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 ♥