Tuesday, 28 March 2006

The Not so Jamie Oliver style of cooking

I am on assignment in Auckland this week and have been generously offered an upgrade to a one bedded suite at the Citylife Auckland. It is not your average chic boutique hotel (far from it actually) but is close enough to the office which is all but 2 long minutes walk and a stone's throw from the downtown Foodtown supermarket.

This is my fifth stay at this particular hotel and as a gesture of my patronage, I was given a personalised luggage lock. It is quite large for an average lock but still no where near the size of the luggage lock my colleague in Wellington uses. You really don't want me to get into that, so I won't.

Since coming to New Zealand, I have tried my hand at the barbie, baking, and grill and it turned out quite well. As this week I will be spending away from the main chef of the household, I thought I'll try some cooking myself. So, off I went to Foodtown and bought myself some steak, bacon, eggs and fruits. When I reached the hotel, I realised that I had no oil or butter to cook the stuff.

I thought "hey", if I can grill steak in a barbie without oil, why can't I do that on the stove. So, I cooked the steak on a pan over medium heat. As it got cooked, it also got stuck to the pan, after turning it a few times, I am sure I lost at least 100g of meat on the pan. It finally turned out quite well although less than what I had paid for in weight.

After transferring the steak to a plate, I took the pan and splashed water over it under a running tap. That created an incredible amount of smoke in the room, which triggered the smoke detector, which caused the front office downstairs to call the room and simultaneously alert the housekeeping on the 8th floor to come to my room. I had to explain 5 different times to 5 different people on my cooking skills and why the rangehood did not function as intended. Hello! It would have if it was installed above the sink!

Just when I thought I could sit down with my 100g less of a steak and a glass of wine with Desperate Housewives on TV, I had another phone call from the Hotel Manager who so generously gave me the personalised luggage lock earlier, I am sure at this stage thinking if he wanted me for the 6th time at his hotel. I explained all over again what happened and he offered me a $20 voucher to be spent at the coffee house. Now, is that an insult or what? Me being me, accepted his generosity, but the cooking won't stop!

Saturday, 18 March 2006

Community Service

In order to raise funds, schools around New Zealand have all sorts of activities from selling chocolates to having a ball. Businesses give generously to these events and so do the public. Which is an amazing contrast to where we come from. Doing this in Malaysia would involve getting a police permit and not to mention raised eyebrows from the general public.

This morning Ashwini's kinddie (Kiwi for kindergarten) organised a fund raising barbie (Kiwi for BBQ) and parents were asked to help out. We took turns to do some work at manning the stall for an hour throughout the day. Yours truly was cooking sausages for this event!

For this fund raising project, the venue was at Bunnings Warehouse in Porirua. They provided the BBQ set with gas for free in addition to allowing the kinddie to use a prominent space at the entrance. The sausages were provided by local butchers and parents. Bread was supplied by a local bakery in the dozens. Even divine intervention was available! The Man upstairs made sure the sun was up and the sky had nothing but blue skies throughout the day.

We charged $1 for a BBQ sausage on a slice of bread. All proceeds went to the kinddie. I am not sure how much we raised eventually but during my one hour shift, we sold about 30 sausages.

Going away from the community a bit, the fund raising concept is a bit of Kiwi thing to raise money for whatever reason. I have seen kids playing a musical instrument of some sorts by the train station, street corner, markets, to raise money for one reason or another. Once a family of 4 kids played music at Cuba Mall in Wellington to raise money to buy new instruments for themselves. There was this one kid on Lambton Quay during the school holidays playing his violin to go for a holiday. He played exceptionally bad, but had a sign saying, "I may not play terribly well but at least my effort deserves a gold coin donation". And people gave generously. At the weekend market, we see kids playing one instrument or another with a hat filled with coins. Just as we were going back from this fund raising event, we saw another barbie stall just round the corner raising money for a school trip to Italy!

Anil is seriously looking at learning to play the cello. He has mastered “Hot cross buns” after 3 lessons. Even if he does not get paid to perform at the New Zealand symphony orchestra, I know he will be able to raise some money playing on the streets.

Despite the intentions of these "fund raisers" I applaud New Zealanders who give so generously. Can't see it happening anywhere else, really!