Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American followers. We don’t celebrate it out here in Australia, but it was a perfect excuse to make apple pie for dessert (after having the equally American dish of meatloaf for dinner).Yum yum.

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And all that baking was just too much for Pip!
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Franz Josef to Queenstown – October 21

This was another big day of travel, this time entirely by bus. We apparently travelled through some of the most beautiful scenery in New Zealand, but saw little of it, due to the constant rain and low clouds. Later in the day it stopped raining a little, but weather-wise, it was hardly the best day of my trip. Still, some of the photos turned out alright, and I met some great fellow travellers on the bus. All in all, not as bad as it could have been.

After arriving at my hotel in Queenstown and unpacking a little (as I was to be staying there for five nights), I went down into town. Again, there was little to see as a result of the low clouds, and Queenstown is hardly at its prettiest when wet, but still. I found the world-famous Fergburger, and had my first burger from there. My goodness, the hype is not for nothing. Those are seriously the best burgers in the world.

Christchurch – October 19

Finally, a bit of a lazier day, I was not up at the crack of dawn to go touring, but was able to sleep in. I didn’t leave the hotel (Ibis) until well after 9, when I went to find some breakfast. I ended up at the excellent Hummingbird Cafe in the Re:Start Mall, which was just one block away from where I was staying. I had a delicious bacon, egg and tomato toasted sandwich, and, it being such a glorious morning, ate outside. The Re:Start Mall is made up of shipping crates converted into shops, so after I finished eating, I had a look around there, as well as at the Saturday Market in the street, and then to the other Saturday Market in Gloucester Boulevard. After that, I went to the Canterbury Museum, on the outskirts of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Then I went punting along the River Avon, something I’ve not done before, but it was wonderfully fun and relaxing, especially as there the River winds through the Botanic Gardens. Then it was time for lunch, which I ate at the cafe on the River, then went for a stroll through the beautiful Botanic Gardens. After that, I went for a walk through Christchurch itself, but one can really only do that for so long, as it is quite depressing. Almost everything is either boarded up, fenced up, covered in scaffolding or shipping crates or is simply gone. It looks a lot like Europe did after WWII. But it is obvious that the people of Christchurch are trying to move on, so it’s sort of positive, but it’s still a bit depressing. Despite that, definitely worth the visit.

A quick note on Christchurch and the destruction: Christchurch is more or less divided east and west by the River Avon. Everything on the east of the river is reclaimed swampland, whereas the west is solid ground. When the earthquake hit a couple of years ago, the east, reclaimed land pretty much just fell apart, whereas the west shook and rumbled a little, but it pretty much entirely safe and intact. So half of Christchurch looks completely normal. The other half is a demolition zone.

Auckland to Wellington October 15

Day three of my trip was a transit day, flying from Auckland to Wellington. Not having to be at the airport until about 11, and check out of the hotel until 10, I went for a walk down Queens St to buy some breakfast, bagels with jam and cream cheese, from the Melba Cafe on Vulcan St, off Queen St. Highly, highly recommended. I took my breakfast down to the Quay to eat it down there.

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On the way back up the hill to the hotel, it began to rain, and, as I was without raincoat, I ended up quite wet. Then it was time to gather my things, and head out to catch the airport bus to Auckland Airport, where I was to spend the next four hours, due to strong cross winds at the airport meaning that planes couldn’t safely land or depart. Most annoying, but these things happen, and, as I had no real plans for that afternoon, it was a bit of a bummer, but not the end of the world. It’s interesting to see the comardery that developes between passengers in such situations, I had a good whinge with some middle-aged ladies about different delayed-flight experiences, was given a newspaper by a RNZAF pilot named Bill (it was on his name badge), met a Chinese girl around my age who had just flown in from China and was trying to get down to Wellington and was worried that she’d miss the connecting flight – but due to the delays made it with hours to spare, and had a good natter with the bloke sitting next to me on the plane while we waited to take off (that classic case that will hold up any plane – they have someone’s luggage on board, but not that someone). Because of the delays, a lot of people had changed/given up on their flights, so I ended up having the window seat in stead of the seat in the middle of the row.

After a very quick 40 minute flight, I arrived in wonderful, windy Wellington. I caught the airport bus to the hotel, then set out for a walk along the harbourfront and then to find some dinner, ending up at Heavenly Pizza in Cuba St, a woodfire oven pizza place that is fantastic.

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It didn’t take me long to remember how much I love Wellington and how easily I could live there.

And I strongly recommend watching the Air New Zealand inflight safety video. It made me laugh every time.

Banana slice

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I thought it was about time to try out my new camera on some food pics, and, with the weather being so unseasonally cold, this spiced banana slice were a perfect choice (plus we had one over-ripe banana – perfect!).

The recipe and orginal post can be found here.

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Orange and choc-chip muffins

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These muffins are a Nigella recipe which I found in a back-issue of Delicious Magazine that we have lying around (but the recipe can also be found here, among other places).

I replaced the white choc-chips for dark, as that was all we had, but they’re just as delicious either way.

Makes 12

250g plain flour
50g fine cornmeal/polenta (not instant)
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
150g caster sugar
150g white chocolate chips
90ml vegetable or groundnut oil
1 large organic egg
200ml full-fat milK
1 orange, zest and juice

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6. Line a muffin tin with papers.
  2. Measure the flour, cornmeal, raising agents and sugar into a bowl, and stir in the chocolate chips.
  3. In a measuring jug, mix together the vegetable oil, egg, milk and zest and juice of the orange.
  4. Pour the mixed liquid ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients, stirring with a wooden spoon. A lumpy batter makes for a lighter muffin; in other words, do not overwork.
  5. Divide among the paper cases and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until cooked, when a cake tester should come out dry.
  6. Let stand on a wire rack for 5 minutes, before removing the muffins, in their papers, and eat warm.

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Caramel Walnut Slice

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This slice isn’t far off being the perfect sweet, chewy, old-fashioned-style slice. The recipe is also highly convenient, as while the base is part-cooking, you can make the topping.

Recipe from The Australian Woman’s Weekly cookbook The Big Book of Beautiful Biscuits.
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Base:

1/2 cupself-raising flour
1/2 cup coconut
1/4 cup castor sugar
60g (2 oz) butter

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Topping:

2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup coconut
90g (3 oz) walnut pieces
1 1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Base:

Sift the flour into a bowl, add sugar and coconut, mix well. Melt the butter, add to the dry ingredients, mix well. Pressed the mixture into a greased/lined tin (28cm x 18cm according to the recipe, I used a 23cm x 23cm tin). Bake in the oven at 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 15 minutes.

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Topping:

Lightly beat the eggs and vanilla with a fork. Add coconut, chopped walnuts, brown sugar and baking powder, mix well. Spread the mixture over the partly-cooked base, return to moderate oven and bake for a further 25-30 minutes, or until the topping is cooked. Cool in the tin; cut into squares or slices.

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