Category Archives: Random bits and bobs ..

The backpack which never gives up ..

or as the fine folk from Cactus climbing and space exploration/ not the companies name anymore but used to be say” Gear that wears in , not wears out”

When i first moved to Nz , i had a backpack, which was about 1.5 yrs old but was wearing a half decent company Jansport, but wasnt as durable as i thought could be. At the point of time i stumbled on this Kiwi company called ” Cactus Climbing “, they are now named Cactus outdoor and they make really great quality backpacks and a whole lot of things.

and this s what i bought from them in 2008 . I was jobless at the time and my wife screamed at me for buying the most expensive bag ever. I went with me everywhere, carrying all the groceries walking back home( to save money for the bus being jobless)

Forward to 2018 and the hydration bladder was getting a bit munted as they say in Kiwi land, and these blokes and gals fixed it for no cost and sent it back to me.

I paid 175 $ then but its 2020 and still showing no signs of giving up, Why put in the bin when it can go on and on..For me thats being eco friendly.

Last week i had inside 1 x 5 kg bag of potatoes, butter, broccoli, one bottle of olive oil,one 1kg carrots , my saw, deo spray and was on my back for about 5 kms..

my only suggestion would be to keep the sternum strap as a fixed accessory and not as an optional.

And no im not getting any freebies from Cactus to promote their stuff, i just think its great quality stuff , and over the years ive added more ( custom made knife roll(10+), messenger bag,( 2nd hand about 20 +yrs ) laptop bag, sleeveless vest (8 yrs +) .Go and get their things, they are great quality and made in New Zealand!

The care and maintenance of knives and other sharp cutting tools.

If you have reached this stage , you must’ve realised by now that you want to be here and cooking good stuff .Now for that to happen you need good cutting implements like knives ,and these need to be sharpened.

Most folk don’t or go the expensive route of using a knife shop which could be ok if they are nice guys like Shannon at house of knives .

These guys have been around for many many years and ive only known Shannon since 2010, but hes a top guy and will give you good advise regarding knives and sharpening. For the high end sharpening i dont bother about it and just take them to his workshop, which sits behind and below their shop around the back.

They are located at 24, Mt Eden road, Auckland .New Zealand.…09-3022980, but then i know the number by heart.

i go to the shop so often that everyone knows me and once in a while ill drop off some goodies for them to quality control with their tastebuds.

so if you see the video above, it gives you a pretty good idea about what needs to get done..

Basic bread dough/ rolls / loaf

Makes one large loaf or 8 medium sized pizza bases .

You need a weighing scale which measures in metric , a good oven and a baking tray or loaf tin. Can bake in other random stuff once you get the hang of it.( I make one in a old coffee tin and comes out beautifully)

  • Flour 500 g
  • Active dry yeast- 10 g( I prefer to use this since I get most consistent results, sourdough is a different matter which we will discuss in another post). Yeast is an amazing living thing that needs warmth, moisture and time to multiply ..more or less of each will affect the activity of yeast and the springiness/ sponginess of the bread.
  • Sugar – 10 g / can use raw, white , brown or honey ..Yeast needs to feed on sugar and starches but there are a few breads we can make without.
  • Salt -10 g. Very important, this helps for us to taste the bread and is the most important aspect in the bread ,after flour and water . We can make bread without sugar and yeast but not salt. Salt controls the rise of the yeast as well if you don’t put any the yeast activity will be a like a racing car without a don’t forget it..You don’t need a fancy pants salt for inside the dough but if you are able to get salt flakes for the topping it’s great or as a table salt.
  • Water warm preferred – 325 GM/ ml..warm because yeast activity is best between 30-35 so should just feel warm to your hand.if it’s too hot you will kill the yeast , too cold and takes longer for the yeast to multiply and make carbon dioxide which gives bread the holey texture.
  • Olive oil or melted butter – 50 g

First sieve the flour ..this aerates the flour and removes any physical hazards ( paper clips, finger nails, bits of plastic, you will be amazed what all goes inside).

Then add the yeast, salt and sugar one at a time mixing in between ..if salt or sugar come in contact directly with the yeast they can kill it.

Pour the warm water in a bowl with the dry ingredients and stir together with a spoon and leave aside for about 15 minutes..grab a coffee or a glass of wine.This stage of the dough making is called as autolyse and was devised by a French chemist and bread enthusiast called Raymond calvel who is widely regarded as the Moses of artisan bread baking. How it helps is complex science but in a nutshell develops the gluten ( elastic rubber like protein ) which helps trap the CO2 formed by the yeast and gives bread it’s holes/ crumb.Dont worry about the terminology it’s just for bread snobs to pretend they know what they are talking about.

After the 15 minutes are up .start to knead the dough , it’s not hard to do and helps to develop the gluten further .( Go back to start if you missed that bit about what gluten does).

knead for about 5 minutesor so until the dough is nice and smooth then add the oil and knead some more .The oil and or butter helps shorten the gluten strands and make it’s tastier but can be made without…with some breads you can go upto 75%of flour quantity for a kg of flour U add 750 g of butter , but that’s another twist in the tale and for another heart breaking recipe .

Then cover your dough with a damp clean cloth or some gladwrap / plastic wrap/ clingfilm. And keep in warm area..for maximum rise quickly. Can proof in the fridge too but takes longer.Proofing is a process where the yeast starts to eat the sugar and starches in the flour an makes CO2. This is like a rubber balloon filling with gas. And we need to control it otherwise it’s going the break.

So we knock back or de gas the dough and allow the gluten to relax. This U do by pressing down and either shaping into smaller pieces or leaving it whole but compressed.

Then proof again..same way like before .

Now preheat your oven to 190 C . Empty it first if your oven has lots of stuff inside .Mine does .

Divide your dough into 2/4/8 progressively or keep whole to make into a loaf.

I’ll put pictures down here of rolls and a loaf later .

Once you have these shaped roll it between your palms or palm and table be as smooth as possible .

Then final proof once you place it on a tray.

Once it’s proofed to the right degree .( How to check is tricky..u gently press down on the dough and it should not spring back but leave a small impression).

Bake then for roll about 10-12 mins..

A loaf will take about 25-30 mins.

Pizza approximately 7-10 mins.


Kneaded to form the dough
proofed for about 30 mins in warm area
Shaped and kept close to form a pull apart loaf
Baked to perfection

Sungtyachi Kodi/ prawn curry from the konkan region

Prawns whole -600 Gm peeled and deveined ,ndo not discard shell , I’ll explain later why not

Marinade with

turmeric – pinch

Red chilli powder – 1/4 t/ 2 GM

Salt- to taste

Curry paste for want of a better phrase

Shredded coconut – 1 T/ 25 GM’s

Onion medium- 1/2 about 50 gms

Teerphal/ Triphala or Sichuan peppercorns- 1/4 t /.5 gm

Black peppercorns -6-8 ea

Cloves -1

Roast above in a glass bowl in the microwave till lightly browned in 30 seconds. Should take about 3 mins and 90 seconds but depends on how strong your microwave is.

Add 1/4

Turmeric1/ 4 t/ .5 gm

Coriander seeds -1 t-/2,3 GM’s

Garlic cloves -4-5 / 10 GM’s

And water to soak..for about 15 minutes..not a whole lot just enough to soften everything and make it easy to blend.

Then grind to a paste and saute with

Oil- 10 ml

Curry leaves -1 sprig / 2 GM

Green chilli- 1 /2 GM or more if you want more heat …I wanted to be able to taste the prawns so put less.

Add coconut cream 100 GM

kokam / cambogia Garcinia / gorakha -1

And simmer .

Then add prawns and simmer for about 5-6 mins add some nicely chopped coriander and U are good to go..Always better if you cook let the prawns sit inside then reheat but don’t overcook.

Bao buns

I first ate a bao while a trainee at the Krishna Oberoi in Hyderabad but it was only when we started transmitting through Singapore I saw and tasted so many variations on these and said to myself , why can’t I make I learned and practised till I got it right.Theae could be stuffed with roast pork to make what’s called Char Siew bao ( pronounced Cha Shao bao).But I like them with meat and vegetables separate

  • Flour – 250 gms
  • active dry yeast- 2 gms
  • baking powder- 2gms
  • sugar- 20 gms
  • milk powder- 25 gms
  • water -150 ml
  • sugar-20 gms
  • salt-5 gms
  • oil 25 ml
  • Sesame oil to brush .
  • Sieve flour.Add in all other dry ingredients.
  • add in flour and lightly mix with a fork and keep aside for 15 minutes covered with plastic wrap.
  • knead lightly and add in oil and knead again till smooth.
  • scale into 8 pieces and shape them into nice rounds and allow to rest again for about 10 mins.
  • Roll out to a 3 inch/ 6-7 cm circle then brush with sesame oil and fold over.
  • Allow to proof, thand then steam for 15 -18 minutes.

These are great even rolled out and pan fried or deep fried and go well with Indian styled Chick peas curry or Trinidadian Doubles, which is another post by itself.

Bao after steaming