Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Whatever Happened To Summer

It looks like Mother Nature has given Wellington a miss this year..It isn't so much the rain that has been a problem but the incessant driving wind that rattles and shakes everything and interfereswith the garden producing its usual abundance of summer vegetables and fruit. We wistfully yearn for the sunshine, the warm days and nights and the cravings for ice cream. Hopefully it is just round the corner, a little late but planning to pack all its resources into a magical February, March and April. In spite of being somewhat windswept the garden is looking suprisingly good at the moment.

There's nothing nicer on a beautiful afternoon than to sit outside with a cuppa and a piece of Jan's yummy baking and take in the view, the cruise ships and ferries coming and going, or maybe watch the sunset light up the evening sky. Our guests often take dinner outside, having discovered the local fish and chip shop, Chinese takeaway and Indian restaurant just a minute or two up the road. There is a bottle shop too where they can pick up a bottle of good NZ wine, a beer or spirits and bring them back to enjoy here. Those wanting a sit down meal have  only to drive for 5 minutes to be able to choose from 36 restaurants in Jackson Street, Petone, just a block back from the waterfront. Our favourite is La Bella Italia, a superb Italian restaurant, operated by an Italian family who have been in the food business for generations. There are many ethnic cuisines represented in Jackson Street,also a couple of good pubs where the food is generous and affordably priced. Another 15 minutes drive will take you into the heart of Wellington where there are said to be more restaurants per head of population that anywhere in the world. Generally the food in Wellington is excellent, a  critic's bad review will have them out of business in no time so the standard is consistently high.There are also many boutique breweries to see and 'taste'.
We are always happy to host our guests for a typical Kiwi meal by prior arrangement, and can cater to company reps or single travellers with a plate of 'whatever we are having' that night'....also by prior arrangement. We had guests from  the USA here for a meal the other day and served them delicious fresh South Island salmon. After several weeks of travelling and eating out at restaurants all over the country our guests relish the thought of a nice meal without having to go out for it, and enjoy the company and conversation. And we enjoy it too, we meet so many interesting people from all walks of life and from all over the world.
Here is a recipe for one of the desserts Jan makes to serve with dinner. We have fresh lemons on our lemon tree ripe for the picking and she has made this recipe for years .It came originally from a book by Delia Smith and has been changed very little over the years. It has become a firm family favourite.


200g butter                                               1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essesnce                   2 cups flour

Process butter in the food processor till soft. Add the rest of the ingredients and whizz until just crumbly. Combine by hand. Chill for 30 minutes then roll out and line a tart tin. Bake blind at 180 degrees C till  the base is just cooked, about 15 minutes.

270ml lemon juice                                    170 g caster sugar
zest of 6 lemons                                         6 eggs
200 ml cream

Blitz the eggs and sugar together for a few seconds in the food processor. Add the juice and zest, then the cream. Blitz briefly again and pour into a jug. Take the jug to the pastry base in the oven and carefully pour it in. Bake 170 degrees C for about 30 minutes or until set. Dust with icing sugar to serve. Delicious with a scoop of ice cream or a blob of whipped cream.


Friday, 28 October 2016

WOW! The World of Wearable Art!

It's over for another year, a highlight of Wellington's wonderful art scene! Each year in late
Super Nova - The Supreme Winner
September and early October exhibits from all over the world come together to contend for the top prizes in the world of wearable art.
 Entries come from both established and emerging artists and designers, local and international design and fashion schools and individuals with a creative imagination who compete for prizemoney of $165,000. They enter categories like the Bizarre Bra section, Avant Garde, Performance Art etc. The show, which started from small beginnings 30 years ago is a fast moving, show-stopping extravaganza set to music.This was the third year we have seen it and thought the show was better than ever.  Our well-travelled companions reckoned it was the best how they had seen anywhere in the world, quite an accolade for little old Wellington, New Zealand.
Next year's show will be held from the 21st September to the 8th October, and, as always when there is a  Big Show on in
Wellington, accommodation will be at a premium. We would love to have you stay with us at Harbourlights B & B and we have lots of advice and suggestions on how to spend your time here.  Many of the city restaurants have a 'Dinner and Show' deal, the shop fronts in Lambton Quay, our main shopping street join in the WOW theme and the city buzzes with all the visitors from NZ and the world. For budding creative types entries close for next years competition on 31st March.

My favourite entry this year was an entry from the UK: Lippydeema.

So Fried Eggs

Here are two entries from the Bizarre Bra section.

Bravada Cycling



Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Wellington Welcomes The Champions!!!!! Hurricanes!...Hurricanes!...

Could you hear the excitement at your place?  Our HURRICANES have taken out the Super Rugby championships for the first time ever, defeating the South African Lions 20 to 3. The game was
played in the most appalling weather to a packed stadium who to a man couldn't have cared less about the cold and rain. It's been a long, hard climb to the top and Wellingtonians turned out in their thousands yesterday for the victory parade from parliament through the central city to the civic square where they were given a heroes welcome. In contrast Wellington put on the most magnificent of days. Wellingtonians love a good party and most of us hunkered down in our warm cosy homes on Saturday night to watch the final live. I couldn't help noticing on the day the trash and recycling is collected around here there were an unusually large quantity of celebratory bottles awaiting pick up.

Here's a good hearty casserole to warm the fans  when they come in out of the cold. Serve it with rice and crusty bread, or with squares of cooked flaky pastry, which would make it a Beef and Beer Pie.

Beef 'n Beer Hotpot:

750g gravy beef, topside or blade steak
2 onions
2 heaped tablespoons flour
425g tin haricot beans
1 diced carrot
1 1/2 cups beer
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of thyme
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
2 teaspoons brown sugar
A few halved prunes

Toss meat in flour and seasoning and brown with the onion. Brown the meat in a little oil to seal it then add the rest of the ingredients. Cook for one and a half hours at 160 degrees celsius.If necessary add a lttle stock or water. Check the meat is tender and return to the oven for another half an hour if required, turn the temperature down to 150 degrees for any extra cooking.
This is a great staple to have cooked and in the freezer. Turn it in to a meat pie, or pasties for an eat and run snack. The beer and prunes make a lovely rich sauce.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

First Impressions, Fabulous France, Sensational Caramel Sauce and Apple Pie

Caramel Sauce
It's back to the real world today after 5 weeks on holiday in Europe. It is an interesting exercise for Bed and Breakfast owners to travel the world, seeing how other people do things. Over the last 37 days we have stayed in 17 different places and slept in 17 different beds, some hotels , some B & B's and even bunks on a ship. The experiences have differed from the really great to the truly dreadful. The worst was a very large 100 year old hotel in Geilo in Norway where the staff were indifferent, the room was dingy, the bedcover looked like it hadn't been changed for months and the breakfast was so forgettable we struggled to choose anything to eat. The best two were in France, an apartment in St. Malo, beautifully furnished and equipped in typical French style, and a B & B in the beautiful old city of Bayeux. Here we received the warmest welcome of all. Our host, Sandrine, from 'La Tour Louise' was truly a delight. She spoke good English, clearly loved sharing her lovely home with guests from all over the world and made each guest feel special. She was a breath of fresh air and a lesson in 'doing it right'. One wall of her dining room had been painted with blackboard paint, with 'WELCOME' in every imaginable language chalked on it. The breakfast she served was delicious, not the bacon and eggs we are accustomed to but fresh pancakes with a delicious caramel sauce. They were served warm and were utterly delicious. She recommended two restaurants for us to try, one serving authentic French cuisine and the other a Creperie that made the most delicious galettes. Sandrine explained that crepes are pancakes with a sweet filling and galettes are pancakes made with buckwheat flour and served with a savoury filling. Our room looked out on to a quiet street on one side and the cathedral could be seen from the other. Although somewhat cramped, it was well appointed with lovely thick towels and some tasty treats on arrival. The finishing touch was a cellophane pack of little crisp biscuits stamped with 'THANK YOU', stapled closed with her business card, for us to take away. The whole experience was a delight and demonstrated the importance of first impressions.
Savoury Galette in Bayeux
Here at Harbourlights B & B we pride ourselves on the welcome we give our guests. A warm smile and a bit of assistance with their bags costs us nothing, but for the guests the memory will continue long after they have returned home.
The following recipe is my version of the yummy caramel sauce we enjoyed in Bayeux. I made it to pour over a delicious apple cake that we had enjoyed in Sweden. The hostess here, Heidi, shared her recipe for the apple cake and my family gave it a 10 out of 10, especially when I drizzled it with the warmed caramel sauce and served it with a dollop of freshly whipped cream.


130 grams butter
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup whipping cream
1/2 taspoon vanilla
1/8 taspoon salt

Melt the butter over a medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar till melted. Stir for 2 minutes. Add the cream and cook, stirring for a further 2 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and salt. Cool slightly before pouring into a jar. This can be used as a filling for biscuits, a topping for pancakes or desserts or as a spread.


100 grams butter
100 grams sugar
1 large egg
200grams flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
5 apples
100 ml water
100 ml sugar

Peel, core and slice apples and cook with the water and 100 mls of sugar till the apples are soft. Drain in a colander and cool down.
Beat the butter and 100 grams of sugar till creamed. Add the egg and beat again. Add the flour and baking powder. Cover with cling wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
Use 2/3rds of the dough to line a 22cm pie dish.  Bake for 10 minutes at 200 degrees celsius. Pile in the apple. Roll out the remainder of the dough and cut into strips to make a lattice for the top Bake for 15-20 minutes till golden brown.
Drizzle a little of the warmed caramel sauce over. Serve with freshly whipped cream and a little more caramel sauce.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Anzac Day in Wellington, and Anzac Biscuits

Today, 25th April is the day that Kiwis and Aussies remember those brave men that fought and died in the First World War on the Gallipoli Peninsula, so far away from their homeland in Turkey. It has become a day of commemoration for all the men and women who fought for our freedom across the years. Anzac Day is recognised here as a national holiday and attracts tens of thousands of New Zealanders and Australians to dawn services held throughout the country.  Two of our young grandchildren attended the service this  morning wearing the medals of their Great Grandpa.

It has been a beautiful day here in Wellington, a perfect day for our German guests to cross the strait from the South Island. And it was a lovely autumn evening for us to visit the site of the Wellington National War Memorial with our daughter and granddaughter to see the very moving laser light commemoration in the twilight. There were many families coming and going, some with very young children wrapped up for the cool evening. It was heartening to see the Dads and Mums with their little ones explaining the images portrayed on the tower. We can only but hope and pray in these troubling times that lessons have been learned from the past that will prevail for the future.

The recipe I am sharing with you today is for Anzac Biscuits. The story goes that they were made by wives and mothers and sent overseas to the troops as they would keep well. It is more likely that they were made to sell at fetes and fairs to raise money for the troops. Either way they are a tasty morsel to eat along with a cup of tea, easy and quick to make and you are likely to have the ingredients in the pantry. They keep for weeks in an airtight container. My grandchildren love them and I often give them to guests for afternoon tea.
125 grams butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 tablespoon boiling water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup flour
Melt the butter with the golden syrup over a medium heat till the butter melts. Mix together the baking soda and water and add to the butter mixture. It will foam up. Mix together the coconut, sugar, flour and oats and add to the butter mixture. Put teaspoonfuls onto a  baking tray that has been lined with baking paper. Flatten them slightly with a fork.  Leave spreading room between them.
Bake at 180 degrees celsius for 12 minutes till golden.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Fresh Bread, Fragrance and Fruit Square.

There's nothing quite like the smell of fresh bread baking, wafting through the house.
Combined with the glorious aroma of freshly brewed coffee, and a freshly cleaned house and suddenly your house has become a home. I recall my old Mum saying when I was a kid that if she hadn't had time to get the dinner started before Dad got home from work she would put a chopped onion on to fry and he would know that dinner wasn't far away.  These days its just as likely to be the man of the house cooking for the family. How times have changed since the days my Mum had Dad's slippers waiting and a cup of tea in the pot to greet him at the door! Some things don't change though, and the enticing smells of home cooking still serve as a warm and inviting welcome to the home.
We bake bread daily, a small loaf served whole at breakfast to be toasted, or eaten fresh if our guests prefer it untoasted, perhaps with a generous dollop of our homemade preserves.
Guests at Harbourlights B & B choose between having a cooked or continental breakfast upstairs in our dining room or a continental breakfast delivered to the hall table outside their room at whatever time they choose. A toaster, plates and cutlery is supplied in their room along with a selection of cereals and preserves. We take them a tray containing fresh fruit, home-made yoghurt, freshly baked bread, butter, orange juice and coffee, just as they would have had upstairs in the dining room.This enables them to eat in the privacy of their own room if they prefer and works particularly well if they are leaving to catch the early ferry to the South Island or an early flight.
We also bake fresh cookies or cake for them to enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee when they arrive, and replenish them daily if they are staying for more than one night. Today I made a sultana slice, it takes just a couple of minutes to prepare. It is cooked in a Swiss roll tin and sliced when cold. I like recipes that involve melting the butter and adding the rest of the ingredients, no mixer bowl or food processor to wash and it cooks while I am preparing dinner. The recipe for my slice is at the end of this blog.

I love the house, and particularly the B & B to smell fresh and appealing. Fresh flowers and cleaning products go a long way and I have been using diffuser oil to add a background freshness, especially in the bathroom, but  I balk at the outrageous price of a little bottle of fragrance with a few sticks poking out the top. There had to be a cheaper way of achieving the same result, so I consulted Mr Google and searched on Pinterest and found a recipe to make our own. The resulting diffuser is a subtle vanilla smell that adds a layer of freshness at a fraction of the cost. You can choose any essential oil to create whatever fragrance you like. All you need is:

1/4 cup rubbing alcohol (or vodka)
1/4 cup water
about 20 drops of essential oil (I used vanilla, but lavender, lemon etc would be nice)
5 small bamboo skewers (like you would use for kebabs)
an attractive bottle with a neck wide enough to hold the skewers.

Mix the rubbing alcohol (or vodka), water and oil together and pour into the bottle. Insert the bamboo skewers and wait for a few days till the bamboo absorbs the smell. Top up as required. It should last for weeks.

I am not sure where this sultana slice recipe came from as I have been making it for years. Possibly it came from my mother. I have seen many adaptations of it over the years, but this is my recipe:

Sultana Slice:
125grams butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 teaspoon caramel essence (or use vanilla)
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sultanas  (or substitute chopped dried apricots)

Melt the butter gently with the sugar and golden syrup. Add the beaten egg and essence, then the rest of the ingredients. Put into a greased Swiss roll tin that has been lined with baking paper. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius  for 20 minutes until nicely browned. Slice when cool. This can be iced if you like but is nice plain. It will keep for a few days in an airtight container.


Wednesday, 16 March 2016

No-one Ever Leaves Here Hungry

In the past couple of years, since we exchanged our interior design business for the space that now contains our B & B, I have had a little more time to indulge in one of the great loves of my life, (after my Beloved and our collection of five kids and ten grandchildren, that is!). I love to cook, and my Beloved likes to eat, so we are a marriage made in Heaven indeed! After years of fielding calls from the family for my recipe for lemon tart, or an SOS about how to cook rhubarb (or pavlova, or couscous etc) I decided it was time for a permanent solution. With the help of my Significant Other I have put together a compilation of old family recipes, tried and true dishes of indiscriminate origin, adaptions from my favourite chefs and the results of 50 odd years of experimentation.Many of the recipes are used daily for our bed and breakfast guests, some of whom ask to share a meal with us during their stay.
Most of our guests are from far off countries so it is nice to be able to offer them a New Zealand dinner experience. As we know from our own experience when travelling overseas the thing they tell us they miss the most is a home-cooked meal. It is a great chance to showcase our country and let them see what living in a New Zealand household is like.  We found an app that we downloaded (called Jam Jar), painstakingly tested and photographed the results of our labours and the result is a little home-
Mother's original Christmas Cake recipe
grown recipe book called 'No-one Ever Leaves Here Hungry'. Some of the 68 recipes were my mothers, like the pavlova, Christmas cake and Christmas pudding and a delicious lemon cheesecake.
The lemon tart filling was originally from a recipe from Delia Smith's book: 'Delia's Summer Collection', and others have Nadia Lim, Jo Seagar and Alexa Johnston to thank as I am inclined to mix and match bits of several recipes and come up with what suits me, (or what I happen to have in the pantry at the time).We gave all the kids a copy of the book and keep a copy of it in the B & B. I am always thrilled when our guests ask to purchase one. (We have several still to sell at $24 (NZ) each.
The recipe I am going to share with you today is from the book and is made with lamb fillets (or tenderloins). It is served with a mint dressing.

3 lamb fillets
1 teaspoon sumac
2 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper

Put the lamb fillets in a plastic bag and coat with the flour and seasonings. Brown quickly all over then put into an oven at 200 degrees Celsius for a few minutes till done to your liking. They should still be pink in the middle.


3 cups of mixed root vegetables, eg pumpkin, beetroot, carrot, parsnip, sweet potato etc
1 eggplant
1 courgette
a handful of broccoli or cauliflower florets
4 cloves peeled garlic
rocket leaves or basil to serve
1/4 cup good olive oil for the dressing
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard

Cut the vegetables into 2 cm chunks. Roast with the garlic cloves in a little olive oil. They may take different times to cook so watch them carefully and remove from the oven as they are cooked. Blend the 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the lemon juice and the mustard together and toss through the cooked vegetables. Scatter over the rocket leaves. Slice the lamb diagonally and arrange on the salad. Top with the mint dressing.


1/4 cup of sour cream or Greek yoghurt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
grated rind of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons chopped mint
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together and allow to stand for half an hour before serving