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.

Taste of Auckland 2017


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.

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

Baduzzi

Icon Dish: 1/2 Karitane crayfish

grilled and smoked over Totara

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

Icon Dish: Ka Nom Jeen Gang Gae

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

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.

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!.

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.

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.

Six Barrel Soda Co.

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.

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.

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

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.

Puhoi Valley

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

Kenwood New Zealand

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

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.

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.

Dark chocolate Swiss Meringue Frosting


It’s been a while since I made icing for cakes. I didn’t like my old buttercream recipe as it was fiddly and a bit too buttery for my taste. I haven’t tried swiss meringue buttercream and thought it would be interesting to see how it turns out.

Three words: WOW. WOW. WOW. Pillowy, soft and cloud-like. Amazing. Thanks to bloggers like @stylesweetca and @toplessbaker my cake deco game is back on! 🍰🍫 The buttercream was a joy to make and pipes so well. So smooth and tastes light. It also sets a bit when cooled in the fridge which is great if you have to transport it. This will be my go-to recipe for icing!

I added Fresh As freeze dried raspberries inside each of the layers, raspbery chocolate paste from Sabato, Miann gold dusted almond and coffee Valrhona dark chocolate, Solomon’s Gold new chocolate kibble (as deco pieces and also melted and added into the chocolate icing), Valrhona cocoa powder. What a cutie!

Dark Chocolate Swiss Meringue Frosting

(Adapted from Style Sweet Ca)

Ingredients

  • 3 large egg whites (120ml)
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (340g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 tablespoons mascarpone, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
  • 60g dark chocolate, melted (best you can afford)
  • 4 teaspoons of your best baking cocoa powder

Instructions

  1. Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Whisk by hand to combine. Fill a medium saucepan one-third full with water and bring to a simmer.
  2. Place the mixer bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double-boiler. (I have a small metal steamer rack that I use to rest the bowl on as my saucepan is a bit too wide for the bowl). Whisking intermittently, warm the egg mixture until it reaches 60-65 degrees C on a candy thermometer.
  3. Once hot, place the mixer bowl back on the stand. Whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form and the outside of the bowl returns to room temperature (about 8 minutes).
  4. Turn the mixer speed down to low and add in the softened butter and mascarpone, two tablespoons at a time. Stop the mixer and change the whisk to the paddle attachment.
  5. Add in the vanilla, melted chocolate, and cocoa. Mix on medium-high until the buttercream is smooth, fluffy, and cloud-like (about 3 minutes).

Just for fun I switched the tip and pipped some ruffle stars as well!

Key points:

* Make sure your butter is at room temperature when you add it to the meringue. Keep mixing if it looks like it has curdled.

* Make sure your meringue has returned to room temperature before adding the butter or your bowl of cloud will become bowl of soup! Cool the whole bowl and mixture for 20 minutes before whipping again.

*Don’t run off and do something else between step 3 and 4. I made the mistake of waiting too long before adding the butter and it just didn’t come together. Lesson learnt and passed on.

Oreo macarons with white chocolate ganache



I used to make Oreo macarons with crushed Oreos in the Mac shells. The process is a bit tedious and result not as consistent. Here is a simplier version, by making a simple spleckled shell with an oreo chocolate ganache filling. Still very yum!

Macarons shell ingredients (makes about 40 macarons)

  • 150g icing sugar
  • 150g almond meal
  • 110g egg whites, split into 2 bowls of 55g each
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 38ml water
  • 1g meringue powder
  • 2 drops of gel colouring, I used black

Filling

  • 120g 28% cocoa White chocolate
  • 60ml cream
  • 4 oreo cookies, blitzed into crumbs

Instructions

  1. Follow my basic recipe to make the shells.
  2. Heat cream and pour over white chocolate that has been broken up into small pieces in a bowl.
  3. Wait for a minute before stiring the chocolate ganache. Leave in the fridge for 10 minutes for it to set.
  4. Mix in Oreo cookie crumbs (about 4 cookies, blitzed into crumbs beforehand).
  5. Spread or pipe a teaspoon of your chocolate ganache on half of your shells and top them with the remaining half of your shells.
  6. The filled macarons need to be kept in the fridge for 24 hours for the filling to soften the shells and also for the flavour to fully develop.

Marshmallow


Marshmallow, homemade, freeze dried fruit
Home made marshmallows are fun bites to have at any party and as gifts. These squishy bites are cloud-like and melts in your mouth! Perfect for cake decorating or donut-adorning. By adding the fruit powder you prefer, a multitude of flavours can easily be made.

I used Fresh As’s blackcurrant powder here, to give the beautiful purple hues. Check out their range: strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, mandarin, mango, passionfruit, lime…even kaffir lime! Try variations with cocoa powder and freeze dried instant coffee powder too.

Ingredients:

  • 10g gold strength gelatine leaves (about 5 sheets)
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 60g water
  • 70g egg whites (about 2 size 7 eggs) 
  • 10g caster sugar
  • 15g Fresh As Blackcurrant powder

Mallowpowder for dusting:

  • 50g icing sugar
  • 50g corn flour

Directions:

  1. Mix the ingredients for mallowpowder.
  2. Line a small tray (15cm x 10cm) with baking paper. Dust a thin layer of mallowpowder on the paper with a fine sieve. Reserve the rest for dusting later.
  3. Soak gelatine sheets in a container with cold water.
  4. In a small pot, combine 200g sugar and water. Place a candy thermometer in, making sure it touches the sugar. Bring to a boil, till it reaches 130C.
  5. In a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites and 10g sugar together until soft peaks.
  6. Once the sugar water reaches temperature, pour it into the egg whites in a thin stream, all the while whisking. Keep whisking for 3 minutes.
  7. Squeeze excess water out of the soaked gelatine sheets and add to the marshmallow. Whisk till it is combined.
  8. Add fruit powder and whisk for a further 5 minutes to cool the mixture down.
  9. Spread onto prepared tray and use a pallet knife to smooth the top. Leave to set for 4 hours or more. 
  10. Dust mallowpowder on your knife before cutting, and cut in downward motion for clean cut sides. Dust cubes of 3cm x 3cm with more mallowpowder.
  11. Store in a tight lidded box. 

Sugar is ‘water loving’ so it might get sticky if you leave it at room temperature for too long. Try freezing the marshmallow cubes to add to hot chocolates and coffees later on. 

      Marshmallow, homemade, freeze dried fruit

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