Category Archives: Experiences

The Auckland Food Show 2017 experience


Every year from the beginning of July, I countdown to THE foodie event of the year in Auckland: the Food Show. It’s a time to see my favourite brands, check out new products and ogle at the increasingly high standards of design and artwork on products. This year was no different, if not better. I went on the first day of the four-day event, which is the preview day with less crowds. I use this as my ‘discovery’ day, where I spend much more time talking to stall holders who are often the farmers and producers behind the actual products. Some of the stories are touching with rich histories; everyone I met were super passionate with the product they have.

Here are some of the highlights of my day.

Barilla Australia hands-on cooking class began with chef Andrea Tranchero, Executive Chef at Barilla Australia telling us the history behind Barilla. I now have a fond visualization of Casa Barilla thanks to his Italian accent and warm introduction.

Chef first demonstrated the perfect way of cooking pasta before we dived in with the cooking ourselves.

He shared three top tips with us:

  1. Never add oil to the water.
  2. Don’t rinse pasta after cooking.
  3. Take pasta out 3 mins before cooking finish and place in sauce to finish cooking for perfect al dente bite.

The Barilla team tasted it and I now have a measure of what the true ‘al dente’ stage is for Italians – kiwis generally cook it for far too long. However, if you want it softer, by all means!

Jersey Girl Organics – they recently won in the Outstanding Producer Dairy Primary category in the Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards. 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. Liz, a director of the fourth-generation family business, was brimming with excitement when she told me her family’s story, producing first class milk. Check out the video on their website of their cool milk vending machine!

Aunt Jean – all the way from beautiful Nelson, Hannah and Tom Raine brought their farms’ milk to the Auckland folk. I love the bottles! Their milk is creamy and fresh tasting. No permeates and not homogenised. I’m in love with these beautiful milk. Perfect in hot chocolate and baking. Can’t wait for Miss 8 to try.

Eddy’s french dressing is phenomenal – fell in love with it straight away after trying – it will go with my shredded poached chicken, crunchy cucumber and noodles dish. Yum! $20 for 2 bottles.

Wild Fennel Co’s range of gourmet seasonings for meat and fish, are different to the traditional seasonings. In a good, “what’s this spice I can taste in here? It works!!” Totally eyebrow-raising at first, when I tasted the dish as I cook, but in the end my family loved the steak/venison/lamb/chicken/duck/fish/pork so I’m winning.  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. Jo, his wife, is the illustrator and designer for the brand and gave the products a beautiful classic look. Together, they’ve created a product that is easy to use and dishes taste amazing. Tip: don’t let the type of seasoning stop you from mixing it up. I tried the venison seasoning on the beef and it was next level.


No Shortcuts – Gourmet Chutney – I discovered their Sambal Ulek and have thrown away my malaysia-made jars of sambal. These NZ made ones are so good and addictive. There are no preservatives nor additives, and tastes great with dumplings, noodles, roasts and chicken. At the show this year they launched a new product, the sweet pickles ($7). They will be perfect in a vietnamese pho I think! I tried the Feijoa and Ginger Jam and am itching to make a cake out of it. The chutneys are 3 for $25 or 1 for $10.

The Vegery – Discovered a very interesting healthy snack – dried carrots with cumin! These will be perfect with hummus and dips (such as the No Shortcuts Chutney) , and there are 65g of carrots per wrap. Tasty too!

Fresh As – They are renouned for their freeze dried fruit powers, used by bakers and executive chefs worldwide. Launched at the Food Show is their Panna Cotta powder – they’ve done the work for you! Just add milk and follow the recipe. Each packet makes 2-4 servings. There are two flavours – Doris Plum and Raspberry. Personally I think both tasted delicious and will sell out before Sunday. $10 for 4 packs.

Fix and Fog – At $10 for 2 jars, I said to them “you better have enough stock. This lot might only last you till Saturday”. Don’t worry, they have more stock being sent up so everyone can stop panicking.

Their peanut butters are handmade from start to finish in a factory in Wellington. There are five flavours in the range, with the latest being the honey peanut butter, a collaboration with J.Friend&Co. All of their existing range of peanut butters have been either awarded medals or were finalists in various industry awards.

Home St – I tried their sprouted good seed pizza bases and was blown away by how yum it was. Pizza has never tasted better than this. Sprouted refers to the seeds and grains that have been soaked and sprouted, therefore activated. Enzymes and minerals in the seed are unlocked for the body. Doesn’t that sound good?

The Pie Piper desserts bring pure happiness. The mother-daughter team makes pies from scratch, with a weekly changing menu. You can find them at their K Road shop.

Meadow mushrooms – the team made delicious mushroom and chicken dumpings at the show and they are yummy! Pick up a recipe and the 3 for $5 deal when you are there.

Dad’s pies – our favourite pies! Their range includes beef, lamb, chicken, bacon, veges and comes in individual servings and family sizes. Miss 8’s favourite is the Prime Beef Steak and Cracked Pepper. It is an easy dinner option – prepare some veges while the pie’s heating in the oven and dinner is in 30 minutes. The pies are full to the top of delicious filling, plenty of tender meat and flavoursome sauce. Not too salty either. It really does feel like you are eating a homemade pie where lots of tender love and care went in. Miss 8 is super excited with the prize pack we won from them!

With over 270 stalls at the show, I cannot possibly list them all 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:

  • Simon Gault – for the stock and seasonings. I am stocking up on the fish and Beef stock, Morrocan and Indian spice seasonings. 5 for $25. Simon’s new tomato sauce ($7) that is sweetened with only veges launched at the foodshow. However as of Friday afternoon they have sold out! Don’t fret, you will still be able to sample, and they will be stocked in shops and Sous Chef from next week. They are also running a special with Turks chicken, $20 for 2 whole chickens with a seasoning or $20 for 4 bags of 450g skinless boneless chicken. They come with a chill bag too.
  • Lewis Road Creamery – if you have had trouble finding their chocolate liqueur, you can buy at the show for $40.
  • Chia drink – $12 for 4 bottles. I’m going for blackcurrant and passionfruit.
  • Green Meadows Beef – their show special $60 beef box is a bargain – sausages, sirloin, patties, mince all direct from their farm.
  • 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.
  • Dish magazine – I love their stories and food styling! Their subscription deal is pretty amazing with 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 an entry in the respective comps.
  • Get there early if you can. 11am to 2pm is the busiest at the show.
  • Keep hydrated 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 destinated stops around the showgrounds, making it easier to buy more.

Here are some more photos from the show:

Countdown – crunchy lebanese cucumber

Farmland boys

Beer belly jellies

Prosciutto di Parma

Part of my foodshow haul

Perfect scrambled eggs


Eggs on toast. Simple. Breakfast.

As a child, I very much disliked scrambled eggs. I think I decided this in association with the airplane breakfast smells, which was very disagreeable with my stomach. So attached was I to this memory, I decidedly refused to cook or order it throughout the years. I didn’t see a need to change.
In 2016 I stumbled upon a new way – THE Gordon Ramsay video – to make it and was surprised at how wrong that memory was! Now it is a fav at home and an easy weekend breakfast. Scrambled eggs, where have you been all my life! Thank you Gordon Ramsay!

Ingredients (for 2 hungry adults)

  • 6 large eggs
  • 25g cold butter, diced
  • 2 tablespoons creme fraiche
  • freshly ground pepper and flaky sea salt (to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon chives, chopped
  • 4 slices wholegrain or sourdough bread, toasted, to serve

Directions

  1. Break the eggs into a cold, heavy-based pan, place on the lowest heat possible, and add the butter. Using a spatula, stir the eggs continually to combine the yolks with the whites.
  2. The eggs will take about 4-5 minutes to set and scramble – it should still be soft and quite lumpy. As the eggs set, keep moving the pan off and back on the heat to make sure the eggs don’t overcook.
  3. Meanwhile, toast the bread.
  4. Add the crème fraîche and season the eggs at the last minute, then add the chives (optional). Put the toasts on warm plates, pile the softly scrambled eggs on top and serve immediately.

The key to creamy, fresh-smelling eggs is:

  • Use a heavy based pot
  • Stir eggs gently instead of whisking
  • Cook at low heat with constant stiring
  • Season only at the end

You can stop reading here if all you were looking for is the scrambled eggs recipe. However, I am going to share some thoughts/reflections about this photo above and the year 2016.

Hand thrown ceramics plates bowls

In 2016, I had a go at pottery and made these plates. The process was like nothing else. From a clump of clay to something functional. All in your hands. I was incredulous at the calmness and out-of-this-world happiness I experienced from such a hands-on activity.

The amazing thing about it was, I could decide what to do with it, whether it is to be a plate, a bowl or a mug. It didn’t matter that it didn’t look perfect, what mattered was the learning and relieving myself of the need for it to be perfect, because that stopped me from enjoying the process.

Hand thrown ceramics

Sometimes you can’t get too comfortable. Life will be boring without constant challenges, which are all learning opportunities. I was forced to get very uncomfortable this year. It was hard with the unknown, but my faith carried me through. I accepted the learnings and faced the challenges head on, knowing that God’s grace is enough, it is always more than I ever need.

I also believed in myself and that is sometimes the biggest help you can get when facing difficult situations.

Give yourself a chance.

Learn new things.

Face your fears.

You will thank yourself for it.

Welcome, 2017!

#learnings
#2016
#2017
#fatherslove

Hand thrown ceramics plates bowls

The Auckland Food Show 2016 Preview


Thanks to the Food Show and the PR Shop, I was able to experience the Auckland Foodshow Preview and I am so excited to share with you some of the highlights of my day. (A quick note here that I will return to the show over the coming days and may update the post with any new found gems…)

Without further ado, let me introduce my top stalls of the show:

Soda Press Co

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The flavour profiles were profound and distinct; yet not overpowering. It was so hard to choose which of the range to buy as they were all very, very delicious.  In the end I thought about the macarons I would make with these and decided on Blueberry and Lime, Raspberry and Mint (I think this is going to be a winner), Gingerale, Old Fashioned Lemonade and Pink Grapefruit. Did I mention they contain 40-50% less sugar than other syrups? Cam from Soda Press Co tells me that their ingredients are locally sourced from NZ and they will be fully certified organic by the end of the year. With their fabulous show special, who can resist?
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Barrys Bay Cheese

They had their entire range out for sampling and what made them stand out from the crowd was the detailed knowledge they had about each of their chesses, how each tastes and pairing suggestions. Here are some of my favourites: Maasdam and Cheshire.
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Paneton Bakery



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Finally, chocolate pastry, ready rolled. Need I say anymore? Hurry up and rush to get your hands on some. These are buttery and dark, perfect for a chocolate mousse tart with rich chocolate, mascarpone cream and a cherry compote. They come in 250g and 500g packs, and I think the 250g will be perfect for small batches of tarts and cookies while the larger pack would be great of a large tart. Perfect for this wintery kind of weather, wouldn’t you agree?

Women’s Bookshop

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I love cook books – for the new recipe ideas and magnificent photography. The Women’s Bookshop at the show has all the cookbooks you can think of – plus it is located right next to the Whirlpool Cooking Theatre, where the chefs will come from after their cooking demos and do book signing. Here I picked up the Masu by Nic Watt from the fabulous chef at Masu, our favourite Japanese restaurant in Federal Street in the center of Auckland. It has beautiful photography and the recipes are easy to follow, using ingredients that can be sourced locally.

The Whirlpool Cooking Theatre

The highlight of my day was going to Josh Emett’s cooking demo with Jane Leong, head chef of Madam Woo, which serves traditional Malaysian Hawker food in a modern setting. They started first in Queenstown, then Takapuna, Dunedin and now Hamilton. I picked up a few tips at the demo (and learned just how much they can spend on cucumbers!) and can’t wait to take the family to Madam Woo asap!

KOAST Limoncello

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Their range features Limoncello, Cream Limoncello and Orangecello, which are all made free of preservatives, additives or colouring. I tried all three and decided on a sampler pack so I could – guess what – make macarons XD. The flavour is bold and beautiful, you can easily drink it as an aperitif or mix with soda water for a nice refreshing drink, make icepops and bake a cake with it.
Their words not mine “100% Natural. 100% New Zealand. Handmade by our family, on the Kapiti Coast with lots of love, care, and time.” Wonderful, isn’t it?

L’Authentique Charcuterie

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Sampling here takes an average of 10 minutes – Wade patiently takes you through their range, inviting you to try all of them before deciding which one you like the most. Their sausages are handmade with 100% free farmed meat, dairy free, gluten free, with no additives or preservatives. The taste? Simply the best. Our favourites are their Toulouse grind which we use to make meatballs or dumplings, Peking Maximus which is made with Hallertau Maximus Craft beer and Pork and Fennel.

Pic’s Really Good Peanut Butter
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Most couldn’t believe something this tasty only has 2 ingredients – peanuts and salt! (if you prefer they have a no salt version which means there is only 1 ingredient in it – 100% peanuts.) That’s what people discovered when Pic’s was launched in 2008. Once you’ve tasted this you wouldn’t want to go back to any other. They now also have almond butter, cashew butter and peanut oil in their range.

Heller’s

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Their new pork schnitzel and nuggests were out and one sample was not enough! The schnitzel was baked in the oven for 25 minutes, and was juicy and tender. Thumbs up from the family and definitely keeping on the shopping list for quick weekday meals. I could also pour over a Japanese Tonkatsu sauce and it would be just like how Saika does it…

and…
Because I ran out of time, here’s a list of the stalls I’m returning to conduct further product analysis and investigation 😛

  • Urban Hippe Miso
  • Lewis Road Creamery (no excuse except that I wasn’t going home direct from the show and cannot take the milk, butter and ice cream with me then)
  • Silver Fern Farms (ditto)
  • Nanam Eatery (for a proper lunch)
  • Simon Gault – for the stock and seasonings. I recommend the fish and Beef stock, Morrocan and Indian spice seasonings. They are also running a special with Turks chicken, I just hope they don’t run out!

Spring is here!


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The weather’s very unpredictable now that spring is here. Blue sky, thundery clouds, heavy down pour that only lasts for 2 minutes and then rainbows. This all happened five times in a day, like a song stuck on repeat.
This went on for days, and the weather finally cleared the day I flew to Wellington. As I walked out of the boarding gate and onto the tarmac, I was stuck by how bold the rainbow’s sitting just in front. I sought and received permission to take photos right there (afterall there are rules around taking photos at airports!).

I usually sit on the right hand side of the plane to get photos of the mountains. Today the clouds were quite thick and I didn’t expect to see Mt Taranaki. I was wrong.

After a mad day at work, I had precisely 20 minutes to dash from my office to my hotel to get changed and to get on the 5.04pm bus, the same bus which my fellow photoshoot friends were all jumping on along the way to get to the top of Mt Victoria.

I told myself as I dashed out – I will miss things if I rush like this. Well I did – I forgot about cash [michelle’s mum: I don’t understand how you could not have cash on you at all times]. Specifically cash for the bus!! Luckily the friend I was travelling with had some [we do live in a country where eftpos is king].

The bus journey itself was an adventure – I could not believe buses could go so fast in such narrow roads without causing accidents [I was corrected – accidents do happen]. I met some new friends and we were all very eager to get to the top.

Where on earth are all the clouds when you want to shoot a beautiful sunset? All gone, none there to create beautiful light patterns. Well I could only make use of what’s given, so here we go.

It was another adventure to say the least to get from Mt Vic to Newtown, and it’s suffice to say we were all very glad when we got there and saw houses [civilisation!]

Newtown has been described as shabby chic, and definitely not the kind of photography subject/location I’m familar with. The six of us fanned out in all sorts of direction, with the promise of a good pub burger not too far ahead.

It was a good challenge and I look forward to more of these ‘planned’ photoshoots in the future.

When I woke up in the morning, the weather had completely changed and clouds were heavily covering the sky. Where were you 12 hours ago? I asked.
Determined to make use of the time [I couldn’t sleep and woke up very early] I headed out to the waterfront where plenty of joggers were out already. Time to test my ND filter.

On the way back to Auckland, there were some interesting cloud formations and this is one of my favourite ones – where I am right between heaven and earth. So close so close.

Rollercoasters


I don’t like roller coaster rides. The thrill and excitement that comes from the anticipation of the first drop quickly dissipates and I find myself holding onto the bars for my dear life, thinking, I’m so over this, please stop. So the next two minutes feel like ten, with every cell in my body hating the jostling, banging and the noise. Eah.

In life, I try to avoid peaks and troughs by planning my work weeks in advance. It really annoys me when people don’t consider the challenges others have to go through, dismisses their plan and push for their own. No matter it being accidental or deliberate, I can’t help but think that person is saying they are more important than I am.

This past week was a bit like a roller coaster ride for me. What do I do? Do I wallow in self-pity? Do I get upset and let my annoyance take over? I really don’t want that and I refuse to live in that ‘downward spiral’ that only makes my day go from bad to worse.

I prayed for help and for a passage that will guide me.
I opened up Our Daily Bread, and accidentally opened a reading from August last year. ( I suppose it isn’t actually an accident that I opened to this piece, I did ask Him for help ;D )

The piece talked about how Jesus did good by teaching, healing, feeding, and comforting people. His followers are called to meet the needs of others, including those who hate them: “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you” (Matthew 5:44; see also Luke 6:27-35). They are to serve their enemies without expecting anything in return.

I’m also reminded of the Fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – which are characteristics I should emulate.

What good thing can I do today in Jesus’ name? When we do good, we will be offering a sacrifice that pleases God (Hebrews 13:16) and that draws people to Him (Matthew 5:16).