October 28, 2008

Pink and My Deep Condolensce

rest in peace

My heart broke when yesterday Bee sent me a message that Brianna has gone. She died of cancer. Farewell, dear girl. Rest in Peace.

It's quite sad and quite a gloomy feeling to feel. I've lost my grandmother and my dear friend Ruri, both died of cancer. And I am still haunted by this disease because somehow it is already in my body, genetically coming from my grandmother and my mother (you may read my story here). I am just hoping this won't go to my children. Oh, I do hope so.

my pink brests for Pink October

In this sequence, I meant to post my entry for Pink Paris Bre(a)st for Pink October hosted by my fellow Kiwi blogger, Bron Marshall before I heard the news about Bri. Therefore, I'd love to give a tribute through this event for Brianna.

I have no trouble in making Paris Brest, as this happened to be KBB first challenge, although we used different recipe. On this event, I made the Paris-Brest using the recipe Bron has provided.

my pink brests2 for Pink October

I am also lighting the candles for you who are celebrating Diwali, the festival of lights. I still remember how pretty it was at the Aotea Square when we were all celebrating Diwali. The Malaysian people who had a food stall there sold a beautiful beef satay. Lovely.

happy diwali

Happy Diwali!

October 27, 2008

Sweet Pies for Sweet Friends

Sweet Pies, hosted by my Greek blogging friend, Ivy of Kopiaste. My entry: Mixed berries and Lemon Mini Pies.

mixed berries & lemon mini pies

I use diabetes-friendly recipe for the pastry that you can find the recipe here. And for the filling, these are mixed berries combined with grated lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar to cook until boiled, and then mixed with 1 Tbs cornflour to thicken. Just scoop out 1/4 cup of the juice, mix it with cornflour and then return to the saucepan, cook until thick. Let cool and then scoop them into the pie cases, there you go, you have pies ready to go. Might as well garnish them with lemon zest.

Cheers!

October 22, 2008

Orange Slices in Orange and Star Anise Syrup




We were walking down the lane yesterday as a part of home-schooling activities. The weather was quite alright for taking a walk with blue skies above us and plenty of sunshine. On the right and left side of the country road, there are little forests and meadows with luscious green grass. A horse was grazing on the side of the road in front of someone's yard, barred with a long strip of electric fence. A little dog came out of his house, sniffing at us. There's an empty goat house on the side of the road. Common view. What's not so common is that to see in the countryside these hectares of land are not grown with fruit trees. It seems there's a lack of interest in growing fruit trees but just letting gorse or other prickly bushes taken over the land. What a pity.

We're only living on a 8 acres property but we never are tired of planting. When we bought this property 5 years ago, we found that the back of the hill is covered with wild blackberries. So thick other plants can't be growing themselves under it. There were gorse bushes everywhere and each year it should spread its seeds anywhere. If we did not do anything about it, our hill won't be looking like today. It was a hard work, time consuming and money spending. A lot of time if we look back but it's the efforts which will worth the future.

kawa-kawa new zealand native puriri

almond tree pinenut tree


Until today, with all the blackberries are gone (you may view the photo album on our picking blackberries), we're still battling with their sprouts which are growing madly this year. A trip down the hill every now and then will be both inspections on their growth and also exercises for all of us. Our hill now is planted with pinenut trees, walnut, macadamia, almond, some stone-fruit trees, and also puriri ([vitex lucens] a native New Zealand tree) while Maori herb such as kawa-kawa bushes are grown in the wild happily.



I also make the use of rose garden to plant garlic. It is said that garlic can help enhance roses fragrance by planting them around the roses or near them. I have about 30 rose bushes and if I plant 5-6 garlic plants around the roses, you can imagine how many garlic heads I harvest in Summer. It is not the quantity that I am looking at here, but the quality of them. I don't use chemical pesticide, so both my roses and my garlic are pretty much organic. Barbara ever made sugared rose petals to make the use of them.

Here's the look of my rose garden last year:



What I am looking at here that the use of the land. We all want to keep New Zealand green and with planting fruit trees, there will be benefits for many parts: we as the consumers, insects as the pollinators, and the land itself. If we start from our household (me in New Zealand), followed by your households worldwide, I believe we will be able to keep the earth happy. Don't you think so? I am certain if we start making our household green and start planting herbs, vegetables, or fruit trees, and make use of the space we've got, we can help the world staying green.

Here are oranges I picked from our young but madly fruiting citrus trees and cooked them in orange and star anise syrup to send as an entry for HOTM this month hosted by Ilva of Lucullian Delights.

oranges in orange and star anise syrup

Orange Slices in Orange and Star Anise Syrup

6 oranges, peeled (use the peels in the making of syrup and remove the white bitter pith), and sliced

Syrup

2 oranges, peel (use the peels for garnish) and juice
1 cup (more or less depending on the sweetness of the oranges) caster sugar
1/2 cup water
2 star anise

Cook the orange peels, sugar, star anise and water until bubbly, then reduce to simmer. Cook until thicken. Add in the orange slices, simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from the stove. Let cool, and then sprinkle with the rest of orange rind. Serve with thick Greek yogurt or as the company of other desserts or breakfast with muesli. Enough for 4-6.

Just a short note: I'm going to join Pink Paris-Bre(a)sts for Pink October hosted by my Kiwi friend and fellow home-schooler mum, Bron Marshall in Christchurch. Join us if you can!

October 20, 2008

SHF: Churros con Chocolate

I've been making churros with Spanish chocolate pot when I am intensely craving for it, no matter what season I am currently in. It's just like giving the right answer for whatever questioning it. Hormones? Well, beats me. We, women, love to be indulged or indulge ourselves, sometimes. Don't we, ladies?

churros

Photographed few months back but could not find the time to post them, this is my entry for Sugar High Friday, originally created by Jennifer of Domestic Goddess and this month is hosted by Anita of Desserts First.

IMG_1620

I like using the recipe from Dish magazine. You can find the recipe here. It's the sensational fragrance of cinnamon in the chocolate pot merged with the nutmeg coated churros oh-so-heavenly tastes that makes me come back for more. What else? A handsome black-eyed Spanish prince, maybe?

More spices:

Lapis Legit

Kolache
Spanish Cinnamon Doughnuts with Chocolate Pots

October 15, 2008

Beetles, Deeba's Cake and Food O Grafie!

I am feeling a bit 'lighter' now and more energetic than before. I think the goldenseal remedy is something my body has been looking for and agreeing with.

strawmagic

With the weather is improving, apart from unpredictable and unsuspected Spring rain. The ground without rain in days seems quite dryish. A sign of dry Summer, perhaps? One of these days, what we've been doing is just keeping the ground moist, to anticipate dryish long Summer ahead. I have applied straws around the ground of my strawberry plants and while I am doing this, I notice some white disgusting spit under the leaves and some are caught near the base of the plants. I thought who the hell ever spit on my plants. Certainly not my family. They don't spit, unless it is brushing teeth time. When I look closely closer, I pick a twig and take it off of the leaves, there it was the little bugger who's disguised.

beetles

I don't know whether it is a good bug (I suspect that the larvae comes from that green beetle--not a metallic one fishermen used to use as the fliers), but I never think so, for the enzyme that covers these larva burn the leaves. And what are they going to do next? They'll eat my plants. So, every evening since then, I always go to the garden and spend 30 minutes to check them under the leaves and at the base of the plants. Squeezed! Sorry, but they have to go. Wrong spot, mate!

Deeba's cake

My baking mojo is back. I've made a promise to myself that I'm going to try Deeba's Chocolate Coffee Almond Meringue Cake. It's quite nice. I can't really taste the meringues in the cake, really, after it's left in the fridge for a while, it's somehow 'melt'. Would there be any difference with thicker meringues, perhaps? The sponge is nice, though. I like it. I brush each layer of cake with coffee syrup, made from espresso and sugar. If you guys tempted to make this, too, please read the recipe at Deeba's blog.

food-o-grafie

I'm Participating on Food O Grafie, as a part of food photography event, hosted by Zorra of Kochtopf. I can feel that food photography has already become my passion along with domestic cooking/baking. I love my camera and I love taking pictures.

I am using Canon EOS 400D, yes a bit behind your latest model from Canon, but like Zorra says perfect camera does not exist. Perhaps upgraded camera will offer more optical advantage, functions and features from those were born before them. I am quite comfortable with my camera. Its body is just perfect to grip and lovely big LCD monitor at the back. It's pretty easy to manage, the white balance, aperture, and everything else.

When bought this camera, the lens attached was only 18-55mm and then until July this year I start using Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM, a fast lens I adore up to now. I love its DOF and I just love it's closeness to capture the object. It's perfect for food photography. I love it. Shall I say it again? I love it.

With 18-55mm lens itself is alright to capture food. And it is great to capture natures. Can you believe that I use this lens to capture these insects?

bumble bee loving it

Can you compare with 50mm lens, see below?

don't shoot!

That's because 18-55mm lens is as good as 50mm lens to capture nature. Now, let's compare food photos I've taken from JVC old digital video camera (my first gadget in photo shooting), Canon Powershot A520, Canon EOS 400D with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens and same camera with different lens 50mm f/1.4.

Video Camera

chocolate praline


Canon Powershot A520

green cheese roll

Canon EOS 400D 18-55mm lens

green pandan macarons

Canon EOS 400D 50mm f/1.4

parnsip chips #2

Perhaps, you can see the differences? Good on you! What I can only say, through learning I always can take a lesson from each gadget, the weaknesses and the strength. To cover the weakness of a camera, is it possible? Not sure if it is something optical, like the amount of resolution a camera can offer, variable shutter speed, etc, but it can always be creative. For in my opinion, food photography is also about food styling. If the food looks good and I can take a good photo of it then I can give the audience a proven fact that the food looks appetizing and it DOES look (read: taste) good.

My photos are not always award-winning ones and it is not my intentional goals to collect as many awards as possible, but it is just nice to be able to share my photos with as many people as possible and it feels good when people enjoy looking at the photos and appreciating my works. I like learning from others and through photo events I can learn more. Although a photo event's results sometimes is slightly disappointing when to know there are more other undiscovered good-looking photos deserve the awards, it is still an event I can go for to learn more stuffs in food styling from other foodie bloggers.

I adore most of my flicker buddies' photos because they are really producing good-looking food photos. They put great efforts on producing good photos.

Well, I guess. People have preferences on what's average and what's excellent. All I can say is that keep producing and improving the styling and doing more experiments on many styling can make myself go forward with more progress. I believe that a good camera in a good hand will produce good stuffs.

October 09, 2008

Orange and Avocado Salad with Orange Mustard Dressing




Monthly Mingle
, hosted by Meeta and co-hosted by Ruth. Theme: Sensational Sides. My entry: Orange and Avocado Salad with Hot Orange Mustard Dressing.

We like eating this salad with roast free-range farm chicken, accompanied by roasted root vegetables.

orange and avocado salad

6 oranges, peeled and sliced (use the orange peels in the salad)
2 avocados, peeled and cut into chunks

Mix the orange slices and avocado chunks in a bowl. Set aside.

Orange and Mustard Dressing

2 tsps mustard seeds
3 Tbs olive oil
juice and zest from 2 oranges
1 bay leaf
a good handful fresh coriander leaves
salt
freshly cracked black pepper

Put all the ingredients, except coriander leaves, in a saucepan and heat until boil. Simmer for 5 minutes until you can smell the scent of orange juice and bay leaf in the air. Let cool. When the dressing is cooler, mix it with the mixed orange slices and avocado chunks. Mix in the coriander leaves. Serve immediately.

cherry blossoms

Just an update from our orchard and a good news: the cherry trees are blossoming with their white blooms. We are hoping they will develop into fruits and hopefully, this year they will give us more fruits. I'm looking forward to it. It makes me happy to just hoping the beautiful future.

October 07, 2008

Dad's Anniversary and Mojo

I am blaming on the thyroid for my sluggishness I can feel these days. I've lost my mojo to be having fun in the kitchen, let alone, to take my camera out of the bag. Not fun being ill, really, especially when there's emotional moods being involved.

Two days ago last year, it was Dad's anniversary. When I wrote this poem, there was a strange urge to jot down what I felt that day. There was a tickling memory, vaguely came to my inner sense. I knew it was not me, because although I was unwell, I was not thinking about going to die. It came clear to my senses when I had a conversation with mum the next day, that the same day I wrote the poem a year ago... Dear Dad. My all prayers for you.

As you are unwell, getting this message from somewhere else can be a bit tiring. But, I am fine now, after my husband found out the spot which was so painful I had to let out a squeal. He had to go to a healthy shop to purchase various tablets and got back home testing 'muscle test' on me. If you're familiar with naturopath way, you understand what I am talking about: reflexiology and natural remedies. It's not that I am having apprehension on doctors or hospitals, but feet massage, hot bath, and herbal remedies are what work best for my body. I am lucky to have hubby ever learned these natural things, as lucky as I am that he's looking after me very well.

I am also a lucky winner who won prize of O Foods for my Potato Rosti entry, the trio divas Sara, Jenn, and Michelle were hosting. Now, I'll be busy browsing stuffs at the amazon store. Thank you, girls. I am so happy. You guys make my day.

Then, there was a message from Jugalbandhi in my inbox which was surprising, that one of my photos is nominated to be on the 16 of Reader's Choice. Although I may be not coming up on top, to be nominated itself is an honour. Thank you, guys!

Apart from that, I have been enjoying looking back my previous photos and putting quotes or proverbs on them, to be sent for Weekend Words my good friend Barbara has initiated. For you who love taking photos and have personal or fave quotes, you can join us. There's no hosting whatsoever. You can read Barbara's post on this following the link I previously give you. My first weekend words can be viewed here. I may do my best to keep up posted.

I can't write much but I shall be back when I am ready. Meanwhile, here are some of nature photos I took. I hope you're enjoying them. Cheers!

don't shoot! tirangle drops

A follow-up photos on Ben and Sarah's cats. Bibbie (champagne colour) and Bow Bow (ginger).

staring at me bow still loves his basket

October 03, 2008

ITB: Almond and Orange Cake

Despite the weather which is pretty much improving, to say the least, I am a bit tied up with the challenge stuffs we've been running for the club. I find myself in a midst of nailing my rear on a seat with eyes goggled to the screen, reading everyone's entry (-ies). It's a bit of a work for me because I am not really enjoying being in front of the computer for longer than 15-20 minutes while there are much work to do in the garden and farm. Hence, this can be quite fun if there shall be somebody is helping me out. But, this is my turn and I am paying for it. So here I am.

happy orchard by arfi binsted copyright 2008

I also have promised myself to submit an entry for Scott's ITB: Fruit and Nuts season. With an update from the orchard, it is close to the time we're enjoying the nashi blooms again. Last year, the pears orchard did not give us anything. Perhaps it was the hard-pruned we'd done for the trees followed by the removal of a few trees. I think this Summer can be a lot different. We'll enjoy a lot more fruits, it's promising.

Right now, we're still enjoying citrus and pretty much using them more in the kitchen. I made this almond and orange cake to suit the theme Scott has chosen for In The Bag event.

Almond and Orange Cake
Source: Donna Hay magazine. Winter, Issue 28.

3/4 cup caster sugar
170g unsalted butter, softened
1 Tbs finely grated orange rind
3 eggs
1 1/2 Tbs orange juice
3/4 cup plain flour, sifted
3/4 tsp baking powder, sifted
2/3 almond meal
thick cream to serve

orange syrup

2 cups castes sugar, extra
1 cup water
1/4 cup orange juice, extra


almond and orange cake

Preheat the oven to 170C. Prepare the cake tin. I grease and flour the tin. Don't have a bundt tin, but I have this fancy cake tin I brought from Indonesia as a gift from a friend. Make syrup by putting everything in a saucepan and heat until boiling, cook until thicken.

Make the cake by beating the sugar, butter and orange rind until light and creamy. Add in eggs one at a time and beating well while adding in, add in orange juice, beat again until well mixed. Fold in the flour sifted with baking powder which I did 3 times, mix well and then add in the almond meal. Spoon into the cake tin, level and then bake for 45 minutes, when you test with the skewer, it won't bring any batter out with it. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then transfer it on to a wire rack. Serve with orange syrup and a dollop of thick cream.