Category Archives: photos – food

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.

10 steps to build your steamboat or hot pot


Steamboat hotpot at home

There is nothing better than gathering around a warm fire and enjoying food with friends and family. Remember the good old camp fires and barbecue pits? You’ve most likely forgotten the banter, but the warm and happy feeling lingered long after the meal’s digested.

Steamboat has the same effect. It’s essentially a large pan of stock boiling continuously over either a camping style gas stove or an electric cook top. This is placed in the middle of the dining table, surrounded with plates and bowls of your favourite food ingredients, ready to be cooked by you.

It’s a longer meal, as you cook and eat at the table, along with good conversations and the makings of precious memories. The flavour of the soup develops over the course of the meal, as the essence of the bountiful meats, seafood and vegetables adds sweetness and depth to the simmering stock little by little.

You’ll find most cuisines have something similar to steamboat. Let me show you the steps to build your own Chinese style steamboat!

1. Heat source for cooking

You’ll need a mobile cooking surface. Camping style gas stoves are great as you can easily take them anywhere. The only thing you need to watch out for is having enough gas bottles to last the dinner. Usually a fresh one lasts the meal, but just have a spare in case.

We prefer an electric cooktop, as it is easier to clean up. Just make sure to place it where you can easily plug in to a power outlet close by.

2. Large pot, for cooking

Choose a large pan that has shorter handles, a flat bottom and wide surface area. This ensures a large cooking surface for even cooking. After all, many hands need to access the pan from all angles.

3. Ladles, chopsticks, tongs, eating and dipping bowls

These are the essentials: extra chopsticks or tongs to pick up the raw food, ladles to scoop and drain the cooked items before placing into your eating bowls. Don’t forget dipping bowls for your various sauces.

4. Soup base

The soup base can be a simple chicken stock. Remember this soup is likely to be consumed with noodles at the end of the meal, and the flavours will build up over the course of the cooking. Starting with a light flavour is perfectly fine and preferred.

Here are some examples:

  • Chicken stock with leeks
  • Corn pieces
  • Winter melon
  • Turnip and Wong bok
  • Spicy chilli
  • preserved vegetables
  • Can of crushed and sieved tomato
  • Dashi powder or kombu (if you are making Japanese shabu-shabu)

Now I’m always a bit impatient and wants to be able to start eating pretty soon after setting up the steamboat. If you are like me, you’ll want to start boiling your chosen stock base on your regular stove top for 20 minutes. This becomes the base of your steamboat, which will further develop in flavour when you add other things to cook at the table.

Have the kettle ready to boil more hot water during the meal, as you will need to periodically top up your cooking pot with hot water.

5. Protein

Steamboat hotpot at home

Typically there will be lots of choices, but whatever they are they should be aimed at fast cooking.

Thin meat slices are a must for us. They cook really fast, and adds a depth of flavour to the soup. They are usually in the frozen section of Asian supermarkets, in boxes or trays, precut in rolls or slices. Defrost slightly before the meal starts. We will have these usually:

  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Pork belly

Meat balls are another must – these Asian-style meatballs are unlike those you have with pasta. They don’t fall apart in boiling water and texture wise, they are well grounded and best described as bouncy.

IMG_20200605_225503

IMG_20200606_172037

Meatballs we love:

  • Pork and mushroom meatballs
  • Beef meatballs
  • Beef and tendon meatballs
  • Fried fish balls
  • Fish balls filled with minced mushrooms
  • Crab meatballs

Seafood also adds flavour and we usually have a few prepared. The idea is to have some of everything.

  • Prawns
  • Scallops
  • Fish slices
  • Crab pieces

6. Carbs

Popular choices include udon, ramen and rice vermicille noodles. These are typically added in later in the meal. We sometimes have a few wontons or dumplings on hand too.

7. Vegetables

Now the choices are vast here. Pick 2 to 3 of your favourite Asian vegetables for this and cook it whenever you feel like it throughout the meal. Again the meats will have added so much flavour to the soup and your vegetables will taste extra delicious.

IMG_20200606_172343_1 (1)

  • Wong bok
  • Turnip
  • Choy sum
  • Tong ho (pictured, it has a distinctive, slightly bitter taste)
  • Spinach
  • Leek
  • Mushroom (different varietals, oyster, button, enoki, shiitake etc)

8. Soy products

Now these deserve their own heading! I’m talking about various food products made with soy beans.

Tofu:

Choose the hard tofu, so they stay intact in the steamboat. Cut them into slices 1 cm slices and cook briefly. Not only can you cook them from fresh, if you freeze some of the slices and then defrost them before you cook them in the hot pot, you will create slices of “hive” which when placed in the hot soup, acts as a sponge to soak up all the delicious flavours.

Bean curd slices:

These fried bean curd sheets come in round rolls or rolled stacks. They cook super fast – 7 seconds – and comes out soft and chewy. Again this is a flavour soaker, perfect for steamboat.

IMG_20200606_172300

9. Eggs

Eggs form part of the dipping sauce. We crack it into a bowl and whisk in chilli sauce, soy, sesame oil and some Taiwanese barbecue sauce which is the base of their famous noodle broths.

The egg also helps to cool down the cooked food slightly. If you are not a raw egg kind of person, do omit this. Some families like to crack the egg into the steamboat directly and make poach eggs too.

Steamboat hotpot at home

10. Sauces

Have a selection available for everyone’s tastes:

  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Chilli paste
  • Fresh chilli slices
  • Taiwanese barbecue paste, an anchovy-based paste.
  • Fermented bean curd
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Chopped coriander leaves
  • Roasted sesame sauce

IMG_20200605_225417

IMG_20200605_225349

There you have it! The 10 things you need to set up a Chinese style steamboat event. Enjoy!

Easy Bagels


Bagels

Bagels

Bagels

As the markets are now closed due to the COVID19 lockdown, we haven’t been able to enjoy some of our favourite products for weeks. Specialty dumplings, sauerkraut, gozleme… and also bagels. I happen to have high grade flour, peacefully bought before the lockdown, so I set to work over Easter.

These didn’t require much work at all, and turned out pretty fun as well. Each proof was only a measly 20 minutes and a tiny amount of yeast was called for. Try make them bigger (into 6) or smaller (into 10) and that will serve as lunch or for snacking. A pretty good lockdown recipe I would say, considering how flour and yeast are such a hard-to-come-by-commodity at the moment.

I’ve played with 2 types of toppings here, a homemade ‘everything’ topping and one for the onion and cheese lovers. Feel free to scale up for future bagel action.

Ingredients

Makes 8

Dough

  • 3/4 tsp instant dried yeast
  • 240ml water, luke warm
  • 450g bread flour (also known as High Grade flour)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp maple syrup

Bi carb soak

  • 1 Tbsp baking soda
  • Large pot of water

Everything bagel sprinkle

  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp black sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp poppy seeds

Cheese sprinkle

  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp parmesan cheese, grated

Method

  1. In a small bowl, add luke warm water and yeast and set aside.
  2. Add flour, salt, olive oil and maple syrup to a standmixer bowl. Add in the warm water with yeast. Mix together and then knead with a dough hock attachment for 5 minutes. The dough should be springy to the touch.
  3. Remove dough and divide into 8 pieces. Roll into smooth balls and cover with an oiled cling film. Leave to proof in a warm place for 20 minutes.
  4. Push a hole with your fingers through the middle of each ball, stretching as you go. This forms a dough ring.
  5. Cover with oiled cling film and let them proof for another 20 minutes in a warm place.
  6. Preheat the oven to 250C.
  7. Into a large pot of gently boiling water, add the baking soda.
  8. Place bagels, 3 at a time, into the bi carb soak. Cook each side for a minute. Remove and drain on a cooling rack.
  9. Sprinkle the bagel toppings on the bagels, pressing them in if you need to. Alternatively, you can place the sprinkle ingredients in a shallow bowl and dip the bagels in. You’ll need to beware of the heat though.
  10. Repeat until all bagels have had a soak and toppings added.
  11. Place bagels on a lined baking tray and bake for 8 minutes.
  12. Reduce the heat to 225C and bake for another 6 minutes.
  13. Cool on a wire rack. Serve with cream cheese, salted butter for breakfast or as a snack. These are freezable too!

Bagels

Braised pork belly, leek and noodle with vinegar broth


Slow cooked pork belly with noodles in vinegar broth

This is one of J’s all-time favourite year-round dish. Using the pressure cooker, it takes only 35 minutes for the pork belly to become soft and meltingly tender. The soup is fragrant from peppercorns and bay leaf, with the big and bold vinegar taste adding depth to the soup. The key here is to use a good broth, such as Simon Gault’s beef or chicken concentrated stock pouches (not sponsored to say this, I always have these in my pantry).

Slow cooked pork belly with noodles in vinegar broth

Always pour the soup in just as you are ready to serve to avoid soggy noodles.

If you have enough pourers, you can serve the soup in individual vessels and let each person add their own portion of soup into the bowl. (We’ve just picked up our handmade ceramic pourers from a Christmas workshop and they are perfect for this!)

Slow cooked pork belly with noodles in vinegar broth

Slurping is unavoidable and would bring smiles to the chef.

Slow cooked pork belly with noodles in vinegar broth

Ingredients

Meat & soup

  • 1kg free range pork belly, boneless, with skin
  • 3 tbsp rice bran or olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 leek, white stalk section – washed and cut into thick rings. Green stalk section – chop into half.
  • 2 spring onions, cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 big slices of ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 cups chicken or beef stock
  • ½ cup chinese black vinegar
  • ¼ cup light soy sauce
  • 4 medium sized eggs (optional)

Noodles:

  • 200g ’00’ flour or just plain flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 egg yolks +1 yolk
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

To serve:

2 spring onions, green part only, thinly sliced

Soft boiled eggs (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a pressure cooker over a high heat. Add peppercorns, bay leaves, leeks, spring onion, ginger and garlic and fry for a minute.
  2. Add pork and fry each side till golden.
  3. Pour in stock, soy sauce and black vinegar and bring to the boil. Close the pressure cooker lid, ensuring it is locked in.
  4. Set it to high pressure and cook for 35 minutes. When the cook time has been reached, release pressure. Don’t remove the lid straight away, let the pork rest in the pressure cooker for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove lid from pressure cooker, remove pork and set aside.
  6. Place a sieve over a deep saucepan and pass the braising liquid through and into the pan. Heat and reduce the sauce until slightly syrupy (about 10 mins). Adjust flavor to taste by adding extra sugar, light soy or hot water.

*we sometime serve this soup with a soft boiled egg, as you sometimes would for Japanese ramen noodle soup. Place eggs into a pot with cold water and bring to a boil. Once it boils, turn off the heat, cover and leave for 2 minutes. Remove immediately after and place into iced water to cool completely. Peel shells and set aside.

Egg noodles

  1. Place flour and salt in a bowl. Add eggs, yolk and oil. Stir with a fork until mixture forms a dough. Place onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Cover with a tea towel and rest for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Using a pasta machine, beginning on the widest setting, work the dough through. Repeat down to the second or third setting. Use the thinnest cutter to make thin noodles and toss in flour.
  3. Bring to the boil a large saucepan of salted boiling water. Boil noodles for 3 minutes, refresh in iced water and drain well.

*Alternatively, use packets of noodles from Asian supermarkets and cook according to packet instructions.

To serve, thinly slice pork to 1cm thick slices (you may want to cut off the fatty skin). Divide noodles between serving bowls, place 3 slices of pork, blanched vegetables, a soft boiled egg and spring onions, and pour over the reduced braising liquid.

It looks like this before closing the lid on the pressure cooker:

Braised pork belly and leek noodle soup

Slow cooked pork belly with noodles in vinegar broth

Brown Sugar Chocolate Chunk Cookies


Brown sugar chocolate chunks cookies

Brown sugar chocolate chunks cookies

Brown sugar chocolate chunks cookies

Brown sugar chocolate chunks cookies

Brown sugar chocolate chunks cookies

Brown sugar chocolate chunks cookies

What’s the definition of a good chocolate chip cookie?

For us, it has to be crunchy on the edges and chewy in the middle. It has to be flavourful, with a molasses aroma and of course, lots of good CHOCOLATE. In fact, puddles of it will be excellent.

Dark brown sugar provides for a stronger molasses aroma, resulting in a deep complex, toffee-like flavour. It also makes for a chewier cookie. If you want even chewier cookies, try swapping the plain flour for bread flour (i. e. High gluten). We tested this so trust us.

Use the best chocolate you can afford, high in cocoa mass (70% minimum) and use ones you like to eat, perhaps with interesting flavour profiles? Here I’ve used bars of Valrhona my Dad got for me when he was on a trip. It had notes of berry and it will come through to the end when you are biting into the cookie, especially if they are semi melted. I would also use my favourite Foundry Chocolate bar made with single origin beans from Masidu Farms, Vanuatu or their top-of-the-class new bar from Anamalai Estate, India.

To achieve the ultimate unctuousness, you’ll need to add the chocolates in two timings: when mixing the cookie dough, and then half way through baking.

Then right at the end, when you pull the cookies out of the oven, add flakey sea salt for another dimension to the cookie. This salt + sweet combo tickles your palate, making this an even more amazing tasting.

Ingredients

Makes 35 medium sized cookies

  • 230g butter, unsalted, room temperature
  • 200g dark brown sugar
  • 160g caster sugar
  • 1 egg, size 7
  • 4g vanilla extract
  • 360g plain flour
  • 10g baking soda
  • 5g baking powder
  • 3g salt
  • 230g 60-70% dark chocolate, chopped
  • 100g 70% dark chocolate, broken into 2cm pieces
  • Flaky sea salt

Instructions

  1. Cream butter and sugars in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment on medium speed, for about 3 minutes. The mixture should be pale in colour and fluffy.
  2. Add egg and vanilla, mix on low to combine.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  4. Add to the cream mixture and mix on low till just combined. Add chopped chocolate in, mix until evenly combined.
  5. Using a small ice cream scoop, place small scoops of dough onto a baking tray. You can keep them placed close together, as this needs to firm up in the freezer for 1 hour. This ensures a chewy and nicely flavoured cookie. (You can freeze the dough for baking later. Just keep them in a sealed container for up to a month. Bake the cookies straight from frozen, for 2 mins longer.)
  6. Preheat oven at 175C and line 3 baking trays with baking paper. Place dough balls on the baking sheet, well spaced.
  7. Bake for 8 minutes and remove from the oven. The cookies will be rather puffed at this point and I like to bang it a few times against the bench to flatten it slightly. This is also when you add a few pieces of broken chocolate on top of each cookie. Rotate trays 180 degrees and return the trays to the oven and bake for another 7 minutes.
  8. Once they are golden brown, remove from the oven and let them cool on the baking trays. To make the cookies look rounder, you can use a large glass or metal cookie or tart ring to spin each cookie inside the ring for a few seconds. Learnt this from Erin from @cloudykitchen!
  9. Sprinkle sea salt flakes on the warm cookies and serve! Once cooled, you can store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Brown sugar chocolate chunks cookies