Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Spring Rolls

YIN CHIEH (whom we all have affectionately called Aunty KK) sat down at the table during a late lunch and started making her famous spring rolls. I knew they were the best and watching her expertly make one after another with love and care, I realise why she has always sent some out as entrees.
   The skin is the Kulit Popiah from KG Pastry, made in Malaysia. The filling is a mixture of finely julienned cabbage, dried Chinese mushroom, carrot and chopped parsley stalks. With the basic salt and pepper seasoning and drizzled with oil this slaw mix does not have any garlic or onion, a Buddhist practice.
   The spring roll parcel is sealed with a liquid mix of flour. Yin Chieh makes around 80 spring rolls every 2 days. That’s a lot of hand-made spring rolls  but it’s easy to see know popular they are as entrees. There’s nothing more delicious than having freshly made spring rolls, with a sweet chilli dipping sauce.
   Start every meal at KK Malaysian with Spring Rolls. No better way!
KK Malaysian
463 Manukau Road
09 630 3555

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Westhaven In The Mist

WHEN THE FOG rolls in, the Waitemata Harbour turns ethereal. It’s my favourite time to go for a walk, sans dog. The fog over the weekend was more like a mist, ideal for an arty photo essay. It was thick enough to hold up and delay the Prime Minister’s flight to Rotorua to drum up more votes for this weekend’s General Elections 2014.
   On this side of the Bridge, there’s a stretch along the foreshore where the Harbour Board allows fishermen and anglers to cast their line. As the tide was coming in, there were already a handful of recreational souls trying their luck this early morning at 8am. Nestled under the Bridge approach is the Auckland Bridge Climb and Bungy.
   The Westhaven Marina is stunning. On this misty morning, the water is very still and the reflections of the myriad of yachts mirror-like. This area is home to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Club. I remember when New Zealand held the Americas Cup, we had functions there where the Auld  Mug was proudly displayed (incidentally damaged in a sledgehammer attack in 1997).

   The area is also home to the Richmond Yacht Club and the small but perfectly formed Victoria Cruising Club. This morning, the Royal New Zealand flag was being raised and Marina buntings were flapping in the breeze that was building up. A couple were going through their waltz moves in the carpark. Waltzing in the mist, so to speak.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Baram Regatta

THE BARAM REGATTA defines what this rich cultural riverine tract of Sarawak is. This famous regatta is now held once every 3 years and this year is from Thursday 21 August to Saturday 23 August. Festivities include cultural performances, traditional sports competition, Baram Idol, beauty pageants, exhibitions and native craft stalls.
   The Baram River rises from the highlands and passing through riverine settlements of longhouses. There are five major tribal groups that have given this region it’s cultural identity, Iban, Kelabit, Kayan, Kenyah and Penan. The Baram Regatta is held in Marudi, the furthest upriver trading post on the Baram and services all the longhouses in the Tutoh, Tinjar and Baram river basins. Nowadays, roads reach further upriver but Marudi still maintains its trading focus. The Baram Regatta was promulgated since the peace-making treaty to end tribal wars of over 115 years back. What better way to end hostilities by having regatta every couple of years in the spirit of friendly rivalry. 
   I must say being at any Baram Regatta is the crowning glory of the Sarawak cultural experience, memories of the one regatta in Marudi in my youth will never be forgotten. I managed to design the commemorative badges (without any design training yet) and since I still have these badges and photographs taken back then, I recall the happy times spent at the regatta with now life-long friends. 
   We would watch the races from the vantage point near Fort Hose up the hill on the banks of the Baram, looking across to Lubok Nibong. 
   We hear the chants as teams from different longhouses and tribes would set out to outrace each other, and we would gasp when there’s an occasional capsize or collision. There would even be an (army) helicopter hovering in the sky like a dragonfly.
   Carol Brooks, a then Peace Corp science teacher at Marudi Secondary School posted on my Facebook page: My last Baram Regatta was in 1972 when the Orang Putih longboat team entered. They got off to a great start but steering was a challenge as their boat veered straight to the riverbank! Lots of laughter and fun!
   The town square was abuzz with native cultural dances and stage shows, and stalls selling native craftwork from upriver. It was a good time to try buy carvings, ikat (woven fabric), beadwork and the rich array of native crafts. You could even buy blowpipes. And there were a lot of stalls selling traditional foods. What’s there not to love?
   I'm very envious of friends who have made a special trip back to Marudi to re-live this spectacular regatta.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Kit Perera’s Pumpkin & Snake Bean Coconut Curry

Kit Perera turns up pumpkin and produces a Sri Lankan-inspired curry of amazing flavours. 

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
6-8 curry leaves
2 dried red chillies
1 onion, finely sliced
1 cm piece ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon paprika
800g pumpkin, peeled and cut in to 3cm pieces
400ml light coconut milk
200g snake beans, trimmed and cut in to 4cm batons
salt to taste

Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium-high heat, add the mustard seeds and allow them to pop. Add the curry leaves and chillies and fry for 30 seconds. Add the onion and fry until lightly golden. Stir in the ginger, garlic and spices, and fry for about a minute.
   Add the pumpkin and fry for 2 minutes, then stir in the coconut milk and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the beans and cook for further 10 minutes. Season with salt.
   Serve with steamed basmati rice.
   Serves 6.

★ Kit Perera is famous for his Sri Lankan food, even though he’s equally adept in French and Moroccan cuisines. He is also unequivocally passionate about cooking as he is about cricket. Born in Sri Lanka, Kit became a professional cricketer, and this sporting career has taken him to England, Australia and New Zealand, where he’s a coach and mentor up to the Black Caps level. Kit’s Chef for the Night is a highly popular event where he cooks Sri Lankan food for select parties in the setting of their homes or a studio kitchen centre. He’s the perfect consummate host chef, with smashing anecdotes from his professional cricket career and his colourful travels.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Remembering the ANZACS

Ode of Remembrance

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.

Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Lest We Forget

Ode of Remembrance taken from Laurence Binyon’s poem, For the Fallen


 Filmmaker GaylenePreston’s new tribute to the gallant New Zealand soldiers 
screened on the walls of the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How Doris Coddled Her Egg

MY EYES LIT UP when I saw Coddled Eggs were on the menu of a foxy cafe at Ponsonby Central, I had to order it. It arrived in all it’s glory with accoutrements. And what a disappointment, the eggs were hard boiled. They said give it another try next time. I did, by which time chef was advised not to overcook the egg. Not much better. Third time lucky? Not likely! The egg was popped into the microwave and served almost raw swimming in cream. I told them they should just take their Coddled Eggs off the menu. Last time I looked, it was still there, waiting to snare another unsuspecting fan.

   So when I visited Doris in Pirongia, I recounted my coddled egg saga. She immediately brought out her Royal Worcester Egg Coddlers and proceeded to show me her way of making coddled egg for breakfast.
   She had just collected the 6 eggs from the farmette hen house that morning. She has 6 hens and they are happy hens. They are named after aunts and old family friends: Aileen Tregurtha, Trixie Christmas, Myrtle Collier, Avis Taylor, Armorel Rennie and Romola Murray. I kid you not. She has a roll call list on the side of the fridge and recognises each and every one by their feathers. I asked where the rooster was, only to be given a withering look. Romola, Myrtle, Trixie and co don’t need a rooster to lay eggs. Doris did provide an anecdote  about laying eggs but I will not repeat it.

   Doris warmed the egg coddler first (her short cut was pouring boiling water over and into it). Suitably warmed, coat the inner surface with butter which invariably will melt or soften. She ran to her herb garden in her pinny and picked chive, marjoram and parsley. She finely chopped up the herbs (separately). After salting and grinding pepper into the coddler, she added the finely chopped chive and marjoram. The butter would aid the herbs, pepper and salt to stick to the sides as well. Break an egg into the coddler and sprinkle the chopped parsley on top, and before screwing on the lid, season again with salt and pepper on top).

   Immerse the coddler into a pot of boiling water, the water level should cover the lid. Boil away for 5 minutes. The egg will be perfectly coddled and ready to be savoured. And it was so good. I’m now on the hunt for egg coddlers. Egg coddlers are not in vogue and I will be keeping an eye out at my former prop haunts, Trade Me or eBay. Or Smith & Caugheys might have them.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Kit Perera’s Sri Lankan Eggplant Coconut Curry

Kit Perera shares with us his famous Eggplant Coconut Curry, inspired by his grandmother in Sri Lanka who instilled in Kit a love and passion for cooking. This is a dish to savour, the spices imbuing bursts of flavour and held together by the coconut milk.

Sri Lankan Eggplant Coconut Curry

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees

For the eggplant
2 eggplants
1 teaspoon turmeric
Olive oil

Slice the eggplant in to 1cm thick rounds, put in to a large bowl; sprinkle in the turmeric and mix well to combine
   Heat 2-3 tablespoons olive oil in a fry pan over high heat and sear the eggplant on both sides in batches, add more oil in between batches. (Alternately, drizzle the eggplant with olive oil and grill until lightly charred on both sides) Once cooled cut each slice in to four

For the sauce
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
Sprig of curry leaves
2-3 dried red chillies
1 teaspoon each crushed garlic and grated ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
300ml coconut milk
Salt to taste

Fresh coriander to garnish

Heat oil in a fry pan over high heat; add mustard seeds, curry leaves and chillies. Fry for 2-3 minutes, stirring (make sure to stand back as the curry leaves may cause oil to spit) Add the onion; turn down the heat to medium and sauté until golden, stirring from time to time
   Add the garlic, ginger and spices, fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the coconut milk; bring to the boil, stirring. Add the eggplant, mix well and season with salt
   Put the eggplant in to a baking dish and bake for 20 minutes
   Serve with steamed  (basmati) rice

★ Kit Perera is famous for his Sri Lankan food, even though he’s equally adept in French and Moroccan cuisines. He is also unequivocally passionate about cooking as he is about cricket. Born in Sri Lanka, Kit became a professional cricketer, and this sporting career has taken him to England, Australia and New Zealand, where he’s a coach and mentor up to the Black Caps level. Kit’s Chef for the Night is a highly popular event where he cooks Sri Lankan food for select parties in the setting of their homes or a studio kitchen centre. He’s the perfect consummate host chef, with smashing anecdotes from his professional cricket career and his colourful travels.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Prickly blooms of beauty

Captured on Hipstamatic, John S, Jimmy and Buckhorst Lens
Kodot, Ina’s 1969 and Blanko film

Watching the Royal Watchers

PRINCE WILLIAM AND KATE, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge sailed through the Auckland on Friday. I went to watch the Royal Watchers and was well rewarded.
   There’s a lot of excitement and a lot of royal chatter. Best quote from a Royalist on eyeing the banner being towed by an aircraft which proclaimed: ONE DAY WE WILL BE A KIWI REPUBLIC
   He retorted: Shoot it down!


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Geraldine Johns reviews RAD

WHAT ARE ALL these people doing here? Do they not have a job to go to? Or classes to attend? Or friends to visit?
   At 10.45 on a Friday morning – a reasonable hour, you would think, to be able to grab a perch between the thrust of breakfast and the throng of lunch, RAD is positively chocka. By the looks of the lucky lot who have secured a seat they are conducting the activities outlined above on these very premises.
   It will soon be easy to understand why. RAD is the kind of place which attracts them all: the suits, the students, the parents with prams, the ladies who clearly don’t want to wait any longer for lunch. We feel lucky to find ourselves a place at which to park among them.
   RAD has been many restaurant guises before. It is difficult to think of one that wears it as well as this. That has something to do with the snappy fit-out. But moreso, it’s something to do with the pedigree it brings. It’s a family affair, with many years of restaurant experience behind them. The handsome brothers Duke and Hugh Tran do a splendid job out front; Mum Trinny is in the kitchen. 
   Why, we ask them, the name. “Because we wanted to make something of a radical shift,” explains Duke. And indeed they have. Consider the menu. It’s got a zest-filled Vietnamese touch, but not to the exclusion of more regular café offerings. Which is why you’ll be dithering over their version of eggs benedict (eggs benny), which is competing with the Vietnamese sandwich. 
   And then there’s the touches like the Lego table identifiers, which, surprisingly, fit without seeming twee.
   So what do we get at table 16? A red and white quinoa salad of gorgeous proportions and flavour for my sponsor; Grandma’s pork bánh mì for me. Oh, we are so very pleased with all that is before us. We like the little touches, like the rosewater-flavoured water too.
   There is room for a thunderously good ginger crunch. A perfect partner to the First Flight coffee.
   RAD has a vivacity and a grooviness to it that is not often enjoyed in a place so young. It manages to keep a very delicate balance by merging the traditional with the, er, more radical.
   It is, clearly, a place that does breakfast as beautifully as it does lunch  as well as the bit in between. And it has staff who make you feel like you are welcome. You can’t get much of a better mix.  

397 Mt Eden Road, Mt Eden, Auckland.
Phone (09) 631 5218
Open seven days

Monday, March 10, 2014

Geraldine Johns reviews Petit Bocal

THERE’S NOTHING LIKE a rapid response to put you in a kindly frame of mind. And that is what we will receive – and achieve – when we park ourselves at Petit Bocal.
   It is the not-indecent hour of 10am on a Monday. We claim ourselves a window seat and let the sun pat our backs while we absorb the view within. A woman finds herself remarking she likes the place already, and we haven’t even been fed yet.
   That’s as much to do with the fact we like what we see, as much as that our immediate needs are attended to with alacrity. The delivery of an assertive Supreme flat white does wonders, as does the tea for my sponsor. A generous nod to the perspicacious wait woman is warranted here.
   There’s a lot of black and white going on at Petit Bocal: the fit-out, the photographs, the wait staff kits. There are, not surprisingly, many French connections – but thankfully an absence of accordions, berets or striped shirts. The bocal (it means ‘jar’ in France) theme is reflected  in the use of inverted preserving jars as light shades, and mini terrariums on the tables. Fear not, it works. We like the lightness and simplicity.

   We like the look of the menu too. Tempted as we are by a fellow diner’s salmon gravlax scrambled eggs – with a croissant – we’ll eventually settle for crepes (lemon and sugar, $12.00) for me and Shashi’s eggs ($18.00) for him. Had we been more adventurous, we might have gone for the marinated sardines.
   His Master’s choice comes all exuberant in both flavour and size - baked in a dish with tomato, capsicum and Puy lentils; the crepes are as light and as gorgeous as had been dreamed of.
   Petit Bocal is unusual in a number of respects. It’s in a nondescript bit of Sandringham Road, squeezed in between a selection of tired old shops. That fact, it will transpire, offers a pleasant break from the usual boulevard of eateries that pepper more popular strips. And it has an air abundant of good cheer and welcome. 
   It’s also open seven days – and it does lunch and dinner too. That is enough to strike dread in the heart of any diner (how can they accommodate so much?) but if the breakfast treatment is anything to go by, they do so with a finesse.
   We like this address. Too many pretenders seem to think all it takes to succeed is a cute accent. Petit Bocal, however, thrives on its ample and legitimate merits.

177 Sandringham Road, 
Phone: (09) 815 6992
Hours: 7am – 10pm, seven days

Saturday, March 8, 2014

In Praise of Pasifika 2014

A celebration of the biggest Polynesian city in New Zealand.
Saturday 8 March 2014 at Western Springs.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Geraldine Johns passes verdict on Giles Luncheonette

CLEARLY, this is the launching pad for the Corporate-ati. It’s where the suited sorts fuel up before ascending Shortland Street for another important day. It’s where young women with heels as high as their calves manage to stand up straight.
   What a marvellous start for the lawyerly brigade. For that matter, what a marvellous opportunity – for anyone at any time – to relish in the delights that await at the base of the big city hill.
   Welcome to Giles. And welcome back Peter Chichester and Rekha Dayal: benchmark-setters of the food scene (Gala, Benediction, Metropole, Veranda Bar & Grill and Orleans). We have missed you. 
   Have they still got the right touch? They’ve certainly chosen a lovely spot: one at which we can gaze as much upon the goings-on outside as we can at the offerings within. 
   There is considerable relief to be had in the re-appearance of our old faves: the mother-in-law’s eggs ($14.50); the cute takes on the standard that elevate it beyond the norm without making it look stupid. Consider, for example, the side offering of a poached egg with an Ortiz anchovy ($4.50).

   A hungry woman is tempted by the latter but falls instead for the goats cheese and chive omelette ($16.50). Her sponsor opts for the aforementioned eggs. Had we not been so ambitious we could have happily scoffed any of the cabinet offerings: the freshest of breads stuffed with a zingy array of fillings. Or just supped on something from the coolest smoothie and juice selection.
   The main plates more than meet expectations. We are indeed a happy duo, as are the office escapees who surround us. There’s the likes of the guy next door who has just bought a book from Unity round the corner and is now devouring both it and his extraordinarily hearty lamb mince on toast ($16.50). A lovely combination.
   More buoyancy to this outing is added by the coffee: a wallopingly good example of Supreme. It’s so good we’ll have another. We pass on the sweetest temptation of chocolate fudge cake that beckons.
   Coming to Giles is like being back in the company of an old friend who greets you and treats you as such, but who has kept the relationship alive by adding a newness and freshness to their life, in the form of food. You, like its habitues, would do yourself justice by attending.

21 Shortland Street,
Auckland CBD
Phone: (09) 309 6056
Hours: 7 – 4 Mon to Fri; 8 – 3 Sat