The Curator’s House |Review

The Curator’s House |Review



Today’s review is of the Curator’s House restaurant, set on the corner of the Botanic Gardens and the Avon River, near the Antigua Boat Sheds and the Hospital.


We wandered through the Botanic Gardens from Riccarton Ave to get to the Curator’s House, however, it is located on the edge of the city centre, on Rolleston Ave at the main entrance to the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.

The quaint Old English Tudor style building in which the restaurant is housed is surrounded by cottage style fruit and vegetable gardens.  This heritage building was the original 1920’s residence of the curator of the Gardens.
Prior to this there was a Head Gardener’s cottage located within the footprint of the present day building built in 1872 and before this a small Government Gardener’s cottage existed on the same site.

Wandering down the garden path…..

There is plenty of outdoor seating with large sun umbrellas to provide shade.  We chose to sit outside as it was a very warm sunny day and it was just lovely sitting outside enjoying our surroundings.

My eldest daughter and my Mum (whose birthday we were celebrating over lunch).

The staff were friendly but rushed and barely had time to stop and we had to ask for them to explain what tapas are and how to order from the tapas menu.
To start we ordered bread with a selection of dips and a tapas platter so we could taste a variety of tapas dishes.  I was pleased that a lot of these dishes were gluten free so I was able to try most of them.
The calamari was the stand out tapas dish, the patatas bravas with aioli a close second along with the yummy dips with bread.

We could have chosen more from the tapas menu and shared several tapas for lunch but we were so tempted by the a la carte menu we decided to choose a main dish each.
My husband chose the venison with vinaigrette, cherry tomatoes, mushroom and potatoes.  He enjoyed this dish, the venison was cooked to perfection and the crunchy vege crisps were delicious, but he didn’t find the meal amazing (and he tells me for this price he expects to be really ‘wowed’).

My Mum and I both ordered the slow cooked lamb shoulder which was melt-in-your-mouth delicious.  Falling off the bone, this lamb shoulder was slow-cooked to perfection.  The portion of lamb is huge!  I would have loved a few more spring greens with this dish.
Mum loved the wine she bought to accompany her main so much that she ordered a second glass!

This delicious flavourful and fresh salad was the dish my daughter chose.  I nibbled on her salad and really enjoyed the strong Mediterranean flavours.  The price was reasonable too.



None of us thought we’d be able to fit in dessert but when we looked at the dessert menu we changed our minds and decided to splurge!  We all ordered the Pannacotta de Chocolate – a silky chocolate pannacotta with morello cherries, candied almonds and espresso syrup, this really was the cherry on top!

Overall we thoroughly enjoyed our meal but due to the prices it isn’t a restaurant we can visit often.

HOW TO MAKE IDIYAPPAM AKA STRING HOPPERS : the easy way

HOW TO MAKE IDIYAPPAM AKA STRING HOPPERS : the easy way
Idiyappam or string hoppers is a very common and a very traditional breakfast dish in my part of South India. It is a very simple dish to make. Made with roasted rice flour , water and salt,and steamed in pressure cooker or a steamer , it is a dish that is well loved by adults and kids alike. It  is also often prescribed by doctors as part of a soft meal diet for patients.
Idiyappam is one of those dishes that I never tried to make before I got married. Jacob however loved  Idiyappams and that meant I  had to learn how to make it , you know, the way to a man’s heart and all that, so I  called  my mom  straight away to get the recipe . As it turned out, making the dough was  a much easier task compared to coaxing  the dough out of the Idiyappam press.
However hard I tried, I could not manage to  get the dough out through the press. Jacob ever willing to help around the kitchen,offered to help me . But only ended up breaking the  Idiyappam press  one too many and left me flabbergasted  how  someone could break something that I couldn’t even get move an inch !
Then my mom discovered a ‘magic press “as she called it and Idiyappam making has been a breeze ever since.
As much as I enjoy cooking  for my friends and family , if there is a easy way to do something, then thats what I  go for.
So here goes.
Ingredients to serve 4
 1 cup Roasted Rice flour .  white or red ( I used Double Horse Appam/ Idiyappam mix , available at Yogiji Christchurch
3/4 _1 cup Boiling water
1tsp oil
Salt to taste.
Method
Take flour in a mixing bowl, add salt . Pour boiling water slowly

little by little mixing with a wooden spoon to form a soft smooth dough

Pour in the oil

When it cools down enough to touch, form into soft dough .Taking care not to knead too much

Grease the hollow part of the Idiyappam press with oil and fill in the dough inside the press.

Fill upto the brim of the press hollow

In the meantime, grease the Idli mould with oil and keep aside.
Press Idiyappam presser onto greased idli moulds
Repeat until all the dough is pressed on to the moulds.
Steam in the pressure cooker without the pressure ,for 7-9 mins on medium  flame. Once done, let it stay covered in the pressure pan for a minute or two
When the steam stops coming out of the vent,open and transfer the cooked Idiyappam to a hot pack.
I like to serve Idiyappam with sweetened  thin fresh coconut milk or chicken stew. Ofcourse, chicken curry and mutton curry also taste great with idiyappam.
Cook book Scribbles :
  • when  the Idiyappam is cooked through is , it starts to look glossy.
  • Idiyappam tastes good served hot or cold.
  • Scrapped coconut can be sprinkled over the cooked idiyappam

 

How to make Ginger Chai aka Indian Ginger Tea 

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Holding a cup of chai, watching the steam come up in curls, inhaling the aroma of ginger and tea leaves, just enjoying the quiet hours of dawn,  is my little morning  ritual. Even my dog Amber, knows to remain still, and let me savour my cup of chai, sip by sip. It does not last  long, but those few moments to myself, help me anchor myself and gear up to face the rest of the day.
In a home  dominated by staunch coffee drinkers, I cannot remember where my love for a good cup of chai came from. I did not fancy the karupatti kappi ( coffee made with palm sugar) that was offered at evening snack  time, so skipped drinking coffee altogether. J is not a coffee or tea drinker either and so I did not have the need to make ritualistic early morning coffee in our home.
It was in Pondichery that I was introduced to masala chai along with a spicy plate of kothu parrota. ( minced flat bread with eggs, meat and a spicy curry) Still there was never the ritualistic chai making in our home until we came to NZ!
A couple of years back, when we were in India, my aunt introduced me to Red Label Nature Care tea powder and it turned out to be my go to drink during the really cold first winter in Christchurch. My comfort for soul drink (as I like to call it) for homesickness and warmth !
When I had finished the tea stash I brought with me from India, my search for Nature Care Tea all over Christchurch came to nothing. I was relieved I found the Red Label tea here in Yogiji Indian Supermarket. I just add ginger or cardamon and I’m good to go!
Whenever I need a pick me up, I just make myself a good cup of ginger chai. And  I love making ginger chai for my friends too.
I thought I will share it on the blog for our  readers  to make at home as its pretty easy and quick.
Ingredients to serve 2
 
Water :  11/2  cup
Milk :    11/2  cup
Fresh Ginger : 2″ piece
Tea  Powder  :2 tsps
Sugar to taste
Method:
Crush the ginger. Add it to the water in a saucepan and allow to boil till you can smell the aroma of the ginger come through.Add the tea  powder and allow to simmer for a couple of minutes. Add in the milk .Switch off the flame. Let it sit  for a minute. Strain into a cup with a tea strainer.Add sugar as required. Serve piping hot!
 Cook Book Scribbles :
5 slightly crushed cardamom pods can also be added for a spicy aromatic chai. ( tea)

Pepper Mushroom Masala

Pepper Mushroom Masala
PEPPER
Growing up in the southern most part of India, I had only heard of edible mushrooms in storybooks and seen them  in picture books. The ones that appeared out of nowhere during rainy season in my hometown were usually very tiny. We were warned not to touch them as they were poisonous and so we never did .
By the time I was in college, my family had moved to a town that was dry for the major part of the year and mushrooms were rarely seen around.
The University Of Agriculture which was situated in a village nearby was conducting an one day training course for growing Oyster Mushroom in homes. They were promoting it as a small business idea for small scale farmers.
My mom’s friend and our neighbor (whom we lovingly called Lawyer aunty because her husband was a Lawyer), is a science teacher and she wanted to go and learn the process of growing mushrooms for profit at home. She wanted company and asked me if I wanted to go, when my mom couldn’t get leave from work. I tagged along with her because I could skip college .
I must confess that although I went there without expecting much, I came away very fascinated by what we learnt there.
Along with the training on how to grow mushrooms at home, each participant was given a little booklet with detailed instructions of all that we learnt there and some recipes plus a bottle of spawn.
I promptly got to work. All the stars aligned. Amma let me use the little shed outside our home. Since it was harvest season, there was plenty of hay from our paddy fields which  I used to sow the sample spawn I got at the University, to grow my very first batch of mushrooms .
pepper mushroom masala-2
I was so thrilled when those pristine white oyster mushrooms appeared on the little hay bundles I had prepared for the mushrooms to grow! For you see, the green thumb thing completely skipped me even though I was born into a family of agriculturists.
After a bountiful harvest we didn’t know how to cook the mushrooms so we gave some to friends and neighbours and Amma added them to the curries she made.
One day, I decided to try a recipe from the little booklet we got at the University. The recipe was rather simple but quite tasty! And quickly became a regular in our home. DSC_0474Later, I found out that our farm help on my dad’s farm also used this same recipe to cook wild mushrooms. The only spices used here in this recipe are pepper and cumin.
The original recipe used Oyster Mushrooms, but I’ve substituted button mushrooms and the taste does not differ muchDSC_0008



INGREDIENTS:

250 gms Mushroom (chopped )
1 tsp pepper
1 Onion (chopped)
1 small tomato
1 tsp grated coconut (optional)
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp mustard
1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
Curry leaves, salt to taste

METHOD:

Heat oil in a skillet.

Add Cumin, curry leaves and mustard seeds. Let it splutter.

Add Chopped onions, cook till they are pink in color.

Then add the tomato pieces. Saute well till mushy.

Add salt and pepper.

Now add the Mushroom. Saute well.

Sprinkle a little water. Cover and let it cook.

Add chopped corriander leaves.

Cook till the mushrooms are soft and well cooked but still firm .

Sprinkle grated coconut.

Serve as a side dish for rice.

Cook book scribbles: Without the coconut, this masala can also be used as a sandwich filler.















 

 

Costas Greek Taverna |Review 

I had a delicious dinner out with some girlfriends at Costas Greek Taverna Restaurant earlier this week.  Two of us had been before several times but our other friend had never been so was very keen to try it out.

We were not going to have starters but one friend wanted to order the Moussaka for her main and we were told it would take 30 minutes to cook, so we decided to get a starter to nibble on while we waited.
I recommended the Dolmades which are little parcels of rice risotto wrapped in grape leaves and served with salad and the most delicious tzatziki.
It worked out perfectly to share this dish between the three of us, giving us two Dolmades each.  My friends both loved the dish and would order it again in future.

It was relatively quiet that night but every other time I’ve been it’s been absolutely packed!  The atmosphere is fun with music playing, blue lights on one wall and red lights at the bar, with a greek-looking wall with round latticed window at the back of the restaurant.  The staff are very attentive and friendly.

Peeking through the wall to the bar.

This photo does not do the dish justice at all.  Mamma’s Moussaka was served as a tall stack of piping hot moussaka with a gorgeous fresh greek salad and tzatziki on the side.

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The Falafel Souvlaki Platter came with two vegetarian falafel patties, two pita bread, salad, four sauces and chips.  There was an option for a Grande size platter with three falafels for those who are feeling extra hungry.

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The Lamb Shanks with fire roasted vegetables and fragrant rice.  It’s a dish I’ve had before and I keep going back to it!  You can choose one or two shanks (this was two).  I found I kept glancing over at my friends’ salads and tzatziki so next time I might order these on the side (and only one shank).

img_3483

After such large main dishes we opted for desserts from the ‘Mini’ range of options.  These little chocolate mousse cups were the perfect end to our delicious dinner at Costas.

Costas has multiple gluten free and vegetarian options and the portion sizes are very generous with options on some dishes to ‘upsize’ to a ‘grande’, while the mini desserts are perfectly bite size after such large mains.  Absolutely delicious, if you haven’t been to Costas before, you definitely should!

Pearlin went to Costas on her birthday as they sent her a free birthday dinner voucher and they gave her a dessert for free too, candle and all!


They also send out free $20 vouchers from time to time so it’s well worth signing up on their website!

You can book online on the Costas Taverna website.

Roasted Beet Hummus

Beetroot Hummus is one dish that brings with it memories of eating at our favourite Turkish restaurant, giving us a chance to have a taste of the beautiful flavours of middle eastern street food of Kuwait right here at home in Christchurch.
Stored in an airtight container, it stays fresh for several days in the fridge.  Beetroot hummus tastes great with fresh cut cucumbers, carrots or crackers, pita bread or pita chips making it the perfect mid morning to late evening snack. What’s more, its so easy to make. The only timetaking process is the roasting of the beets.
Roasted Beet  Hummus
 
Ingredients to serve 4
3 large cloves of garlic
2 x 400g tins of chickpeas
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 1/2 tbsp tahini (sesame paste , available in supermarkets)
salt to taste
fresh black pepper to taste.
½ tsp  ground cumin powder
1 medium beetroot.
1 small green chilli
4 tablespoons of olive oil
Preparation
Peel the skin of the beetroot, chop into big chunks . Preheat oven to 200 degrees C
Wrap the beetroot chunks in aluminum foil and roast them until soft and tender, takes about half an hour to an hour in my oven. When done, remove and let it cool.

Drain chick peas and rinse well. Keep aside. Peel garlic.

Method.
In a blender, add the cooled down beet, chickpeas, and garlic. Blend into a paste.
Add tahini, cumin powder, lemon juice and salt to taste. Blend till hummus is smooth and creamy like a dip.  Add pepper and drizzle olive oil over it. Serve with pita, or with veggies.
Cookbook Scribbles :
Add water only if necessary.
Taste and adjust the seasonings as you like.
In a pinch I have also used precooked beets.
If its too much work roasting the beets, skip and just blend the other ingredients and you still have a yummy hummus dip😉
MLLA is an ongoing, monthly event since 2008, in which, bloggers from any country or cuisine can take part in this event by presenting their vegetarian legume recipes. This event was created and started by Susan of The well seasoned Cook in 2008 and has been hosted by Lisa of Lisa’s kitchen since February 2013.

How to make Turmeric Latte

Turmeric in the Tamil language is called Manjal, which when directly translated means yellow. Obviously the name came from the colour of the spice. Not only is Turmeric or Manjal a commonly used ingredient in almost all the South Indian food preparations, it is also often used as a home remedy.DSC_0431When we were little , I remember distinctly when we hurt ourselves  playing , the wounds were washed and dressed with  a mix of crushed small shallots and turmeric .

Women applied turmeric paste on their faces to protect the skin from acne and other skin blemishes. The most common medicinal use however, is for common cold and cough.

Whenever we got sniffles or scratchy throat, during the monsoon season in India, my mom always made Manjal paal aka Turmeric latte for us to drink.DSC_0454

Although I did not appreciate it much during childhood, I appreciate it a lot now as I find it very smoothing with its amazing healing properties for  cold, sore throat and cough that tag along with the seasonal changes.

This is a simple yet very effective time tested remedy thats handy to have around  when  the seasonal changes bring along  allergies and other minor ailments with it.
Turmeric latte also aids with getting a goodnight’s sleep at night.DSC_0437

Ingredients to serve 1

Milk : 11/2Cup

Turmeric : 1/2 tsp

Black Pepper 1/4 tsp (freshly ground)

Raw Sugar/Honey/Palm Jaggery to taste

Method:

In a small saucepan, take milk . Hear on medium heat uncovered until almost boiling. Add in turmeric and black pepper.Stir well .Reduce heat and let it simmer for five minute. When the spices have blended evenly with the milk, remove from flame.Add raw sugar/honey or palm jaggery to taste. Serve warm.

Cook Book Scribbles: Although the above mentioned ingredients are more than enough to make a tasty turmeric latte,a large pinch of ground dry ginger powder , cardamom powder and a couple of saffron strands can also be added  along with turmeric and pepper to enhance the taste.