Earth Day – Reduce. Reuse. Recycle solutions


Earth day solutions

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

I think we have the third R done really well in NZ. With the large recycling bins available to households, clear labeling of what can be recycled and ease of sorting, it has been really easy to form the mindset and habit of recycling everything we can.

With reuse, there are plenty of clean glass jars drying on my kitchen windowsill as proof that we do practice it. Jars from condiments and coffee are reused for homemade sauces and pastes, and also for the dry ingredients in the pantry.

Admittedly, we can do better at reducing rubbish. We have been using sturdy bags for groceries, but can’t do anything about the prepackaged meat products.
I have long detested the plastic bags used to wrap cold cuts at the deli meat counter. I didn’t do anything about it, kind of shrugged my shoulders and thought ‘oh well, there’s no other option.’ Well there is ALWAYS another option. I can choose not to buy the product (there might be mini protests at home though). I can also choose not to accept the plastic bags. Okay, now that’s an idea. It’s not a new idea and I am pretty sure I have done that in the past but for what reason I stopped doing so escapes me. Perhaps it was the look of annoyance from the lady serving behind the counter (I still remember the frown like it was yesterday) or the look of doubt at the checkout.

Earth day solutions

Be curious people and think about why I would want to do what everybody wants to! We should have more conversations about things that matter and be innovative. Right. I brought a few boxes to the supermarket today and asked for the meat to be placed in the boxes instead. Result? No hassle at all. True it took a few more seconds for them to work out how to tare the box weight, but it’s no different to how they tare the salad boxes.

Earth day solutions

Below are some of the ways we try to reduce plastic/rubbish. I would love to know what you do in your part of the world.

    • Always have reusable bags on hand for groceries. There are so many on the market. Large ones with good sturdy bottoms, but also ones that can be folded up and tucked into your handbag.

Earth day solutions

      • Foldable ones for handbag (so no excuse). Can I make a plea here please for supermarkets to think about purchasing/merchandising thin, sturdy and foldable bags? Jute bags and cloth bags are cool but they take up so much space! These are ones I have collected over the years. The best ones have a thin but hard board on the bottom for keeping the bag shape. Still maintains a slim profile when folded or zipped up.

    Earth day solutions

Earth day solutions

    • ‎Shop at markets – my favourite one is the Lacigale French Markets. There is less packaging to start with as farmers and producers sell their goods to you direct in a crate.
    • Buy bulk – We have Good For, a plastic-free shop allowing customers to buy the amount they need and have it packaged in paper bags or jars. You can even refill your Ecostore shampoo or multi-purpose cleaner here.
    • ‎Left overs at restaurants – bring a box. This avoids the unnecessary plastic boxes which sometimes can’t be recycled. It’s would be an even better outcome (?!?) if the restaurant uses styrofoam containers, as I would be able to avoid that completely.
    • ‎Straws – no more plastic straws! These CaliWoods stainless steel ones are easy to carry, with styles such as soda, smoothie and even one for bubble tea.
    • Water bottle – I always have one with me. Cold drinks for summer, warm drinks for winter. Done, no need to buy drinks or water!
    • Cups for picnics – these Ecococcon cups are great for cold drinks at the park. Perfect with no waste. They do bottles too.

Earth day solutions

  • Cutlery – I often have cutley in my car so that I won’t have to use plastic throwaway ones when I *have* to buy takeaways (and I have containers in the car for those too).
  • Coffee – bring your own cup. I decided not to buy any takeaway coffee if I don’t have my cup with me. You know what? That’s stopped me from buying coffee without actually deciding ahead that I want a coffee.
  • For kids – Start influencing their habit from young. Role model the use of reusable products and give them cute ones  like these to use. Waterproof and strong, they will fit everything they need for play dates and library books.Earth day solutions
  • Packaged snack food – Individually wrapped small pieces of food are such a waste generator. Now that I have a Thermomix, I’d be making a lot more healthy snacks as it cuts my prep time down by half. Thinking bliss balls, cereal bars, mini muffins…shout out if you have any suggestions!What do you do in the fight against waste?

Do share what #zerowaste ideas you have with me.

Earth day solutions

ps. Different sized chill bags are useful for the odd shaped items.

MASU by Nic Watt – exceptional Japanese Robata style dining


One of our family’s favourite cuisine is Japanese. From sushi to ramen, fresh raw sashimi to grilled takitori skewers. We love them all.

Japanese cuisine offers clean and distinct pairing of ingredients, bold flavours and all prepared with traditional techniques. MASU does exactly that. We’ve been to the Sunday Nichiyo Brunch several times now, where traditional robata style of cooking over an open charcoal grill, is offered.

The brunch starts with a continuous selection of sashimi, fish tacos, maki rolls, small dishes and salads, all available from the counter. Constantly refreshed and replenished, the lunch starts from 11am till 2pm, so you can book for anytime during the session.
For the main course, you can choose one from the robata grill or kitchen.

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The mains cover a great range: chicken, lamb, pork, beef, and yet more fish. This is their current menu items:

  • half chilli miso roasted baby chicken
  • robata grilled kingfish, nitsuke sauce, burnt tomato salsa
  • prawn, white fish, pumpkin, broccoli, kumara
  • assorted seasonal vegetable tempura
  • mount cook king salmon, grapefruit miso, pickled cucumber
  • lamb cutlets, gochujang, pickled cucumber and carrot
  • robata grilled chashu pork belly, karashi miso, pickled cabbage
  • beef fillet, red chilli garlic soy, sesame, spring onion
  • black cod, saikyo yuzu miso
  • 100% japanese black wagyu beef

We chose the melt-in-your-mouth pork belly and grilled kingfish. The clever flavour combinations of the sauces and textural component continues to surprise us at each visit.

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For the kids, they can have the okosama bento box. The box has a skewer of grilled chicken, broccolini stems, salmon sashimi, sushi rolls and a tempura prawn. They’re also invited to eat from the buffet as well (for J that meant all the sashimi salmon and udon noodles she can eat).

Dessert platter is a large shared platter for the table with house made sorbet, meringue, ice cream, fresh fruit and the most amazing sweet chawanmushi with lychee, mango and passionfruit – every spoonful was heavenly.

Perfect light dessert to end the meal with.

I love the fact that whenever we go to the Masu Sunday brunch, we leave fulfilled but not overfilled.

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This post is not sponsored. All opinions and photography are my own.

Chocolate Pâte Sablée letter tart cake


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With countless pictures of this beautiful dessert seen from every corner of the world, it’s hard not to want one right away. It’s really super fun and easy to make too. All you need is a great Chocolate Pâte Sablée recipe, a meringue or buttercream and a whole host of little sweets nibbles you want to decorate (and eat) with.

This became my birthday tart cake for 2018. Loved it!

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This dough is buttery, rich and most decadent. It’s different to your normal sugar dough: while the sugar dough (Pâte sucrée) is cookie-like, this has a higher proportion of butter and less egg, making it richer and more “sandy”. Almond meal is often added. Higher egg yolks ratio in the overall egg quantity also maintains that richness. You can opt to use icing sugar instead of caster sugar as well.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 3/4 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup best dutch cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 125g unsalted butter (I use Westgold), softened
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, almond meal, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the egg & yolk one at a time. Mix until completely combined. Scrape the bowl several times.
  4. Turn the mixer to low, beat in the flour mixture until the dough just comes together and you can’t see any flour. Do not overmix. (The dough should hold when pressed together between your fingertips. If not, lightly mix in up to 1 tablespoon cream or milk.)
  5. Place half the dough on a piece of baking paper. Gather the dough together and press it into a round disk. Place a second sheet of baking paper on top and roll the dough out to 3mm thick. Take note of the size of the shape you wish to cut out (I just scaled up a letter M with pencil and ruler) and make sure the dough is big enough.
  6. Repeat with the remainder of the dough.
  7. Chill in the fridge for an hour or overnight.
  8. Using your paper template, cut out a shape from each of the dough sheets with a sharp knife.
  9. Carefully transfer baking paper with your shape to a cookie sheet and bake at 165 degrees Celsius for 12 minutes.
  10. Cool completely before assembling tart.

While the biscuit is baking, make the filling. Remember to leave the butter out on your work surface before you start, so that it will have softened by now.

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I used my Chocolate Swiss Meringue and a star tip to pipe big stripey blobs of meringue on the bottom layer. I love the lines created by this tip!

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Crushed chocolate was sprinkled on before the second layer biscuit was placed carefully on top.

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I also chose this meringue recipe for its body – it can withstand the weight of the biscuit and all the yummy things I piled on top!

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Less is more when it comes to the goodies – for example you only need 2-3 macarons for the whole cake. Think about what you would like to eat; the colours and texture.

Here I have macarons (no brainer as you can see how much I love macarons), Valrhona chocolate from Easter, mini chocolate eggs, tempered chocolate discs (made by yours truly), wafer flowers, heart and mini marshmallows, Fresh As freeze dried raspberries and Gavottes feuilletine flakes.

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Thank you Westgold for the butter 😊

Tiered Baileys Chocolate Coffee Cake with swiss meringue buttercream frosting


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I adore this recipe as it makes the whole house smell of Baileys 🙄. The cake itself isn’t too rich and sweet, with the subtle coffee aroma punctuating the smooth irish creme liqueur. The swiss meringue has a buttery, full bodied sweetness which goes very well with the cake.

In making a tall three-tiered cake, I opted to make 6″ sized layers (my prefered size for non-wedding cakes). I transported it on an 8″ cake disc placed in two cake boxes – upturning one of them as the lid of the other. (Miss 9’s casual comment as the solution to my problem!)

Please do serve them in smaller portions – you can always go back for seconds. Cut rectangular 1.5cm thick slices and drop it onto a cutting board. Further cut into fingers of 1.5cm width. Baileys cake with a hint of coffee, tastes exceptional with tea.

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Ingredients for 3 x 6″ layers, for a three-tiered Cake:

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Equagold)
  • 1 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 3 Tbsp instant coffee granules (Moccona)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup oil (rice bran)
  • 1 cup Baileys Coffee Irish Cream liqueur
  • 1/2 cup Baileys, extra for imbibing
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste (Equagold)

Ingredients for the ganache filling:

  • 120g chocolate drops (I used Equagold 70% Ghana dark chocolate)
  • 150ml cream
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate pieces, for sprinkling over the icing (I used Solomon’s gold Smooth Dark kibble)

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Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C. Prepare three 6″ cake pans by oiling and lining with baking paper.
    2. In the bowl of your electric mixer, combine the dry ingredients. Turn the mixer on low to break up any lumps and then slowly add in the wet ingredients. Mix until smooth, about 2 minutes.
    3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
    4. Prepare the Dark Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing while the cake is cooking.
    5. Allow the cake to rest and cool for at least 10 minutes before flipping onto a wire cooling rack and cool to room temperature.
    6. While the cake is cooling, warm the cream till it barely comes to a boil on the stove. Remove from heat and pour over the bowl of chocolate. Let it sit in the cream for 5 minutes then stir to combine. Once combined, leave it to cool for 30 minutes before drizzling.
    7. Place the bottom layer of cake on a cake decorating turntable.
    8. Imbibe the top of the bottom cake layer with Baileys and then spread on ganache icing.
    9. Layer on the second cake and repeat with Baileys and ganache.
    10. Place the top layer on and ice the cake with swiss meringue buttercream. You can achieve the ‘naked cake effect’ by putting just enough icing to cover, without covering every little bit of cake.
    11. Holding a metal ruler or rectangular scraper at 45 degrees to the cake, turn the turntable so that your icing spreads cleanly around the cake.
    12. Pipe blobs of icing using a large round (wilton 1M) or jagged tip on top.
    13. Decorate with freeze dried berries, chocolate pieces etc.
    14. Refrigerate so that the icing hardens – the cake tastes absolutely better the next day.

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Taste of Auckland 2017


Saan - Te Mana lamb rump with rice vermicelli, Asian eggplant, grilled chilli, coconut sauce and pickled cucumber

On a beautifully warm November evening, I attended my third Taste of Auckland, in partnership with Electrolux, at Western Springs. Held over four days (16-19 November), this festival is a must for foodies for a weekend full of good food (and wine). The festival showcases some of Auckland’s best and newest restaurants. Dotted around an enormous outdoor arena, spacious marquees are set up for these restaurants in pop-up fashion. Each restaurant offers 3-4 dishes, costing between 6 and 19 crowns (the festival’s currency), and an ‘Icon dish’ (between 12 and 35 crowns).  More about the way paying works here but 1 crown equals $1.

This year’s restaurant line up includes: Artwok, Baduzzi, Saan, Eat NZ Kitchen with The Cult ProjectEuro, Miss Moonshines, Paris Butter, Tok Tok, 1947 Eatery, and Vodka Room. Check out the restaurant menus here. From contemporary fusion to traditional, you’ll find something you love. Perfect way to try out new restaurants you haven’t had a chance to visit, I would say.
Baduzzi

Taste of Auckland in partnership with Electrolux operates like a restaurant with a lunch and dinner service. Taste sessions lasts for 4-5 hours, enough time for you to enjoy your restaurant dishes, shop the artisan stalls and chat with the many chefs that are roaming around the festival. Tickets are sold for each session and are only valid for the time and date indicated on the ticket. Generally the sessions are from 12 to 4pm and then 5:30pm to 10pm.

Your ticket entry to Taste also includes trying new and existing food products from all over New Zealand, watching your favourite chefs cooking in action, as part of the Electrolux Taste Theatre and lounging on sun chairs while listening to live music.

Restaurants

Artwok

Miss 9’s pick as she loved these from the restaurant in Takapuna.

Rou Jia Mo

Slow braised shredded pork belly served in homemade pita pockets
Art Wok - Rou Jia Mo Slow braised shredded pork belly served in homemade pita pockets

Baduzzi

Icon Dish: 1/2 Karitane crayfish

grilled and smoked over Totara
Baduzzi

These were cooked right in front of you!

Saan

Honestly could have ordered everything on this menu, but I had to save space for other things! These were my favourite dishes at the festival:

Lon Phu Nim

Crispy fried soft shell crab with pickled crab and coconut sauce, dill and coriander
Saan - Lon Phu Nim Crispy fried soft shell crab with pickled crab and coconut sauce, dill and coriander DSC_9227

Icon Dish: Ka Nom Jeen Gang Gae

Te Mana lamb rump with rice vermicelli, Asian eggplant, grilled chilli, coconut sauce and pickled cucumber

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Artisans

Bostock’s Organic Free Range Chicken

Have you watched their happy chicken video? Watch it, it will make you happier.

Their chocks are on a diet of certified organic, lush, green grass and juicy organic apples as well as their home-grown feed, including corn and barley.
Bostocks

Cook & Nelson

Purveyors of fine food products, they source the best sauces and pickles from around the world (Think NOBLE maple syrups and Lillie’s Q barbeque sauces.)
They used Amola salts from Canada to season these beef cubes, cooked on this hot fire. Couldn’t stop eating this!.

Cook & Nelson

Hogarth Chocolate

Handmade from bean to bar, Karl and Marina hand sort, roast, crush and clarify, winnow, grind and conch, age, melt, temper and mold, before hand wrapping the lovingly made chocolate bars. Love what they do and it’s people like them who inspires me to search for more, aim higher and also be curious.
Hogarth Chocolate

Their chocolate is internationally awarded (you would have read me raving about them in an earlier post). Love the Gianduia – Dark Hazelnut so much!

Karl was recently in Seattle for another show and brought back the newly released Dandelion Chocolate book, which is on my wish list! Had to look through it.
Dandelion Chocolate book brought back from Seattle by Hogarth Chocolate

Six Barrel Soda Co.

Six Barrel Soda

These syrups are used to make sodas in some of the best bars and cafes in New Zealand and Australia. The company started in 2012, where they experimented with flavours and best natural ingredients.
Six Barrel Soda

My favourites so far are the Creaming Soda (which I’m going to use to make a jelly for my cheesecake macarons!) and the new seasonal Grapefruit & Hops. Fresh and inspiring, set up soda stations with these at your next event, your guests will love you.

Miss J liked the experimental chocolate syrup in this Chocolate Float very much.
Six Barrel Soda

The next thing for me to do is probably sign up to their soda subscription for new seasonal flavours.

The Chocolate Bar

The Chocolate Bar

When the owner of the company that you’ve just signed up for a monthly subscription service rings to thank you (the kind of thing that My Food Bag would do), you know you are on to a really good thing. I stopped by to meet Luke and to have a peek at what the next month’s subscription might include. I may or may not have picked up another bar of Dandelion Chocolate, which I’m obsessing over.
The Chocolate Bar

Puhoi Valley

Award-winning cheeses and delicious milk – need I say more? Puhoi Cheese products

Kenwood New Zealand

Kenwood has released a very limited edition range in rose gold – so beautiful!
Kenwood rosegold range

Electrolux Chefs’ Secrets

These are intimate cooking and dining sessions, where you have the opportunity to create mouth-watering food, up close and personal with the country’s culinary superstars, where you’ll learn how to cook one of their signature dishes. Following the hands-on session, the meal will be enjoyed together with a glass of matched wine, followed with a dessert surprise.
with Chef Nic Watt

I must emphasize here, that to book your spot, you need to head straight to the Electrolux Chefs’ Secrets when you get into the festival, left of the entrance. Make sure your crown card is topped up as well. This popular, intimate masterclass experience is 15 crowns per person, and is restricted to guests on a first come, first served basis. We were the 9th and 10th in the queue, but with someone booking for 8 people ahead of us, we just missed out on Chef Nic Watt‘s session. Gah! (lesson learnt – use my blogger credentials!)

Electrolux Taste Theatre

This year we didn’t get to go to the Taste Theatre to watch my favourite chefs cook up a storm live on stage (mainly because I had planned on going to the Chefs’ Secrets) but the highlight for this year’s festival is George Calombaris! George will be demoing on Saturday afternoon and evening sessions. This is included in your ticket purchase and is based on a first come, first served basis. Go early and grab a seat to watch him live!

Taste of Auckland

Dates Thursday 16 to Sunday 19 November 2017
Times Saturday (12pm to 4pm & 12pm to 9.30pm) and Sunday (12pm to 5pm)
Venue 731 Great North Road, Western Springs
Tickets Online ($17 for general admission, otherwise $32 at the entrance)
Parking Limited $5 parking at Western Springs (look out for signs on on Old Mill Road), lots of free road side parking, $5 direct shuttle from downtown to Western Springs, or use the Auckland Transport Journey Planner for plenty of public transport options.

All opinions are my own and this post is not sponsored. However thanks to the generous people at Taste of Auckland and Lemongrass Productions who provided our entry.

Taste of Auckland 2017, Western Springs

A blog about my kitchen adventures, photography, family and experiences

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