NZ eh!

Hey Dan,

Nearly a week on the ground in New Zealand, and I barely touched a sauvignon blanc or any lamb. But there was good reason: there must be about a million boutique breweries in NZ, and they’re doing some pretty amazing stuff – so no need to indulge in any cloying sav blancs. Plus, there were so many steaks on the hoof, that it would have been rude not to have partaken.

My ski season lasted all of one day. But it was a good one. And it’s nice to slide around the place with the benefit of heated seats – thank you very much BMW New Zealand and BMW Asia for the opportunity.

NZ Blog 2

skiing with heated seats: hmmmm

What I cannot stress enough is just how beautiful the Southern Alps are – if I believed in a god (or even a God), I’d believe this was the place where s/he thought “yup, I got that bit right.” Absolutely stunning.

And there were some good meals too, thanks again to a range of quality local produce.

Saffron restaurant was a great introduction to the dining scene, as was an Emerson’s Pilsner at the related The Blue Door bar next door. A little local chardonnay with my crispy whitebait (it was whitebait season) followed by a baked puff pastry stuffed with confit of local rabbit, sultana and pine nut black pudding, double smoked bacon, and served with braised lettuce and what they called a cranberry jus. It’s a common mistake – the word is coulis – but I’m willing to forgive the faux pas, because it was bloody good. A nice Central Otago pinot noir hit the spot too.

Oddly enough, Arrowtown (it’s about 15km from Queenstown, and apparently where all the locals moved when property there got too expensive – it’s a pretty little gold-rush town, but at the end of a valley, so apparently is as cold as a witch’s something-or-other much of the time) is also home to a tapas joint, officially a wine bar, called La Rumbla, which was also pretty good.

Sharing plates. Some a bit hit-or-miss, but with sharing plates it matters less. And I did get some lamb here too, along with a couple of really nice hoppy ales. The boys went for girly tamarind cocktails, but seemed to enjoy them enough. It is another place to which I’d return.

NZ Blog 4

And now on to more important matters: burgers. Queenstown, by which I mean the actual town (pictured above – is that not the prettiest city in the world?), is home to the Fergburger. Now you need to be careful about your pronunciation – a furburger is apparently something completely different (don’t Google that if you’re under 18, thanks). But log on to the official website – it captures the spirit of the place beautifully.

NZ Blog 5


In Ferg we trust

Any burger joint that was set up to cater to drunk people – it’s open 21 hours – has to be good. And it is. My ‘Mr Big Stuff’ only just squeezed under the ‘if it’s bigger than your head, you shouldn’t eat it’ rule, but was pretty amazing.

NZ Blog 1


Yeah, I’m eating it anyway

Sitting by Lake Wakatipu, taking in the scenery, and eating a Fergburger was pretty damned nice, despite the single-digit temperatures. I even saw people boarding the flight to Auckland with Fergburger bags. Probably the online ordering won’t work from Bangkok – I expect soggy rolls by the time the order arrives here – but it has set me on a mission to find the best burger in town. That’s for another post.

Meanwhile. What I’ve learned is that: You need to go to NZ; driving BMWs on ice is wickedly entertaining; you need to go to NZ; setting up a good burger shop catering to drunk people makes a lot of sense – at least if there aren’t any souvlaki joints in the neighbourhood; you need to go to NZ; and, you really should go to NZ. Seriously, it is the most amazingly beautiful natural scenery you will ever see. And they do good produce; they make great craft beers and wine other than sav blanc; they seem to enjoy life a lot; they don’t turn away boat people (unless they’re Americans with nuclear weapons); and they whip everybody in the world at rugby. What’s not to like?



Spring Lamb


Hi Tony.

I see you were in New Zealand?! How was that? Did you survive the Savalanche?

Spring has sprung here. The weekend at Mt Buller was, well, winter seems like it is over. Warm day on Saturday and foggy, with a little rain on Sunday. Per usual, I worked both days but it was hard to keep the crew motivated in the rain. It wasn’t too hard to convince them that a coffee stop at Koflers was a good idea.

I’m not cooking as much at the moment. Nor are we going out terribly much. Pre-wedding diet don’t you know!

I am lucky enough to get a dinner a week at the local. The Carringbush is doing well to keep things fresh. A recent visit, Mick (one of the managers) let me know he picked up some Yarra Valley truffles from a mate. Who am I to turn down something yummy sprinkled with truffle shavings? There were a couple of offerings, but I found it hard to go past the veal backstrap schnitzel with truffled macaroni and cheese. So much truffly, cheesy goodness!

Mum & dad joined us for a meal later in the week. Royce went the chicken Kiev with lobster & scallop butter and mashed potato with shaved truffle. Also much truffly goodness. Hard to believe, but it was the first time Royce has had truffle.

Had hankering for a burger on Sunday whilst driving back from Buller. So it got me thinking. What could I do only on a BBQ, but be worthy to grace our table. Easy, lamb-burger with all sorts of goodies locked in. Even better, lamb-burger on some fresh home-made Turkish bread. I reckon you can do the bread on the BBQ too. Got to be the easiest bread, other than pizza base. Worth a try if BBQ is your only option.

The bread takes longest to make, so give yourself a good 90 mins:

400gm bread flour
8gm salt
4gm sugar
4gm dry yeast
10ml extra virgin olive oil
300ml water

Carefully weigh the dry ingredients in big bowl and mix. Take temperature of the dry mix. Add the olive oil and then water, but make sure temperature of water adds to 50 degrees with temp of dry ingredients (e.g. if dry mix is 20C, water needs to be 30C). Mix that mess for about 10 mins until the dough begins to pull away from the sides. Cover it with glad wrap and set in warm place for about 90 mins. It should rise to about 3x original.


When you’re good to go, turn it out onto a lightly greased tray very carefully. You don’t want to knock much air out of it. Lightly dust it with flour and/or sesame seeds and press finger tips in to make dents.


Whack in very hot 300C oven for about 10-13 mins. This is why I think you do it on the BBQ.

My lamb burger mix is simple, but oh so good on the fresh, hot Turkish bread. In a bowl, whack in an egg, a handful of chopped parsley, a teaspoon each of ground coriander seeds, cumin, smoked paprika and turmeric.


A splash of olive oil and the minced lamb. To really set if off, crumble some fetta into the mix and form into burger patties.


BBQ those bad boys and serve with some shaved cucumber, char-grilled eggplant and if you can wangle it, some chilli relish.


When are you heading back to the island? Or have you got a BBQ in Bangkok? Not even sure if you can get lamb easily in Thailand?

Better fly, rare moment, so should clean the house or something.



Daily Bread


Not a loaf of bread

Hey Dan,

Fresh bread, you’re right there is nothing like it.

When I first arrived in Singapore in 1997, bread was problematic. I could buy pre-sliced processed loaves at the supermarket, but there was precious little else available. In despair I bought a bread machine. The results weren’t brilliant, but better than any bread I could buy.

Fast-forward a dozen years and bread has been discovered – sort of. The Singaporean Bread Talk chain is everywhere in Asia, and people in Singapore seem crazy for the stuff. I’ve even seen queues.

But when I walk past all I can smell is that sickly-sweet aroma of processed-flour sugary buns. It’s actually enough to make me feel a bit ill. Apparently it’s what appeals to the Asian palate, but calling it bread is something of a stretch. Then again, you’re probably not going to sell much product in a store called Processed-Flour Sugary Buns (though I should trademark the name, just in case).

There are alternatives now – Jones, Swiss Bake, Cedele, and the French place Paul, plus a few independents, are making life much better for those of us who go for a more traditional loaf. Bangkok’s even better – there are enough Europeans in town for a market for the stuff. Conkey’s and Maison Jean Philippe both make excellent loaves – and at vaguely reasonable prices.

Unbelievably, even Tesco Lotus in Samui has a bakery that churns out edible bread, plus there are a few European-run independent bakeries such as La Fabrique which has its main bakery in Lamai and an outlet near Chaweng. Who would have thought it?

But baking is just not an Asian thing. It’s unusual to find a domestic kitchen with an oven – of four places I’ve lived in Asia only one was equipped with an oven. That is bound to change, what with the cupcake craze (yep, every hipster in town wants to open a cupcake shop). For the moment though,  your bread recipe is a bit lost on me for now.

Yes I still roast meat on the old gas barbeque, but that’s not a bread-baking solution. (Then again, maybe it could be?)

I miss the oven though. Bread for one thing. Home-made pizzas. I’m hungry just thinking about it.

It’s funny though how much paraphernalia can accumulate in a kitchen. All those special tools that serve one function. A good kitchen shop is a bit like a good hardware store – it’s a bonanza of possibilities. But like hardware, there are some things you don’t really need. A garlic crusher? Use a knife, slice and flatten it. Really.

Cooking implements are different. A paella pan cannot be directly replaced. Or a cast-iron pot for slow cooking. And specific serving implements are hard to replace too. But give the olive pitter, or banana slicer a miss. Banana slicer? Yup. You can get anything on Amazon (do yourself a favour and read the user reviews, they’re hilarious).

An oven though. That’s an important cooking tool. I’m thinking I need a pizza oven. I’ll fuel it with the fat ends of the coconut fronds, and do some bread and a pizza at the same time.



I’m reserving a spot for it in the veggie patch right now.

Dough boy

Little Buller Spur

Hi Tony,

I’ve heard you are having some (tasty) wildlife issues on the island? Be interested to hear what recipes you come up with for them. Perhaps a nice game terrine?

As mentioned, we have been up at Mt Buller every weekend this season. It has been quite the season! Not only lots of snow, but snow of the kind you normally expect to find in North America or Europe. On Friday night, it was snowing at the entrance gate. First time I have seen that in about 25 years.

Mt Buller

One of things I find thoroughly entertaining, given we are staying in a lodge, is the amount of food people bring up. Sure, you’re out in the cold for a goodly portion of the day and maybe, just maybe, skiing pretty hard too (have no fear, that doesn’t include me).

I walked into the lodge on Friday night to see mountains of food stacked in the pantries. Thinking an infantry battalion was staying for 6 months in the modest 18 bed lodge gave way to the realisation that those up for the weekend had simply over-catered.

I haven’t had to cook in 3 weekends, with dinners with friends every night so far. Each is well versed in quantity planning, so I have been able to maintain my weight. My turn to cook this weekend, me thinks. The challenge is finding space in a crowded shared kitchen, so 1 pot dishes are preferred. I am erring on pulling some duck ragu from the freezer and serve it with some rissoni. Perhaps with a few slices of my hand-made bread? And a green salad. Can’t bring myself to make a 2kg lasagne for the 2 us.

If you’re interested in making some pretty easy bread, which is crusty and much goodness, I make a pasta dura. Try this, if you dare! Oh, word of advice, use scales and a good thermometer. Using those measuring cups/etc. simply won’t work.

250gm each of good baker’s flour and semolina

10g salt

5g dry yeast (much better than fresh yeast)

10ml light oil or fat

300ml water

Mix the dry ingredients together (you can add mixed seeds if you like, but add a little extra water if you do). Measure the temp of the dry mix (this is critical). Add the oil/butter/fat. Subtract the temperature of the dry mix from 50 and that is the temp the water you add needs to be (e.g. if the dry mix is 22C, the water must be 28C). Add the water and mix by hand until smooth. This will probably take about 10 mins. Cover in the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set aside in warm place with no draft for 1-2 hours. Mould into a loaf by pressing out into rectangle, fold corners in like you would for a paper plane and roll tightly (seam down). Return to bowl, cover and set aside until doubled in size.

Pre-heat oven to 220C. Spray loaf lightly with water and put in oven for 20 mins, spraying with water 2-3 times in that time. Reduce heat to 180C and cook another 40 mins. Remove and allow to cool a little.

I cook mine on a pizza dish with holes in it. Gives the loaf a great crust, but soft and good inside. Spread with lashings of butter and good honey or jam.

Pasta Dura

Not sure how I will go with a strange oven, but it is so worth the 3-4 hours to make. Perhaps you may have some time on the island to give it a go?

Better go and get some dinner sorted for my bride.