Sunday, November 15, 2015

Homemade Chicken Stock

One thing my family taught me was to never waste food. While other children were eating broccoli florets, I can remember eating thinly sliced broccoli stalk sauteed in garlic or chicken dumplings using the meat we pulled off chicken carcasses. Nothing ever went to waste in our kitchen if my mother had anything to do with it! Minimising what gets thrown in the trash just made good sense.

This is certainly one of the lessons I have tried to carry into my adult life - most of our vegetable scraps go to our guinea pigs or into the compost and our left over chicken bones go towards next few months' worth of stock.

The best thing about homemade chicken stock is that there is no exact quantity you have to follow. All you need are 4 basics - chicken carcasses, celery, carrot and onion. I don't even add that much salt because that depends highly on the type of dish in which you will add your stock. 

The ingredients I use for my chicken stock are slowly amassed over a a month or two, as a product of all the lunches and dinners in the Abraham household. Every time we have a roast chicken, the chicken carcass gets wrapped up in a plastic bag in the freezer. Every time an onion is diced, about one fifth of it goes into a freezer bag, along with carrot tops and raggedy celery bases (note: a lot of onion goes into the bag because I'm scared I'll cut my fingers off if I get too close to the end). 

My special trick is to pour all the finished stock into Glad Ice Cube Bags for storage. The flexibility means that I can fit them in any part of the freezer, around whatever else is already there.

I tend to use a lot of chicken stock in my cooking - as a base for soups and hotpots, extra flavour when making stir fries or even when cooking rice in lieu of water. Making your own stock is a great way to use up the left over veggies that aren't pretty enough for your other recipes, not to mention the feel good factor in knowing that you have minimised waste - my mother would approve.

Homemade Chicken Stock (Makes 3L)


Left over bones from 2 cooked chicken carcass
Celery tops and bottoms
Carrot skins, tops and bottoms
Onions, with the brown skins removed
3 small bay leaves
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 tsp salt 


1. Place all the ingredients into a deep stock pot. Mine is about 5 litres. 
2. Add enough cold water to just cover all of the ingredients and bring the pot to a boil. 
3. Once the water has boiled, turn the heat down to keep it at a low simmer. Continue to simmer for at least 1 hour, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface. 
4. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken and vegetables and discard.
5. Pass the stock through a sieve to remove any remaining solids.
6. Allow the stock to cool for at least 30 minutes before storing. I like to pour the stock into Glad Ice Cube Bags for easier storage. 

Homemade chicken stock will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days or 2-3 months in the freezer.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Grateful for Sundays 13

Jason and I have been back from our China trip for about a month and haven't really had a chance to catch our breath until today. The thing about being on holiday is that life back home doesn't really stop so we've had a lot of work to catch up on and friends to catch up with.

So now that I've caught my breath, here are some things I'm grateful for this Sunday...

City to Sea Bridge, Wellington
We traveled down to Wellington on our first weekend back for a conference and took the opportunity to explore the town. The city always puts on good weather when we visit and I managed to take this picture of the City to Sea Bridge on our way to dinner.

Demented Architecture, City Gallery Wellington
We also partook in the Demented Architecture exhibit at the City Gallery Wellington. Jason and I aren't the most knowledgeable about "art stuff" and often walk away confused, but Lego is something we know and love. The exhibit let visitors build their own version of a city skyline, filled with funky towers and even scary monsters! We easily spent an hour here.

Summit, Mt Maunganui
We were in Tauranga last weekend to celebrate my mother's 50th birthday. This was where my family visited on our first ever road trip so it was nice to come back again so many years later as a family. This photo was taken at the top of Mt Maunganui after being so ill-dressed for the occasion (see: jeans and jandals). 

Al's Deli, Upper Queen Street, Auckland
One good thing about being back at work is all the lovely Friday lunch venues in town. We chose to visit Al's Deli this week to sample their delicious donuts. Do I even need to say how great the food was?

What are you grateful for this Sunday?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Ramen Auckland

Ramen is the ultimate comfort food. You may remember a previous post I made, where I shamelessly gushed about how I could happily eat it for the rest of my life. Since then, I have taken it upon myself to sample lots of ramen to find the top 5 ramen/soy egg/broth/charsiu ratio in Auckland. 

Below is the result of months of "research" undertaken by myself, along with friends, work colleagues and family whom I dragged along so I could sample more food. 

Welcome to my Ramen Safari.

Shoya Japanese Cuisine

Our first stop was Shoya Japanese Cuisine on Upper Queen Street. We arrived at lunch time to a quiet shop with a few small tables lined up in a row. The smell of ramen broth radiated from the kitchen and made my mouth water. 

The broth is rich, leaving a light film on your lips. Shoya Ramen had the best noodles out of all the eateries - chewy, with a good thickness to them. The noodles were also the perfect length to fit into the spoon and prevent any awkward slurping. 

Clockwise from top left: Negi Hell Ramen - $13.90, Miso Tonkotsu Ramen - $12.90, Shoyu Ramen - $11.90

The Shoyu Ramen broth had a clear taste, while the Miso Ramen had a deeper flavour. The charsiu was melt in the mouth and I really enjoyed the marinated bamboo shoots. The soy egg had a deliciously runny centre but unfortunately the marinade did not penetrate to the middle of any of our eggs.

The restaurant special is a Spicy Hell Ramen which is essentially a ramen broth drizzled in copious amounts of chili oil. There are three levels, each with a little hotter than the last. We were only brave enough to try level one which had a heat that creeps up on you and leaves your tongue a little tingly after each mouthful.

Clockwise from top left: Tonkotsu Ramen with Egg - $12.00, Tantanmen - $12.00, New Tonkotsu Ramen (without egg) - $10.80, Red Dragon - $14.00

Being so close to my workplace, Maruten Ramen was my usual lunch haunt for a long time. You may remember my previous post about some of their offerings. 

Maruten Ramen has the best soy egg out of all the places we visited and being able to choose your noodle thickness is a nice touch. The portion sizes are generous and there are an ample amount of toppings. The broth, however, sometimes has a tendency to be too salty, but the staff are happy to provide extra soup base to dilute the soup.

Kitchen at Ramen Daikoku

We step into Ramen Daikoku Noodle Bar on a particularly cold winter's night. Although it opens out on the street, the restaurant has a very exclusive, intimate feel to it - low roof, close seating and upbeat Japanese pop playing in the background made it seem as if we had been let into some great secret. 

Clockwise from top right: Tonkotsu Ramen - $10.00, Gyoza - $6.50, Spicy Miso Tonkotsu - $14.00
The thin noodles at Ramen Daikoku reminded me a little of an instant noodle packet but the flavoursome broth made up for this. The tonkotsu broth is a bit runny, without the fatty film you would expect, but the kick from the spicy broth is exactly what you need on a cold night. 

I found the egg quite disappointing (plain boiled eggs aren't really my thing), but I was very pleased with the amount of charsiu we received - tender and cut into thick slices -yum!

The sides at Ramen Daikoku are worth ordering. There are a number of ramen + side deals that are offered on their menu. Our favourite is the gyoza, with a crunchy base and yummy pork filling. 
From Left: Tanpopo Ramen - $14.00, Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen - $11.00, Gyoza - $6.00
Tanpopo is an institution among the resident Japanese crowd in Auckland. It is always busy at meal times, often serving more than 2 or 3 rounds of guests per table at each sitting. The owners seem to know most of the people who come through the doors and greet them by name.

The broth at Tanpopo is my favourite - very rich, thick and full of finely chopped garlic and sesame. The charsiu is tender and almost melts into the soup. I enjoyed the marinated seaweed which provided a nice crunch to the dish.

The portion sizes here are quite generous so sides are probably not necessary, but the gyoza is quite light if you want something to go with your ramen.

Clockwise from top left: Tonkotsu Ramen - $13.00, Tan-tan Ramen - $15.50, Lotus Root Chips - $6.00
Lastly, we head into Ramen Takara in trendy Ponsonby. It is definitely the most well presented of all the eateries we visited and has a great selection of sharing plates. It feels like a place for friends to sit down and have a chat rather than somewhere to have a hasty meal.

The noodles here are second only to Shoya Ramen and the cloudy pork broth is light without compromising on taste. The egg has been over cooked on most of my visits here but, fortunately, the marinade penetrates to the centre. The Tan-tan Ramen here is unique -the sour and spicy sesame base awakens the palate while the crunchy mince and stir fry is a nice alternative to your usual ramen toppings.

A must order here is the Renkon chips - crunchy deep fried slices of lotus root. A great alternative to potato crisps, these lightly salted snacks are perfect with a cold beer while you wait for your meal.

Ramen Takara Ponsonby
Whether you are a seasoned ramen enthusiast or wanting to try some great comfort food, I would recommend these great eateries around Auckland. If you know of any other great ramen eateries, please comment below - I would love to try them out!

Shoya Japanese Cuisine (best noodles)
478 Queen Street, Auckland CBD, Auckland

Maruten Ramen (also known as Japanese Kitchen, best soy egg)
Mercury Plaza, 23-32 Mercury Lane, Karangahape Road, Auckland 

Ramen Daikoku (cool underground vibe)

Britomart, Corner of Britomart Station and Taylor Street, Auckland CBD, Auckland

Tanpopo Ramen (best broth)

13 Anzac Avenue, Auckland CBD, Auckland

Ramen Takara, Ponsonby (best environment and sides)
272 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, Auckland

All meals were independently paid for by Lucy and her companions.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Grateful For Sundays 12

Early Cheer gets me excited because it signals the beginning of spring. These flowers have a beautiful perfume and brings a freshness to the house. I'm already starting to forget what winter feels like...

The arrival of spring also means lighter evenings and, therefore, more time to spend outside. Below is a picture of some family friends we took to the epic local playground.

Lastly, I have finally started getting my things together for a big trip to China! I am particularly excited about this trip because it will be the first time I've visited in the summer. 

What are you grateful for this month?

Note: Quite a few websites are blocked in China so there probably won't be any blog updates while I'm gone. Follow my instagram to see the amazing places we will visit. See you all mid-October!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Leftover Roast Frittata

My biggest dislike in the kitchen is throwing out spoiled food. Thinking up easy ways of using up leftovers has therefore become a bit of a hobby of mine. My only rule with repurposing leftovers is that it must not require many new ingredients or else you end up with MORE leftovers. 

We almost always have flour, noodles and stock in the kitchen so many of our left over dishes end up in fried noodles, mixed soups and pizza 

A lot of these dishes can be a bit heavy and I found myself wanting to repurpose the leftovers from the previous nights' roast into something light for brunch. We had just received a carton of eggs from our uncle's chickens so a frittata seemed like a natural choice.

Following the golden rule, the only extra ingredients this required was 4 eggs, some oil and some thyme. You can also use the time the frittata is baking in the oven to make some cool smoothies or a nice cup of tea.

What do you make with your leftovers?

Happy brunching!

Leftover Roast Frittata (Serves 4)


2 tsp oil 
2 cups roast vegetables, cut into 2cm-5cm chunks
4 eggs, beaten
1 sprig thyme


1. Preheat oven to 200°C (390°F).
2. Heat oil in an ovenproof pan on medium heat.
3. Spread roast vegetables evenly in the pan and stir around for 2 minutes until they have crisped up a little.
4. Pour the beaten eggs into the pan and let it sit for about 2 minutes.
5. Sprinkle thyme over the top and place the pan in the oven for 10 minutes or until the egg has puffed up and is no longer runny.
6. Serve.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Hakka Hut

There's something very familiar about going to a Chinese restaurant. No matter what city you might be in, there is always a couple of dishes that are sure to be on the menu. For my family, we will usually order a fish scent eggplant casserole for me, round beans for Jason, sizzling beef for mum and prawn balls for dad. If we have a large group, there will mostly always be Peking Duck.

This kind of ordering can get quite bland sometime so I always find it quite a treat when we dine out with other families and let them do the ordering. We were invited to Hakka Hut by my Uncle's family (it's one of their favourite restaurants) and got to sit back and enjoy someone else's favourite dishes.

We arrived quite early on a Saturday night and I'm told we booked quite a few days in advance. It turns out that it was quite a good move as the restaurant filled up incredibly quickly. The tables were very close to each other and there was barely enough room for the poor servers to squeeze between everyone's chairs. 

Inside was noisy - proper Chinese restaurant noisy - the kind of noisy where you don't have to embarrassingly tell your parents to tone their voice down because it might disrupt the other diners. This was especially good because my grandma and her sister haven't really mastered "inside voices" yet...

Peking Duck, First Course - $55.00 for two courses
We started off with the Peking Duck, of course, and it went down a treat. The pancakes were extremely fluffy but I thought that the serving size was a little stingy compared to other restaurants. 

Peking Duck, Second Course
The filling for the second course was a more generous size. The filling included "xue cai" (a preserved vegetable, literally translated to "snow vegetable") which gave it an earthy flavour.

Sweet and Sour Pork - $20.00
Sweet and Sour Pork is not something I usually order when going out because my parents dub it a "white people dish". This, however, was incredibly crunchy while the sweet and sour sauce was not too strong, as can be the case with other restaurants.

Steamed Blue Cod - Seasonal Price
It was a little hard for me to take a photo of the blue cod as some hungry diners had already started spinning it away from me. The fish was perfectly cooked and the soy sauce had a slight sweetness to it.

Round Beans with Minced Pork - $20.00
The round beans flavoursome and tender. I liked the texture of the pork mince and that the beans weren't overpowered with black bean sauce. It was delicious but I was a bit disappointed with the portion size.

Steamed Prawns with Garlic - $28.00
The garlic steamed prawns were incredibly fragrant and I appreciated that they were already peeled. The bed of vermicelli underneath was a great way of soaking up all the juices too.

Homemade Tofu - $20.00
The homemade tofu is similar to the deep fried tofu we order at many other restaurants. The crispy outer,  with the creamy eggy centre, provided the perfect texture contrast.

Taro and Pumpkin Casserole - $28.00
The Taro and Pumpkin Casserole is a recommended dish on the Hakka Hut menu. The floury texture of the taro and pumpkin complimented one another, but the savoury taro tasted strange against the sweet pumpkin. I must admit, my taste buds were confused. My mother enjoyed the contrasting flavours though.

Beef with Seasonal Vegetables - $20.00
The stir fried beef was one of my favourites of the night. Each piece of beef was tender and covered in a light garlicky sauce. The gailan, although thick, was well cooked and crunchy. 

Fried Noodles with Soya Sauce - $12.00
Lastly, we ordered some noodles for my little cousin who likes plain food. For a dish that is flavoured only with soya sauce and some onions, I found the noodles to be quite tasty. The noodles were especially good at soaking up the yummy sauces from the other dishes.

Having other people order my meal is quite a treat. It was nice to try out others' favourite dishes and knowing that we share some favourites. The food at Hakka Hut was delicious, although I found the portion sizes small for the price.

Hakka Hut is found at Unit 21, 44 William Pickering Drive, Albany, Auckland.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Thomas Keller's Roast Chicken With Roast Vegetables

For the home cook, the best recipes must not only be tasty -they must also be simple and repeatable. These kinds of recipes are the ones that make it onto my dinner repertoire time and time again. Of these, Thomas Keller's Roast Chicken is my favourite -it is perfect for a small group of friends or a simple dinner for two with leftovers.

Contrary to many roast chicken recipes out there, a juicy chicken does not require butter, oil or running back and forth from the oven to baste. It also has the most delicious crispy skin! Thomas Keller's recipe calls for only 3 ingredients - salt, pepper, and a chicken. I also like to add a bit of lemon on the inside.

Salt, pepper, and a chicken. Optional extra: Lemon
The only equipment you need is a roasting pan and some kitchen twine to truss the bird. Trussing helps the chicken to cook evenly. The chicken must also be dry before going into the oven.

After this, you can just walk away and come back when your kitchen starts smelling wonderful.. 

Carrots, Potatoes, Parsnips, Beetroot, Garlic and Thyme
Or, to create a complete meal, you could chop up some vegetables to accompany the chicken. I put these in halfway through cooking the chicken so they are done at the same time. The veggies also help to create a little bit of moisture as I've found that the oven tends to smoke if the chicken is cooked by itself.

After that, I reduce the juices that have formed in the bottom of the tray to make a simple jus for the dish. 

This recipe is head and shoulders above any roast chicken recipe I have ever used. It is easy to make, easy to remember and oh so delicious! I dare you to find something simpler!

Thomas Keller's Roast Chicken With Roast Vegetables
(Serves 4 - 6)

Roast Chicken Ingredients:

1 whole chicken (about 1 to 1.4 kg)

Roast Vegetable Ingredients:

1 kg assorted root vegetables (see third photo for what I used)
1.5 Tbs olive oil 


1. Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F).
2. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels -inside and out.
3. Place the chicken in a large roasting pan and truss the bird, tying the legs close to the body so it cooks evenly.
4. Sprinkle salt and pepper all over the chicken (top and bottom).
5. Place the chicken in the oven and leave it alone for about 1 hour. 
6. Cut assorted vegetables into 2-3cm sized chunks and toss with olive oil (I like to oil beetroot separately so it doesn't stain the other veggies).
7. Place the vegetables in the oven when there is 30 minutes left to go.
8. Once 1 hour is up, test the temperature of the chicken with a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh. It should reach 75°C (165°F).
9. Remove the chicken and the vegetables from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes before carving. 
10. While you're waiting, pour all the pan juices into a small saucepan and simmer for about 7-10 minutes or until the juices have reduced a little.
11. Serve.


1. I don't rinse my chicken as it tends to splash raw chicken germs all over the sink area. Any dangerous germs will be killed if the meat reaches the correct temperature. Read more about it here.
2. A roasting rack isn't entirely necessary, but I find that the chicken cooks more evenly and there is no risk of the chicken sticking to the roasting pan.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Grateful for Sundays 11

Due to the plethora of stand out eateries near the Britomart, I am always trying to schedule any meetings in that vicinity during meal times. 

This week, I was able to enjoy a delicious porridge at The Store before my 8:30am meeting at Auckland Transport. With rhubarb, stewed apple, puffed wheat and a generous piece of honeycomb, this was the perfect way to start off my Friday.

After stalking their Facebook page for over a year, I finally plucked up the courage to go to No Lights No Lycra. NLNL is a great way to shake off any stresses and worries by dancing in the dark - there is no need to be good at dancing because no one can see you! I've been twice so far and find myself looking forward to practicing my new dance moves.

One of my dearest friends got married this month, to the man of her dreams. I was absolutely honoured to be a part of their special day as a bridesmaid. Everything about the day, from their vows to the place settings, was perfect!

Lastly, a picture I took from Five Knots, where we had dinner. Auckland is quite beautiful when you take a moment to look.

What are you grateful for this Sunday?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Sugar Club

In my head is a long list of restaurants and eateries I want to visit. I can often convince my peers to try out new places with me but there are a few reserved for special occasions.

Known for its spectacular views from the 53rd floor of the Sky Tower, The Sugar Club is one of the super special restaurants  reserved for a romantic birthday dinner. Especially because I had to outdo Jason for picking my birthday dinner at The Engine Room

I had booked our table months before Jason's birthday because I was so excited.

The Sugar Club in The Sky Tower is the fourth reincarnation of the restaurant since the Peter Gorden opened the first one in Wellington back in 1986. Since then, The Sugar Club has made appearances in London at Notting Hill and West Soho.

The menu here encourages sharing and is quite unique. All the dishes are entrée sized so you can try a wider variety. All dishes are the same price and diners pay for the number of dishes ordered - prices vary from $90 for 3 dishes to $128 for 6 dishes. This way, you don't have to let the price decide your order.

Tokyo Café - $20
I sipped on a Tokyo Café while we perused the menu. The bubbly champagne was flavoured with raspberry which gave it a deep rouge colour. It was fruity without being sickly sweet.

Jason had a Leigh Sawmill Pale Ale which had light citrusy notes.

Bread Basket
The complimentary bread basket was filled with a fig and fennel loaf, rye bread and fenugreek and celeriac bread. The fig and fennel was our favourite as large pieces of fig brought a welcome sweetness to the spiced bread.

Amuse Bouche
Made up of a small slice of cured salmon topped with sunflower seeds, spinach relish, fish roe, cumin and a micro salad, this amuse bouche is one of the most complex I've ever had. The salmon was delicate and I enjoyed the pop of the fish roe. Although the toppings brought a variety of texture, I can't help that the dish was a little too busy.

The name of this dish is "Mushrooms...". I love mushrooms and the ellipsis in the title managed to intrigue me enough to order it. The quenelle of mushroom parfait was  light and flavour packed. The medley of wood ear fungus, sesame enoki mushroom, shiitake mushrooms, crunchy crumb and black garlic all added together to make an amazing dish jam packed with umami. 

Wild Paua
The wild paua was served two ways. The first was braised and thinly sliced on a very smooth smoked mash. The second, my favourite, was little paua morsels packed into a small bread basket -the pieces were small enough to be delicate but big enough for us to appreciate the texture. The paua foam provided a light saltiness and popped delightfully in my mouth.

The lamb was cooked to a perfect medium rare and had a distinct Middle Eastern flavour to it. The kalamata olives and goji berries gave little bursts of flavour while the pumpkin puree formed a nice base flavour. I liked the crunchy falafel but felt that there was not enough sauce to go around.

Thrice-Cooked Pork Belly
The pork belly was easy to cut into and melted in my mouth as I bit into it. The side of Kimchi and buckwheat was a welcome crunch to the dish (unfortunately there was no crispy skin). My favourite part, however, was the delicious smoked tofu purée everything was sitting on -incredibly smooth and flavoursome. 

Pekin Duck
Like the pork belly, I missed the crispy skin in this dish. The duck was a tad over cooked but went well with the chili and mango jam. The stand out for me were the squid dumplings -chewy and fragrant with big chunks of squid and a light crispy coat. 

Beef Pesto
A classic dish of Peter Gordon's, the Beef Pesto dish has been on The Sugar Club menu circa 1987. The beef fillet was very tender and sitting on a bed of hearty vegetables including zucchini, beetroot and capsicum. The generous dollop of pesto married all the flavours together.

We were pleasantly surprised when our pre-dessert came to the table. The combination of pineapple and coconut tapioca is a classic and the toasted macadamia shavings on top was just brilliant. I would have happily eaten a full sized version of this light dessert.

This plum cheesecake is now officially our favourite dessert. We were initially confused because we were expecting a traditional looking cheesecake but quickly forgot once we dug in. Sitting on top of stewed plum and plum purée is a shortbread biscuit topped with a scoop of creamy white chocolate ice cream. The stewed plum was not too tart and brought a freshness to the dessert while the meringue provided a nice texture change.

Peanut Butter Parfait and Blackberry Jelly
Peanut butter and chocolate is another one of those classic flavour matches made in heaven. The parfait was very light and smothered in a caramel sauce and salty peanut crumb. The chocolate soil was a great contrast in texture while the macintosh sauce gave a the rich dessert some freshness.

Needless to say, we were quite satisfied at the end of the evening. The service was very attentive and our waiters were very knowledgable. 

The Sugar Club can be found on the 53rd floor of The Sky Tower, at 72 Federal Street, Auckland.