Thursday, December 13, 2012

Victory Cupcakes (Vanilla Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream)

I'm currently sitting in my room, wondering where the year has gone, while Jason ticks off all the items we need to pack. In about 2 hours, we will be off to the airport.

It seems like only yesterday that we decided that we should take a big trip to Europe and China to celebrate the completion of our first year of work and, boy, did a year fly by!

A lot has happened this year and I'd like to think I've grown up a lot. I've designed a 3 of roads, monitored the construction of 5 and been a tiny part of some very high profile projects -what more could a graduate ask for?

I also became a part of the Engenerate (young engineers in NZ) committee, planned some successful events and met some pretty amazing engineers (both young and old!).

The most spectacular moment this year for me, however, is something that I can't take credit for. 

Yes, my dears, I am Jason and I are engaged! A bit more on that next year though..

The recipe I'm sharing with you today is what I call "Victory Cupcakes" and is basically what I bring when there is a special occasion. This year "Victory Cupcakes" have been present at:

  • My work to celebrate our engagement
  • Jason's work to celebrate our engagement
  • My father's 50th birthday
  • Megan's birthday
  • and many social gatherings that call for cupcakes

So, as you can see, it's my go-to, no fail option whenever I am out of ideas. It's actually quite a simple recipe that is easy to make but is always a big hit. I make these on most special occasions as it's easy to churn out many without varied results.

This will probably be last recipe post of 2012, my dears, as I'm not sure how much time I will have to sit down and share with you while I'm overseas. I will instead post pictures of our adventures in Europe and then be out of touch from mid January to mid February (blogger is banned in China, you see).

However, I do promise that any food and accommodation adventures/misadventures will be reported to you upon my return.

EDIT: I've just realised that 2 years ago, on this day (approximately) was when I started blogging! Quite fitting, don't you think?

Vanilla Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream (makes 18 normal sized or 75 mini sized)

Vanilla Cupcake 

125g butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 cup plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup milk

1. Pre-heat oven to 190°C.
2. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla essence until fluffy.
3. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
4. In another bowl, sift together flour and baking powder. Fold into the creamed mixture.
5. Stir in milk and spoon the mixture into a lined cupcake pan and bake for 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
6. Leave the cupcakes in pans for 5 to 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Cool completely before frosting.

Strawberry Buttercream

50g butter, softened
1 teaspoon strawberry essence
1 cup icing sugar
1 Tablespoon hot water
(optional: food colouring)

1. Mix everything together until its a spreadable consistency. Add more icing sugar if it is too running or more water if it is too stiff.
2. Pipe or spread over cupcakes with a spatula or a spoon.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Spanish Night Market

I have this really bad habit of signing up to newsletters, updates and clubs. I'm just a sucker for a good deal -or even the possibility of one. As a result, I have a wallet that is bulging billion loyalty cards threatening to explode at any moment and an inbox with filled with deal websites that needs to be cleared daily. I think it must be a girl thing.

"Lucy" I hear you say, "It's so easy to kick the habit! Just throw all your cards away and unsubscribe to those websites!"

Let me assure you, dear readers, I'm not complaining. In fact, I frequently stumble upon all sorts of weird and wonderful gatherings such as the Spanish Night Market in town. 

At some point during my university years, I must have signed up to the Hispanic Club on Orientation day and promptly forgot about it as I moved to the signing sheet of the next club. Since that day, I never heard anything about any club events until a few weeks ago when I received an email at work telling me about the first of many Spanish Night Markets held at the Hispanic Club at the Premier Building.

It took me by surprise and I almost took it for junk mail, but curiosity (and my love of paella) got the better of me. 

The entrance to the Premier Building is situated in a small alleyway tucked away between a couple of bars. It is actually a little hard to find if you don't know what you're looking for and I would have walked straight passed it had it not been for Jason's keen eyes. 

The last thing I expected when I pictured "Spanish Night Market" in my mind was "apartment looking" but, once we scaled 3 floors, we pleasantly surprised. Temporary tables and chairs had been set up in what is usually a Latin dance studio and the room was packed with all sorts of people speaking Spanish in loud voices -the atmosphere was fantastic! The line to the front counter was very long so we took some time to enjoy the Spanish music and decide what we wanted.

Estrella Damm - $5 and Sangria - $6
We started off with a bottle of Estrella Damm and a very generous glass of Sangria. The Sangria was full of flavour and not too boozy while the Cerveza (beer) was refreshing and tasted quite similar to Corona. 

When we finally reached the front of the queue, the reason for the long wait became very clear. As you can imagine, a dance school isn't equipped with state of the art cooking equipment (or any at all!) so our poor hosts were producing their empanadas from a small household toaster oven, churros from an electrical frying pan and making their sangria as they are ordered. At least no one could complain that the food wasn't fresh!
Empanada - $3 each

The empanadas proved to be a great starter with crispy pastry and filled with beef mince and mixed vegetables. They weren't super special or anything but kept our hunger at bay while we waited for the main event.

Chicken Paella - $10
The main reason we came to the Spanish Night Market was for the Paella and, I have to say, I was very impressed. When given a choice, I usually go for a seafood paella but, tonight, the pan with chicken and chorizo looked more alluring. Like everything else, there was a big wait but it was worth it to get the first bowl out of a new batch! The paella trumped any I've had before with generous amounts of chicken and chorizo and other goodies like onion, peas and lots of sweet paprika. It even had the authentic sticky, crunchy bottom!

And then I instagrammed it.
The generous helping of paella meant that we didn't have the tummy space left for dessert which was just as well because the line still ran to the entrance but let me assure you that the churros with dulce de leche looked fantastic!

If you, too, want to enjoy authentic Spanish food in the Big Little City, check out the Spanish Night Market every Friday evening at the Hispanic Club -Level 3, Premier Building, 2 Durham St East and be sure to try their amazing paella! 

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Circus Circus

Having grown up on the North Shore of Auckland, I naturally had no knowledge of other suburbs except the fact they were all very very far away. In fact, it wasn't until I had started university that it even occurred to me that people even lived outside of "the Shore."

My lack of knowledge on Auckland geography meant that, for the first few months of university, most conversations were followed by a Google maps search and a realisation that I really needed to get out more. Since then, my eyes (and my stomach) have been broadened and I'm now lucky enough to have a job which takes me all over Auckland for lunch.

I was super excited when I first stumbled upon Circus Circus in the heart of Mount Eden -what kind of cafe is guarded by lions and has clowns hanging from the ceiling?! I had to venture in and, I must say, it did not disappoint!

 Circus Circus is made up of what seems like many different rooms pieced together by walkways. There are spaces for all sorts of diners -spacious areas for large groups or tables in the smaller rooms, or even in the walkways, for a more intimate affair. Every single space has a table in it and it's a good thing too as it's quite hard to get a table sometimes!

Bubble and Squeak - $15.90
My first visit to Circus Circus was with a couple of girlfriends who had been often and declared it the bestest cafe in Auckland. We all had a very early breakfast that morning so were all quite hungry by the time lunch rolled around. 

I ordered a Bubble and Squeak which was served deconstructed style with fried potatoes, bacon, onions, cheese and poached egg. I was immediately impressed with the portion size and then the perfectly poached egg on top. The dish was very well seasoned and the potatoes were expertly cooked with a crispy outer and super soft center.

Eggs Benedict - $16.90
Asia ordered what she believed to be the best Eggs Benedict she'd ever tasted -which is a very big compliment when it's coming from someone who's worked in a cafe kitchen. Again, the eggs were beautifully poached with a runny center.

Pan-fried Field Mushrooms - $17.90
Bella's order of mushrooms smelled amazing when it arrived. Not much beats bacon and mushrooms -except maybe bacon and mushrooms served in a brandy cream sauce! A great combination with very meaty mushrooms and thick cut mix grain bread to soak up all that delicious sauce!

Gourmet Chicken Burger - $17.90
After bragging to Jason about finally "entering the circus" I took him there so he too could experience the food there. We had arrived after the lunch rush that day so our food came quite quickly. There was a very generous portion of the homemade chicken patty so we could share it between the two of us. The sweetness of the beetroot and candied onion went very well with the saltiness of the brie and chicken patty.

White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake - $4.90
Being with Jason meant that we had to have dessert and we finished off our delicious meal with a small slice of Raspberry Cheesecake. It had a good dense, melt in the mouth base and the flavour packed quite the punch. However, we found that the cheesecake itself was not as smooth as others and was a bit lumpy in places.

After relaying my food adventures to friends and co-workers I had, again, deduced that I didn't get out of "the Shore" very much. Everyone (well, those who frequented Central Auckland) knew about Circus Circus and had quoted it as being one of their favourites!

And to think they'd been keeping it from me all this time!

Circus Circus can be found at 447 Mt Eden Road, Auckland, New Zealand

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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie

Although winter is technically over, I can't help but feel that it hasn't fully given way to let summer take its place. Sure, there are times where the sunlight bursts through the windows and it genuinely looks like a decent day outside. However, this is almost always followed by heavy rain within the space of 10 minutes. It's OK though, the rain stops after about 15 minutes. Whereupon this process repeats itself till the evening.

The weather in Auckland doesn't know how to make up its mind. 

Oh, and it's still super cold.

Now that I've gotten my complaining out of the way, I can focus on the good things about this cold weather that has been dragging on for way too long (I'm still a little bitter though..).

The reason for my optimism is that the cold weather gives me an excuse to continue eating winter food such as soups, casseroles and, most importantly, pies! 

Nothing, and I mean Nothing, beats a good pie. Period.

I got the idea to make these when my colleague had a pie for lunch and, for that whole week, I couldn't get it off my mind. Something about pies just brings a smile to my face and great thing about home made ones is that you know exactly what has gone into it.

My recipe for Chicken Pot Pie is quite easy and incredibly delicious so I strongly suggest you give it a go before winter truly ends. It's a great way to pack vegetables into your meal and the fact that it only has one lid means you have the crunchy pastry without a lot of the fat!

The store bought pastry I had wasn't the best size for my pie tins so I spooned some of the filling onto the offcuts and baked for about 20 minutes. 

It was fantastic.

In fact, I think I'll make these as snacks next time.

Chicken Pot Pies (Makes 5 large or 10 small)

1 Tablespoon olive oil
300g chicken, cut into 2cm cubes (I prefer thigh meat because it's juicier)
1 onion, finely diced
1 large potato, cut into 2cm cubes
200g bacon, roughly chopped
1 can peas, drained
2 Tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 litre chicken stock
50g butter 
1/3 cup plain flour
salt and pepper to taste
2 to 4 sheets of frozen puff pastry
1 egg, beaten

1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add onion and bacon and cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes, until onion is translucent and bacon is crispy.
2. Reduce the pot to a low heat. Add potato and half of the stock until potato is tender.
3. In another pan, melt the butter over a medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour has browned slightly. Gradually add the rest of the chicken stock and continue to stir.
4. Add the vegetable mixture, chicken, peas, parsley and thyme and season with salt and pepper to your liking.
5. Bring the pan back to a simmer and cook for another 7-8 minutes, stirring constantly.
6. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
7. Divide the filling between however many ramekins you have, leaving about 1cm to the top.
8. Cut out rounds 2cm larger than edge of your ramekins/pie tins. Put the lids on top of the filling and fold the sides to make a pretty edge. Cut some small lines in the centre of the lid for steam to escape.
9. Brush the tops with the beaten egg and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the pies are golden brown and bubbling.
10. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Note: If you have left over pastry and a little extra filling, you can always spoon some filling onto flaky pastry squares for a delicious snack like above. Just bake for 20 minutes and you're done!

Saturday, October 6, 2012


5 years ago, a little Chinese girl sat on the grass outside the Owen G Glen building of Auckland University getting steadily more annoyed because her best friend hadn't arrived yet and they had promised to attend their first ever Engineering lecture together. 

Engineers doing what they do best.

It's hard to believe that we made it through four years of hard work and have found ourselves respectable jobs now -we even made some amazing friends and equally amazing stories! Now that I have worked for over a year, university seems like a lifetime ago and work life just seems to get in the way of socialising. Tuesday, however, was a different story.

Two very happy graduands
Tuesday was graduation.

While the weather threatened to bucket down many times, we managed to stay dry during the procession from the University to the Town Hall (only the Law faculty got wet *hehe*). Most of us Engineering kids took the day off work to visit the old haunts, take photos and reminisce. 

Jason getting capped

Although the days of skiving off lectures to hang out in the sun are long gone, it's nice to know that we can still get together and talk as if no time has passed.

Getting capped
Two very happy graduates
Hope you enjoyed/thanks for putting up with the pictures. I'll be back with a recipe very very soon ♥

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Stir Fried Egg and Tomatoes

Everyone, at some point in time, has had the horrific experience of opening the pantry to find it bare -even worse than that is when it is full of things that don't go together. If you're anything like me after a long day, you're usually too tired to go to the supermarket let alone trying to come up with a delicious meal on the spot.

Luckily for me, my parents taught  me a delicious dish that only requires two main ingredients that most people have lying around and, the best thing is that it is incredibly simple and takes almost no time at all. It's the perfect thing for a busy working person or a strapped-for-cash student. I could cook this on my own at the age of 7 so it's pretty much fool proof!

Not pictured: eggs
Despite what the picture above suggests, the two main ingredients are tomatoes and eggs -the photo is just a photo of the ingredients that were sourced from my garden (wouldn't it be cool if you could grow eggs?!). 

Although this may sound like a strange combination, be assured that the result is amazing. The scrambled eggs provide a nice bite while the tomatoes practically melt into a sweet, yet tart sauce.

Stir fried egg and tomatoes is a dish that can be found in homes all over China and comes in many different forms. All recipes include salt, pepper, spring onions and a little sugar to bring out the tomato's natural sweetness. The recipe I've posted below is one that I have tweaked to my own specific tastes -Shao xing wine to give a little boozy flavour, soy sauce (instead of salt) to add a bit of colour and coriander to make it more fragrant.

The best thing about this dish is that it comes together in less than 15 minutes and is my go to recipe if I'm ever in need of a quick lunch or some comfort food. The recipe is incredibly simple to remember and is easy to tweak to your own tastes so you don't have to memorise a massive list of ingredients.

Stir Fried Egg and Tomatoes go extremely well with some steamed rice and is best enjoyed piping hot. It's also quite nice cold which makes it nice for a packed lunch. 

What is your go to recipe?

Lucy's Stir Fried Egg and Tomatoes (Serves 2)

3 large eggs, beaten
2 large tomatoes, sliced into rough wedges
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 spring onion, finely chopped
2 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon Shaoxing wine (Chinese cooking wine)
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon white pepper
handful of coriander, chopped

1. Add vegetable to a hot a wok or large frying pan and swirl to coat the base.
2. Pour in eggs and scramble until they are just cooked but still light.
3. Throw in tomatoes and cover for 2-3 minutes, until they start to release their juices.
4. Add spring onion, soy sauce, cooking wine, white pepper and sugar and mix until combined.
5. Stir through coriander and let the sauce reduce a little before transferring to a serving dish.
6. Sprinkle a little extra coriander over the top.
7. Enjoy piping hot!

Friday, August 31, 2012


It all happened on a cold, dark night. I was sitting in the back seat of the car when my cousin's girlfriend turned around and offered me $120 worth of vouchers to an Indian restaurant. My eyes narrowed.

"What's the catch?"

"No catch, I just don't like Indian food and they will expire while I'm away on holiday" she said.

And that, my friends, is the story of how I got the chance to experience an Indian feast at Bolliwood.

Although I couldn't convince her to come along and try Indian with me (alas, she is more stubborn than I), I managed to talk my parents into trying something new. 

As I've mentioned before, my father isn't what you call a daring foodie. Although he is often heard bragging about all the freaky things he has eaten (rat, snake, donkey etc.), he finds it very hard to branch out and try different cuisines -so much that my mother usually ends up cooking a bowl of noodles when we come home!

Fortunately, this night was different. 

We arrived for an early dinner and were sat right in front of a big screen playing Indian music videos. Although the restaurant looked a bit empty, we noticed that most of the tables had been reserved and there was even a party on the mezzanine floor. 

Kingfisher Jug - $23
While glossing over the menu, we ordered a big jug of Kingfisher beer which was light and refreshing. 

Tandoori Chicken - $19.50
I have to admit that, before this dinner, I hadn't tried much Indian food aside from the occasional Butter Chicken and garlic naan from the university food court. And if I was feeling particularly advendurous,  I would have a Chicken Korma or an Aloo Gobi. But, because I was dining with others, I had the opportunity to be more adventurous with the ordering.

We started off with a full Tandoori Chicken which was very juicy and full of flavour. The yoghurt sauce was a great accompaniment.

Honey Cauliflower - $11.50
One of my favourite dishes of the night was the honey cauliflower. The battered morsels had the perfect combination of crunch while being tender on the inside. It's appearance is reminiscent of the Chinese sweet and sour pork (finding similarities make my parents feel more comfortable) but I would choose this over sweet and sour pork any day!

Butter chicken - $18.90, Fish Masala - $20.90, Goat Curry - $19.50, Veggie Manchoorian $16.90 and Garlic Naan - $3.90 each
Because it was my dad's first Indian meal, I felt that he had to try the very famous Butter Chicken with Garlic Naan ("it's like the Peking Duck of Indian cuisine" I said). As for the rest, we took recommendations from our very helpful waitress which turns out to be the best decision I've ever made. 

As I had predicted, the Butter Chicken was delicious. The meat was tender and the tomato gravy flavoursome. The surprises came with the new dishes recommended by the waitress. My favourite of the curries was the Fish Tikka Masala -fish isn't something I had ever associated with curries but I'm definitely going to order more in the future! Contrary to what I had expected, the tender pieces stayed intact and every bite was melt in the mouth.

The last was the Vegetable Manchurian which I am told is an Indian-Chinese dish. This mixture of chopped capsicum, cabbage, carrot and beans, with countless spices stirred through, was an explosion of flavour in every spoonful. 

After this experience, I can confidently say that I will no longer stick to Butter Chicken when I go to an Indian restaurant and will definitely convince my friends to do the same. 

And as for my father? He didn't need a second dinner when we got home. I'm sure that means a great big tick from him!

Bolliwood can be found at
110 Ponsonby Road, Auckland , New Zealand.

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