Monthly Archives: April 2009

Chicken: Several ways

So at the meat store chicken was on sale. Glenn has been wanting chicken so I bought a pack.

3kg for $15, not too bad, but that’s a lot of chicken!


There were 26 drumsticks in total. Should last a bit I hope.

I made two marinades, one I know he’ll like and one I think he’ll like if I don’t tell him what’s in it.

The first marinade is basically a soy sauce garlic marinade. (This is the one I know he’ll like)

I used 1 ½ cups soy sauce,


1 ½ cups water, 2 cloves garlic, pressed or chopped


and 2 tablespoons sugar (or honey if you’ve got it). Oh, and 16 chicken legs

All this and the chicken legs go into a plastic bag (check there are no leaks first! I reuse my bags if I can) and then into the fridge. I could probably cook some of these tonight but I may wait until tomorrow.

When the chicken goes into the oven I’ll make sure a bit of the marinade goes into the pan as well, along with any herbs (cilantro, green onions etc) that might go along with this.

Here it is all baked up (45 minutes at 180C/350F, uncovered for at least the last 20 minutes)


The second marinade is a sweet chili sauce marinade. I used a whole cup (200 mL) of the sweet chili sauce


and then around a half cup of soy sauce


and another ½ cup of water. Oh, and 10 chicken legs.

I put these in a container. I may freeze them and keep them for myself if Glenn isn’t fond of the sweet chili sauce (he doesn’t think he likes it, though he isn’t averse to sweet or spicy flavors…). Once again, into the fridge,


could eat them tonight, may wait a few days or pop them into the freezer.

These will be really good with some cilantro or peanuts. If the peanut butter here wasn’t on the spendy side I may have put some into the marinade or spread it on the chicken. Chopped peanuts would make a good garnish though.


Thoughts on Dunedin

We went down to Dunedin over Easter weekend (4 day weekend here, and I thought it was only 3!) as I had seen some jobs there in the past that I could have done and were interesting. More than Christchurch anyhow. Our expectations of places aren’t the reality in New Zealand so it’s interesting to see how other places measure up. When we first got here we were in the Auckland area for a few days. We stayed in the SE area until we flew down to Christchurch for a few days for Glenn’s interview. After the interview we went up to Wellington via train and ferry for a week, and then went back down to Christchurch. So, pretty much we’ve checked out a few areas. Before we arrived we didn’t think we would like Auckland, but it was ok. We thought we would like Wellington but we hated it, and didn’t think we would like Christchurch but love it. We had some impressions of Dunedin and it really didn’t live up to them. This was just another case of needing to see it and be there.

There are various things that we look for in an area we would live in

The roads are oddly a big factor. Narrow, difficult roads are a turn off, while wide but not sprawling (more than 2 lanes per direction) are something we find pleasant. Dunedin, Wellington and parts of Auckland: twisty narrow roads and spaghetti streets, Christchurch has a bit of spaghetti, but overall the roads are wide and while the town isn’t exactly planned it’s much better than the other places we’ve been.

Shopping is another big thing. Not really talking about luxury items, but basic grocery stores per population center. New Zealand cities are organized into sub-cities, aka suburbs. Ideally, as in Christchurch, each cluster of areas has close–and decent– shopping. One of the things we found disappointing about Dunedin was the lack of shopping per population center. People in some areas would have to drive quite a bit (up and down twisty roads) to get groceries. There were dairies, generally, but I think we just prefer to have choice in shopping. For instance, right now I can walk to a dairy. I can also walk to two Asian markets, a butcher, a baker, a grocer and if I don’t mind hauling stuff, two large grocery stores, one of which is in a mall. Even when we lived on the other side of town I could walk to a dairy, a grocer/butcher, a baker and a mall with all kinds of things including a large grocery store. Basically in Dunedin the choice in groceries seemed poor. The town of Mosgiel (pop 9.3k) had what seemed like more choice than the main areas of Dunedin. We went everywhere and really for a town that size to have less than 10 grocery stores doesn’t seem right. Technically the city has a population of 120k or so but we thought that places like Timaru and Oamaru (pop ~49k) were more vibrant and had groceries in line of what we’d expect for a city that size. Christchurch apparently has more shops than other areas of NZ for the size but they all get used! So can’t be a bad thing. Dunedin had a lot of empty store fronts as well. I think the population is shrinking.

As a rider to the grocery stores there just seemed to be a lack of basic services in Dunedin. In Christchurch and other areas we’ve been in there is generally a doctors office, a dentist, pharmacy, some flower shops, a veterinarian etc etc for each say 5 or so suburbs. Enough vets in Dunedin, not so much of anything else.

Public transport and pedestrian friendliness. Not driving, I like to be able to get around, and nice walking and bussing is pleasant. (Working on that driving thing, really) Dunedin busses were once hourly and walking looked gruelling with the hilliness of the town. We did see a lot of people looking happy and out walking around so some people must like it. Wellington apparently has nice public transport but walking outside of downtown wasn’t a workable thing. Auckland is also terrible for public transport, but has a good ferry system and walking isn’t that bad. Christchurch is nice for both of these. While in Dunedin we walked from our hotel (South Dunedin) to the downtown area. Took about 30 minutes one way and wasn’t that bad, but if you lived elsewhere you’d be in for some hikes! We considered taking a taxi back to the hotel as the neighborhood didn’t look so hot and we didn’t want to walk back after or near dark. We don’t go out much after dark in Christchurch but if we did the downtown wouldn’t be an area we were worried about.

I think those are the main things we look for in assessing whether somewhere is livable for us. Some time in the future we will be taking a trip to Palmerston North and the Hamilton area, but for right now, despite my lack of a job Christchurch is still the place I like best. I have plans on that front though, but until then..!

Beef brine marinade

I went to the butcher looking for some corned beef (ak in NZ as Silverside). Usually all over but the butcher didn’t have any. I definitely wanted some slow cooker meat so had a look at the roasts but most were a bit more expensive than I wanted. I settled on some gravy beef. I wouldn’t buy this for anything but a slow cooker. It’s kind of stringy looking and tough. dscn0119

I had the bright (dubious) idea that I could make my own marinade/brine for it with stuff I had at home.

So I did.

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

¼ tsp garlic powder

1 large pinch fennel seed

3 large pinches dill seed

½ beef bouillion cube

3 whole cloves

2 large pinches peppercorns-whole


500 ml warm water (nearly bathwater warm, not tepid, but not hot. About slightly cool tea/coffee temperature. Being able to stick fingers in is essential)

Meat to be marinaded (I used 1.2kg-2.6lbs- for reference)

I just kind of added stuff to the bowl and then added 200ml of the water (about a cup) and dissolved the bouillion cube, sugar, salt and garlic powder.

I then placed the beef chunks into the water and alternated adding water and meat until the beef was covered and the water was gone.


I covered the bowl with a plate and into the fridge the marinade went.

2 days later I took it out and put it in the crockpot with one extra cup of water to cover the meat evenly.


After 5-6 hours of slow cooking in it’s own brine.


I fished the beef out and put chopped cabbage into the brine to cook. I would have put them together but I don’t think there is a way I can trick Glenn into eating cabbage.

Slow cooker tomato sauce

I use my crockpot a lot. It’s up there with the yogurt maker among my favorite appliances.

Interestingly enough, crockpot high temperature is the same as a simmer on the stovetop so it works pretty well to make tomato sauce.

The vegetable store was having a sale on sauce tomatoes. Something like 3kg (6.6lbs) for under $5.

I used 8 of them to make some odd looking (but good tasting) salsa. The rest became sauce.



1 medium onion

3 cloves garlic




Olive oil

Fennel seed-1 large pinch


I could have blanched (dipped into boiling water to remove the skins) the tomatoes, but I kind of like tomato skins in my sauce (and lazy!). So I just halved them and threw them in the crockpot with a large pinch of fennel, a coating of salt,


dscn0127…and 1 medium onion, chopped, and 3 cloves garlic, chopped.

After they reduce down a bit I’ll add some olive oil and basil leaves (fresh) and then start tasting to see what else it needs. Sugar, pepper, salt etc. I put the tomatoes, garlic, onions etc in the crockpot around noon, so by 5-6 this evening it should be good for adding other ingredients. It will certainly be done by 8pm, though it doesn’t need so much attention really. It certainly helps to get a spoon and crush the cooking tomatoes up a bit. Here they are around 5pm after I added some herbs (rosemary and basil).


And here they are around 8 tonight


It doesn’t hurt to cook them even longer if you need or want to.

I don’t trust myself enough to can (nor do I have the right stuff) so I put this in glass jars and freeze it until ready to use.


Last time I used something like 30 tomatoes. Filled the 5.5L crockpot right up and made almost 4 jars of sauce.

Note on measurements

I largely cook by feel. I have a mental index of flavors and what I think goes together. I don’t always measure stuff and I don’t have little containers for displaying ingredients. I make mistakes and usually eat them anyhow but sometimes change things in the future.

In the same way I tend not to use patterns when I knit or sew. I take measurements yeah, but usually I just kind of go along until it more or less works. I’m not a very good person to copy…

Here is a brief definition of some measurements I may refer to in cooking.

Pinch- 1 finger and thumb. Amount of powdered ingredient that fits between there.

Large pinch- all 4 fingers and thumb, amount of dry ingredient that fits between there.

Squirt or dash- amount that comes out of a narrow mouthed container when squeezed or shaken once into the bowl

100ml is a bit more than 1/2 cup

Handful- a closed fist hand usually. I have smallish hands though