Sunday, January 19, 2014

Easy Stir-fry

Sometimes, I get home from work after 6pm and don't want to labour over the kitchen counter.

Sometimes, I just don't want to spend a fortune at the supermarket before getting home.

Sometimes, I am just plain lazy.

It is times like these, I'm grateful that I have access to a wok.

A simple stir-fry is my go to dish whenever I feel like putting minimal effort into cooking but still have a very nutritious meal. The best thing about this recipe is that you can vary the ingredients and the quantities to suit your own tastes and the number of guests you have -I usually go with 1/4 meat to 3/4 vegetables, but I often throw in some tofu or just go with vegetables.

My go to meat is pork and I usually just pick out any vegetables that catch my eye while I'm at the supermarket -anything crunchy like snow peas, broccoli and bok choy is great. Most days, I just use whatever is left over from other dishes I've made!

The best thing about this dish (other than being quick and yummy) is that it costs less than the local takeaways. I do most of my shopping at my local Chinese supermarket where all my fresh ingredients can be obtained for less than $6.00. 

So please give this a try and tell me all the cool combinations you have tried in your own kitchen!

Lucy's Easy Stir-fry


1 cup pork, sliced into strips (or chicken or prawns or whatever takes your fancy..)
2 heaped tsp cornflour
1 tsp seasame oil
2 tsp light soy sauce
3 cups seasonal vegetables (the crunchier, the better!)
1 1/2 Tbs vegetable oil for frying
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 Tbs shaoxing wine
2 Tbs light soy sauce
2 tsp white sugar

Cornflour slurry (optional, for sauce):
1 tsp cornflour
1 Tbs cold water


1. Mix sesame oil, cornflour and the first measure of soy sauce into a slurry and coat the sliced pork evenly.
2. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or deep frying pan and add the garlic. 
3. When the garlic becomes fragrant, add the pork and fry for about 3 minutes or until it is cooked through. 
4. Add the vegetables and fry for another 3 minutes.
5. Add the shaoxing wine, second measure of soy sauce and sugar and stir until completely mixed through the ingredients.
6. If you want a nice smooth sauce, combine the ingredients for the cornflour slurry in a separate bowl and stir through the stir-fry.
7. Serve with a bowl of hot steaming rice.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Eurotrip, chapter 4: Pre-Christmas Paris

After our short visit to Luisa's house, we boarded the train bound for Frankfurt for our flight to Paris. That day was mostly travel filled, with a little stop in Denmark, so we didn't arrive in Paris until it was fully dark. The metro was super easy to navigate and we were able to find our line quickly and find the apartment we had booked.

Left: Inside Charles De Gaulle airport, Paris.
Top right: train station in Ösnabrück.
Bottom right: writing in my diary on the train from 
Ösnabrück to Frankfurt

Up until this point during our trip, we had been able to get away with speaking English to everyone we've encountered. We had gotten by with a few greetings in the local language but really not much more.

That was until we arrived at our apartment in Paris, or what Jason and I like call the most stressful part of our tripInstead of the English speaking apartment manager we called at the airport, we were met with a little old French speaking lady who didn't know a word of English! 

Our tiny 20m² Parisian apartment
Hand gestures and animated talking was able to get us some of the way but paying for the room became a problem as we had to ask where the nearest ATM was. Fortunately, we met a lovely Spanish man who spoke both French AND English and was able to show Jason while I waited anxiously in the room. 

Other than that awkward encounter, we were stoked with our apartment - which was positively Parisian (and has apparently changed a bit since we last stayed!). At a small 20m², the little room was able to fit a double bed, a small dining table and even a kitchen which was hidden inside a cupboard! We also had our own bathroom next door. We were close to a metro station, supermarket and within walking distance to most attractions in town. 

Notre Dame
We spent our first morning just wandering the streets without really having a plan and we didn't even realise we were at the Notre Dame when we arrived! To be perfectly honest, I had expected it to be a little bigger so it took us a little while to figure out where we were! It was incredibly humbling being inside a building that had been around for hundreds of years and stepping into the cathedral was like stepping into a whole different world. The stained glass windows were so very grand, as were the thousands of lit candles that decorated the interior. 

Top: Centre Georges Pompidou
Bottom: Stravinsky Fountain
Just up the road was the Centre Pompidou which houses a large public library (the Bibliothèque publique d'information), a modern art museum (Musèe National d'Art Moderne) and the IRCAM, a music centre. We didn't end up going inside as there were massive lines outside that never seemed to be moving but were content marveling at the 25ft free-standing art installation which decorated its exterior.

We had lunch by the Straivinsky Fountain (La Fontaine Stravinsky) which includes 16 scuptures inspired by Igor Stravinsky's major works. 

Left: Marché Franprix - the supermarket underneath our apartment building
Top right: Jason bites into a Croque-monsieur
Bottom right: banana and Nutella waffle from Häagen-Dazs
We found that food was generally very expensive in Paris so we were pretty stoked to have our own kitchen. Most nights we shopped in the supermarket beneath our apartment building for goodies such as cheese, baguettes, eggs and cured meats. Fruit was quite expensive as it was the middle of winter but wine and chocolate was a lot cheaper than back home!

E. Dehillerin
Inside E. Dehillerin
One of our stops along the way was E. Dehillerin. I put this on our list as it was one of Julia Child's kitchen store while she was attending cooking school. Stepping inside was akin to entering some sort of hoarder's paradise. The interior was filled, top to bottom, with pots and pans of all shapes and sizes, chocolate moulds, catering sized pots (ones that I could fit in!) and even the ceiling had ladles and whisks hanging off it!

Tuileries Garden
The Tuileries was a bit bare in the winter and we weren't able to witness the lush green gardens that had been described to us. Instead, we saw bare ground and bare trees which, in my opinion, had a charm of its own. 

Palais Garnier
After seeing photos of the Palais Garnier opera house, I knew we had to visit. Used as the setting for The Phantom of the Opera, Palais Garnier is the epitome of high society and everything lavish. The opera house presents about 380 performances of opera, ballet and other concerts each year.

The Grand Foyer

Next stop: Euro Disney, Paris

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Casablanca, Orewa

I try not to make a habit of blogging about restaurants I visit for a special occasions because.. well.. you know, it kinda detracts from the reason we're there. I usually end up taking sneaky photos on my phone when I think nobody is looking so some of the photos I get are sometimes after someone's taken a good chunk of their food. This was the case when I came to Casablanca with Jason's family but, since it was my birthday, they took exception =)

Casablanca opened up late last year and is situated right on the main strip near Orewa Beach. Although it's only been opened for a few months, it's already a big hit with the locals. Taking its influences from North Africa and Eastern Mediterranean countries, it's a little different from the restaurants I usually frequent and my trips here have allowed me to experience many new flavours. All the dishes are very genorously portioned and the wait staff are very attentive.

Meze Platter - $24.50
We were pretty hungry by the time we arrived so I forgot to take a photo until we dug in. The meze platter consisted of mixed olives, almonds, hummus, tabouli, warm pide bread and a mix of dips which were very delicious.

Lahmajun - $19.50
Jason's father ordered the Lahmajun which, we are told, is traditional street food in Istanbul. The thin base was fantastically crunchy underneath the smothering of minced beef and onions. The topping of fresh salad was a great accompaniment. Cheese can also be added at an extra cost. As it as so conveniently sliced, we all ended up having a slice and thought that it would serve as a good entree. 

Citron Chicken Tagine - $28.50
The chicken in the Tagine was very tender when it arrived and fell apart only using my fork. It was well spiced and went great with the honey and orange carrots and preserved lemons. I didn't eat much of my cous cous as I felt it was a little dry but the portions size was so big anyway that I was full after just eating the chicken!

Beduoin Upsidedown Bulghur Pilaf - $26.50
While the lamb was very tender, we found that the Beduoin Upsidedown Bulghur Pilaf was quite bland even with the accompaniment of apricot chutney. 

Turkish Split Aubergine - $27.50
I enjoyed the eggplant dish but, as above, it was slightly bland and the tomatoes seemed a bit watery. The pilaf was well seasoned though, and the eggplant had been cooked so that it was practically melt in the mouth.

Skewered Scotch Fillet - $29.50
My favourite of the night was the Skewered Scotch Fillet. I loved the kick that the Harissa brought and how the eggplant and potato mash worked to calm down the spice.

Casablanca is the new "special occasions" venue for Jason's family as it's so close and handy. It is always full when we visit and perfectly situated for a nice walk along the beach after your massive meal.

Casablanca can be found at 336 Hibiscus Coast Highway, Orewa

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