Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Have a fantastic day tomorrow, bless :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Gorseflower Cordial

Fancy one of these?

First, you'll need to pick approximately eleventy million of these: gorse flowers, plucked from one of the near countless numbers of gorse that dot the New Zealand countryside. They have the unique scent of coconut and when handled, have a keen sweet smell, not unlike freshly mown grass. You'll need quite a bit to make gorse flower cordial, which I used to make the cocktail pictured above.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Duck Scratchings

One of my jobs at the restaurant is to contribute ideas which, after some tinkering, could end up as viable, tasty dishes on the tapas menu. One day, I was watching head chef prepping duck legs for service, trimming off the excess skin and fat, when it occurred to me: duck scratchings! Just like pork scratchings, except more ducky! Crisp, puffy duck skins, roasted in the oven, dusted with salt and served as a tapa with beer - how unique! No one else in the world could possibly have come up with such an awesome idea!

68,203 results on Google proved me wrong.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Churros & Hot Chocolate

It's cold and miserable outside, and you're tucked up in front of the fire reading a juicy bodice-ripper/watching Jersey Shore. Suddenly, you get the urge...

Feeling better after peeing, you decide that what you want right now is a hot drink. But not just any old hot drink. And a snack would be good, too. A thick, Spanish-style hot chocolate and some piping hot cinnamon sugar-coated churros would be just about perfect, you think to yourself. Keen? Then read on...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Brining & Marinating Olives

Olives to me are a reminder of summer flavours and warmer climes. Bite into an olive and straight away you're transported to the warm waters of the Aegean, the dry hills of Greece. You could almost imagine lying under an olive tree, watching angry centaurs hurl amphorae of wine at British film crews, in town to record crap like "How to Turn a Goat Pen into Your Mediterranean Holiday Home!" for the Lifestyle Channel. Such is the evocative power of the olive!

Their meaty, salty flavour has made them popular around the world, and here in New Zealand, the drier parts of our countryside play host to sizable tracts of land devoted to their production. Olives are a familiar sight on the shelves of our supermarkets, deli's, and community markets; it beggars belief to think that it wasn't so long ago that they were considered, in this country anyway, quite a rarity.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Portuguese Custard Tarts

Portuguese custard tarts are rich, sweet, vanilla-laden mouthfuls of pure delight. Known in some quarters as "Devils Dainties" or the less imaginative "Coronary Cupcakes", I make them from time to time at work, and they're guaranteed big sellers. The recipe I use differs from most in that the custard is poured straight into the pastry to cook in the oven, rather than being cooked off beforehand. It's also thickened using yolks rather than a starch such as cornflour, resulting in a much richer flavour.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Changing of the Guard

That's my boss, Zana Price, head chef at Provedore, performing that end of evening ritual seen in restaurants around the world: ordering stock for the days to come. I worked with her for the last time on Sunday; she's leaving to take the helm at another establishment here in Napier. Zana's been a wealth of knowledge, and has done her best to knock some of that expertise into my noggin, right up until her last day. She has shown me so much, and been generous with both her time and patience; it's helped shape and form this new chef, and for that, I am very, very grateful.

Thank you, chef. Ngā mihi rā mō ngā rā kei mua i te aroaro - all the best for the future.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Glacé Cherries

I love fruit cake. For me, nothing beats the simple pleasure of biting into a big slice of fruit cake, with a cup of tea, my slippers, and a copy of Alzheimer's Weekly (when they remember to send it), all within reach. The integral part of a good fruit cake is of course, the fruit - plump, rich sultanas, along with zesty, sweet mixed peel - but pride of place in that delicious cakey-crown must surely go to the glacé cherry.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

DIY Crystallised Ginger UPDATED 8/7/10*

8/7/10 I've added something to the end of this post - read on...
Tired of watching fat cat supermarket owners flying around in Lear jets, paid for by the money you spent on over-priced baking products? Fight the power and stick it to 'the man' by making your own crystallised ginger! Yeah! 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Koura / Freshwater Crayfish

Despite being two totally separate species, there are a surprising number of
similarities between the small spindly aquatic animal and the gigantic biped holding it (above). Both species enjoy swimming and are often to be found frolicking amongst rocks. Both are capable of prolific levels of breeding; both too, can become quite fiesty when backed into a corner. There however, the differences end. One of these creatures tastes delicious dipped in pesto or melted butter; the other would require an evening of extensive wining and dining before the idea could even be broached.

Let's examine the smaller of the two: say hello to Paranephrops planifrons, more commonly known as koura, or the freshwater crayfish.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I'd Travel Through Time & Space For Good Coffee


How cool is this! It's an old police phone box, converted into a micro coffee bar! My sister and brother-in-law have recently moved to Edinburgh and found this (one of several dotted around the city) dispensing great coffee, juices, snacks and treats. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Once You've Had Black...

Black butter is a delicious fruit spread made from slow-cooked apples, cider, sugar, spices and liquorice. Over time, the ingredients combine to colour the spread a dark black-brown hue. It has its origins on the island of Jersey, where communities used to gather and make large batches using windfall apples from its cider orchards; the event became an excuse for full-scale merrymaking too, with dancing, singing and feasting taking place alongside the cooking.

Its use of liquorice distinguishes it from standard British fruit spreads, a reflection perhaps of Jersey's proximity to France and its culinary influences. Vive la difference, I say - any country* which gives us tasty cows & repeats on telly of Bergerac hurtling around the island in a grunty old Triumph can't be all that bad...

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


Tincturing is the age-old practice of using high-proof alcohol to extract key ingredients from herbs and spices for medicinal use. This method also served as a very effective means of preserving the extraction. Today, the practice has largely been sidelined due to the widespread availability of pharmaceutical product. Despite this, the practice enjoys a considerable following, particularly among medical herbalists. There is however, new found interest from a most unexpected quarter: bartenders and mixologists.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Look what turned up in the mail - a copy of revered Australian chef Tetsuya Wakuda's self-titled cookbook, courtesy of Barb at Winos & Foodies! Recently, Barb ran a competition in conjunction with Electrolux where the major prize was a place at a Tetsuya masterclass at his Sydney restaurant. I was lucky enough to win a copy of "Tetsuya" - not bad, eh! It's a beautiful book, full of recipes and photographs of the most elegant food. I'd show you some pictures but the light's not that flash today because of the dire weather, so pop along to Amazon to see them, or just visit Tetsuya's site.

A monumentally large thank you (complete with fireworks) to Barb :)


Is there anyone out there that could possibly confirm that this is a blackthorn thicket? I'm 75% sure that it is - the leaves have a serrated edge and the branches have sharp spikes all over them; the berries look like sloe, being blue, but they've shrivelled somewhat being well past their prime. The shots were taken about a month ago by a friend's vineyard, just outside Otane here in Hawke's Bay - apologies for their quality. Any help in identifying them would be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Rose Hips

Mention rose hips to people today and you're likely to receive baffled looks. Like crab apples, penny farthings and the blood sacrifice, rose hips have fallen from people's memories for the simple reason that no one uses them anymore. Where once they served as a free and plentiful supply of vitamin C to the nation, rose hips were eventually displaced from kitchen pantries by convenient commercial product. Housewives were spared the time consuming process of making the preparation; the downside however was the loss of knowledge about the rose hip's use and considerable worth, knowledge accumulated over many generations and now simply forgotten.

Prickly Pear & Cactus Figs

The surprise I felt at discovering large numbers of wild cacti growing near Napier was akin to finding a pair of knickers in one's car glovebox. Questions sprang immediately to mind: how did they get there? How long have they been there? Will I get a rash if I touch them?

On the face of it, Hawke's Bay wouldn't seem like the kind of place to expect to find cacti. It can however get quite dry, and the plants do seem quite localised, growing in abundance near the beach at Bayview, a small coastal village ten minutes north of Napier. Upon paying a visit, they made for quite an impressive sight. What particularly interested me was the fact that they seemed to be covered in what looked like fruit.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy

Hello! April was absolutely mad, with most of my time spent doing little else but work, at either the restaurant or the orchard. Consequently, the poor old blog has suffered, but I'm spending the weekend playing catch up so you can expect to see at least a couple of posts by the end of tomorrow. In the mean time, here's a picture of some lads looking decidedly riled (by the way, the cactus is a clue to my next post...).

Picture from

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Pint Of Ice Cream & A Pack Of Rothmans, Thanks

On the face of it, beer and ice cream make for an unlikely combination. Like steak and kidney muffins, or Sandra Bullock and Oscar statuettes, these are pairings that would never occur naturally but every once in a while, fate throws these things together and the end result can be pleasantly surprising (or just surprising).

In the case of my stout ice cream, it worked splendidly! I was initially dubious about the idea but on paper it seemed to make sense; stout is packed with so much body and flavour - toffee, chocolate and coffee notes - incorporate that into ice cream and you should have the recipe for a delicious bowl of "win". So, it was off to the Kai Lab to give it a go.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Preserved Lemons

Aren't weddings grand! Head chef got married in the weekend; the restaurant closed for the day, with all staff attending along with the happy couple's friends and family. The exchange of vows took place in a forest, the reception was in a beautifully refurbished hall; the food was fantastic, drinks flowed aplenty and a joyous time was had by all. I got pleasantly wobbly and danced like Nureyev (that's Dave Nureyev, my local plumber who has this unfortunate dance-like twitch; not the famous ballet lad).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I Don't Think You're Ready For This Jelly*

A good crabapple jelly should be crystal clear, devoid of the flotsam and jetsam of bog-standard jams, and yet still be packed full of flavour. Made properly, it should be firm but not unyielding, while still possessing a degree of wobble - just like a pair of gym-honed buttocks.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jam On It

It's been a disappointing year for berryfruit (stonefruit too), largely because of the diabolical weather - lots of rain and heat promoting mould and fungal growth, as well as insufficient sun to colour up fruit. I managed to round up enough blackberries for the cordial I made earlier, but when it came to the jam, I had to bulk out what I had with frozen stuff. There's a marginal tradeoff in terms of flavour, but it's a small price to pay for home made jam.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

From the Kai Lab: Creating My First Cocktail!

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing.  ~Wernher Von Braun

Seeing my glorious creation glisten in the bright light of the afternoon sun filled me with a glowing sense of pride. Upon waking the next morning, that glowing feeling had been replaced by nausea, an aversion to all odours, and the need to tell the person poking my eyes with needles to stop. In hindsight, it would have been prudent to ease back on the number of glasses of "research" I drank which got me to this point. The things you do for the chance of winning tickets to the biggest cocktail competition in New Zealand!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Trouble 't Mill

Sorry guys - the new part for my laptop doesn't work, hence the lack of posts over the week. Fingers crossed, the new, new part will turn up tomorrow and I can start posting (I'm presently using my flatmate's laptop and have to give it back - cheers, T). In the meantime, here's an Indian gentleman hurling food around:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Chambord & Hot Chocolate

Working in a hot commercial kitchen often drives a person to drink. At the bottom end of the scale, there's water, essential for coping with the heat; there's also soft drinks (I'm looking at you, Golden Circle Creaming Soda, damn your economically-priced, sugar-soaked hide), through to Red Bull, providing energy for many a flagging chef. And then there's the "heavy stuff", downed by the vat load by the more idiosyncratic members of the chefing profession.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Getting A Bit Chilli...


They've been a little slow to take off, but my chillis now seem to be flourishing. Keep an eye out for them in a post reasonably soon...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Remember My Blackberry Patch?

Well, some of the blackberries ended up in this!

First Apples Of The Season

Alkmenes, a type of Cox's Orange Pippin.

Alkmene's are lovely and crisp with an acidy bite, not dissimilar to a Granny Smith. These are a little over ripe, hence the beautiful candy apple red colour and bold fleck.

The next varieties of apple to arrive at the fruit department of your local supermarket are Cox's Orange Pippin, followed by Gala and Royal Gala. Late March/April will see Braeburn, Fuji, Jazz, Pacific Queen and Pacific Rose. 

Autumn's on its way, people. Make hay while the sun doth shine...

Back On Deck!

I lost a big chunk o' stuff off the laptop thanks to a weird power problem, but fortunately I make back ups on a regular basis - that is, except for the photos and written material I had for the next three posts (not to mention a bite sized piece of my music collection). After re-inserting the hair I pulled out of my head in frustration, I'll just simply have to re-trace my steps - ce'st la vie. Here's hoping you guys are still around - if you are, I really appreciate your patience. Normal service resumes now...

Thursday, February 18, 2010


A thousand apologies for the lack of posts - my laptop's thrown a major-league wobbly & I've been out of commission for the last week. Finger's crossed, it'll be sorted by tomorrow.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

In Wellington & Want To Learn More About Wine?

Wine blogger and writer for M2 and Homestyle magazines Jules van Cruysen is teaming up with cult beer bar Hashigo Zake to bring Wellington a series of fun and informative wine tastings - the likes of which Wellington hasn't seen before!

First up is "Wine for Newbies!".

Be prepared to taste nine exciting cult wines over the course of an evening and learn

  • how wine is made
  • how age affects wine
  • what dirt-oir is
  • how to taste wine like a pro 
and much, much more.

All for only $25 and only at Hashigo Zake on March 2 at 6.30pm. Seats are strictly limited so secure yours by contacting Jules, or call into Hashigo Zake to make a booking.

UPDATE Jules is planning one for Hawke's Bay soon - I'll keep you posted...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

From The Kai Lab: Smoked Paprika (Part 1)

It's a bit rough, and certainly not a patch on the real thing but pictured above is my tiny batch (two whole tablespoons!) of homemade smoked paprika!

Smoked paprika has its origins in Spain, where it's called Pimentón. Easily identified by its strong smoky aroma and rich red colour, Pimentón is made by grinding chilli peppers smoked over oak for periods as long as three to four weeks. Its sweet, smoky smell and flavour is an essential ingredient in a raft of dishes in Spanish cuisine, such as paella, and most notably in the making of chorizo. The degree of heat and spiciness is manipulated by the addition (or removal) of the pepper's own seeds to the grind.

Sunday, February 07, 2010


I was visiting the mystery location of my blackberries, checking on their condition, when I came across these:

Created with flickr slideshow.

Where did they come from?

Friday, February 05, 2010

Now On Facebook (With Added Twitter)!

I've finally gotten round to putting the Kai up on Facecrack. Become a fan by clicking here - ta very much! I'm also on the Twitter should you wish to read my mutterings over the ether - clickety. I should point out too, that there are permanent links to Curious Kai on Facebook and Twitter over on the side bar (to the right of this sentence). Also, my smoked paprika experiment is drawing to a close - more on that later.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The New Old Aunt Daisy!

Remember the old Aunt Daisy Cookbook I bought a while back? It was in a pretty sorry state - ripped cover, itself in two pieces; loose pages and so on. This was it then:

And here it is now, back from the bookbinders!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Ooh, Shiny! Contest Coming Soon, Too...

Hello! Welcome to the new look Curious Kai. It's been a long time coming and now it's finally here - isn't it brilliant! The person responsible for the design is
Josh Morgan, a brand spanking new web designer based in Wellington. I had a few ideas in mind I've been carrying for a while - the look of the header and the logo is based on some old flour sacks I came across at a garage sale - and Josh turned them into the gem you see before you. There's still a bit of tinkering to do, so don't be alarmed if you see things come and go before your very eyes, but give it a few days and you'll see the resolved final product. My thanks to Josh for all his hard work; I still can't believe my luck at coming across such talent. Big love too, to my sister Heidi and her husband Rob for making this all happen - bless your little hearts :)

Woohoo! I feel like a proper blogger now! To celebrate the new look of t' blog, I've decided to run a little competition but more on that during the week - stay tuned! In the meantime, here's a little food related comedy:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Co-Post: Alli & Nigel’s Lavender Martini

There are times when I enjoy a good martini. I've noticed too that after my third, a mysterious transformation takes place: I begin channeling the voice of actor Sean Connery's most famous character, James Bond - master spy and fan of the vodka martini. Unfortunately, the channeling degenerates rapidly from rougish Scottish burr to full scale slurring, complete with stumbling actions. Nevertheless, the martini remains a favourite of mine.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Juliet & Romeo

Clean, grassy and with a citrus finish, this is the perfect drink for a hot summer's day.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The White Lady Pie Cart

Where do you go in Auckland when you feel like a late night scoff? One place in particular has satisfied the growling bellies of many a drunk, clubber, shift worker, insomniac and combinations thereof over the past few decades. And it's not on Twitter...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Secret Blackberry Stash, continued...

My blackberries, eight days ago, and now:

Grow my pretties, grow! Grow like the invasive weed that you are!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Make Your Own Branding Iron

"Make your own branding iron?", you say? Absolutely! Using materials found lying around the house, you too can act out those fantasies of riding, roping and branding people who pop their collars delicious cuts of meat! Watch your next barbecue take on the sights and sounds of a genuine Texan ranch.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Apricot Sorbet

Baby Alaskas with Brandied Apricots - the picture in the recipe book looked quite impressive and the recipe didn't seem that hard to follow. The first step required softened ice cream, so I pulled it from the freezer as required, then popped outside to hang out the washing. I promptly forgot all about the ice cream and went into town for some lunch (and to ransack the $10 DVD bin at The Warehouse). Upon discovering the small pond which had formed on the counter and kitchen floor when I got back, I realised it was time to reconsider the project...

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

My Secret Blackberry Stash

See the little green dot? That's a drupelet, the first of the many individual fruits that make up a blackberry! This is my secret blackberry bush, located on Tracy Island, next to the paddock where Shergar is presently grazing. There are drupelets all over the bush so it's been well pollinated. I'll be swimming in blackberrys soon and I have a few things I want to make, such as cordial and jam, and maybe some special treats. Birds love them too so I'll be covering it up with old vineyard bird netting, but I'll leave part of it exposed for them. There'll be more on this soon, so watch this space...

Monday, January 04, 2010

To Dry For - Designer Tea Towels

Three words: buy, their, stuff! To Dry For are a small UK-based boutique business who have the most amazing, eclectic and unique range of tea towels available for sale. Employing the talents of an array of British artists and designers, why should you put up with the same old bog-standard chequered nonsense in your kitchen? The prices are pretty good too.

Mr T (towel) -
I came across them in the process of looking for a birthday present - aren't they brilliant! And such a clever concept for a business. I'm going to buy a few as art! Check out their range of tea towels at their website, visit their blog and follow them on twitter.