Delicious #Koi desserts

We were spoilt with these beautiful artisan desserts at a lovely Sunday lunch we went to yesterday.

One of the other guests thoughtfully went to Koi Dessert Bar in Chippendale, Sydney to pick up these delicious treats that were perfectly complimented with a divine fruit platter. The Basqu cheesecakes were my favourite.

Desserts from Koi
Scrumptious summer fruit platter

A perfect ending to a long, lazy Sunday lunch…or anytime.

Koi Dessert Bar also has in-house dessert degustation menus and experiences that look amazing too.

Pork Larb with Green Beans #larb #salad

This classic Thai inspired salad is a great weekday summer dinner that is very tasty.

Thai inspired Pork Larb Salad

We are currently using herbs from pots in our courtyard that are thriving through the Sydney summer. Mint, coriander, chilies and basil are essential for this recipe and luckily close to hand at the moment.

I serve this with lettuce cups and some jasmine rice making for a quick but satisfying lunch or dinner. Also perfect for leftovers for lunch the next day.

Ingredients:

  • Ingredients
  • 500g lean pork mince
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic finely sliced
  • 2 tbspoons Vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup of lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 2 red chillies finely chopped (and 2 left whole optional)
  • 1 small red onion finely sliced
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup coriander leaves
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 1 small Lebanese cucumber cut into sticks
  • 4-5 lettuce leaves trimmed to create cups
  • Lettuce trimmings
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh green beans

Method:

1. Slice onions and garlic and set aside

2. Trim lettuce to create cups, place in freezer to crisp up, keep trimmings to add to salad.

3. Chop chillies, coriander and make cucumber sticks. (do not chop basil and mint as these are better torn and scattered into the salad at the last minute)

4. Squeeze lime juice and set aside.

5. Blanch green beans until just tender if using fresh green beans.

5. Heat vegetable oil in a wok, add sesame oil, add garlic and fry till just golden.

6. Add pork mince (and whole chillies if using) fry until browned. (I put the whole chillies in as they are there for extra spice if required for chilli heads without making the whole salad too hot to handle)

6. Add fish sauce, 1/2 the lime juice, pepper, sugar, chillies and stir through, then add green beans and allow to simmer for 1-2 minutes until beans are heated through. Add some water here if required but not too much as you don’t want too much liquid.

7. Add all other ingredients to wok, including rest of lime juice, and tearing in mint and basil leaves. Gently toss. Taste to see if balance is how you like it, as you can always splash in more fish sauce or lime juice….or chop up one of the whole chillies if not spicy enough for you.

8. Serve with lettuce cups and jasmine rice.

Perfect retreat in Paradise #arcadiaretreat #rarotonga

We had a wonderful and very relaxing 12 days soaking up the tranquility at Arcadia Retreat at Arorangi in Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. Arcadia has 3 villas, a beautiful pool and gardens and is just 200m from the beach. At night you can hear the sound of the ocean and in the morning you awake to beautiful sunrises over the hills of Rarotonga. Absolute bliss.

The beautiful pool at Arcadia Retreat, Rarotonga
View from the balcony at Villa Ta’i at Arcadia Retreat, Cook Islands

Villa Ta’i in which we stayed was beautifully decorated and spotlessly clean with 2 bedrooms, well equipped kitchen and access to a barbecue in the gazebo near the resort style pool. Arcadia Retreat has stunning views to the hills on Rarotonga and beautifully maintained tropical gardens.

Main bedroom at Villa Ta’i with doors opening out to large balcony.

Our Villa had very comfortable beds, good shower, a big balcony and lots of different areas to lounge, read and relax. Ceiling fans throughout the Villa and breezes from the hills kept the house cool and comfortable throughout our stay over December and January. There are only 3 villas available to stay in, so numbers of other guests are kept to a minimum. I would highly recommend this as a great option to staying in a busy resort.

Sunrise at Arcadia Retreat, Rarotonga (view from Villa Ta’i at Arcadia Retreat Rarotonga)

Maxine and Neil were helpful and friendly hosts who assisted with maps and tips to set us up for our stay. Arcadia Retreat is also conveniently located near a Vodafone hot spot so once you have purchased your wifi pass from the local Kavera supermarket internet access is very good. Although we spent most of the time exploring, snorkelling, swimming reading books and lazing by the pool.

Beautifully maintained tropical gardens at Arcadia Retreat
Arorangi Beach, 200m from Arcadia Retreat

We hired a car for our stay so we were able to trip around the island and enjoy lunches at some lovely restaurants and sunset drinks at Shipwreck Hut, a laidback and rustic beach bar, which is just a ten minute beautiful beach walk away.

Sunset at Shipwreck Hut, Arorangi Beach, Rarotonga
Great island sunsets and humour at Rarotonga beach bar: Shipwreck Hut.
Walking back to Arcadia Retreat from Shipwreck Hut beach bar. No need to drive!

Arcadia Retreat is also very close to Pacific Fish and Chip Shop which serves delicious fresh fish grilled or fried.

Pacific Fish and Chip Shop, best fish and chips in Rarotonga
Perfect peaceful retreat in paradise

Book often and book early so as not to miss out on a great accommodation option in Raro.Arcadia Retreat

Awesome #Auckland #NewZealand

We had some great meals out in Auckland on our stopover on the way to the Cook Islands.

Lunch at Giraffe Cafe was delicious featuring beautiful New Zealand produce overlooking the buzzing scene around the harbour and viaduct. We loved the slow cooked lamb shank and the duck Caesar salad, enjoyed with a delicious Greywacke Pinot Gris. Great service and local knowledge from our friendly waiter Herbie too!

Slow cooked lamb shank on creamy mash
Duck Caesar salad

Dinner at one of our favourites in Auckland Baduzzi stood up to its huge reputation for excellent roman inspired dishes including their famous meatballs. We ate everything from ox tongue to venison meatballs and delicious steak with creamy polenta! Bellissimo.

Ox tongue with a heirloom tomatoes, asparagus and salsa verde
Broken cannoli of yellowfin with nduja and Burrata
Lamb meatballs
Inside skirt tagliata with creamy potato and lettuce with parmigiana reggiano and balsamic

Korean lunch at Gochu in the new Commercial Bay shopping centre and food court was a welcome spicy and delicious detour. Everything from the milk buns with spicy pork and Kim chi filling with amazing beurre Blanc sauce to the cucumber salad with cashew cream, ssam and fried garlic to the brilliant crispy fried chicken doused in gochujang sauce and the crispy fried eggplant was cooked to perfection and impeccably presented. A great find in a shopping centre!

Cucumber with ssam and cashew cream
Milk bun with spicy pork and kimchi filling
Milk bun with beurre Blanc sauce
Crispy fed chicken with gochuchang sauce
Crispy eggplant with doenjang glaze, tofu cream and sesame

Our final lunch at Amano which started when we enjoyed a breakfast coffee and croissant in their bakery earlier on our trip did not disappoint. Delicious cheesy focaccia, mussel fritter and Burrata shared between us followed by individual mains including agnolotti with slow cooked beef shin and asparagus, smoked Warehou pate, grilled chicken with kale and chittara with scampi and chilli.

Agnolotti stuffed with slow cooked beef shin with mustard seeds and crunchy asparagus
Agnolotti with slow cooked beef shin
Focaccia with cheesy cow’s milk mozzarella filling
Burrata, sweetcorn, fermented chilli and chervil
Mussel fritter with pickled onion, preserved lemon and shaved fennel
Chittara with scampi, tomatoes and chilli
Chargrilled chicken with kale and chilli
Smoked warehou pate with green olive and sourdough

Great way to end our wonderful 2022/23 summer holiday.

There are so many other places we would have loved to have tried but we ran out of time on this trip. Auckland is definitely a foodie heaven that could do with much more exploration!

Picnics by the pool #rarotonga #cookislands

The last few days have involved lots of beautiful relaxed eating…the kind of days I spend most of the working year dreaming about.

Grilled Mahi Mahi and salad

Christmas leftovers, barbecues and grilled fresh fish all call for good salads and accompaniments … here are some recipes of the types of side dishes we’ve been enjoying alongside our meals.

The fresh ingredients particularly local tomatoes and cucumbers here in the Cook Islands are delicious …so simple green salads and cucumber salads have also been a mainstay with heartier sides like the ones below providing some variety.

Roast potatoes

Roast potatoes

Hasselback sweet potatoes

Vegetarian Rice Pilau

Black bean salsa

Pineapple salsa

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Heirloom tomato salad with Burrata

Mixed Salad with cucumber raita

Mixed salad with cucumber raita

Hope this provides some inspiration for the new year!

Delicious Roast Pig on the Spit #xmas #rarotonga #arcadiaretreat

We’ve been looking forward to joining our friends Neil and Maxine for Christmas at their beautiful Arcadia Retreat holiday property all year.

Neil had also suggested that we cook a whole pig on the spit for our special Cook Island Christmas lunch. Having Neil and Ben on hand, both trained Chefs made the idea a lot less daunting…Neil had also previously (successfully) roasted a pig over charcoal before – so had good credentials!

Our Christmas Roast Pig on the Spit!

Neil procured a 27kg local pig from Wigmores – known for it’s high quality produce. He also hired a huge rotisserie barbecue from TOA Gas in Avarua. Both essential items were delivered in timely fashion on the 23rd of December, allowing the pig to be snugly stored in a spare fridge with the shelves removed and the rotisserie bbq to be set up.

Snug as a whole pig in a fridge!

Ensuring your spit or rotisserie can manage the weight of your pig is a key consideration for success.

Ben and Neil up at 6am Christmas Day 2023

In his book Taste, Stanley Tucci tells a highly entertaining story about his first attempt at roasting a whole pig on spit, where they had to chop off it’s head to fit it on and then the rotisserie spit breaks because the pig was too heavy! I’d been reading same book in the lead up to Christmas so shared this tale with the chefs😆

Pig ready to rock ‘n roll!

Anyway needless to say, Neil and Ben did a fabulous job and our beautiful roast pork with shiny, crispy crackling was served up on time for Christmas lunch. The pig took about an hour to prepare and get onto the spit. They had it all set to roast at 7am on Christmas morning and it was ready to feast on by 12.30 after resting for an hour. They did of course check on it along the way but report that little needed to be done during the cooking time.

Ben with the finished product!

They also extracted fat from the rotisserie tray to bake while potatoes in a seperate bbq which were decadently delicious!

We also had accompaniments featuring locally grown fruit and vegetables including pineapple and young coconut salsa, a vegetable pilaf and a Zuchinni, tomato and capsicum ratatouille all washed down with beautiful NZ white wine.

Neil and Ben’s special roast pig made for a very special Christmas lunch by the pool in the Cook Islands. Thanks guys!

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole pig
  • Handfuls of Texan hot spice rub mix
  • Lots of Olive Oil
  • Handfuls of Sea salt

Method

1. Prepare your pig for the spit e.g remove the tail. Liberally rub the inside of the pig with large handfuls of rub

2. Put the pig on the spit

3. Rub the pig liberally with olive oil and large handfuls of sea salt

4. Put the rotisserie on high (200 degrees Celsius) for 40 minutes or so until skin begins to crisp up. Cover the pig’s ears in foil to avoid burning.

5. Lower heat to 150 degree Celsius and cook for a total of 4 hours, then allow to rest for 1 hour before carving and serving.