Category Archives: Culinary Adventures

Why We Continually Use HelloFresh Food Delivery (+ NZ $90 off discount when ordering through me! )


HelloFresh meals

(Beef & Mushroom Red Pesto Penne with Parmesan)

HelloFresh meals

(Tex-Mex Chicken & Roast Veggie Toss with Garlic-Lemon Yoghurt)

HelloFresh meals

(Mexican Pulled Pork Tacos with Shredded Cheddar Cheese)

HelloFresh meals

(Hoisin Beef & Garlic Rice Bowl
With Lime & Mint)

HelloFresh meals

(Caramised Pork & Garlic Rice with Zesty Tomato & Cucumber Salad)

[Note: we received a meal kit as a gift. ]

Over the years, there has been a steady increase in the number of online companies delivering meal kits to households NZ-wide. From a simple but fulsome range of veges and fruits from the farm to your door, fresh pasta delivery, budget meals aimed at young school leavers, meat boxes, fresh fish (literally still swimming in the sea the morning of delivery day) to full variety meal plans for small to large family and also meals that have been part prepped with sauces already made for you.

We tried all of them. They all brought something unique, and there were small points of difference. Many of my friends regularly use them. However, it wasn’t enough to keep us on long term.

HelloFresh on the other hand, has ticked the boxes for our family and we have continued to use it because it allows me to choose what I am going to have for dinner. For our small family, this is what sets them apart from other meal kits.

This has been the main niggle I have with other services: On a week night, I simply don’t have the energy or patience to persuade the family to eat a dish, designed albeit by chefs and nutritionists alike, that is new or with ingredients that has not often graced our dinner table for one reason or another.

Don’t get me wrong, we are all for adventures and trying new things, but on weeknights, I choose the path of least resistance.

To me, this is the beauty of HelloFresh: I show my daughter the upcoming weeks’ menus (three weeks’ worth are available to preview) and she decides what she would like to try. Amazingly, she picked things that I didn’t think she would. TBH we don’t use this every week – we plan ahead and choose the weeks according to our needs or taste preference.

These boxes were super handy during our COVID19 lockdown – I was the least stressed the week I knew food was coming. Going forward, it will be a useful service that gives us back our time.

What has HelloFresh done to improve their offering even more? I’m glad you asked 😉 – from 12 August,

  • they are streamlining the prices and my Classic plan price is reducing – thus making their meal plans more affordable
  • increasing the choices by making all Classic, Family and Vegetarian meals available across your order! You can now choose from 20 different options
  • Additional sides are available, such as desserts, soups, bread and also a Fruit Kit!

These changes make it a straight forward choice for us when choosing a meal delivery service. We will be ordering more definitely.

Head over to their website, and enter in my code (HDA3311) at check out for a $80 discount off your order ($30 off both your first and second orders, then $10 off both your third and forth orders.) plus free delivery on your first order.

ps. The links are affiliated. What this means is I will receive a small commission for every new HelloFresh customer using the link and code. Thanks in advance! I only post affiliated links when I am happy to pay for the products myself. Always.

HelloFresh…hello delicious (+ NZ 30% off discount when ordering through me! )


HelloFresh upcoming menu

HelloFresh upcoming menu

HelloFresh upcoming menu

Over the years, there has been a steady increase in the number of online companies delivering meal kits to households NZ-wide. From a simple but fulsome range of veges and fruits from the farm to your door, fresh pasta delivery, budget meals aimed at young school leavers, meat boxes, fresh fish (literally still swimming in the sea the morning of delivery day) to full variety meal plans for small to large family and also meals that have been part preped with sauces already made for you.

We tried all of them. They all brought something unique, and there were small points of difference. Many of my friends regularly use them. However, it wasn’t enough to keep me on long term.

[Note: this post is not sponsored, and we did not receive a meal kit in exchange for writing this post (as I sometimes do, I thought it proper to make the distinction.)] The reason I wanted to write a post [tell the world] about it is because I have finally found a service that allows me to choose what I am going to have for dinner.

This has been the main niggle I have with other services: On a week night, I simply don’t have the energy or patience to persuade the family to eat a dish, designed albeit by chefs and nutritionists alike, that is new or with ingredients that has not often graced our dinner tables for one reason or another.

Don’t get me wrong, we are all for adventures and trying new things, but on weeknights, I choose the path of least resistance.

To me, this is the beauty of HelloFresh: I showed J the upcoming weeks’ menus (three weeks’ worth are available to preview) and she decides what she would like to try. Amazingly, she picked things that I didn’t think she would.

Our delivery is still a week away, and I can’t wait to share our meals with you when I get to cook it.

They have a large market presence overseas in Europe and US, and has only just launched in NZ. Have a look over on their website, and enter in my code (HDA30) at check out for a 30% discount off your order. (With such a generous discount, it is definitely worth trying!)

I will share our thoughts about the meals later too! Follow me here on the blog and over on Instagram for more delicious adventures.

xxx

ps. photos here are screenshots of their menu, not my photos, as I have yet to cook them!!!

pps. The links have been updated in this post since May 2019 with an affiliated link. What this means is I will receive a small commission for every new HelloFresh customer using the link and code.

The Auckland Food Show 2018 experience


The biggest foodie event of the year in Auckland – the Food Show – is here again. I look forward to it every year and start planning the day once the first list of exhibitors is out.

It’s a time to see my favourite brands, discover new products and be inspired by all the design work in the food industry. Thanks to the good people at the PR Shop, I went along as media this year, on the first day of the four-day event, which is the preview day with less crowds.

Here are some of the highlights of my day.

Fresh As – They are renowned for their freeze dried fruit powders, used by bakers and executive chefs worldwide. I’ve come back for their ready to make Panna Cotta mixes – Just add milk and follow the recipe. Each packet makes 2-4 servings. There are two flavours – Doris Plum and Raspberry. $10 for 3 packs. Don’t forget to stock up on your freeze dried fruit for your desserts. (I’ll soon be running a giveaway on my Instagram for these goodies!)

Proper Crisps

I discovered these new popcorn that is unlike any other – it is first soaked with water and then partially popped – perfect crunch!

Ghiotti

Gelato 800ml, 2 for $5 (yes that is correct!!) We picked Vanilla and Chocolate flavours.

They also have delicious cheese bites, mozzarella and parmigiano reggiano wedges.

The Apple Press

Beautiful apples from Hawke’s Bay – they are hand-picked at their peak ripeness, cold pressed and bottled. The juice are variety-specific – meaning you get the singular flavour from varieties like Braeburn, Jazz and Royal Gala in the one bottle.

Home Grown Farm Fresh

Dion and Ali’s Wairarapa farm produces amazing lamb and beef. They offer half and full lamb boxes, tomahawk packs and also 13kg Angus beef packs.

I learnt that the lambs in the boxes are always female, and that the breed is Charollais ram. As fat’s laid down intramuscularly, the lamb tastes more tender and juicy than other breeds.

Last year J and I stood at their stand for a long time, listening to their stories and eating the juiciest lamb. It was just like we were hanging out at a neighbour’s barbecue!

Living Goodness

I like their sauerkraut – our favourites have been the Naked kraut (I’ve been adding them to my breakfast, on top of toast even!) and beet kraut.

They’ve now released two new products – freeze dried beetroot and kimchi – they add the perfect texture and crunch to dishes. I couldn’t hand over money fast enough for these LOL. Think sprinkling over poke bowls…yum!

The Fresh Grower

The Fong family have been growing vegetables since 1948 in Pukekohe. They have long become part of the local landscape. I like their quality produce and will soon be sharing with you tips on how to cook kailaan (Chinese broccoli), choy sum and wong bok properly. Watch this space!

Mitchells Bone Broth

I’ve been looking into increasing J’s nutrition intake through broths lately. When I saw them from half a show-hall away, I walked straight over to sample their broth. Turns out it’s quite easy to make: simply add 2 teaspoons of Bone Broth powder to a cup of hot water, mix and add fresh ingredients to make your version of broth: a pinch of salt and a slice of fresh ginger for a warming, spicy drink.

The powder is made from New Zealand grass fed beef bones and onions, carrots, celery, parsley, apple cider vinegar, black pepper corns, bay leaf and rosemary.

Full of amino acids, these are indeed good for you.

Farmland Foods

Premium European streaky bacon – they are thinly sliced and there is no extra liquid in the packs. This means it crisps up beautifully and quickly.

I learnt some tips from chef Mark Southon in preparing a bacon butty: Toast the bread with the bacon oil straight in your griddle pan!

Serve it with your own Brown Sauce (ie. HP sauce) by cooking: dates (giving a fruity tang); Tomato sauce; Tamarind; Molasses; Chilli; Garlic; Apple juice and Orange juice. Simmer for an hour. Cool and blend.

Keas cookies

If you are in need of great tasting gluten, wheat, dairy and egg free baking, look no further than these. Their range includes Chocolate Chip; Double Choc Chip; Macadamia; Vanilla; Hokey Pokey; Gingernut; Almond; Peanut Brownies, Lemon Coconut and Coconut. They also have an organic chocolate cookie.

Simon Gault

I always stock up on their beef and chicken stock and Morrocan and Indian spice seasonings. 5 for $30. Simon’s new Chipotle Ketchup ($7) launched at the foodshow. Sweetened 100% with vegetables just like their tomato sauce, Gault’s Chipotle Ketchup has the perfect balance of sweet and heat – just a tiniest kick of smoked chipotle chilli. Gault’s Deli is their online shop where you can buy all sorts of goodies including my favourite Fruit Puree by Ponthier (I made chocolate mousse domes with these puree – you can see the photos of them on my Instagram feed).

They are also running a special with Turks chicken, $20 for 2 whole chickens with a seasoning or $20 for 4 bags of drums, nibbles, skinless boneless chicken thighs or breasts. They come with a chill bag too. They also have a new product – stuffed chicken in an oven ready roast bag. These 1.5kg birds come in two flavours.

Aoraki Salmon

Freshwater King Salmon from the ice-cold waters around Mt Cook.

The salmon is gently smoked with oak wood chips following a Scottish inspired method, which uses a mixture of salt, golden syrup and black rum. This enhances the taste experience with a sweet smoky layer. The softer notes of oak, never distract from the original qualities of the salmon.

Appleby Farm Icecream

Their award winning ice cream is made in Nelson, with milk straight from their farms 15 minutes down the road. Cow to cone! What’s special about these ice creams? It’s made with A2 protein milk, so it’s better for those who are lactose intolerant.

I love the Bedford Vanilla Bean, made with Madagasgan vanilla beans, the Brown Eyed Girl (which is the coolest name for chocolate brownie ice cream) and Doubleshot Ipanema. They also have Bad Boys & Berries (Boysenberry) and Tangled Passion (Passionfruit) which both won awards at the 2018 New Zealand Ice Cream Awards.

Good Chow NZ
NZ Blackfoot Paua XO Sauce – traditional chinese XO sauce with a kiwi twist: dried scallop, chillis prepared with NZ paua (that’s abalone). XO sauce 2.0 and so good with stirfrys. This is good with traditional chinese turnip cake (law bak gao) and rice rolls (cheung fun).

They also have in their line up: Sambal Fish Roe Sauce, Kiwi Moo Beef Jerky, Fluffy Fried NZ Cod Flakes and Aromatic Chili Oil. Made in Napier, Hawke’s Bay, none of their products have any preservatives or artificial additives.

First light

Grass-fed Wagyu scotch fillet just off the pan – so tasty! They have meat packs on special too.

Jersey Girl Organics – Their milk is full of Omega 3 and A2 Protein, is fully certified organic that comes direct from their farm in Matamata. When tasting, the milk is full-bodied and creamy. Pure deliciousness. You can now bring your own jar to fill up with at the farmers markets – just $3 a litre. Make sure the jars are clean and of known volume.

WaHiki
Wahiki does coconut icecream that is vegan, gluten free, dairy free and made in NZ. The new flavour, turmeric latte is pretty special.

Wild Fennel Co’s range of gourmet seasonings is naturally addictive. Dan, the creator behind the seasonings, was formerly a fine dining chef and naturally is inspired by traditional flavour pairings from different cuisines around the world. The flavours are slightly unusual but surprisingly good. They have collabed with the likes of Silver Fern Farms to create spices specific to the cut of meat.

Silver Fern Farms

Good from Scratch soup – chef Michael Van De Elzen. Loved these!

Hellers have some interesting soup flavours: Pumpkin & Smokey bacon, Sweet corn & bacon chowder, Chicken & Smokey bacon and Spicy tomato & Chorizo soup.

We also picked up some Hot & Spicy pork ribs – these have been slow cooked for 4 hours, and only needs 20 mins in a 180C oven. $8 each.

Cooking demos

Here are some of my suggested must see demos:

Annabelle White – Thursday 10.30am, Friday 11am

Jess’ Underground Kitchen – Thursday 1:45pm

Simon Gault – Friday 12:15pm, Saturday 2:45pm, Sunday 11am

Nadia Lim – Friday 2:45pm, Sunday 2:30pm

Monique Fiso – Saturday 12:45pm, Sunday 12:15pm

Brandhouse Drinks Masterclass

This is where you’ll learn the differences between your prosecco and champagne, take a brewery master class and taste Cognac! Classes are timed through the weekend. I’ll be at the brewery master class to learn about craft beer.

With over 300 stalls at the show, I know I’ve potentially missed mentioning some goodies here. However the following are my last minute dash stalls that I will have to remember to pick up goodies from on Sunday, when I return with Miss 8:

  • Amplify Kombucha – fizzy fermented tea which J also likes! I love the fact that there’s hardly any sugar in it, which makes it a healthier drink.
  • I Love Food giant cookies – 4 for $5, and sour cream pastry for home cooking
  • Top shelf – dips!
  • Perfect Pork – 3 for $25 – their range of grain-fed New Zealand pork includes sirloin and pork belly.
  • House of Dumplings – we love the Nepalese Spiced Lamb and Korean Sesame Beef dumplings. J misses them as they are no longer at the La Cigale French Market.
  • Dish magazine – I love their stories and food styling! I renewed my subscription and received a gigantic goody bag.

Top tips:

  • Register your ticket if you haven’t already done so, and have it within easy reach like in your pocket. Scan them at the stalls you visit and gain entry in the respective competitions and giveaways.
  • Get there early if you can. 11am to 2pm is the busiest at the show.
  • Keep hydrated (plenty of water coolers inside but bring a cup or bottle) and wear light layers as it’s warm in the showgrounds.
  • Keep track of time if you have a particular cooking theatre session you want to see. It can be a bit chaotic when you realise you are in Hall 3 when the cooking session in Hall 1 is about to start in 5 minutes.
  • Mazda chauffeured shuttles will pick up and drop off at designated stops around the showgrounds, making it easier to buy more. Gold coin donation for the Auckland City Mission.
  • The show is on till Sunday 5pm.
  • Here are some more photos from the show:

Honest Chocolat – I always go for their Pure Water Ganache.

Beautiful Parma Ham.

Whaiora smoothie blends – I recommend the berry flavour.

Check out Emma’s food bag – menu is viewable online before ordering and ingredients are sourced as local as possible.

Trade Aid chocolate – the dark raspberry is new!

Nata is the only Portuguese Bakery in New Zealand, and their traidtional Portuguese custard tarts are baked fresh every day. Delish!

Not that you’ll be hungry, but if you want a rest over a decent meal, there are plenty of food in the Street Food Alley. Dumplings from Akemi’s Gyoza, Clevedon Coast Oysters, juice from I Press, Vietnamese from Indochine Kitchen, fried chicken from Peach’s Hot Chicken (must check out!) and Mexican from Taco Loco.

Giraffe by Simon Gault


As a family, we eat out a couple times a week for dinners and a few lunches here and there.

We visit Asian restaurants a lot, mainly for dumplings and noodles, as it appeals to all in the family (and the in-laws). My Instagram page is a testament to that.

Proper western restaurants (think formal setting and white table cloth) not frequented as much in the years since J was born, and out of habit, never regained its previous standing in our favourite choices.

I guess you can say our needs have changed. When J was little, going out for a three-course dinner was stressful with bath, story time and bed time to be done by 7.30pm (and no, the two of us have never, in the 9.5 years since J’s birth, left her with a nanny/parent/relative and go out for dinner.) It’s not that we follow the routine to military precision. It’s just that when you change the routine, there’s no telling whether J would settle to sleep as usual. As a young family, we recognised the importance of consistency.

When we do, we reserve such long, multi-course meals for special occasions. We have spent quite a number of birthday’s at Masu, (J loved it so much when I celebrated my birthday there that she proclaimed hers that is five months later would be at the same Japanese restaurant. We were more than happy to oblige. Read my experience here.) Seeing that we’ve had consecutive birthday celebrations at the same place for two years, we decided to try a new place.

I noticed Giraffe by Simon Gault is newly listed on First Table’s website, which offers patrons 50% off food when you book through their site, for a $10 booking fee. The menu was on the small side, but with plenty of variety to please anyone. Not the least pretentious, (how could it be when the menu suggests diners to shout the kitchen staff drinks?) it offered things that others don’t.

Our booking was at 5.30pm, and I had the distinct feeling of walking into someone’s residential hallway and greeted by the host who hadn’t quite finished their meal but happy to see us, none the less.

We were seated by the ‘patio’ facing the Viaduct, and it was a cool night. Lucky we had jackets as the warmth from the indoor heaters couldn’t quite reach us.

Our waitperson patiently guided us through the menu, and we settled on something we looked over on first glance – the pig tails. (Tip: always ask how an unfamiliar dish is cooked, to get an idea what it would taste like. If you salivate, it’s a go!) Although not the typical Asian style, it’s sous vide cooked with Asian spices. They were then grilled to render some of the fat off. Don’t be shocked when it arrives at your table, with the tails sitting unceremoniously on a sizzling hot plate. The staff took it apart for us, removing the vertebrae and hard tips. We were advised to mix the fatty bits with the meat and eat with the accompanied lettuce cups and dips. There were two dips: a nuoc cham-like, bright sauce with red chillies, palm sugar, garlic, salt and vinegar. The other was a spicy green dip made with green tomatoes, garlic, coriander and jalapenos. Both sensational and I will try my hand at replicating them at home.

Highlight of the night, announced the adults. Finger-licking delicious, literally. I did take a momentary pause just as I was lifting the lettuce parcel with my hands: am I really allowed to use my hands to eat at Giraffe? I didn’t care anymore after that first bite. I was already mentally planning on when to come back just for this, one day for lunch, as it’s so close to my work.

The second dish was the Cured Salmon Salad with Fennel and mandarin. This was J’s choice as she loves salmon. We planned on sharing this, but she ended up having two-thirds of it. (She could have easily finished it but I had to try it 😝.) It was cooked perfectly with the smears and blobs matching harmoniously to the salmon. I particularly liked the pickled vegetable and tiny vinaigrette jelly cube. I had to restrain myself from licking the plate clean!

I hadn’t planned on getting steak and chips for my birthday dinner, after all, steak is something we cook a lot of, and also served as a shared dish at home, so why order it when we are out?

The menu had painted a picture of sophistication and I certainly had high expectations when we ordered the scotch fillet for two. It’s served with mushrooms, hazelnut, buffalo salsa verde butter. The meat was cooked perfectly (medium, for J or else I would have gone for medium rare). Unfortunately the dish overall was a slight let down from the rest. Maybe our expectations were set high from the start? It deviated from the clean cooking (and plating) that were the other dishes, and as J puts it, the flavours were a bit jumbled and lost. I felt it needed something to balance out the heaviness (like the spicy dip to the fatty pig tails). Still very delicious, but more a 7 out of 10 when the others were 9s and 10s.

For carbs, we ordered the Triple-Cooked potatoes. These duck fat-fried thick batons were wrapped individually with a thin strip of crispy pancetta around its middle, and served with clumps of truffle ricotta. These were glorious, the best example of duck fat cooked potatoes that I have come across. I dreamily wondered whether Heston Blumenthal’s version at The Fat Duck were like these or not.

My verdict of Giraffe: relaxed and welcoming, serious about good food, adventurous. Casually smart. Super family friendly. You can however still expect techniques usually associated with fine dining here. We will be back. (Chef, can I have the Kids TV dinner please?😉)

It was Easter weekend and they also had banana smoothies served in chocolate bunnies for the kids!

This post is not sponsored by the restaurant nor First Table, I had the good fortune of winning a dining voucher from an Instagram competition by First Table and paid for the difference myself. All opinion expressed are my own.

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.

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.

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.

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