteed to have smiles beaming back at you - mexican, small corn tortillas (Dona uses, and I would heartily recommend, Tio Pablo - they're really soft and taste great), guacamole, brown rice, salsa (we had La Morena salsa rojo - muy autentico, grated cheese, salad, sour cream.  

The guacamole was similar to that in an earlier posting (Avocado + Argentina = muy gustoso), except instead of mushing the avocado with balsamic, use freshly squeezed lemon juice.  About one lemon per avocado.  It makes for a slightly less sweet guac, which with all the other flavours is better.    

For the vegetarian beans it's really a matter of taste, trial and error.  I wasn't watching like a hawk when this was being created, but fortunately my cousin Gina (Dona's daughter) has paid more attention and blogged about this before.  You need 

2 tbsp olive oil
1 leek
2 carrots
1 red onion
1 chilli (choose one that has enough pep for you, but not too much - there's nought worse than not being able to eat your own cooking)
2 tins pinto beans
1 tin black beans
1 tin tomatoes
mexican seasoning (Tio Pablo is good again!!)
  1. Sauté leek, carrots, onion and chilli until softened.  
  2. Add other ingredients and simmer until you're ready to eat (ideally leave it simmering away for a good half-hour or so, to allow the flavours to settle in).  
If you've got some corn on the cob, cut the kernels free and chuck them in too - yum yum yum!!  Or as I ought to say, muy gustoso.  


  1. Hi, Glad to know that my sister Susie Q's recipe is traveling around the world. I know your mom, she hangs out with Free to Be - my daughter, Jenifer and LT's project (Fairview, Tx), we all loves to hear her talk. She is a nice lady and we hear you are coming to visit and we all are excited. Your new friend Sharon, Temple, Texas

  2. Hi Sharon - yes, we LOVE your sister's soup here, it's AMAZING! I'm coming over in June, looking forward to meeting you all!