Wednesday, 17 September 2014


If you are what you eat, I worry that I am going to turn into a Chinese dumpling sometime soon. ;-)

Dumplings have blown sushi completely out of the water this year as my preferred lunch option. They make a welcome change to the usual salad wrap that I've made almost every morning for the past few years. Every two or three weeks, lunch boredom sets in and I promise myself a treat in the form of steamed dumplings. I gather up some fellow office foodies and we head out to indulge in fresh dumplings - our instant happy place!

I've always liked dumplings but my near-obsession with them was fuelled by a dumpling making class last year. Despite the best of intentions, I still haven't got around to making them at home ... yet. I make do with tracking down the House of Dumplings cart at festivals and markets, as well as the occasional visit to the dumpling food court in town. I can't wait to check out House of Dumplings's new dumpling shops.

House of Dumplings selection
These steamed dumplings are from a small food court on Lambton Quay. They are pork with Chinese cabbage flavour with a hint of grated ginger inside and are just about to be drizzled with soy sauce and chili sauce. They also taste delicious when pan fried. Mmmmm.

Pork and Chinese cabbage steamed dumplings
Why I don't get this excited about broccoli?

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Off on a tandem

We were chatting about an out-of-town colleague that is due to visit the office shortly, where she will meet some of our branch coworkers for the first time. Donna and I have worked together before. It would be fair to say that she has a very distinct personality that sometimes disguises a heart of gold. We get on well, but I'm aware that some others don't.

Patricia filled in our new staff members: "The thing about Donna is she always comes up with these outrageous malapropisms. I used to point them out but now I wouldn't dare. She doesn't think they're funny at all!"

We laughed politely at Patricia's anecdote but our confused faces quickly gave way to a collective confession that none of us actually knew what a malapropism was, let alone what Donna was doing wrong.

Patricia elaborated: "Donna will say something like, 'the meeting was going really well and we talked about lots of good ideas, until Sophie brought up alternative funding. Next thing, they were off on a tandem!'"

Imagine the impeccable timing Sophie and her colleague must have to just hop on a nearby tandem mid-meeting and cycle away together! Does this happen often? Is the tandem kept on standby somewhere close, ready at a moment's notice if it is needed, we wondered? Or does one just appear out of thin air whenever Sophie and her coworkers sound like they might be about to ride off together?

Another malapropism that I have heard for years in the education world is Pacific, as in, "we need this project's objectives to be really Pacific." How delightful would that be? Imagine objectives that were entirely Pasifika-focused! It might be appropriate sometimes, but I don't think it's the word they're looking for. I find it really hard to keep a straight face when I hear professionals educators reminding people to make things Pacific.

What malapropisms make you laugh?

Monday, 15 September 2014

Fresh As freeze dried powder

I have discovered my new favourite baking ingredient: Fresh As freeze dried powder. I came across a recipe requiring it a few months ago and so started out with a package of raspberry powder. Now, after using it to make several different recipes with some more left over in the fridge, I am well and truly hooked. It is easily one of #myfavoritethings.

Believe me when I say that this freeze dried powder is magical. A big problem for me when using syrup-based flavours is the effect it can have on the final product. Adding liquid to flavour fondant, buttercream or even cake mix requires great caution as the consistency can easily change from a slightly sticky mixture to an over-wet mess. Freeze dried powder adds both colour and flavour with the same effect as adding icing sugar, for example. It blends in and doesn't upset the balance between wet and dry ingredients.

So far, my pack of raspberry freeze dried powder has made a few batches of raspberry marshmallow frosting and filling and a three-layer raspberry checkerboard cake with piped ombré ribbons and roses. I like the look of this little passionfruit pavlova recipe and might use the rest of my raspberry powder to make some, or maybe even buy some passionfruit powder and start experimenting with a new flavour.

Raspberry marshmallow frosting
... with raspberry filling inside
Raspberry vanilla cake with piped ombré ribbons and roses
Raspberry vanilla checkerboard cake
As far as I am aware, there are three main stockists of Fresh As powder in the Wellington region: Moore Wilson's, Ontrays in Petone and Ruth Pretty's kitchen shop.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Chocolate buffet

There are many ways for a foodie to celebrate their birthday in Wellington. Markets, specialty food shops and a long list of excellent dining options. For those born in early September, the obvious choice is the chocolate buffet at the Amora Hotel. Last night, we joined a group celebrating a friend's birthday by overloading on chocolate and having dessert for dinner.

The buffet tables were heaving with small and perfectly formed chocolate desserts. Check out the menu here. We were offered hot chilli scented chocolate shots on arrival. There was also a crêpe station, a chocolate fountain and a stash of Kapiti ice cream to choose from. *drool*

It's hard to know where to begin when faced with so many options. We grabbed plates and worked around the first half of table, helping ourselves to one of everything with great gusto. Opera cake, black forest gâteau, profiteroles, tiramisu, raspberry dark chocolate marquise, Kirsch chocolate tart and Guinness chocolate mousse to begin.

First course
I checked out the crêpe station for my second course. The berry compote was a refreshing change to all the surrounding chocolate, as was the black doris plum and crème fraîche ice cream. However, we were there for chocolate so I added some chocolate mud cake slice and rocky road for good luck.

Second course
By this stage, we were labouring and the pace was seriously slowing. After soooooo much sugar in just one hour, the fruit from the chocolate fountain was appealing, as was the chocolate pear crumble with caramel sauce. I couldn't manage an almond coated rum ball or chocolate profiterole, even though I wanted to try them both. They stared at me from the plate, looking confused, forlorn and abandoned. The only thing missing was a chocolate after dinner mint at the end, but I probably would have struggled to eat one even if they were available.

The chocolate buffet is on until 14 September, so book quickly and prepare to indulge!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Pretzel making

My final Wellington on a Plate event was a hands-on pretzel making class on Saturday. Most people conjure up images of moreish party treats that come in the shape of mini pretzels, but we were being shown how to bake soft pretzels by German chef Uwe Braun.

After a monumental ticketing stuff-up that resulted in some of us turning up to an empty room due to us having a different start time printed on our tickets (2 hours earlier), we returned to a more reassuring sight: tables set with everything you need to make four soft pretzels and an entertaining host.

Tools of the trade
The ingredients are simple: flour, yeast, sugar, salt, melted butter and warm beer. (We were given half-bottles of Tui but I imagine real beer would taste good. You could even use cider.) Make a well in the flour. Mix the yeast in with the beer and a little bit of surrounding flour and leave until it starts reacting. Bubbles will form on top.

The yeast begins reacting to the beer
The next parts of the process are typical of bread making, involving kneading (I remember now why I have a bread maker and Kenwood mixer), resting the gluten and shaping the dough. After several stages, long strips of dough are twisted into the famous pretzel shape and placed on a baking tray. They are then glazed with egg yolk, dark soy sauce and a little bit more beer then sprinkled with rock salt or flaky salt.

Glazed and ready for baking
Approximately 15 minutes in the oven sees the dough turned into dark coloured soft baked pretzels.

Pretzels for afternoon tea
The finished pretzels looked good but were far too salty for my palette. I actually struggled to finish one. There was quite a bit of salt in the mixture, then soy sauce and more salt added to the glaze. I might try making pretzels at home but will either drastically reduce the salt content or look for a different recipe.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Classic soda and siphon workshop

And now for something a little bit different. Last night's Wellington on a Plate event was a hands-on classic soda and siphon workshop at Six Barrel Soda Co. We pulled up seats at the soda fountain and had some fun making yummy drinks.

We started by getting up close and personal with a soda siphon. This involved shaking (and shaking and shaking) this contraption to carbonate the water.

Soda siphon
We then used it to make our own soda floats, a smoother version of the old ice cream spiders we grew up with. Fill the glass to 3/4 with ice, then 3/4 with carbonated water. Pour 35 ml of soda syrup over the top and let it settle into the glass. (That's the correct way to make a soda. If you use alcohol, pour it into the bottom of the glass to mix it.) Add a scoop of ice cream or gelato and then more carbonated water on top. This gives the ice cream a frothy look and means that you can drink it, rather than eat it as a sundae. This is my classic cherry pomegranate soda float.

Cherry pomegranate soda float
We then experimented with a range of flavoured syrups and garnishes to create our own uniquely flavoured sodas. The syrups are all made onsite and distributed around the world from this little upstairs soda bar. I tried out the raspberry lemon syrup, added a few drops of orange bitters and delicately garnished it with orange and lime wedges. Very refreshing!

Raspberry lemon and bitters soda
It was time to step things up a notch. I added a dash of ginger syrup, then some freshly picked mint, a cucumber slice, some more bitters ... you get the picture. It was so much fun adding splashes of syrup and other ingredients to create new flavours. The results are only limited by your imagination!